What is a natural birth?

According to wikipedia, Natural birth is childbirth without routine medical interventions, particularly anesthesia. So for many women, natural birth is the choice to go through labor and delivery without the help of medications, particularly pain relievers like epidurals.

Others take the definition of natural birth a step further and consider it birth without the use of any artificial medical interventions like continuous fetal monitoring, precautionary antibiotics or episiotomies. Natural birth also can be taking an approach to birth which allows the mother to listen to her body during labor and cope with the contractions in any way she is comfortable.

Coping with Natural Birth

Some methods that women choose to cope are Hypnobirthing or Hypnobabies, The Bradley Method, moaning/breathing through contractions, visualization, counter-pressure, use of a birthing tub, use of a rebozo, birthing ball or birthing stool.

While the term natural birth seems to have been given the official definition of a completely med-free and intervention-free birth, in today’s highly medicalized birth process many women consider a natural birth to simply apply to a vaginal birth. After listening to many birth stories of all shapes and sizes, I tend to agree with this definition.

Interventions in Natural Birth

So many women work so hard to have a natural vaginal birth and are often required to make use of medical interventions in order to avoid a cesarean section. I don’t think that just because a women had to have continuous monitoring or pitocin because she wasn’t progressing quickly enough (by the hospital’s standards) that she should be denied the right to deem her baby’s birth a natural birth.

My mother had me and my three siblings in the 80s and 90s when an episiotomy was just a given in hospitals. I’m pretty sure that after baby number three, she probably didn’t need to be cut but because it was commonplace and likely her doctor’s policy she never questioned it. My mom never had any pain meds and had always told me that she’d had natural births. Looking back at the pictures I can see that she had IVs hooked up to her and monitors and had episiotomies so many today may not consider that a natural birth but it will always been an empowering memory for her that she had all four of her children naturally.

I had two homebirths and most people consider that about as natural as you can get when it comes to birth but I still ended up needed a few interventions with my first birth and was very thankful to have had a midwife with the skills to do things like break my waters (after a full 24 hours of labor), give me a shot of pitocin when I was bleeding too much and finally go in and manually remove my placenta when the bleeding wouldn’t stop. You better believe that after that extremely hard work, I would’ve punched anyone who told me that I didn’t have a natural birth due to those things.

Can Cesarean Sections be considered Natural Birth?

The one type of birth that most people would agree is “unnatural” is a cesarean section but I would argue than many many women labor for hours and even days naturally before they ultimately end up with a C section. Should those women who not only coped with the intense pain and hard work of labor be denied the use of the term natural birth if they choose to use it? In many cases these mothers are likely the strongest of all as they endured not only the natural birth process but followed it up with a major abdominal surgery! They are then expected to recover and care for their baby in the same ways as a mom who had a short and uncomplicated natural birth.

I also love that the concept of a gentle cesarean is being implemented more and more in some places. The main idea behind a gentle cesarean (or family centered cesarean) is to let moms see their babies being born through a clear drape if they want and to place newborns immediately on the mother’s chest for skin-to-skin which helps promote mother-baby bonding and breastfeeding.

So, I’m curious what all of you think… what do you consider to be a natural birth?

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