“The whole point of natural birth is the knowledge that the woman is the birth power source.
She may need help, but in essence, she always had, currently has and will always have that power.”
– Heather McCue
India’s caesarean section rates are on a rise. There are 6.6 million children born via C-section annually and the numbers have increased from 8.5% in 2005-06 to 17.2% in 2015-16. 80% of women in India have uncomplicated pregnancies and would have normal births if supported to do so, 20% with medical complications would require obstetric interventions. There is growing evidence highlighting that children born via C-section have a greater risk of asthma, allergies, autism and collagen disorders. Medical interventions, while extremely important in complicated high-risk pregnancies, should be totally avoided in case of uncomplicated pregnancies. Childbirth is a normal physiological event. Having a professional midwife has been well researched to increase the chances of achieving a normal birth, reducing unnecessary interventions and enhancing a positive birth experience.
What is Natural birthing?
Many women aren’t familiar with the true concept of natural birthing. Natural birthing is the process of giving birth without unnecessary interventions such as restricting your fluids and food intake, routine episiotomies during your birth and restricting your mobility. However, due to the rising awareness of unnecessary medical interventions on both the mother and the child, an increasing number of mothers-to-be have begun to look up natural birthing and its benefits.
The concept of ‘daimaas’ is not foreign to us. Daimaas are women, not trained medically, who have been birthing mothers in the remote areas where there is a lack of qualified health care professionals. Doulas are birth supporters who do not have medical knowledge or make any medical decisions but solely offer support during birth. However, your professional midwife has been through an in-depth training program, enabling her to care for you safely. She has the required knowledge and works in a collaborative model where obstetricians are available when needed.
What happens during Natural Birth?
During the last month of pregnancy, the cervix softens and the contractions of the uterus may become more intense and the foetus moves and settles into the pelvis. Eventually, the uterine contractions become stronger and the cervix dilates and the baby moves into the birth canal. The brain releases oxytocin as soon as it receives signals of pain from each contraction. The birthing environment is key for the release of natural endorphins to help stimulate the much-needed oxytocin during birthing.
Endorphins help mothers in coping with labour pains and help them concentrate on birthing. During this time, it is essential that you surround yourself with supportive people who can guide you throughout the journey. A professional midwife plays the most important role as she encourages and guides you as you go through the birthing process and continues to support you even when you may require medical intervention
How to prepare for Natural Birth?
Professional midwives believe in a woman’s natural ability to birth. They will provide antenatal care to ensure your pregnancy progresses and will refer you to a doctor if you develop complications during your pregnancy. Antenatal education is also important in preparing mothers and their families. Evidence suggests that knowledge is the key to minimise fear of childbirth.
Preparation is the key
Pregnancy requires you to prepare yourself mentally and physically for months in advance. Practicing yoga on a regular basis, walking, swimming, meditating or attending a Lamaze class are effective ways of preparing yourself for the mental and physical challenges you may experience during birth.
It is essential that you maintain a diet that is comprised of the right amount of proteins, vegetables, fruits and fibres. The right diet will not only keep your baby healthy but will also ensure that you build up enough strength in your body to go through birth, and heal and recover after it. It will also help with the production of breast milk and the lactation process.
Avoid excess weight gain
A woman with an average weight with a pre-pregnancy BMI of 25 or less should gain up to 11.5-16 kgs during pregnancy. An underweight woman with a BMI less than 18 should gain between 12.5-18 kgs and an overweight woman with a BMI over 30 should gain not more than 5-9 kgs.
Maintaining the right diet and exercising daily are factors that help one control excessive weight gain and remain healthy during pregnancy.
Avoid listening to the negatives of natural birth
Once you’ve decided to go for natural birthing, try your best to avoid getting influenced by relatives or friends who have had to go through horrifying birthing experiences. Everyone has a different birthing experience and each birth is unique. It is important that you remain positive and focus on what is important to you.
Try spending early labour in your home
Try spending the initial part of your labour at home until your contractions increase. If you feel uncomfortable or concerned, contact your professional midwife and she will advise you accordingly. You can walk around, meditate, or take a shower which will help ease the stress. You should also try eating and drink some water.
Benefits of Natural Birth:
The advantages of having a natural birth are profound. We need to realise that giving birth is a natural process and not a medical ailment that needs treatment. The mindset about childbirth needs to change so that the benefits of natural birthing can be understood completely. Some benefits of natural birth are:
It is considered to be the safest and the healthiest for the baby
Babies born normally (vaginal births) generally have more diversified microbiomes, are less prone to allergies and are at a lower risk of diseases like asthma, diabetes, obesity, etc. When a child is born via C-section, he or she does not come in contact with the protective bacteria in the birth canal which help in building the baby’s immune system. Vaginal births also help expel amniotic fluid from the baby’s lungs which lowers the risk of pulmonary disorders later in his or her life. Recent studies have also shown that natural birth can aid in boosting development of the brain in the newborns.
Mother’s health remains unaffected
Mothers who undergo C-section may miss out on the crucial first hours of their child’s life as they may feel drowsy following anaesthesia and are also in pain. An unnecessary C-section can result in severe bleeding, infections, scarring, nausea and vomiting. It could also cause damage to the surrounding structures in the abdominal cavity.
Epidural anaesthesia is completely avoided
Epidural anaesthesia is less likely when mobility in labour is encouraged and supported. Mothers who choose to have the choice of hydrotherapy and waterbirth may reduce the need for an epidural. Epidurals may increase the need for an assisted delivery and other interventions.
Natural birth encourages the body’s normal physiology.
Better adaptation to breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the beginning of the beautiful relation between mother and child. It is important to establish this habit at the earliest to ensure a healthy nursing relationship. Babies born via C-section may have issues with breastfeeding initially as the medications taken by the mother during the recovery phase enter the milk and can lead to the baby being sleepy and drowsy. Mothers may not be able to breastfeed within the first hour of birth.
The benefits of natural birthing are invaluable and help women in numerous ways. Birthing is a normal physiological process and should not be visualized as a pathological condition. Women’s bodies are designed to give birth. It may seem difficult but with the right guidance and preparation many find birthing to be a truly an empowering experience. Natural birthing helps you maintain control over your own mind and body and accomplish the task like the true hero you are!