Natural childbirth can be difficult, painful and a very rewarding experience all at the same time. There’s plenty to consider.
A growing number of my patients are increasingly curious about natural childbirth. Natural childbirth is giving birth with the least medical intervention possible, particularly anesthesia and pain medication. It’s not the route most women take.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 60 percent of women having a single baby, aka a singleton, vaginally deliver with an epidural, the most common form of pain relief for labor. C-section labors account for about 30 percent, and the remaining 10 percent of women delivered without an epidural. At the University of Colorado, we have a lower cesarean rate than the national average, as well as a higher rate of un-medicated births.
Natural childbirth, for most women, does not take longer than medically assisted birth. Most women are “low-risk” pregnancies meaning that natural childbirth is a healthy option if they decide to go that route. Your OB-GYN will be able to tell you if you qualify.
For soon-to-be mothers who do want to deliver without the assistance of drugs, there are a number of factors to consider. As a physician, I don’t necessarily encourage or discourage natural deliveries unless I have clear medical evidence to suggest one form over the other. I just try to present all the facts to empower women to decide because, ultimately, the decision is up to you!
Before modern epidurals, there was a pain management method known as twilight—which was basically anesthesia that put the mother to sleep through the entire delivery. Essentially, the mother would not experience or feel anything during the pregnancy. We’ve come a long way in providing women with more appropriate pain management options.
Modern epidurals deliver a continuous stream of pain medication to the lower part of THE body while the patient remains completely conscious. Although pain and sensation are greatly reduced during an epidural, this does not mean that the woman doesn’t feel anything during labor.
This may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do
Here are the biggest factors that I tell my patients to consider when they are deciding whether to undergo a natural childbirth:
- What number baby is it? Women generally have longer labors during the first pregnancy so going natural the first time around may not be for everyone. However, we fully support those who are committed to trying!
- What time of day is it? Nighttime labor of any sort can be more challenging, as fatigue levels are higher than births during the day, especially if you haven’t slept in a few days.
- How supportive is the family in carrying out a natural birth? Is the father or partner as firm in the birth plan as the mother?
Natural childbirth hurts. Trust a physician who has delivered hundreds of babies both with and without pain medication. Giving birth naturally will likely be one of the hardest physical endeavors you perform in your life. For many women, this is also highly rewarding as well.
In some cases, natural labor may be prolonged if a woman has a lower tolerance for pain and is unable to push hard and strong when most needed.
Newer options are available for un-medicated deliveries, such as nitrous oxide, which can aide in pain relief, without getting an epidural. There are other available resources in labor to support you, such as tubs, birthing balls and the ability to be mobile. We want to support your labor in any way we can. Doulas, professionals trained in childbirth who provide mental, physical and emotional support for the mother, are also available in the community and can be a great source of assistance and comfort during labor.
Educate yourself, then decide
Other ways to prepare for your pregnancy include taking childbirth education courses. Education alleviates many fears and helps reduce the unknown. These classes are offered both throughout the community as well as at the University of Colorado (www.uchealth.org). If you want to explore natural childbirth as an option, make sure the course cover natural birth. There are a variety of courses available in the community from Lamaze to hypnobirthing, find the class that best fits your needs and desires.
Each and every labor is a personal and primal experience. At CU, we are here to give the best possible experience for every patient. Deciding what is best for you will be a monumental decision that an OB-GYN can help guide your through. But ultimately, the decision is up to you.