Natural Birth: Who Cares?
Several years ago, I unwisely engaged in a social media discussion about the definition of “natural birth.” It was not a positive experience, an individual ended up trying to argue with me that my first birth with local anesthetic for my consented episiotomy was a natural birth, while my second birth with IV antibiotics was not. Social media is fun, isn’t it?
However, it was extremely interesting reading all of the different definitions from a wide range of people who were all in a “Natural Birth Support” group! Here are some of the defining characteristics of a “natural birth” according to the public:
Vaginal birth (not a Cesarean)
No medications (saline lock, artificial rupture of membranes, etc are included in this definition of “natural birth”)
No pain medications (pitocin, antibiotics, anti-nausea, etc are included)
Spontaneous vaginal birth (not forceps or vacuum assisted)
No interventions (no induction, medications, listening to heartbeat, vaginal exams, etc)
Out of hospital birth (not an unmedicated, no intervention, spontaneous vaginal birth in the hospital)
Unattended birth (no trained doctor, midwife, nurse, EMT, etc)
Intact birth only (in which the placenta is birthed before the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, Cesarean birth included or not)
Lotus birth only (in which the umbilical cord is not clamped or cut and allowed to dry up and detach naturally over the days following birth, Cesarean birth included or not)
All births are natural (including all interventions and methods of birth)
No epidural (IV medications, Nitrous Oxide, Lidocaine, etc are included)
No systemic medications (no epidural, IV medication, Nitrous oxide, Tylenol, antibiotics, but local anesthetics such as lidocaine are included)
Not [insert something specific the individual commenting does not want for their own birth]
So what is the definition of “natural birth?” There is obviously great confusion and a wide range of ideas about this category of birth. So what is the true definition?
Here’s what I think, as a birth professional with nearly 10 years experience in the field.
Here is what I care about: How does the one giving birth define it? And once they have defined it for themselves, is that what they want for their birth?
January Harshe is right. At the end of the day, all that matters is how we treat people in childbirth. Do we treat birthing families with respect? With truth? Without coercion? With options? With support? That is how to have a positive birth experience, whether we have our dream birth, a complicated birth, or our birth changes our plans for us.
I will define a “natural birth” differently than the next doula. I will define a “natural birth” differently than the next mom. But who cares? I will support you no matter how you plan to give birth, and no matter how much plans change on your birthing day. I hope you can build a birth team that feels the same way about your choices for your birth.
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