Childbirth, which used to be a normal biological process for mothers, has transformed completely into a medicalized event. Pitocin, IVs, and Epidurals are now the norm during birth. Bringing a child into this world does not have to be this way, especially for the health of the baby and mother.
Although medical interventions during childbirth can and do prevent mortality (a tiny fraction of births), the majority of childbirth can unfold naturally. And as natural mummies, we have to take this experience back and restore the default norm – “giving birth like the Hebrew women” in those days.
Giving birth naturally is an incredible rite of passage, but you may be amazed at the many health and safety benefits of natural childbirth for mothers and babies.
Is natural birth better for a baby? Is natural birth better than c section? You might have heard different stories on pregnancy, childbirth and the experience involved during this period; thus, you may have some questions on your mind as a woman or a pregnant one. The answers to your questions lie here in this post. You will get to know about natural birth benefits and risks and how you, as a mother, and your unborn child will benefit tremendously from natural childbirth.
Here are 13 Natural birth benefits:
1. Freedom during labour
Movements are usually restricted if you are to have a continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM), IVs or epidural. This means you will be confined to your bed, and you will not be able to change positions or walk when relevant. Most mums do not know they will be given a catheter after administering an epidural. So cancel toilet visitation from your mind.
Giving birth naturally gives you freedom during labour; you can move freely without any confinement or restrictions and work with your body to bring your beautiful child into this world. Freedom during childbirth makes the process a lot easier and faster in some cases. Ability to move freely and change position during labour offers mothers increased comfort, encourages vaginal birth and offers a better sense of control during labour.
Freedom to drink and eat during childbirth is another way of helping women give birth easily. Women who are hydrated and well-nourished are strong, fit and ready to take on the hard work of childbirth.
2. Avoid the cascade of interventions
Every unnecessary intervention during birth will likely give room for more interventions, including the cesarean section (C-section). Mamas are less likely to opt for these interventions when a birth is initiated naturally (birth it induced on its own and continues on its own time).
Having an epidural is a good example to describe this point. During an epidural, it’s likely you will have slow labour, and the doctor will recommend Pitocin to improve labour. Similarly, once labour is induced, and the mother and baby are not ready, natural oxytocin required to initiate contractions will not be produced. Thus, you will be given Pitocin to induce contractions.
Pitocin may cause intense and frequent contractions that can lead to unrest for the mother or baby; this can limit oxygen supply to the baby. Most doctors will recommend a C-section if the baby becomes distressed.
3. Avoid Cesarean
Is natural birth better than c section? Absolutely, giving birth naturally is much better than having a cesarean section. You can reduce the risk of cesarean childbirth through natural childbirth. Pregnant mamas can minimize the risk of cesarean delivery from 30% to about 50% by planning a natural birth with trained professional midwives. As a mother, you can also reduce the risk of cesarean section by 60-80% when you hire a doula.
Different studies have been conducted to know if epidurals can increase the risk of cesarean delivery, and none of these studies has been found to have a direct connection. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on these studies because they compare epidural anesthesia to narcotic pain relief instead of unmedicated labour. Nevertheless, we are aware that epidurals can increase the risk for forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery, which are linked with a higher risk for cesarean section.
Also, we are aware that although continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) is not evidence-based, even in mamas with high-risks, most OBs will require continuous monitoring while on an epidural (and some other cases as well). According to a Cochrane review, continuous EFM was linked to an increase in the use of pain medication, C-sections and instrumental vaginal births, including vacuum extraction and forceps.
4. Faster and Easier labour
When giving birth naturally, oxytocin alerts the uterus to initiate contraction and send signals to the brain to produce endorphins, a natural pain reliever. It also signals the brain to continue releasing oxytocin, which will reach a high level when it’s time for the mother to push.
Epidurals alter this process involved in the natural production of labour hormones and can slow labour significantly. Pitocin is usually recommended to induce labour.
You can’t feel the lower part of your body during an epidural; thus, your position will be restricted (inability to change position when necessary). And if you can’t feel your contractions, pushing at the right time and with the right force to bring your baby out will be difficult, which will lead to a tougher, longer delivery.
5. More safe for baby
Is natural birth better for a baby? Giving birth naturally can benefit both the baby and the mother. Epidural can lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure for mothers, reducing oxygen supply to the baby. Fetal distress could occur when this happens, and most doctors will recommend a cesarean section.
Babies are less alert, have less organized movements, and lack proper orientation nearly a month after birth following an epidural. While the baby is in the mother’s uterus, the placenta and the mama’s body helps the baby eliminate toxins. However, after birth, the baby’s liver will have to eliminate toxins alone. So sometimes it may take a longer time for babies to eliminate toxins and drugs from their system.
Using Narcotic pain relief drugs can also cause further side effects in babies, such as:
- Central nervous system depression
- Respiratory depression
- Impaired early breastfeeding
- Altered neurological behaviour
- Decreased ability to regulate body temperature
- Because of these side effects, the baby may need additional medications.
6. You are present, active and available during natural childbirth
Narcotic pain relief medication can lead to grogginess and disorientation in the mother and baby. Skipping this type of pain relief will keep you aware, present and active when giving birth to your child. Epidural pain relief can also make you feel disconnected from your child during delivery. Although you may not feel groggy from the medication, lack of connection and sensation to the physical attachment involved in childbirth could make you feel disconnected from childbirth experience. Some mothers may not feel the urge to push and will have to be told the right time to push when this happens. Itchy feeling or epidural hangover may also occur as a result of the procedure.
On the other hand, natural childbirth without medication demands total attention from the mother. Some women describe this connection as “otherworldly” because of how the mind and body become connected for birth to take place. Due to high levels of natural endorphins, some mothers may even enjoy giving birth instead of suffering through the process.
7. Natural delivery is empowering
Giving birth naturally supports the idea of childbirth being a rite of passage. Something transformational really happens during childbirth; the blood, the tears, the sweat, the pain. Some people like to say birth is a transformational process from being a maiden to being a mom. Advocates for natural delivery are aware of the relevance and importance of the journey to motherhood. These advocates are aware that it’s empowering for a mother to deliver her baby on her own terms. To take decisions for herself and her baby without pressure, guilt and mockery. Mothers need to feel encouraged and empowered as childbirth unfolds.
8. Better breastfeeding immediately after childbirth
A sleepy baby hardly breastfeeds. The less the baby eats, he/she will become more sleepy, and the less the baby will nurse. This can interfere with the nursing relationship between a mother and her baby. Some newborns may develop jaundice as a result of Pitocin, making the baby lethargic and sleepy. Narcotic pain relief medication can also lead to sleepiness in babies, however, there is some evidence linking epidurals with reduced rates of breastfeeding success.
According to La Leche League International, anesthesia or pain relief medication can contribute to the following breastfeeding problems:
- The baby and/or mother may be less alert, active or less sleepy; thus, delay the first nursing.
- The baby’s rooting and sucking reflex may be depressed and delayed.
- The baby’s ability to breathe, suck and swallow may be disorganized.
The best time to establish a breastfeeding relationship is in the minutes and hours immediately after delivery. There is a high chance a mother and her baby will miss this opportunity to start breastfeeding at the ideal time if both of them are disoriented, tired or sleepy.
Cesarean sections have also been linked to difficulty in breastfeeding (mostly due to interference by hospital protocol), as well as delayed onset of milk production as a result of the blunt in hormonal cascades that usually happen during natural childbirth.
9. Faster recovery
Women who experience childbirth naturally, without drugs or surgery, recover fast and are present/active immediately after birth. During birth, mothers experience an oxytocin rush, giving them an energy boost to cuddle their child and initiate direct (skin-to-skin) contact, eye contact and breastfeeding, as a result, increases the oxytocin cascade. Shortly after natural birth, most mamas are up, active and walking around.
10. Natural childbirth promotes healthy gut flora
Giving birth naturally benefits the gut of newborns. Bacteria in the gut plays a vital role in building and maintaining a strong immune system and proper digestion. Babies delivered through the vaginal end up having a more diverse gut flora acquired in the birth canal.
According to some research, babies delivered via C-section have less diverse microflora (good bacteria that fights off pathogenic bacteria) in the gut and are more likely to suffer skin infection caused by Strep and Staph bacteria normally present on the skin. This happens because babies born through cesarean section are not colonized by vaginal bacteria because they do not pass through this route. Instead, they gain their first colonization in the theatre room from the skin of their mother or the skin of practitioners conducting the delivery.
Another way to help babies develop a healthy gut is through breastfeeding; thus, breastfeeding becomes very crucial after birth by C-section.
11. Reduces the risk of adult illness
As stated earlier, having good gut health is very important to overall health. Presence of healthy gut flora at an early stage is essential as it teaches the immune system of the baby what to allow and what to attack; this means that autoimmunity is acquired or learned at an early stage.
Recent research published in the British Medical Journal reported that babies delivered via C-section have a higher chance of developing asthma, obesity and type 1 diabetes whey they grow older.
Also, we are aware that C-S babies are usually hospitalized for asthma, inflammatory bowel disorder, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, immune system disorder, leukemia and other tissue disorder that may develop as they grow. C-section babies are 20% more likely to develop asthma and approximately 40% more likely to develop immune defects.
Although unhealthy gut flora has not been linked directly to C-section, it has been linked to autoimmunity, allergies, some cancer types, vascular disease, anxiety/depression, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders. Therefore, it’s sensible to say that acquiring unhealthy gut flora at an early stage could lead to the onset of these diseases in the future.
Giving birth by C-section does not mean all hope is lost for your child. These medical interventions do and can save lives, and are completely necessary for nearly 10% of childbirths. A woman can optimize her surgery during childbirth by going for a Gentle Cesarean. This practice can help improve the health of the newborn and offer some of the good benefits associated with natural birth.
12. Better brain development
According to reports from a team of researchers, natural childbirth triggers the release of a protein, known as UCP2, in the brain of newborns that enhances the development of the brain and function in adulthood. This protein, which helps in regulating behaviors linked to learning, memory, stress response and spatial awareness, is released as the hippocampus is stimulated in the birth canal. On the other hand, the brains of babies delivered by C-S may have impaired expression of the same UCP2 protein.
Also, this protein help cells to metabolize fat, an essential component of breast milk, which suggests that triggering this protein (UCP2) via vaginal birth may assist the transition of newborns to breastfeeding. Thus, a deficiency in UCP2 protein may cause cesarean babies and mothers to struggle more with breastfeeding.
13. Better fine motor and social skills
Besides the lower risk for low blood volume, anemia and blood transfusion associated with delayed cord clamping, research has also revealed another surprising benefit associated with this choice in natural childbirth.
A study revealed that babies who experience delayed cord clamping developed better fine motor and social skills at age four compared to babies that had early clamping. This finding was particularly true for male babies. Researchers suggested that girls are more protected by estrogen produced in high amounts in utero.
Bonus Benefit: Natural childbirth is way cheaper
With the rising cost of healthcare, looking for ways as a mother to save on cost is not a bad idea at all. The cost of natural birth is way cheaper compared to delivery that involves different medical interventions. Maternity care in the United States isn’t a package deal, as seen in other countries. Instead, women pay a separate fee for every procedure or test. Having an epidural done cost about $1000, and you can pay as high as $20,000 for a C-section.
One of the natural birth benefits for the baby and the mother, either at home or in a birth center, is that the cost is usually cheaper than giving birth naturally in a hospital. The cost for midwifery services can vary depending on the location from $2000 to $4000 while the price for vaginal births at hospitals ranges from $10,000 to $15,000.
We hope this post provided relevant information on natural birth benefits and risks. Now that you are aware of the natural birth benefits for the baby and the mother as well, you have nothing to worry about if you have plans to give birth naturally without any form of interventions.