Why in the World Would Anyone Ever Want a Natural Birth?

Recently I was asked the question, “Why would anyone want a natural, unmedicated birth? What’s the point?” And I have to say, I was caught off guard and couldn’t gather my thoughts quickly enough to give a good reply.

I completely understand the question. I mean if you can bring life into the world in pain and exhaustion OR numb and rested why would anyone choose the pain?

It seems absurd when you put it like that and yet many women are striving for a medication-free delivery. So what’s motivating them? There are lots of great reasons but first, let’s discuss a not-so-good reason for natural birth.

Don’t Do it for the Cookies

Many women who want a natural birth are discouraged by naysayers who tell them there are no special cookies or trophies for women who birth unmedicated. They are told not to try to be a hero and they are reminded that it doesn’t make them a better woman or a better mom.

And they are correct.

Fortunately, most moms who choose to give birth naturally are completely aware that there will not be a special prize waiting for them at the end. They know there’s no badge of courage and that motherhood will still be full of challenges no matter how they give birth.

Trust me, moms who attempt a natural birth are not looking for a reward and they aren’t trying to prove that they are, in any way, better than the mom with the epidural or scheduled cesarean.

Why in the world would anyone ever want a natural birth?

So why do they do it??

Natural birthings mama’s do so mainly because they have done their research. They know that one intervention usually leads to another and each intervention carries risk. Not only that, but they know that the body’s natural process of giving birth includes many benefits of its own and they truly want to experience all of it.

Cascade of Interventions

The Cascade of Interventions is a term used to describe the concept that one intervention often leads to another.

For example, what may start out as a simple membrane sweep to induce labor could quickly turn into prelabor rupture of membranes without contractions, which could turn into heading to the hospital for Pitocin, which could turn into fetal distress, which could ultimately turn into a cesarean section, a major abdominal surgery.

Epidurals specifically can be a huge player in the cascade game. Many first time moms are unaware that getting an epidural often means getting a bladder catheter which increases their risk of bladder infection. Secondly, epidurals often weaken contractions and Pitocin is used to strengthen them. Furthermore, due to the fact that epidurals numb the body from the waist down, laboring women are stuck in bed. Because movement is key to progress, labor is usually longer, often the pushing stage is longer, and episiotomy, forceps, and vacuum extraction are more likely to be used.

While of course, none of those things are guaranteed and often interventions work beautifully, natural minded mamas prefer to stay as far away from this cascade as possible. They would rather not introduce anything into the labor process that may overcomplicate things unnecessarily. By letting their body dictate what and when things happen, they are hoping to experience a relatively smooth and straight forward labor.

Risks of Interventions

Beyond the fact that one intervention leads to another, every pregnant woman needs to know that each intervention carries inherent risk with it. For example, narcotics given to decrease pain often lower the baby’s heart rate and he or she is more likely to have low APGAR scores at birth and slowed breathing [source].

Epidurals carry many risks that are often not fully discussed with a laboring woman who is ready for pain relief.

As mentioned before, epidurals may prolong the pushing phase of labor and forceps or vacuum extraction may be necessary. Severe perineal tearing is more likely because of this.

Secondly, epidurals often lower blood pressure which may make the mother lightheaded and lower the baby’s oxygen level. This event may warrant an emergency cesarean.

Next, women with an epidural are likely to develop a fever. Because it’s unclear if the fever is simply a side effect of the epidural or the result of an infection, both mom and baby will usually need antibiotics after delivery.

Additionally, around 1% of women who receive an epidural will endure spinal headaches after delivery. These are often debilitating and may require another procedure to fix. Because the first few weeks postpartum are already full of challenges, spinal headaches can be an unwelcome hindrance.

Furthermore, the mother may become drowsy, experience slowed breathing, become extremely itchy, or have an achy back. She may get an infection at the injection site and need to be treated with antibiotics.

Between 10-12% of laboring women will not receive adequate pain relief from an epidural. Sometimes they only go numb on one side of the body but continue to feel contractions on the other.

Finally, serious complications from an epidural include nerve damage, paralysis and seizures, but these are extremely rare and death by epidural is almost non-existent.

For a full review of the benefits and risks of epidurals click here.

Of course, these risks are low and many women have no issues with epidurals at all, but because there is always a chance, many women choose to opt out of medical pain relief and aim for a natural birth instead.

Why in the world would anyone ever want a natural birth?

The Beauty of the Natural

Besides the risk of intervention, natural birth is also full of benefits. Because an unmedicated laboring women can feel everything happening, she is often able to be more in tune with her body. This allows her to instinctively know which position she should move into to help baby descend and continue progressing and she has the mobility to get into any position needed. She is able to push in a variety of different ways including standing, squatting and on all fours. She can feel exactly when and how to push so second stage of labor is often shorter and more effective. She is less likely to tear because she can feel the pressure of her baby moving down allowing for a more gentle descent. Putting all of this together, her recovery is often quicker and she is comfortable walking around independently before a women with an epidural has even gotten the feeling back in her legs.

Because natural birth is an uncomplicated process, labor can happen in an environment that is more conducive to progress. Fear, distraction, and mental stimulation all inhibit the body’s ability to labor effectively. Bright lights, beeping monitors, frequent interruptions and hospital intake questions can all contribute to stalled or slowed labor. On the other hand, the absence of interventions means a woman can labor at home or in a birth center where she is more comfortable, uninterrupted, unhindered, and in greater control of who she has in her space. She is more relaxed and less afraid and her body can labor on. Because of this, the natural birth process often works more smoothly than when interventions are added in without medical necessity.

Though we have made it clear that there is no trophy or special cookies for a natural birthing mama, she may receive a “hormone cocktail” after delivery that leaves her feeling energized and exuberant throughout the beginning of the postpartum period. This is because the body makes Endorphins in response to feeling pain that decrease discomfort and increase positive sensations. When women endure labor unmedicated, they will receive endorphins at full force as well. Cheers to the natural birth high!

Finally, many women find the process of giving birth naturally to be very empowering. Labor is an incredible feat and nearly every woman reaches a point in delivery where she thinks she cannot continue. But when she presses on, she finds out that her body was created to do difficult and powerful things and she discovers new determination and courage that she never knew she had. Women who strive for a natural birth see the beauty in the process and they want to experience it fully.

Keeping it in Perspective

In summary, natural birth is something to plan for because it is less complicated, less risky and it often works beautifully. However, it’s important to keep things in perspective and hold a healthy view of any birth plans a woman may have. Labor is unpredictable and try as we may, there are always factors we simply cannot control. Serious complications do arise and women must be prepared to meet medical intervention with gratitude when it is truly needed. While natural birth might be the goal, healthy birth is the ideal and sometimes medicine is the best way to achieve that.

Related: To the Mama Whose Natural Birth Plan Fell Through

As with any decision, every pregnant woman must do her own research, weigh the pros and cons of each option, assess how much risk she is willing to carry and then decide what is best for her. This looks totally different for different women and that’s completely fine. But I hope this gives you a better understanding of why anyone would willingly want to give birth unmedicated. As always, if you have further questions about this concept, feel free to reach out! I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Why in the world would anyone ever want a natural birth?

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Third Trimester Mocktail

It’s the Holidays and you’re pregnant so you have to skip the alcohol but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your drink. In fact, with this “Third Trimester Mocktail,” your taste buds will be happy and your uterus will thank you. That’s because it contains red raspberry leaf tea and dates, both of which are said to have positive effects on labor and it includes spearmint, fresh raspberries, lemon juice, and honey to create a yummy concoction. This makes it a perfect drink to sip as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve or in the morning for breakfast, or anytime you want to give your body a boost in preparation for childbirth.

Ingredients

Red raspberry leaf tea

Dates

Red raspberries

One lemon

Spearmint leaves

Honey to taste

Ingredients in a Third Trimester Mocktail: Dates, Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, Spearmint Leaves, Lemon, Raspberries, And Honey

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Red raspberry leaf tea is the base of this drink and has been said to have numerous benefits for all women, pregnant or not. It is rich in vitamins and minerals to support the immune system and is said to lessen menstrual discomfort, ease nausea, lower high blood pressure, and aid the reproductive system to name a few. In pregnancy, red raspberry leaf tea strengthens the uterus so that when labor hits, contractions are more powerful and effective which may make labor shorter and less painful. It may also make the amniotic sac stronger which reduces the chance of waters breaking before labor and it supports a healthy breastmilk supply.

Red raspberry leaf tea is not without controversy, however. Lack of testing means this herb is not exactly scientifically supported and care providers widely vary their recommendations toward it. While some believe the tea can be safely taken throughout the entire pregnancy and may even help protect against miscarriage, other midwives and doctors may advise that it not be taken until the second trimester, the third trimester, the 34th week or even later. As always, consult with your care provider before you start drinking red raspberry leaf tea. If you decide you’re not ready for it, simply substitute green tea in this recipe. It will taste just as good!

Dates

Dates are said to have an effect on the uterus that is similar to oxytocin (the labor hormone). They are a natural laxative and may stimulate uterine contractions. A 2011 study compared the labors of 69 women who ate 6 dates a day starting in their 36th week with the labors of 45 women who ate none and found several significant differences between the two groups. Those who ate the dates had a much easier latent stage of labor lasting an average of 510 minutes compared to 906 minutes in those who did not eat dates. Only 28% of date consumers needed Pitocin compared to 47% of non-date consumers. Furthermore, 96% of those who ate the dates went into labor spontaneously while only 79% of those who did not eat the dates went into labor on their own. Finally, when they checked into the hospital/birth center, date consumers were an average of 3.52 cm dilated and 83% of them had intact membranes while non-date consumers were an average of 2.02 cm dilated and only 60% of them had intact membranes. To read the whole the abstract of the study, click here.

Of course, like most things, the use of dates in pregnancy isn’t supported by everyone and it’s important to do your own research and check with your care provider before consuming a large number of dates. They are high in sugar so if you have gestational diabetes or are closely watching sugar intake, it may be best to avoid dates. The women in the study did not start eating 6 dates a day until they were in their 36th week but a few dates here and there before that time is most likely just fine. However, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea, simply leave the dates out of your Mocktail. No harm there!

Directions

To make your Mocktail, start by bringing 12 ounces of water to a boil and pouring it over your red raspberry leaf tea and a couple spearmint leaves. Add in honey to suit your taste or avoid it all together if you don’t want the extra sugar. Let it steep for at least 5 minutes and then chill in the refrigerator or freezer if you’re in a hurry. Don’t forget to enjoy the sweet little quotes on the tea bag. I just love this one!

Third Trimester Mocktail: Start with Red Raspberry Leaf Tea(Reminds me of my other true love, my greenhouse 🌺♥️ Click the image to learn more)
As the tea chills, wash your red raspberries and purée a large handful of them in a food processor, saving a few for garnish. Add in a couple of dates (up to six if you’re in your 36th week or later) and a couple more mint leaves. Juice at least half a lemon or the whole lemon if you like tart drinks, add it into the mixture and purée some more. Once you’ve got it nice and smooth, you may wish to strain out all the seeds and chunks of raspberries if you don’t like that in your drink. Skip the straining if you don’t mind them though!

Third Trimester Mocktail: Next, purée the raspberries to bring a fruity kick to your drink.
Finally, mix the purée and tea together, give it a good shake, and add in more raspberries and mint for garnish if you desire. Now you’re ready to enjoy your “Third Trimester Mocktail.” I hope you find it easy, delicious, and effective in helping you labor along. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Mama!