Natural childbirth is a low-tech way of bringing a baby into the world. Some women choose a natural birth by using no medications, but instead turn to relaxation techniques, such as controlled breathing to address pain. Natural childbirth can include a labor assistant or coach as some people call it, who can help gently guide a woman through the stages of giving birth.
For many soon-to-be-moms, a natural childbirth is not so much a case of wanting to be brave; it is more of an opportunity to treat childbirth like it was treated many, many years ago – as a natural event in a woman’s life. While it is not for everyone, a lot of women who have had natural childbirth experiences say that it can be very “rewarding”.
About four million babies are born in the United States each year and although we can’t say how many are natural childbirths, we do know that most natural childbirths include no medications, such as epidurals and no medical interventions, like fetal monitoring. This type of birthing also enables the woman to lead the delivery process, which can often include walking around or giving birth in a pool of water.
It is usually women with low risk pregnancies that choose natural childbirth over any medical interventions. Some even decide to have their babies right at home as opposed to in a hospital setting. Most homebirths involve a midwife, although midwives have also been known to attend natural births in hospitals as well.
A great number of women talk about having a natural childbirth, but it isn’t for everyone. Once in delivery mode, there could be challenges that the mother-to-be isn’t feeling up to or parts of the process (if she is a first time mother) that she may not be aware of.
Here are some truths about natural childbirths that experts never seem to tell people up front:
15 The Baby’s Heart Rate Could Drop
In many cases, a baby’s heart rate will be monitored during labor. The reason behind fetal heart rate monitoring is to allow the health care team to see how the baby is coping during delivery and to catch any potential problems. This type of monitoring during childbirth has been used since the invention of the electronic fetal monitor (EFM) in 1958. While originally it was developed for high-risk pregnancies, today it is used to monitor almost all women giving birth to a baby in a hospital setting.
Some people define natural childbirth as having no medical intervention whatsoever, while others consider no medications as the definition of natural. Whatever the case, it is not uncommon for the baby’s heart rate to drop. For example, sometimes the umbilical cord gets stretched or compressed and that can cause brief drops in fetal heart rate. If a person is hooked up to an EFM, the machine will alert medical staff to the change and they will react quickly to determine if there is anything to worry about. In a strict natural birth there is no way to know for sure if the baby’s heart rate is normal the whole time or fluctuating during the labor process.
14 Strong Possibility Of Pooping
So this may sound disgusting or even shocking to some people, but it is a reality – many women giving birth end up having a bowel movement that they can’t do anything about. For whatever reason, doctors and nurses never voluntarily tell patients ahead of time that this just might happen. Once it does occur and the mom-to-be notices, the medical staff explain it. Poop happens because the muscles being used to push the baby out are the same ones we use to poo. The bottom line (no pun intended) is that if a woman is pushing the right way, she is bound to let something slip. Many nurses say that if a woman has a bowel movement during labor and doesn’t realize it, the medical team often don't tell her. There is enough going on and the mother has been through a lot so there is no sense in embarrassing or upsetting her.
13 C-section Catheters Stay In A While
Sometimes even when a woman plans a natural birth something can happen to change the plan. In some situations a C-section may be required. Doctors will try to make it as comfortable as possible, especially in light of the fact that the person wanted a natural birth. The truth is though, with a C-section, most doctors’ put a catheter in the bladder so that it stays empty for the surgical procedure. After all this is very close to where they are working. It is also there so that the woman doesn’t have to get up to go to the washroom. Getting up right after a C-section can be rather painful. While many new moms expect that catheter to come out within hours of their surgical procedure, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it can be a couple days or longer before it is removed. There could be situations where the doctor needs to know how much urine the new mother is making so the catheter stays. In other situation it stays in because the woman is simply not ready to walk yet and getting to a washroom in time is just too difficult.
12 Delivery Could Feel Like A Marathon
There is no way of telling ahead of time how long a delivery will be so it can be exhausting. Even in situations where a woman is young and fit before she gives birth, it can feel like a never-ending marathon. Sometimes it feels like a marathon when it only takes a couple of hours. Here’s why: often times, women get very little sleep in the weeks leading up to going into labor. They find that they have to get up a lot in the night to urinate. Many pregnant women also have sore backs because the baby is getting bigger and is putting more pressure on their nerves and joints. This of course means they don’t get a good night’s rest. It’s no wonder many women are already out of steam before the job of giving birth even begins. Once they go into labor they have to breathe through the pain and focus on pushing, which is more physically demanding than many people realize.
11 Timing Makes a Difference
There are some pregnant women, especially those who are having a baby for the first time, who go off to the hospital at the first signs of labor. They arrive at the hospital expecting a team of experts will jump to attention, much like they do in the movies. That is not always the case, particularly in large, busy centres and during shift change. Some registered nurses have admitted that when there is a shift change, the nurses getting off work may be reluctant to take on a new patient and the nurses coming in to take on a new patient can take a while to get organized and up to speed on what is going on. Long before a woman goes into labor she can consider finding out what times nurses usually come on shift and that way when the big day arrives she can decide, based on how she feels and what the nursing schedule is, when to head to the hospital. In many cases, pregnant women spend at least a half hour in triage anyway to allow for assessment and determination of how far along the labor is.
10 There Will Likely Be Stitches
The area between the opening to the women’s vagina and the back passage, which is called, the perineum is stretchy; however, a baby often needs a bit more room as he or she is born. When a perineum stretches too far it can tear and require stitches. Many women are aware that stitches are a possibility, but they often think it has to do with the size of the baby. Countless pregnant women have assumed that because they are expecting small babies they will not require stitches. In actual fact, elasticity has more to do with it and some people have more elasticity in their skin than others.
An obstetrician or midwife will examine the mother carefully after she has been through labor to see if she is torn and needs stitching. Research shows that about nine out of 10 women tear to some degree when they are delivering a baby. The important thing to keep in mind is that most of these tears are minor. Sometimes, a small cut has to be made to the perineum by the doctor to help the baby out. This is called an episiotomy. Statistics indicate that one in seven women need an episiotomy when giving birth.
9 Bleeding Lasts A While
A little blood doesn’t surprise any woman who has just had a baby, but what about bleeding for four to six weeks after giving birth? Well, this is in fact perfectly normal. In some cases the initial bleeding can be rather heavy and bothersome. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic the first day or two after delivering a baby, a woman will likely need to wear a hospital-grade pad. The bleeding will slow and a commercial pad should do just fine. Women can still feel a small gush from time-to-time, especially when they stand up. In some situations, the gush of blood may overflow the pad. On occasion women even find that they pass small blood clots as well. This can seem like a lot to deal with in light of the fact that the woman has gone her entire pregnancy without a period. While blood flow in the days following labor is not unusual, when a new mom is concerned about bleeding she should reach out to her health care professional.
8 It Will Be A Lot Different Down There
After giving birth a woman’s vagina and perineum change. They usually do go back to normal or what many doctors refer to as a “new normal”. Things don’t look the same and many women find this shocking. The shape can be different and so can the scent. Medical professionals rarely discuss this before someone goes into labor. One of the changes many ladies notice is dryness down below. This normally occurs in those who are breastfeeding. It can catch many women off guard, especially when they resume relations with their partner. Another issue down below is urination. Many women find that they urinate more after giving birth. One approach to dealing with this is to do kegel exercises right after delivering the baby. Many health experts believe it is the best way to get the vagina back to its pre-birth shape and size. Kegels can also help with postpartum urinary incontinence.
7 Might Need A Squirt Bottle
Through pregnancy toilet paper is a girl's best friend. This is because during early and late pregnancy washroom visits are frequent. The reason... once a person becomes pregnant their hormones change, causing blood to flow quicker through the kidneys, which then fills the bladder more often. Later in pregnancy, pressure from the growing fetus can lead to frequent urination. When the baby is finally born toilet paper can become the enemy. Why? Well, because it hurts to wipe. Many women find that they end up needing a squirt bottle or as it is technically called, a “peri bottle”. Women use this bottle to squirt warm water onto their private areas after going to the washroom. This ensures that the area gets cleaned without having to use rough wiping with toilet papers. For many new mothers this is an essential tool because they have had to get stitches following childbirth.
6 Water Breaks Different Ways
Watch any movie involving a pregnancy and chances are the woman’s water suddenly breaks, leaving a huge pool of water on the floor and then she is rushed off to the hospital. No one really tells women this, but it doesn’t always happen this way. There are cases where water breaks and the actual labor doesn’t start until several days later. As well, there are situations where water breaking is not a big gush, but several small leaks over a span of days. Some women don’t even realize that it is in fact amniotic fluid coming out of them, they just think they have urinated in their pants. For some pregnant women water breaking can be a slow trickle that requires wearing a pad for a few days or a few weeks before labor pains even begin. If in doubt about what is happening of course it is important to consult with a doctor.
5 Special Care Required Once Water Breaks
It is true that some women rush off to the closest hospital as soon as there is any signs that water is breaking. Others, including those who have had previous babies, take their time in seeking medical assistance. What many of these women may not know simply because they aren’t told is that running around with water broken or having sex once water is broken is not a good idea. The water is essentially amniotic fluid that makes up a sac, which protects the baby. Without that amniotic sac as protection, a baby could get an infection so that’s why intercourse isn’t such a great plan at this point.
When a doctor is made aware that the water has broken he or she will often induce labor with drugs if things have not moved along on their own within 24 hours, but in the case of a purely natural birth of course women allow labor to happen when the body says it is ready.
4 No Guarantee Who Will Deliver Baby
A woman might have decided to have a natural birth, she might have a specific birthing plan and even have an idea of who will ultimately be bringing the baby into the world. In hospital settings there is a chance that the person expected to be delivering the baby is not going to be doing that job after all. Many new moms are surprised that it isn’t the doctor that delivers the baby, it could be a nurse or the midwife that are part of the delivery team. Many doctors split hospital rounds with other partners or they have other patients who are going into labor at the same time so there is no way to predict who will actually be in the room at the big moment to deliver the baby. In the end, when a mother sees her baby she isn’t really thinking about who delivered him or her. The important point is that the baby is healthy. Still, it comes as a surprise to many new moms once they have recovered from the labor and start to recall the experience.
3 Short Birth Plans Are Best
There are woman who put a great deal of thought into their birth plan and so they should. It is the most important day of their life so they want to get it right. Most will have a typed-up or hand-written birth plan, but it doesn’t normally get read until she comes into the hospital for delivery, which could be in the middle of the night. When a birth plan is cluttered with information it can be cumbersome for the nurses and the obstetrician.
When plans don’t get followed hospital staff often admit it is because it was unclear or simply too wordy. What they should do is tell mothers ahead of time that they should focus on a few key wishes, such as wanting to avoid an epidural and that way the staff are more likely to make their wishes happen. Many pregnant women don’t realize that they can also call the hospital’s nurse manager a few weeks before their due date to ask what is and what isn’t feasible during labor and make requests. When delivery day comes, the mother can always drop the name of the manager and remind those in the room that she specifically asked for such and such, ahead of time.
2 Breastfeeding Really Hurts At First
So most women have heard about what a wonderful bonding experience breastfeeding can be or how wonderful a feeling it is to know that you are providing for your child. What rarely gets explained is how excruciating breastfeeding can be in the beginning. Some baby’s really clamp on to the breast. It is not uncommon for new mothers to say they feel like their uterus is contracting like a menstrual cramp when they are breastfeeding their baby. Some babies start nursing on the tip of the nipple and that is one reason it can be painful. Once he or she works her way onto the areola it will be less uncomfortable for the mother. Some mothers have nipple pain only when the baby first latches on then the pain subsides. This often improves over time as the breasts learn to let down the milk quicker. If nipples are chapped or bleeding, calling a doctor or lactation consultant should be considered.
1 Childbirth Leads To Sweating
Of course giving birth is hard work so sweating during delivery will come as no surprise to women, but what they don’t tell moms-to-be is that sometimes that sweating doesn’t cease once the baby arrives. Many women sweat non-stop after giving birth. Sweating is actually the body’s way of getting ride of some of that extra water that is retained during pregnancy. The kidneys are responsible for a lot of the production of sweat so this means that a woman will urinate a lot more than usual for the first few weeks after giving birth. A woman’s pores will also shed some of the extra water. For some women the new stress that comes with getting used to being a new mother can lead to more sweat as well. Although this theory is still being studied by medical experts, there is some belief that dramatic drops in estrogen that take place right after labor could also lead to an increase in sweating.
Natural childbirth is important to many women today and the more they educate themselves about the subject the less likely they will face any surprises. To have a stress free, natural birth women are encouraged to ask a lot of questions while they are still carrying their baby – they can’t assume doctors, nurses or even a midwife that they’ve hired will remember to tell them everything that they should know before going into labor. Finding a supportive doctor that will understand the nuances of natural birthing, such as how to avoid pain, will go a long way in helping things go smoothly. Medical professionals also say it is important to go into the laboring experience with a positive attitude. This means not listening to horror stories about your cousin’s C-section or your neighbor’s gigantic baby being delivered. Instead, consider the number of women who have had babies in a natural way with great success.