Natural birth can be a lovely thing. It can allow Mom to feel the full spectrum of sensations and emotions associated with childbirth. Some Moms even hold the ability to give birth without meds as the pinnacle of Mom-ness.
Some even push things a step further. After all, given the right circumstances, a woman with a low-risk pregnancy can have a home birth that is just as safe as any conducted in the hospital. She can have as little intervention as she likes, and become a more active participant in the birthing process, as well as in the immediate care of her baby.
But while this may seem like an uncomplicated thing, it does not actually apply to all women. It seems that location, but more so local policy, matters when it comes to childbirth. This is why home births in Canada are just as safe as hospital births, but home births in America are actually more dangerous. But that’s a long, complicated discussion we’ll save for another time.
But, basically, the point is that just because something is natural doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the better choice. Most of it depends on Mom’s specific situation and which risks she’s willing to take in the process of childbirth.
Now, we’re not condemning natural births entirely. We recognize that it does have its place, and there are Moms who are extremely happy to have had them. But just to illustrate the kind of risks that Mom needs to be aware of, here are fifteen stories of fifteen Moms who actually regretted going all-natural.
15 Too Late For An Epidural
Kim had given birth before, and felt that he experience was just so-so. The best part of it was finally holding a baby in her hands, but everything that happened before that was such a flurry that it didn’t even register. For her second birth, some of her friends convinced her that a natural birth was worth trying. “You don’t really know childbirth until you experience a natural one for yourself,” said one natural birth advocate. Kim, therefore, talked to her OB, who gave her the clear for a natural birth.
What she didn’t take into consideration, however, was that childbirth is actually really painful. While natural birth advocates love to show videos of moms who have calm, enjoyable and even almost pain-free natural births, the truth is that this does not actually happen to everyone. By the time the baby was crowning, Kim was in a lot of pain, as well as a searing sensation in her nether regions. Sadly, however, it was too late for an epidural at this point.
14 Insistent In-Laws
Sarah didn’t really have any strong opinions as to what sort of childbirth she wanted. Pretty much everyone she knew had given birth with some sort of pain relief, usually gas and air, also known as laughing gas (she lived in the United Kingdom). Her in-laws, however, were firm believers in all-natural childbirth. So Sarah, figuring that given the pain management techniques that she could use would save her from most of the pain, complied. They drove her to birthing classes that taught natural birthing techniques. They might have even gotten her to do a home birth, if only she weren’t diabetic.
On the big day, however, pain escalated to the point where Sarah found it all unbearable. As she whimpered in pain and exhaustion between contractions, her mother-in-law would whisper bits of encouragement, telling her she was “doing the right thing.” Sarah did manage to give birth safely, but opted for an epidural for her next one. Her in-laws were disappointed, but she described her second childbirth as “glorious.”
13 Too Tired To Go On
Lauren was convinced that natural childbirth was for her. Her sister had one just last year, all complication-free, and so she figured that it would also be great for her. Everything seemed to go along smoothly. She learned techniques for breathing and pain management from a doula that she hired. She watched videos of natural childbirths, and she figured that she’d have it easy.
On the big day, therefore, she was pretty confident that she’d make it through without any hitches. She did everything right, and although it was painful, she was able to manage it well. At least at first. It took 16 hours for her cervix to fully dilate. And, at this point, she was exhausted. When the time to push came, she just couldn’t gather enough strength to bear down. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she had to ask her midwife to take her to the hospital. She was given labor induction meds and now has a healthy baby girl.
12 Unforeseen Side Effects
Ashley’s natural home birth, on the other hand, pretty much went as planned. Sure, it was long and painful, but she figured that that’s to be expected with any woman’s first childbirth. Besides, she had a pretty high tolerance for pain. After childbirth, however, she noticed that her urine would leak whenever she sneezed or coughed. Occasionally, she’d even have a sudden, uncontrollable urge to pee, so she had to rush to the bathroom at the most inconvenient of times.
It turns out that the childbirth had damaged the muscles and ligaments on Ashley’s pelvic floor so much that she had both stress and urge incontinence. In most cases, post-partum incontinence lasts for less than a year. However, in Ashley’s case, it’s still there after three years and another baby later. Although she’s not opposed to home births, she sometimes wishes that she had a hospital birth, at least for her first one, as she figures that less pain and a bit more help would make it less traumatic on her pelvic muscles.
11 A Big Tear
Another first-time Mom, Kate, decided to have an all-natural home birth. Her OB was concerned, because it was suspected that Kate had a bigger than average baby. But because Kate wasn’t diabetic or had any other health problems, she figured that the little one wouldn’t be significantly large enough to keep her from a home birth. And home birth, she did have.
Now, it’s important to note that not all Moms with big babies will experience complications. Kate, however, wasn’t as fortunate. Because of his size, the baby certainly took his time to exit Kate’s birth canal. Due to the pressure, Kate’s perineum began to tear – all the way down to her anus! Needless to say, the next few months were torture for Kate, as she experienced pain and other problems with passing stool. While she made a full recovery a little more than a year later, she says that it’s not something she ever wants to experience again!
10 Midwife Trouble
If there’s one tip that Angela would give anyone who wants a home birth it’s this: get a good midwife. That is, one with plenty of training and experience, and who is also professional in dealing with clients. Angela knows this because she decided to have her third baby at home. Her first two children were born at the hospital, where she felt there was too much intervention.
The midwife she got was recommended by a friend and seemed very nice. On the day she gave birth, however, her main feeling was that she got a little too much intervention. The midwife kept stalling coming over, saying she’d “be there when she’s ready.” However, it wasn’t until Angela reported that she was already crowning that the midwife came over in a rush. For Angela and her husband, it was a terrifying experience to be alone for most of the childbirth. She has, however, heard good things about other midwives so she figures she’ll just get a more reputable one next time.
9 Uncertainty And Loss
For some of the above Moms, there were warning signs that indicated that having a natural birth may not have been the best idea at the time. For Anne, however, that wasn’t the case. It isn’t exactly clear what happened, she says. But at some point during the delivery, her baby wasn’t getting enough oxygen. When the baby was born, she wasn’t breathing at all. The midwives present did manage to resuscitate the baby following the delivery, after which she was fine. For a few hours, at least.
About six hours and a short nap later, however, Anne woke up to find the little one blue and not breathing. She rushed her to the hospital but it was too late. While Anne’s misfortune is quite rare as far as home births go, she does often think about whether giving birth in a hospital could have improved her baby’s odds of survival.
8 The Worst Outcome Possible
During Cindy’s home birth, her baby presented foot-first. She was concerned, especially since she expected the little one to present head-first. The attending midwife, however, assured her that things were fine and that she had given birth to footlings before. But neither she nor the midwife took into consideration that in single footling babies, the risk of cord prolapse is extremely high.
Cord prolapse is basically when the umbilical cord slips ahead of the baby. This is dangerous during childbirth as any compression of the cord (as is wont to happen during childbirth) cuts off blood supply to the baby, basically suffocating the little one from the inside. This is essentially what happened to Cindy’s baby. It was too late by the time the midwife noticed the cord and called for help. Cindy still grieves her baby to this day, two years later. She is, however, pregnant yet again and intends to have a hospital delivery – just in case!
7 When Things Don't Go According To Plan
Like many other low-risk Moms, Stacy was pretty confident that she could pull off her natural birth at home without a hitch. A week before her due date, she felt sudden pains in her tummy and back. About half an hour later, she began having uterine contractions. Figuring that 37 weeks isn’t a bad time to give birth, she called up the home birth midwife.
When the midwife did arrive, however, the amount of blood and the timing of the contractions made her suspect that Stacy was having a placental abruption. At first, Stacy was reluctant to go to the hospital, as she didn’t want a birth chock full of intervention, but the midwife insisted. And, true enough, at the hospital the OB found that Stacy did have a placental abruption and that the baby was in so much distress that she needed to have a C-section. The baby had to spend a couple of weeks in the NICU, but he’s fine now.
6 Unpredictable Weather Conditions
Jane had two home births in the past five years, and so was pretty sure she could pull off another one. She had been in labor for several hours when her water broke. But, unlike with her previous pregnancies, the amniotic fluid was thick and dark green in color. The midwife present immediately arranged for a transfer to the hospital. The trouble was that it was a particularly snowy day and the ambulance had trouble getting to Jane’s home. The midwife did do all she could to help Jane, however.
The little one was born in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. She was blue and weak at birth. She looked better after suctioning, but at the hospital her condition became worse. The baby developed infant respiratory distress syndrome and required weeks of treatment in the NICU before he was healthy enough to go home with Mom.
5 Unprepared For Possible Complications
Carol’s labor at home seemed to be going fine, until the midwife attending to her found that the baby’s umbilical cord had slipped ahead of her baby’s head. The midwife tried to slip the cord back out of the way, but it refused to budge. Knowing that a cord prolapse during childbirth is a medical emergency, they called for an ambulance. The midwife, then, had to ask Mom to go down on all fours with her bottom up, hoping this would take pressure off of the cord.
Carol then had to undergo an emergency C-section to get the little one out. However, the compressed cord had already done its damage. The baby had to be resuscitated, as he was not breathing when he was extracted from the womb. He hung on for about a week, but eventually passed away as the lack of oxygen had caused severe damage to his brain.
4 Making Assumptions
Shoulder dystocia is yet another emergency that can happen during childbirth. It happened to Lin, who had chosen to give birth in a hospital but without pain meds. She was petite and had a small pelvis, but so was every other woman in her family. Considering that her own Mom and all her sisters had a great many kids, she figured that she would be able to pull it off without complications. During childbirth, however, the baby’s shoulders got stuck in Lin’s pelvis. The attending doctor had to perform a series of maneuvers in order to get the baby out.
Fortunately, the baby survived. However, because of the pressure that was exerted on her shoulders, some of the little one’s nerves were damaged. She was diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy, a condition in which she suffered pain in her arms and a limited range of motion. Fortunately, again, her condition was relatively mild and healed slowly within the course of a year.
3 Very Overdue
Tina had her heart set on a home birth. However, as her pregnancy dragged on over 40 weeks, her OB was more and more concerned that the baby was too overdue. She tried all the usual remedies: taking frequent walks, sex, and even eating plenty of pineapples. The OB suggested induction once the little one hit 41 weeks, as she was concerned about placental age. Tina, however, didn’t want any induction meds and so she opted to have her membranes swept at home. It wasn’t strictly natural, however it was her best shot of giving birth at home.
And while the baby was, indeed, born safely at home it didn’t turn out all as planned. The membrane sweep itself was very painful and caused her hours of cramping and discomfort. In addition, Tina developed an infection a couple of days after childbirth and had to go to the hospital for treatment anyway.
2 Hep B
Sue has a bit of a special case, as she lives in a country where there is no mandatory testing for Hepatitis B during pregnancy. She had been tested years before, but didn’t imagine that she’d ever contract it. In addition, home births were very accessible to her. And, while Hepatitis B vaccines were available locally and were offered in hospitals, she opted out of it in fear of the risks for vaccines.
Her labor and childbirth went about smoothly, but after a month she noticed that her little one wasn’t feeding well and had a mild fever. She brought her baby to the hospital, where, after testing, the doctor found out that the baby had been infected by Hepatitis B during childbirth. Sue and the baby promptly received treatment. But although Sue recovered, the baby developed a chronic Hep B infection that required lifetime monitoring, and an increased risk for liver cancer.
1 Vitamin K Deficiency
One of the reasons why Nina opted for a home birth was so she could choose the meds and the vaccines administered to her baby. She decided not to give the baby a Vitamin K injection, as is the standard in most hospitals, because she figured that the risks of getting Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding was pretty low for her baby. And while the risks are, indeed, low, Nina turned out to be one of the unlucky ones. Vitamin K deficiency is a major problem, because there is very little of it in breastmilk. In fact, we get most vitamin K from our gut bacteria, something which hasn’t had the chance to develop in the baby’s intestines just yet.
Nina didn’t suspect anything until, a month after childbirth, the baby’s umbilical cord stump began bleeding. Panicking, she brought the little one to the emergency room. The baby’s bleeding was so severe that she required oxygen and a blood transfusion. The little one later received a vitamin K shot and was able to go home after four days.