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How Do I Have A Natural Childbirth & What Are The Risks?

As you progress through your pregnancy, you'll start to decide on how you want to give birth. And you have some options! Some women feel more comfortable in a hospital setting with interventions such as an epidural or fetal monitoring, while others are hoping for a more relaxed experience where they feel in control of the process. Natural childbirth is childbirth without intervention, where you opt to just let nature take its course and allow your body to do what its designed to do. It's not an option for all women - some people require intervention for their health or the health of their baby. And sometimes, things just don't go as planned or expected. But if you're hoping for a natural childbirth, here are some things that might help.

What is natural birth?

Natural birth is childbirth without medical intervention, where the woman is in control of the process. This can mean forgoing medications designed for inducing labor or pain relief, like pitocin and epidurals. Continuous fetal monitoring, IV fluids, and episiotomies are typically not part of a natural birth plan. Natural birth can also mean alternate delivery positions or methods (squatting versus lying on your back, delivering in a tub of water, or being able to move freely during labor, for example), and many woman who have a natural birth also opt for immediate skin-to-skin contact and delayed cord clamping after delivery.

The benefits of natural birth

There are plenty of benefits associated with natural birth! Having a natural childbirth means you'll be able to move around, which can help you manage your pain more effectively and feel more comfortable during the process. It can help you bond with your partner, who will likely be there guiding and supporting you every step of the way. Pushing during natural birth is often more effective and efficient, since you can feel exactly when you need to bear down and push. You'll also be able to get up and walk sooner after delivery, since you didn't receive an epidural (side note - this can actually help with postpartum constipation, too!). Natural birth can also give you a huge mental and emotional boost once you realize what you did and what your body is capable of doing. However, this boost can come no matter how you deliver - every birth is awesome.

Newborn baby girl right after delivery, shallow focus
Credit: iStock

The risks of natural birth

There are risks involved with every type of childbirth. When it comes to natural birth, one of the things most women are worried about is pain! Without an epidural or other pain management, you will feel every aspect of your labor and delivery. That can be a daunting prospect for a lot of people; there's absolutely no shame in asking for pain management during your delivery if you find the pain is too much to handle. Having a natural birth may also put you at greater risk of needing general anesthesia in the event of a complication with the labor or delivery. For example, if your baby's heart rate drops suddenly and can't be corrected, the cord is prolapsed, or another complication arises, the safest and quickest option for delivery is a c-section; every second counts in these cases, and general anesthesia is much faster than waiting for an epidural to take hold.

Preparing for Natural Childbirth Throughout Pregnancy

You can begin preparing for a natural birth early in your pregnancy, and doing so can actually help you feel supported when it comes time to deliver. Talk to your doctor about your desire for a natural birth, and make sure they're on the same page as you are; some doctors may be hesitant, and if yours is, they aren't the right doctor for you. Consider hiring a birth doula to assist during your labor and delivery - they are there just for you, to make sure you are supported and comfortable. Research where you'll be giving birth; if your hospital doesn't offer options for no medical interventions, you may consider finding a different hospital or even opting for a birthing center. Finally, begin researching drug-free pain management techniques, such as breathing exercises, visualization, and meditation.

Tips for a natural birth

When the time comes, it can come fast and things can get really hectic. It will help to have a plan in place for possible scenarios (this is when your birth support partner or doula comes in handy!). Create a comfortable space where you feel safe and relaxed, with music or pictures or low lighting. Once labor is underway, take each minute as it comes, and try not to think ahead to the next contraction. Visualize your birth, and focus on the outcome and not what's happening in each moment. Most importantly, stay positive! Things can begin to feel very overwhelming and scary, but if you try to remain as positive as possible, you can get through it.

READ NEXT: How Painful Is Childbirth?

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