Why would a woman ever WANT to have a natural birth?
When a woman tells you she plans to birth her baby with no pain medication, a common reaction is “This lady is CRAZY. WHY on EARTH would someone CHOOSE to do that?? Have you never heard of an epidural?? Do you LIKE pain? I would never ever do that in a million years. You’ll be begging for an epidural by the end.” Women who are planning an all-natural birth (no-epidural) often hear comments like this from others who may not understand.
Western medicine has given us some great options and life-saving tools especially when it comes to childbirth, but some women still want to have a baby as naturally as possible. It’s not just the home-birth crowd who are wanting this type of birth, but many women choosing birth centers or hospitals are declining pain medication and epidurals. If you want to understand why someone would choose a natural birth when there are “pain-free” options available, here are 8 reasons women may choose to for-go an epidural.
1. To see what their body is capable of
This may be the easiest one to understand, especially for a male partner. Have you ever wanted to push your body to it’s limits, just to see what you can do? A marathon runner isn’t crazy, but they do enjoy preparing, training for, and seeing what their body is capable of. Can I do it? Am I strong enough to do that? It can turn into a motivating and extremely empowering thing to accomplish.
Eye rolls often come when birth is talked about as an “empowering experience”, but every time a woman holds her baby in her arms that she worked so hard to bring earth-side with tears in her eyes and relief on her face, the word empowering brings a whole new meaning. Ya girl, you just did THAT. And you rocked it. It’s an amazing and humbling moment to witness.
A great documentary to watch is The Business of Being Born. It can really help a hesitant pregnant woman or partner understand this idea and why a woman would WANT to have a non-medicated hospital, birth center, or even home birth.
2. To avoid complications and side effects of interventions
For some women, the benefits of an epidural or other pain relief options may not out-weight the risks of those procedures. There can be short or long term complications and side effects of an epidural including drop in blood pressure, slowing of labor, spinal headache, or long term back pain at the injection site to name a few. Make sure you know the benefits and risks before you choose what is right for you.
Cascade of Interventions: Once you’ve started one intervention (like an epidural) you loose some of the choices you had before. You will now be bed-bound, need consistent monitoring, a urinary catheter, and if complications arise even more interventions to keep mom and baby safe. If labor slows down, medications are needed to speed it back up. If baby doesn’t tolerate pitocin to speed up labor and things have slowed down too much then you’ll need a c-section, etc. That’s just an example of how one interruption in the natural birthing process can lead to other “have-to’s” and further interventions.
3. To actively participate in the birthing process
This is an extremely common reason for choosing a natural birth, especially for 2nd, 3rd, 4th time moms who might have had a poor or traumatic experience with their first intervention-heavy birth. It can feel like you’re spinning out of control when you feel pressured into decisions you aren’t 100% comfortable with or when medical complications take choices away from you.
Additionally, some women report feeling like an observer rather than a participant of their own birth when they have an epidural because things were just being done to them. When you can feel all the sensations of birth it’s easier to listen to your body and make decisions based on what you want or need instead of what you now have to do. (Refer to the cascade of interventions example in #2)
4. Easier recovery
Recovery is often easier and smoother when birth happens in a natural way. Many women are up, showered, and moving around quickly after birth when they’ve chosen to forgo the epidural and were free of other complications instead of waiting around for the feeling to return to their lower half.
One benefit to an epidural is you won’t feel the stitches if you do tear during delivery, but it’s common to have less or no tearing at all when you’re able to push and deliver your baby while listing to your body. As you can imagine, holding your breath and being directed to push (like you will have to do with an epidural) has a higher risk of perineal tearing because you can’t follow the natural sensations of what your body is telling you. You’ll likely get a small injection of lidocaine to numb up the area before stitches if you need them, but for many women this small risk is worth the other many benefits of going epidural free.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but for some women a home or birth center birth may provide comforts of home that you just don’t find in a hospital. Additionally, many women who have a non-medicated birth in a hospital can still enjoy the comforts of moving around, hydrotherapy, and other natural ways of managing pain that someone with an epidural wouldn’t be able to utilize. Sometimes just the fear of being restricted to bed or loosing feeling in your lower half is enough to push through a natural birth.
This shouldn’t be the only deciding factor for having a non-medicated birth, but it can be a motivator for some. Epidurals, medications, and interventions that can come as a result of these procedures are all costly. Even if you do have insurance, you’ll likely have a copay and these will all be added to your bill.
7. Childbirth pain is different than suffering pain
When you’re sick, pain (the physical sensation) is often accompanied by suffering (the emotional turmoil). If you break your arm or pass a kidney stone, you’re in pain and that just sucks. However, in childbirth, you aren’t sick and you don’t need saved. There is pain yes, but it’s a good kind of pain. It’s productive pain, anticipated pain, intermittent pain, and most important NORMAL pain. A woman doesn’t need to be saved from the pains of childbirth, and this is an important thing to remember.
8. Their body is made to do it and they want to let it
Women have been giving birth for literally thousands of years! For some there is a strong desire not to interfere with the natural process of birth and just let it happen. 92-94% of pregnancies are low risk and need no interventions; so you can see where a woman would want to let her body do its job and not interfere with nature’s process unless absolutely necessary.
On the flip-side, because of western medicine and the benefits of today’s technology, mothers and babies are not dying during pregnancy and childbirth like they used to. Interventions and c-sections may be overused in our culture, but they are life-saving measures that most women are grateful for when they’re needed.
Bringing a new little life into the world is a beautiful and life-changing process, no matter how you choose to do it and no one should feel judged for the choices they make. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and has their own unique fears, goals, and wants. Take the time to think about the kind of birth experience you want and then prepare and take action to get there.
Look for a correlating article soon titled “Should I get an epidural?” where we’ll dive deeper into many of the positive aspects of getting an epidural.
Hopefully you have a little more understanding of why some women choose to have non-medicated births and can respect them for their decisions. If you want a natural birth, go get it! You can do hard things, here’s a couple other articles that might help you along your way.
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