One of the most common statements I hear in my practice from expectant couples is “We want to have a natural birth”. As their Midwife, it is my job to understand what a “natural birth” means to that particular couple. Over the years I’ve come to realise that a “natural labour” and delivery can mean very different things to a lot of couples.
So I thought this topic was ripe for discussion. Not only should I be aware of what the couple’s take on natural birth is, they should also be aware of how most Obstetricians and Midwives define “natural birth”.
In developed countries giving birth “naturally” generally holds true to one of the three following definitions:
Most Obstetricians and Midwives do not refer to labour and birth as natural, but rather, normal. Now, this may seem very judgmental, however, this label refers to the medical progression rather than a societal expectation or “norm”.
A normal labour and birth include:
However this does not mean there is no intervention at all. Technically speaking a normal birth may include the following as well:
A labour and delivery is technically not considered normal if any of the following take place:
All of this may seem very systematic and as someone who strives to labour and birth “naturally” it may seem like a very long list. But considering more than half of women in developed countries make use of epidural analgesia and many of those labours were induced does this mean most of us have “abnormal” births? Absolutely not.
If your ideal birth is a natural one, make sure you are clear about what your definition of natural means. Then have a frank conversation with your Obstetrician or Midwife to ensure they understand your definition of “natural” and you understand theirs. And lastly, keep in mind, labour and birth are by nature unpredictable, ever changing and always a larger than life miracle. Try to shift your thinking from “wanting” a natural birth to “working towards” a natural birth.
Instead of striving to have a perfect labour and delivery, strive to have a successful one where the expectant parents feel supported, and the outcome is a healthy Muma and baby. Now that’s nature at it’s finest!
Image kindly shared by www.kristaevans.com
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