A natural birth is the low-tech way of having a baby by allowing nature to take its course. It’s based on the notion that women know what to do: that they are innately able to have a baby without machines, epidurals and fear.
Historically, nearly all women had their children this way. In many parts of the world they still do. And more and more women are choosing normal birth today. So there’s certainly nothing new, wacky or alternative about natural birth.
For many mums-to-be, having a natural birth isn’t about being ‘brave’ or a radical or a martyr but about treating birth as a normal, event, not a medical problem. Many healthy women with low-risk pregnancies chose a natural birth because they:
- Want to feel totally in touch with the birth experience
- Trust the process of birth
- Trust their own ability to give birth
- Are confident they can handle the pain
- Want to avoid the risk that medications may pose for the mother or baby
Why no pain relief in natural birth?
When a woman goes into a labour, contractions become stronger and stronger, the cervix stretches and opens, and baby moves lower and down the birth canal. With each contraction, pain sends a signal to the brain and oxytocin is released, which in turn increases the intensity of the contractions. As the pain of the contractions increases, more oxytocin is released and the contractions become harder.
Labour pain is what most women fear the most. But it is the pain of that is considered valuable, as the pain is nature’s way of helping women find their own ways of giving birth. The pain of each contraction becomes a guide. The labouring woman chooses positions and moves in response to what she feels, which helps labour progress by increasing the strength and efficiency of the contractions and encouraging the baby to move down the birth canal. When the pain is removed by an epidural, the feedback system is disrupted and labour may slow down and become less efficient.
Also, as labour progresses and pain increases, endorphins (a painkiller made by your body that is stronger than morphine) are released in increasing amounts. Endorphins contribute to a shift in thinking, from a rational mind-set to a more instinctive one, creating a dream-like state that helps women in the job of giving birth. As labour progresses and the pain increases, women go into themselves, become much less aware of the external environment and much more focused on the inner experience and the task of pushing the baby out.
There is widespread support for it in New Zealand, with midwives and many doctors and obstetricians in favour of this kind of birth, so you should get lots of support for your decision to do it this way.
Water birth is a popular way to have a usual birth, as it’s proven to help with pain management and also has other benefits for mother and baby. Many birthing centres and some hospitals offer waterbirths. You can also have a water birth at home with a midwife in attendance. In this section, we talk about the advantages of waterbirth, why women choose this method of birth, and what’s involved.
Up until the 19th century when hospitals became more common and birth became more medical, all women had a birth at home. Today, hundreds of healthy New Zealand women have a birth at home with a midwife in attendance. Find out why women choose homebirth, how to plan a homebirth and what happens if something goes wrong with your birth at home.
Here we discuss in detail the role of labour pain and how it can help you in the birthing process. Read up about the many ways there are to relieve and manage labour pain. You may be surprised to learn there are some very effective pain management techniques that don’t involve needles or medicine!
Discover exactly what’s happens within your body during a normal labour. It’s a fascinating journey, and the more you know, the more confident you’ll feel about your innate ability to give birth to your baby. Learn to recognise when you are in true labour, find out about the three stages of labour, and read about the important support role played by your partner or a friend.
After months of waiting, hours or even days of labour, the big moment is here: your baby is leaving your body and entering the world! Find out what happens to you and your baby during the delivery stage of a birth.
After natural birth
Every woman’s birth experience is different, but with a natural birth, chances are you’ll be lying back with your new baby in your arms, happy, excited and proud. But the birthing process isn’t over yet, and bonding is just beginning. Read more about this magical stage of birth, including the care you and your baby will receive from your birth attendant.
Preparing for a natural birth
If you’ve decided a natural birth is the way to go, it’s a good idea to start preparing early on, as birthing centres can get booked out months in advance. You should also look at attending birth education classes, because being well informed and in tune with your body and knowing what to expect during a birth are the keys to feeling confident in your ability to give birth naturally. Here we outline the ways you and your partner can prepare for the birth of your baby, from finding a midwife to choosing the music for your labour!