4 Ways to Tell if Natural Childbirth Is Right for You

Health Check 32

newborn babyIf you're pregnant and curious about natural childbirth, it's easy to walk away from all the beautiful birthing stories thinking that natural is the only way to go. But is it? Some of the crunchiest moms I know will admit it's not for everyone. If you're thinking about attempting natural childbirth, you have to get past all the idealism and politics and take a good hard look at reality. There's your aspirations, and then there's you, with all your life experiences, your circumstances, your strengths, and your limitations.

Lots of women plan on natural labor only to change their minds and get that epidural after all. Plenty of other women plan on being medicated and then deliver so quickly there's no time. Labor is unpredictable like that. But if you want to try out natural childbirth, there's a few questions you need to ask yourself.

1. How do you feel about your body being out of your control? The fewer interventions you have, the more control you're handing over to your body's own natural processes. That may sound great, especially when people say things like "trust the wisdom of your own body." But it can be terrifying. Think of all the other times you have not been in full control of your body. How did that feel? Scary or thrilling? Of course, the idea that you're in full control even with a medicated birth can still be total fiction -- but it still feels different.

More from The Stir: Our 10 Favorite Books on Natural Childbirth

2. How do you handle pain, really? How soon do you reach for meds when you have a headache? Try holding a cube of ice in your palm. How long do you last? As long as the average contraction? Because a contraction is going to be a hell of a lot more intense and painful.

3. Do you have time to train? For best results, you really do need to actively prepare for natural childbirth. You should prepare for any childbirth, actually. But going unmedicated works best when you can work with a doula, midwife, or labor coach beforehand and really learn techniques for managing pain and working with your body. It's not necessarily as intuitive as you'd think.

4. Do you have the right support team? You're going to need your significant other to be on board. And you're going to need your midwife, labor nurse, doctor, any anyone else helping you to be supportive of an unmedicated labor. It takes a lot of support.

By the way, as far as I'm concerned, any labor that results in a baby is "natural." So however your baby arrives in this world, you should feel proud of yourself.

How else can women find out if natural childbirth is right for them?


Image via Lindsey Turner/Flickr

labor & delivery, pain management


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mande... manderspanders

I planned a natural birth in a hospital, with a family doctor (not an OB) and a doula.  10hrs of labor, 25 minutes of pushing. I have a pretty good pain tolerance, and have only had narcotic pain meds once in my life (which I will never do again).  I *completely* understand the point in labor where any woman would lose her resolve and say "give me some drugs!!"... if I had not had my doula and my husband weren't so supportive, I absolutely would have given in.  After birth, I had a second degree tear repair with running stitches. I only had 600mg of ibuprofen twice in the next 24 hours.  I'd consider that the "high" of giving birth outweighed any residual pain.

Outside of some true physical defect or complication, there really isn't any reason that a woman can't "do" natural child birth.  It's all about having the *right* support system, understanding what you are facing, and understanding that there is a PURPOSE FOR THE PAIN and that it will end with the outcome being a beautiful baby.  If you have the right mind set, it's amazing what can be accomplished.

(my body did a beautiful thing for me... now I just need to stop all the self-loathing and love my body for being so awesome, regardless of size, shape, wrinkles, etc).

Craft... CraftyJenna

Your pain tolerance argument is asinine- your pain tolerence on a normal day does not apply to birth. Your body is made to birth your child, and labor in most cases happens in stages to allow you to transition to your next stage. With the right pain management techniques- water, moving, backrubs, not being flat on your back, it is totally possible to get threw without drugs. The drugs are worse than any pain to me- twice in the hospital I was given medication without being informed of side effects or even what it was, and it made me out of it, spacy and not able to understand everything going on around me. That was terrifing. The pain of contractions and birth before and after that were not bad compared. 

Freela Freela

Having had natural childbirth, I think your ice cube analogy is flawed... there is a difference between pain arising from a natural process and pain being inflicted from some outside source.  As for your body being 'out of your control' during natural childbirth, I think this is in the eye of the beholder.  Part of the reason why I chose to have an unmedicated birth was because I hate the feeling that someone is messing with my body, and this made me want to avoid as many interventions as possible.  I felt more in control of my body during labour than I did, for instance, having surgery a few years later.  For me, labour was something that I did, whereas surgery was something that was done to me... and I felt much more in control being as active as possible in the process. 

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against meds and think that we are lucky to have medical options so that we have choices as to how and where we give birth.  I just feel that a lot of these articles are skewed towards failure (ie. If you don't have enough support, if you can't hold an ice cube in your palm for ten minutes without wanting to let go, you  may not be cut out for natural childbirth.)  I would rather the message was that this is something moms absolutely CAN do if they choose to. 

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

Are you pregnant? Free of any extreme medical complication that would require a c-section? Then natural birth is for you. I've done it with an epidural. I've done it with narcotics. I've done it natural. The natural birth was far and away the easiest. It was fast, I was more in control than I would have been with medication, and my baby was born in great shape and so alert. We joke that she said her first word when she was an hour old because the midwife asked her if she was ready to nurse and she uttered "uh-huh". Skip the epidural and you might have a baby genius, now there's an advertising slogan ;-)

Lilit... Lilith.23

Both times i delivered in less then 30 mins. But oh boy did it hurt! I wanted the epidural so bad but my boys are so stuborn they just....poped out.

Momma... Mommabearbergh

My nurses were the best to help me achieve my non medicated in the hospital birth. When I hit the omg give me the drugs stage. They got me over the hump. I loved them. If you truly want a natural birth it is so possible

Robin Hartman

I had an unmedicated birth and it was wonderful. No midwife, no doula. Just me and my husband and a helpful nurse. I think the secret is to not go to the hospital until you're really ready. The less time you spend in the hospital the better. With an epidural your legs are immobilized and you have to get the dreaded catheter. Yuck!

Joanna Spellman

Every time I read an article from this site I always end with that overwhelming feeling of "I will never get those 5 minutes of my life back."
I don't know why I torture myself like this. It has to be the "train-wreck" theory...
The overwhelmingly uneducated bias of 98% of the "information" on this site is just mind-blowing.

E Shay Bunch



This is a terrible article. It should be taken down. It reads as though trying to convince women they aren't good enough (they ARE); their bodies can't do it (they DEFINITELY can); they can't possibly have a high enough pain tolerance (ever heard of orgasmic birth? yes, orgasm); do they have time to train (as if there is so much their bodies can't do on their own); that their bodies are out of control (ummm NO they're NOT); that they don't have enough people to support them (unless they have the required spouse, midwife, doula, etc). ALL of this is WRONG. Women's bodies are MORE than capable of natural birth. We've been doing it drug-free for CENTURIES. The lie is that we can't. Yes, it takes strength, determination, commitment, and love. Regarding pain, there have been THOUSANDS of drug-free births that are pain-free. I had one myself. There is pressure; there are contractions...but our bodies were DESIGNED to handle each of these...and then our bodies give us a break between contractions. It's amazing. About support...quite frankly, if you want a drug-free birth...if you want it badly enough, you can absolutely do it. A support team is awesome...and if you have a spouse or midwife or doula or mom or best friend to be there for you... even BETTER!! But it's not required. So if you've been considering a drug-free birth...let me be one to stand up & say, "YOU CAN DO IT. I believe in you."


Ashlee Logan

This is a little dumb. Women's bodies are built for childbirth. Every woman CAN handle a natural childbirth. There is no questions of "is it right for you?" because it's what women's bodies do! I do understand there are definitely curcumstances that arise, and thank God he has provided medical advances to help, but avoidance of pain is no neccessity inl delivery. in fact, if a woman could feel and KNOW what was going on, alert to semething going wrong and needing facilitating could probably be detected sooner. Yes, a woman needs to be prepared and have a great support team, becuase that helps more than anything. Labor is called such for a reason. It is hard work, and having suport makes it not so wearysome. I don't think of it as being not in control of what is happening. You are no more in control if you are medicated, and in fact, have affected the control your body actually has by medicating. And a woman might be surprised at what she can handle if she actually prepared for and went through it. I think the problem with women thinking they cant handle it is because everyone has scared them into thinking they can't, and they CAN. It has been done for thousands of years before modern medicine. Don't sell yourself short.

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