Statistics show that experiencing a natural vaginal birth is not a given, in fact it is rare.
Recent studies in the UK showed that less than 10 % of women have a 'completely natural birth'.1,2
This page looks at modern birth practices and gives some tips for an ideal natural child birth experience.
Click here to read a list of Benefits of Natural Birth
In modern western society, birth is handled as a technocratic, medical event that generally takes place in clinical, hospital surroundings and compliance with the system is believed to be a guarantee of a healthy outcome for both mother and baby.
Doctors and health professionals are part of an industry that must generate profits and avoid litigation, so routines are established for their benefit to the detriment of women giving birth.
...hospitals and insurance companies actually discourage choice and even infringe on parents' intimate rites, ultimately obstructing the powerful natural connection between mother and newborn child. - Abby Epstein
Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein's documentary, The Business of Being Born, examines birth in America today. Historical, political and scientific insights and shocking statistics about the current maternity care system can benefit every woman planning a birth.
By portraying drug-free births as normal, healthy and possible for the average woman, this film empowers women to take responsibility for their birth experiences.
No one denies that medical professionals do save the lives of high-risk women and infants, but this movie shows that a low-risk birth does not need to be a medical event in a hospital that disrupts the benefits of being born naturally.
Since women are no longer encouraged trust their ability to give birth naturally, they want the safety of available technology, should it be needed and so few challenge or question routine maternity practices.
Institutionalized childbirth is seldom natural and the use of technology implies that natural, vaginal birth is risky. For example, the routine use of electronic fetal monitoring creates the impression that the baby is in danger.
Not only is there the use of technology and medical interventions, but the emotional experiences that most woman have giving birth in hospitals today are far from uplifting and many look back on them negatively.
Some would even label their experiences as 'birth rape' as they felt they were a victim of an institution, rather than being treated as a respected individual, whose dignity was protected.
Unfortunately, birth is no longer a tradition in the hands of midwives but rather it has shifted into an industry dominated by men. It is no longer a private affair where women actively birth their babies themselves, with the support and care of a few familiar, trusted people in a familiar environment.
In fact, the opposite is true. In general, women who have vaginal births in hospital settings are often treated with little dignity and not surprisingly, many opt to avoid the invasion of their bodies and their privacy by strangers by choosing elective caesarean births.
How can a woman relax and be comfortable under a spot-light, while strangers probe her exposed vagina!
In no other circumstances would this violation of privacy be found acceptable!
An ideal vaginal birth should occur in an atmosphere that is as natural as possible – dim lights, candles, soft voices, pleasant music (the mother’s choice) which will enable the mother to be more relaxed and produce the hormones which will facilitate the birth.
The woman should be free to labor in any position of her choice. She needs to be surrounded by birth attendants and supporters who are familiar to her and who will build her confidence.
Under these circumstances, labor is less likely to be prolonged or complicated and will be less likely to require any interventions.
Ongoing scientific research is uncovering more and more benefits that were previously unknown, proving over and over that nature’s way is still the best.
Click here to read a list of Vaginal Birth Benefits
Since this ideal is often very difficult to attain in a hospital setting, many women seek alternatives, such as midwife-run maternity centres, home births and even unassisted births, where no medical attendants are present.
When planning a birth, the venue is likely to be one of the biggest factors you need to consider. The place is highly likely to determine the type of experience you will have.
Make sure you have a clear birth plan and then investigate the pros and cons of giving birth in a hospital, birth center or at home.
Next, choose your caregiver/s, if any, with equal care and consideration. Find out the benefits of hiring a doula to support your choices.
1. Birth in Britain Today Survey 2001, Mother and Baby magazine
2. S. Downe, C. McCormick and B. Lawrence Beech, Labour Interventions Associated with Normal Birth, British Journal of Midwifery, October 2001, Vol 9, No 10, p602-606
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