So you are curious about natural birth?
Perhaps you are asking one of the following questions:
- “What is natural birth?”
- “How can I have a natural childbirth or birth naturally?”
- “Is it even possible for me to do a natural birth?
- “How can I handle natural childbirth?”
Or perhaps you know exactly what you want and are looking for someone in Corpus Christi, Texas who is a provider of natural childbirth.
As a midwife, I often find it frustrating that I need to explain “natural birth” to so many people. Don’t get me wrong; I love natural childbirth. It is my passion and I love talking about it. But the fact is that birth IS natural! But in our culture, when we supply the adjective “natural” to modify the noun “birth” it is because we assume birth is something other than natural. That simply is not true! Birth is and has always been a normal natural part of life, Birth IS natural. We do not have to modify birth in order to make it natural.
Early in the last century, our culture transitioned from viewing birth as a natural event to a medical one. One hundred years ago, only 5% of women even gave birth in a hospital. If you want more details on the history of childbirth here is a great timeline. Nowadays, if a woman wishes to avoid medical interventions she must fight to even be allowed the experience of a natural birth!
But what exactly do we mean when we say “Birth is natural”?
Whenever I teach childbirth classes, I often pose the question, “How would you define natural birth?” Then let those in attendance reply. Obviously, we’re not having a face-to-face dialogue right now, but use your imagination and pretend that we are. Right now, before you read any further, formulate a response in your head. I’ll wait.
Okay, what did you come up with? I can imagine your responses, because, as I said, I’ve asked this question numerous times before. Furthermore, when women find out I am a midwife, they often tell me about their birth experience, or the experience of some loved one. I have had many people tell me their “natural birth” story, only to find out later in the conversation that they have a little different definition of what makes birth natural than I do. Some define natural birth as, “a birth without drugs for pain.” Others have said, “It is a vaginal delivery.”
I would certainly agree that birth by nature means a vaginal delivery and that by nature a birth does not need drugs to cope with pain. But is that all there is to the definition? Before I present my definition, I would like to illustrate it by using an analogy, one that I use in the classes I teach. This usually has everyone laughing.
I ask how many have seen puppies or kittens born, and half if not most of those in attendance usually say that they have. Then I ask them to picture the following.
You discover your cat in labor. Animals prefer dark places to give birth, so the first thing you do is to rush her into a bright room so you can observe the process more clearly. Now in order to make certain the kittens and the mother cat are handling labor well, you need to make sure it’s easy to get their vital signs and observe more closely. So you move the cat onto her back in order to attach some monitors. You also need her to be still so you can get a good reading at all times, so you lie her on her back, attach the monitors and also tie her down too so she won’t bolt!
You check her progress (which means a vaginal exam) and discover her labor has slowed down or perhaps even stopped! Oh dear, you now think this poor cat isn’t capable of “natural labor,” so you decide to administer some Pitocin (a drug to stimulate contractions) in her IV to increase her contractions. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that you put an IV in, “just in case” it becomes necessary. Aren’t you glad you got that IV in now since she now obviously needs the Pitocin?
Finally, the contractions are going strong again but the cat is really upset. She cries and screams out in pain and fear. That’s okay, you have drugs to offer her for pain! You are really hoping your cat accepts the pain meds so you won’t have to spend so much effort keeping her calm. But your cat insists on a “natural birth” so she refuses the pain meds and decides to tough it out even though you keep offering the drugs. You don’t understand why but you support her decision. You even hold her little paws and talk sweetly to her with each contraction. After all, you are also an awesome cat doula.
Your cat is one of the lucky ones. She manages to get fully dilated with your emotional support and doesn’t need a C-section. But she isn’t pushing very effectively either. She’s on her back. So you lift her head a little so gravity can help some and you hold her little paws as you encourage her and tell her to push harder. Eventually she pushes her kittens out. You take each one across the room to dry them off and stimulate them to breathe. Most breathe on their own but a few need some help. You use your miniature resuscitation bag to help them breathe. When you are sure they are okay, you wrap each of them up tight in a blanket and put a cap on their heads to keep them warm. Then you present them to your cat, congratulating her on her “natural birth,” but you also remind her that you will need to take the kittens again in a little bit to do some more exams in the other room. Then if all goes well, she can have them back.
No pain drugs and a vaginal delivery. Totally natural, right? Wrong! And in principle, it is no different with human births. We can see this in a situation we expect to be “according to nature” or “natural,” but we miss it with human birth because we think in terms of “medical”? Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
Whenever I have this conversation with someone, it eventually leads to other questions like “But what if something goes wrong?” Please understand me, I’m not challenging the occasional need for medical interventions or medical help. It happens sometimes, and when it does, we must know what to do. That’s why midwives are trained.
The question is should we approach labor and birth with the assumption that birth is natural or should we start with the assumption birth is a medical event? Where we start, how we view this makes all the difference in the world, and accounts for how a health care professional will handle pregnancy care, labor and birth.
As a midwife, I start with the assumption that pregnancy and birth are both natural. But I am also trained to recognize problems or deviations from normal early, so that we can first try something natural and less invasive to correct a problem before it needs drastic medical interventions. When birth is approached as a medical event, too many things are overlooked in prenatal care or done to a woman in labor that go against nature, and that only sets the stage for more problems to develop and interventions to become necessary.
I consider myself a guardian of what is natural, and one who is also trained to recognize and deal with most complications. Only a small percentage of our clients need to birth in a hospital, and an even smaller percentage end up needing a C-section. When needs do arise, I am thankful for the ability to refer to physicians or transfer care to a medical facility if it becomes necessary. But when we treat birth as natural first, we find the need for medical help greatly reduced and we have excellent outcomes too.
Women sometimes are also concerned about how they will manage the pain of labor without drugs. Again, it is easier than you might think when allowed to labor without interventions. But we also provide many natural ways to cope with the pain of labor. If you would like to schedule a free tour and talk with us more about natural birth options, please call today at 361.883.2229 and we will be glad to schedule a free tour and consultation.