Is Natural Childbirth Right For Me?

Julia Cruz Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center correspondent

SEPTEMBER 01, 2012

For some first-time moms, the idea of natural childbirth - delivering your baby vaginally without pain medication or medical intervention - is a scary thought. For others, it seems completely natural.

"What I always tell people is to have an open mind," says Dr. Celeste Royce, an obstetrician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "It's great to have an idea of what you want for delivery, but not everyone goes into labor spontaneously, and deliveries don't always happen as planned."

The philosophy behind natural childbirth is that women are innately equipped to give birth without medical intervention. The woman can choose how and where she wants to give birth - often at home. There is no epidural to numb the pain of strong contractions and only a midwife or doula (birthing coach) to help assist the mother-to-be.

"Midwives are great for uncomplicated childbirth, but we recommend choosing a midwife who has a standing relationship with a physician. A doula can help a woman and her family through labor, and we know that women who have doula support are less likely to request epidural anesthesia," notes Dr. Royce.

When the labor pains begin, moms delivering by natural childbirth can ease the pain through a variety of techniques including breathing exercises, hydrotherapy, massage, and even hypnosis. Women are encouraged to get up and walk around during labor and to get into comfortable positions that help relieve their pain.

Is natural childbirth better than non-natural methods? One quick Google search online is all it takes to discover the heated debate on the topic. There are hundreds of blogs from women detailing positive and not-so-positive experiences with natural childbirth. Even Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen caused a stir when she posted a blog advocating natural childbirth. The wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady delivered their first son in a bathtub in their Back Bay home and is currently expecting their second.

"It was one of the most life changing experiences for me and very very special," Bundchen writes on her blog.

Since most C-sections are unplanned and in many cases necessary to protect the health of the mother and baby, your best bet is to have a delivery plan in mind - but be flexible.

"None of us know exactly how much it's going to hurt until we get there," notes Dr. Royce. "It's okay to have pain relief and it is okay to have a C-section, if that's what you need to deliver a healthy baby."

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Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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