Natural Childbirth – Stages, Benefits & How to Prepare
- What Is Natural Childbirth?
- Stages of Natural Childbirth
- Benefits of Giving Birth Naturally
- Disadvantages of Not Taking Drugs
- Options Involved in Delivering a Baby Naturally
- Importance of Midwife for Women Giving Natural Birth
- Complications of Natural Baby Birth
- How to Prepare for Giving Birth Naturally
- Is Natural Delivery for You?
- How Is Natural Birth Delivery Done?
- How Long Does It Take to Deliver a Baby Naturally?
- What Does Natural Childbirth Feel Like?
- Dont’s About Giving Birth Naturally
- Tips for Delivering Child Naturally
- Acupuncture & Acupressure
- What Happens After Delivery
As an expecting mother, you will have the flexibility of choosing from several birthing options. The first choice is between natural birth and assisted delivery, and most mothers-to-be want childbirth to be as natural as possible, like a normal delivery. This includes not having to take any pain-killing medication just before the delivery of your baby. Natural techniques, such as relaxation and breathing control, can help you to deliver your baby without taking any medication.
This article provides a complete guide to the process of natural childbirth, its benefits and disadvantages, along with how you need to prepare yourself to go through natural childbirth.
What Is Natural Childbirth?
In simple terms, natural childbirth is about giving birth to your child the natural way. This comprises going through your labour and delivery without any form of medications, including epidurals for pain relief. Pregnant women, who opt for natural childbirth, are often faced with low-risk pregnancies and want to have a higher level of empowerment in their child delivery.
Natural childbirth requires that you are in complete comfort and are exercising full control over your child’s delivery process.
Stages of Natural Childbirth
Also referred to as vaginal delivery, natural childbirth normally lasts for around 14 hours, although it can be much longer or shorter. As an expecting mother, you must be aware of the 3 stages of natural childbirth, which are described below.
1. Cervical Dilation
This is the first stage of natural childbirth and typically lasts for around 6 to 10 hours (for first-time pregnant women). You can either experience soft or dramatic labour pain in the early stages of cervical dilation, during which the cervix dilates from zero to three or four centimetres.
In the second or more active phase, you may experience more labour pains as the cervix dilates from four to seven centimetres. This phase lasts around 3 to 6 hours during the first childbirth and half the time during subsequent births.
The final phase of cervical dilation is the transition phase, during which the cervix dilates from eight to 10 centimetres. This phase typically lasts from 20 minutes to a maximum of 2 hours during first childbirth and is substantially reduced during subsequent births.
2. Expulsion of Foetus
The second stage of natural childbirth only starts after the cervix is completely dilated and lasts for around 1.5 to two hours for first-time pregnancy. During this stage, you will experience the maximum urge towards pushing down your baby, which will be followed by increased breathlessness and fatigue. You will also experience intense pain around your vaginal areas as your baby’s head protrudes out around the vaginal opening.
3. Placenta Delivery
The third stage, placenta delivery (also known as afterbirth), happens only after your baby’s birth. This normally lasts only for a few minutes. Most mothers do not recollect this phase, as they are so absorbed in holding their babies to their breasts.
With placenta delivery, the process of natural childbirth is completed.
Benefits of Giving Birth Naturally
While natural childbirth is a test of how much you can endure extreme pain, it does offer many benefits, including:
- Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises that you learn during natural childbirth, can help you later to cope with any postpartum depression or to deal with any childcare stress factors.
- As your partner will be more involved in the childbirth process, he will develop a deeper bond with you and your baby.
- Due to immediate contact of the mother with the baby following the natural birth, mother-baby bonding is better, especially for the purpose of easier breastfeeding. It can also improve the baby’s sleep patterns, weight gain, and brain development.
- While epidural treatment can confine you to extended bed rest, women, who undergo natural childbirth, are able to move around during labour and also immediately after the delivery.
Disadvantages of Not Taking Drugs
While natural childbirth has multiple benefits, expecting mothers must also be aware of its disadvantages, as listed below:
1. Extreme Pain
Despite their benefits, natural pain-reducing techniques cannot completely eliminate extreme pain, which you may not be able to endure, particularly if you develop any medical or pregnancy-related complication or have prolonged labour.
2. Neonatal Death Risks
The risk of neonatal death risk increases if you are delivering your baby at home or at a birthing facility, as compared to a hospital. Compared to a full-fledged hospital, other medical facilities may not have the necessary treatments for any complications that arise during childbirth.
Options Involved in Delivering a Baby Naturally
Depending on the medical facilities available in your place of residence, you can select from a variety of child delivery facilities to deliver your baby through natural birth:
1. Home Birth
Giving birth to your baby in the natural and familiar surroundings of your home can be a viable option and is only recommended for women with normal pregnancies and low levels of risk. While home birth is only advisable for women in the best of physical health and with no ailments, you must also ensure that you have easy access to a medical facility in case there are any complications during the birthing.
2. Birth Centres
A birth centre is another viable option for women with low levels of pregnancy-related risks. A birth centre also offers the services of an experienced midwife or a nurse in case of an emergency. Birth centres are also equipped with basic levels of medical equipment for prenatal care and postpartum checkups.
Some hospitals also provide the option of natural hospital birth. Along with the availability of midwives and doulas, hospitals also have separate birth centre facilities on their premises, which are dedicated to the purpose of natural childbirth. Medication and pregnancy equipment are available and are used only if needed.
Importance of Midwife for Women Giving Natural Birth
In addition to helping in baby delivery, certified midwives (or nurses) are essential for women opting for natural birth and provide a range of services to pregnant women, including gynaecological checkups, along with prenatal and postpartum care. Pregnant women with no ailments or pregnancy-related complications can choose the services of a certified and experienced midwife who can provide pregnancy care and advice related to natural childbirth.
Complications of Natural Baby Birth
While natural childbirth is mostly safe, complications generally occur only if you:
- Fail to follow the recommendations of your medical specialist or your health care provider.
- Refuse or are unable to opt for medication or any medical intervention in the event of any complications during childbirth.
How to Prepare for Giving Birth Naturally
To increase your chances of natural childbirth, it is important to be informed and prepared before you enter into labour. Here are a few ways in which you can prepare:
1. Talk to Your Doctor or Gynaecologist
Before you opt for natural childbirth, it is important to talk to your trusted and experienced medical practitioner on whether natural birth is safe for you.
2. Select the Right Facility or Environment for Your Birthing
Whether it is your home, birth centre, or hospital, you must select the right facility or environment where you would be most comfortable going through a natural childbirth.
3. Get Information About Natural Childbirth
Read online content to get detailed information about natural childbirth. You must also speak to any friend or family member who has already undergone natural childbirth. Attending classes which offer you practice in relaxation techniques that are useful during natural childbirth can also be useful.
4. Learn and Practice Natural Techniques for Pain Management
In the weeks and months leading to your delivery date, learn and practice the variety of available pain management techniques with your birthing partner. This includes techniques such as massage therapy like perineal massage, relaxing and breathing exercises, aromatherapy, reflexology, and more.
5. Be Prepared for Medical Intervention
Despite the elaborate preparation, complications can occur during any pregnancy stage or during delivery. Be prepared to opt for medical intervention (particularly during labour) to avoid any risk or complication.
Is Natural Delivery for You?
While only a certified and experienced medical practitioner can recommend if you should go for a natural delivery, here are some pointers that indicate your suitability for natural childbirth:
- You are expecting only 1 baby, and not twins or multiples.
- You are not overweight or have not gained massive weight during pregnancy.
- You are prepared to go through the complete 37 weeks of your pregnancy.
- You are in good physical shape with regular exercising and have stuck to the recommended pregnancy diet.
- You have the full support of your family or friends.
- You have a high tolerance level for pain.
How Is Natural Birth Delivery Done?
Described below are the 2 common childbirth methods which will guide you on how to give birth naturally without pain:
- Lamaze method, which adopts a neutral approach towards the use of medication for pain relief. Through this method, the woman in labour has complete control over deciding if they want to switch to pain-reducing medication.
- Bradley method (also referred to as the Husband Coached birth), which includes greater participation of a birth coach. This method advocates the non-use of medication strongly, unless in unavoidable circumstances. This method also focuses on good nutrition and exercise during pregnancy, along with classes for effective relaxation techniques and for pregnancy complications.
How Long Does It Take to Deliver a Baby Naturally?
There is no fixed time for natural childbirth, and it varies from woman to woman. Some pregnant women may go through labour lasting a couple of hours, while labour for others can last the entire day or even longer.
What Does Natural Childbirth Feel Like?
Natural childbirth can vary greatly among pregnant women and also between the first and subsequent pregnancies for the same women. Labour pains can differ for different women and can feel like menstrual cramping for some or diarrheal cramping for others.
Dont’s About Giving Birth Naturally
Along with the many do’s of natural childbirth, here is a list of don’ts for giving natural birth:
- While listening to constructive feedback is fine, do not pay much heed to negative stories about natural childbirth.
- Try your best, but don’t blame yourself if you are unable to go through natural childbirth. Always remember that a healthy baby is more important than the mode of delivery.
- The majority of women want to switch to medication, particularly during intense labour pains. Don’t blame yourself if you feel like doing the same.
- Despite the high chances of pooping during the baby’s pushing, don’t avoid having a good and balanced meal at all times during your pregnancy.
Tips for Delivering Child Naturally
Listed below are a few tips that can improve your chances of natural childbirth:
- Focus on the relaxation techniques and breathing exercises that you have learned to manage your pain.
- Manage your pain each minute, as most labour contractions only last for 1 minute.
- Use visualization techniques to picture your baby coming out the natural way.
- Avoid distractions by not having too many people in your birthing room.
To reduce the sensation of pain, some women can opt for self-hypnosis in order to relax their muscles during labour. This method will require lots of practice and training during pregnancy days.
Hydrotherapy, or the use of water, can be used to reduce the pains of labour during natural childbirth. Multiple birth centres and hospitals do provide large bathtubs for helping women in labour. Immersing oneself in water (at body temperature or lesser) can reduce overall body pressure, relax your muscles, and reduce pain.
Acupuncture & Acupressure
While there is not much research into the effectiveness of acupuncture and acupressure, it is believed by practitioners that these techniques can be used at specific points to block pain impulses to the brain, along with aiding the release of natural pain-relieving endorphins in the body.
As few doctors and midwives are trained in these techniques, you may need to employ the services of a certified and skilled acupuncture or acupressure specialist to help you during labour.
What Happens After Delivery
Post-natural delivery, you may experience any or all of the following feelings:
- An extreme level of exhaustion, along with the urge to sleep.
- Shivering or feeling cold after the delivery is also normal.
- Soreness in your body, including cramping around the uterus area or pain around your vagina.
- High sense of elation about what you have just achieved.
While natural childbirth has its share of benefits, you must remember that it is perfectly normal and understandable if you change your mind and switch to pain relief medication during the actual child labour.
Irrespective of whether you use or do not use medication, childbirth is a beautiful and rewarding experience in your life.
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Also Read: Twins Delivery: All You Must Know