Natural childbirth

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Natural childbirth is a childbirth philosophy that attempts to minimize medical intervention, particularly the use of anesthetic medications and surgical interventions such as episiotomies, forceps and ventouse deliveries and caesarean sections.

Risks of anesthetics and other interventions

Proponents of natural childbirth note that anaesthetics may increase the likelihood of complications, because labor may be slowed or the woman may not be able to adequately move her body during labor or work with her body during final delivery.[2] All epidural medications given during labor cross the placenta and affect the fetus,[citation needed] and it has been shown that pain medication can affect the feeding behavior of the newborn [3] and reduce the chances of successful breastfeeding.[citation needed]

A natural birth also increases the probability of a healthier postnatal period and an easier recovery due to better hormonal balance and less post-operative discomforts.[citation needed] This is because a woman who has given birth with minimal intervention does not have to recover from major abdominal surgery (caesarean section), instrumental delivery (by forceps or ventouse), cutting of the perineum, called episiotomy) (although the perineum will sometimes tear during childbirth anyway), bruises from IV lines, or severe headache backache (a possible and well-documented side effect of epidurals). Natural childbirth maximizes the innate birth physiology and laboring movement of healthy, well-nourished women and minimizes interventions in the normal course of spontaneous childbirth.

Alternatives to anesthetics

Pain management techniques other than medication include:

It should be noted that it is common to defecate while giving birth.

Psychological benefits

Many women consider natural birth empowering. A woman who is supported to labor as she instinctively wants to is a woman who will likely feel positive about her birth experience and future parenting skills. [4] [5] [6] Her baby is more able to be alert and placed on her skin (promoting maternal bonding) and breastfeeding is more likely to be enjoyable and successful.[7] [8] [9]


The Lamaze, Bradley Method, Birthing From Within, and Calm Birth are popular systems to help parents-to-be prepare for the birth process in general, and emphasize natural birth in particular.


  1. ^ Simkin, P. (1992) "Just another day in a woman's life? Nature and consistency of women's long term memories of their first birth experience." Birth 19:64-81.
  2. ^ Hodnett, E. (2002) "Pain and women's satisfaction with the experience of birth: A systematic review."American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 186, no 5:s160. PMID 12011880
  3. ^ Knapp, L. (1996) "Childbirth satisfaction: the effect of internality and perceived control." Journal of Perinatal Education 5:7-15.
  4. ^ World Health Organization Department of Reproductive Health and Research. (1999) "Care in Normal Birth: A Practical Guide" Geneva: World Health Organization, 3.
  5. ^ Lieberman, E. and C. O'Donoghue (2002) "Unintended effects of epidural analgesia during labor: a systematic review." Supplement to American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 186, no. 5s31-s68.PMID 12011872
  6. ^ Sakala, C., M. Corry, and H. Goer. (2004) Vaginal Birth and Cesarean Birth: How Do the Risks Compare? New York: Maternity Center Association. Full report available at [10]
  7. ^ Anderson, G., et al. (2000) "Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants." The Cochrane Library 3. Oxford: Updating Software.
  8. ^ Uvnas-Moberg, K. (1998) "Oxytocin may mediate the benefits of positive social interactions and emotions." Psychoneuroendocrinology 23, no. 8:819-38
  9. ^ Vernon, D (2005) Having a Great Birth in Australia, Australian College of Midwives
  10. ^ Righard, L. and M. Alade. (1990) "Effect of delivery room routines on success of first breastfeed." Lancet 336, no. 8723:1105-107.
  11. ^ Ransjö-Arvidson A.B., Matthiesen, A., et al. (2001) "Maternal analgesia during labor disturbs newborn behavior: Effects on breastfeeding, temperature, and crying." Birth 28, no. 1:5-12. PMID 11264622

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