When we talk about “natural childbirth,” there are a few things that this term may refer to. For some, having natural childbirth means having the baby in a nonhospital setting, assisted by a midwife and possibly a doula. For some, it means having the baby in a birthing center. For others, natural childbirth simply means giving birth without the aid of drugs or painkillers, whether it be in the hospital or elsewhere. And at the other end of the spectrum, there is a growing movement involving giving birth with no nonemergency assistance whatsoever.
In this article, we will look at the middle approach—giving birth either in the home with a midwife or doing so in a birthing center or other nonhospital setting. More and more women are choosing to forgo the hospital in favor of settings that are more comfortable. And while there are some great things about this natural approach, there are also some drawbacks.
The benefits of natural childbirth
Here are a few of the great things about having a baby the more natural way.
• Natural childbirth allows women and their partners and families to reclaim a very natural process that has gradually been co-opted by what many see as an impersonal and even destructive medical industry. It is also an act of protest against what medically aided childbirth has become.
• Natural childbirth allows the mother to give birth in a setting that is welcoming and comfortable. Many hospitals try to make their birthing rooms homey, but it is never quite enough. In a home setting or a birthing center, the mother can relax and fully experience the moment. Plus, there will not be a stream of strangers coming in and out of the room, and this aids the mood.
• In hospitals, birthing mothers are often attached to instruments and forbidden from moving about freely. In many cases, the mother even has to ask to go to the bathroom. More natural settings take away these restrictions as much as possible, allowing the mother to move about freely—which is comforting and can actually help the process along.
• Although we do not like to think about money when it comes to our babies, the simple fact is that giving birth naturally can be far cheaper than doing it in a hospital setting, especially if your insurance coverage is not great.
The drawbacks of natural childbirth
With those great things about natural childbirth out of the way, let us consider the potential downsides.
• Most important, in the event of a serious medical complication, one really does want to be in the hands of trained medical professionals. That is why, even when giving birth naturally, many women have backup plans to resort to in the event of complications.
• Hospitals have the tools needed to monitor the baby during the birthing process. Some nonhospital settings have some basic monitoring devices, but they are not as sophisticated as those found in a modern hospital.
• When giving birth in a nonhospital setting, the newborn baby might not get the immediate checks and care that he or she needs.
• While parents preparing for the arrival of a child should prepare no matter what setting they plan to have the child in, those planning for a natural childbirth have to do much more. This can place a heavier burden on both the mother and the partner. The partner in particular needs to be far more involved than is standard.
• And finally, the big one: Natural childbirth is painful. Of course, the freedom of movement enables you to do things to ease the pain, but the mother still feels every contraction and has no barriers against every little sensation as the baby is coming out. So before making the decision, it is important to think carefully about whether you can handle that reality when the time comes.
By Lisa Pecos