Debunking the myth of a "natural birth"

Photo by Calima Portraits
Photo by Calima Portraits

If you're a longtime reader, you may have noticed that we've consciously made a decision to move away from using language such as "natural" to describe childbirth. In fact, it's been a huge mission of mine to make sure all our birth stories are told in a way that is supportive and positive. This is partly because of Offbeat Families' values, and partly because of my own.

Instead of perpetuating the "natural" versus "unnatural" birth drama, we opted to change the terminology used on Offbeat Families to "unmedicated" and "medicated" childbirth. We did so for a few reasons, one of which is that describing one kind of birth as "natural" and another as otherwise is inherently divisive.

I delivered my son Jasper in a hospital with an epidural administered in the last few hours. It didn't take affect, but it was still in my system — does this mean my birth was less natural because medicine was involved? As you might recall, Ariel's son Tavi was born via cesarean section — is that birth any less wondrous because it wasn't vaginal?

Our answer? Nope. Not a bit.

Does this mean that the choices you make before, during, and after giving birth don't matter? Of course not. Does this mean that we're trying to strip you of the power and wholly awesome experience you had birthing your child at home without any medication? Hell no. If there's one thing I've learned from you guys (and believe me, I have learned WAY more than I ever thought I would), it's that each parenting experience, from conception (if you consider yourself a parent at that point) all the way to wherever you are right now, is unique, powerful, and important. It all matters.

So here are my questions for everyone: who started this whole debate? Who deemed one birth "natural" and another "unnatural?" Who decided to pit woman against woman, mother against mother? More importantly: why do we, as women, as mothers, allow these terms to continue to define our experiences and allows us to look down on one another?

I don't have the answers to those, but I do have a solution: let's change it.

So, you had a "natural birth," right? Awesome, because so did I.

    • Such a great post! I HATE the term "Natural Birth." Almost as much as I hat the term "False Labor". It really is ingrained in my moms. They all use it. I try to change their language, because anything short of a "Natural Birth" has some sort of failure attached to it. So, I use Medicated, Unmedicated or operative birth. I try to empower them by talking about decision making and that deciding to have medication is taking charge of her own body as is deciding to not have any.
      Thanks again!

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      • Thanks for chiming in. It's great to have a midwife's perspective on this issue. :)

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  1. I think the term came about quite naturally, no pun intended. C-sections probably were considered quite unnatural when they first appeared*, afterall it's not exactly the way your body works for the baby to come out via your belly versus vaginally. I think using the term to indicate medicated versus not medicated is relatively recent. It's like saying crunchy or silky or whatever the inbetween is…chewy? I think that on the whole everyone agrees that birth is natural no matter how it goes about, it's more a use of traditional vocabulary than an indictment of choice.

    Unless of course your child is gestated in a glass case and born from a genetically engineered womb outside the body altogether. That's pretty unnatural.

    *Please note I've had two c-sections myself (one due to breech positioning and the other as an emergency from a ruptured uterus during failed VBAC) so I'm not suggesting they are bad in any way.

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    • Or the father is a ghost?

      Or is that supernatural?

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  2. I am guilty if using "natural" and "normal" interchangeably and I'm trying my best to stop. And I use the term "normal", in opposition to "augmented", to describe an uneventful, healthy pregnancy, labor and vaginal birth without drugs and other interventions. Obviously there are nuances here. I drank castor oil to induce labor after my water broke. Does that mean my labor was free from augmentation? My midwife turned my baby during transition. Intervention? What I'm learning is that information, education and consent are so much more important than labels. It's your body, your baby and your birth. Ultimately, I trust women to make the best decisions for themselves.

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  3. Thank you, Offbeat Mama, for continuing to feature posts that aid in building women up and helping them feel positive and fabulous about becoming mothers! My first baby is due June 5, and thanks to the community here, I no longer feel like I need to be "good" in my birth choices, nor do I feel inferior because of my choice to give birth in a hospital. Thank you so much for giving be the peace of mind that I was not receiving from other spaces.

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    • Totally off topic- I'm "due" June 5th as well! :)

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  4. I once met an L&D nurse who encouraged everyone to use the term "cesarean delivery" or c-delivery instead of cesarean section.

    Her point was that all mothers deliver their babies from their bodies regardless of wanted/needed interventions and no one deserves to have that experience diluted with crappy termonology.

    Unmedicated, medicated, surgical, vaginal, whatever… the only thing NATURAL about childbirth is the miracle of giving life to a new soul. Everything else is just semantics.

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    • "Cesarean delivery" is actually the appropriate medical term. It's the one used in the medical literature. But since "section" is so much easier to say, it's what used in actual conversation.

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    • I've heard the term "cesarean birth" used before. I definately like it better than cesarean section, but "delivery" is really good too.

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    • I agree with that 100%!!! It really bothered me when people would look at me with pity after my first who was born c-section to safe her life and mine and they would say "I'm so sorry you didn't get to experience that powerful moment, that's just not how God intended birth to be." I would say "I'm not sorry at all, I'm alive to enjoy my live, healthy baby girl! If I had delivered 100 years ago, my daughter and I would both be dead." Kind of harsh, but I wanted them to know that I experienced a miracle too, just in a different way, not wrong, just different. :)

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      • Amen mama! I was 2 weeks overdue, had to be induced, and after laboring "naturally" (read: no epidural)for 30+ hours I had only dilated to 3 cm. After an epidural and mega amounts of pitocin, my uterus stopped contracting. My doctor told me exactly what you said- if this had happened 100 years ago, and "nature" was allowed to take it's course, I would never had gone into labor, and my baby and I would be dead.

        Our first moments were painful, raw, and emotional, just like "natural births" from what I hear. The moment I heard her cry for the first time was just as powerful! Seeing her chubby pink cheeks and full head of hair was just as moving!

        One more thing, I can't think of a bigger sacrifice for your child than allowing someone to slice your abdomen open, risking major complications, and facing a long, painful recovery. So for those "natural mamas" I say, I am so happy for you, but please don't feel superior! Go snuggle your baby and remember that when I snuggle mine, it feels just as awesome!

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  5. This post made me want to hug my computer. Thank you.

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  6. Thank you posting this. I think childbirth in istelf is inherently natural. Simple as that. I have been feeling incredibly slighted for my birting choices, and even sent in an email to offbeatmama at one point explaining how I felt. I don't know if it's the fact that there are SO MANY people out there that insist that "natural" is the only way to go, or if they are simply a vocal minority. I have felt, through my whole pregnancy, that I am somehow slighting myself and my child by choosing to have a medicated birth. For me, it's about being able to really experience the birth. I feel that the pain will blind me, and I don't want that. Am I any less of a mother because of that? I certainly hope not.

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    • You are absolutely no less of a mother! We all experience pain in different ways and I personally think it's great that you're making the decision that works best for you.

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    • I TOTALLY AGREE! I was blacking out from the pain of contractions – whole periods of time are just completely wiped out. If I hadn't had the epidural, I would have been completely out of it through his delivery and likely not remembered anything. With the epidural, I could be present, concentrate, feel him come out and be completely focused on him and not the pain. That's what it's really about, right? I feel like a lot of people put more focus on coping with the pain than the actual baby…not my cup of tea.

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    • For me, I think my conversations about un-medicated birth is more about empowerment and health than a self-righteous debate about which one is "right". I know a lot of women feel like 'natural' is the only way, and I certainly don't believe that, but I do believe a lot of women decide to be medicated long before labor, stating that they are not strong enough to deal with the pain. This makes me a little sad. Who told these women that they are not strong enough? I would feel differently if it was their second birth and they knew they wanted to do it differently(or like Jamie, saw that it wasn't working), but for a first birth, I wish all women felt they were strong enough to do it. We were made for this, afterall. We are women, we can do anything!

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      • For me, it wasn't about being "strong enough" to deal with the pain– I've passed kidney stones without medication, I knew I could "handle" the pain. I just don't see any point to it– just like I don't see any point to passing kidney stones without medication (and only did it because no one believed me and I was 18).

        Why suffer? Why experience pain? The pain doesn't make me a better mother or make my delivery smoother or have better outcomes, so why endure unnecessary pain?

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        • There are answers to your why's. If you think of labor as a dance between you and the baby, the pain tells you when to find a better position to facilitate birth. Also the pain tells your body to produce opiates,endorphins and oxytocin to help you through it and to bond intensely right at birth. We are evolutionarily designed this way. I do not enjoy the pain, but I accept it as part of a larger "natural"process, and that is why women use the term natural. I think hospital birth is rarely if ever natural, just by its very nature, but I am also past wanting to change people. I just want to see a day when all women are truly informed of all the risks and benefits of each procedure, so they can make decisions that they are comfortable with.

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        • Personally my reason for wanting to avoid an epidural has nothing to do with whether it is "natural" and everything to do with a scary big needle in my spine and possible complications. The risks are fairly low but someone has to be that small statistic that has awful terrible side effects.

          That being said, if I am in extreme pain and not coping, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the risks. I just don't feel like I can make that choice until I am in that moment and take it as it comes.

          Some women dont find the pain all that bad and if I am lucky enough to be one of those people, the risks involved wouldn't seem worth taking to me.

          And hey, if there was zero risk involved I would take the medication in a heartbeat! I don't think suffering pain for no reason makes you a stronger person than anyone else.

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      • I have had a lot of women at my workplace telling me to "take the drugs!! All of them, as soon as you get there!"

        I used to explain that I will try to get through without medication, but see how it goes and take it as it comes. This was generally met with "you're crazy, its so painful, you'll never be able to do it". So now I just say thanks for the advice and leave it at that.

        I might feel the need for pain relief, I might not. I just don't see how you can decide BEFORE you experience it that you won't be able to "handle" it. I think its inappropriate for any woman to say to another in absolutes what she will or will not be able. (This also goes for the people who say every woman can do without the pain relief!)

        I believe just be well informed, know all your options, and take it as it comes. Your labour will not be like anyone else's and your body and your baby will react differently to anyone else's.

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        • Right on! I had an unmedicated birth and I'm very happy that I did. Just because I'm happy with my experience doesn't mean I'm poo-pooing on anyone else's birth choices. I find that often in a room of moms, I'm the pariah because I'm the only one who chose non-medicated birth. I would NEVER judge someone if they chose to have a caesarean delivery or chose epidural because that's their right and if it was necessary, I might need to do that for my next birth too.

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        • I too, encountered the "take all the drugs they offer!!" advice while pregnant. My plan was to try to do it unmedicated and if I couldn't handle it, then get the epidural and not feel guilty about it. But people would tell me I was crazy to consider doing it without medication. My own mother, who gave birth to her four children without any pain medication, was urging me to get the epidural!
          I ended up not getting the epidural but if I'd been in labor for much longer, it would have been a different story…

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        • I think the women saying "take all the drugs" aren't trying to frighten you (which is what I thought before I had my baby), but rather warning you. Kind of like when you say "you're not going to get much sleep when the baby comes". I was prepared for a natural birth and was shocked at how mind-shatteringly unbearable the pain became. I was part of the natural birth community and had been shielded from this, which I feel is a disservice to women.

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          • I think you're right about that for many of them KB. Some did mention that they had planned to go all natural but were absolutely unprepared for the level of pain. These were women that did hypnobirthing training, read all the gentle birthing books, tried every natural technique and were drilled throughout pregnancy that there was absolutely no need for medical pain relief and that labour would be a good experience if they believed in their bodies.

            I dont think either attitude is particularly helpful to women.

            Its not the "take the drugs" advice that actually bothers me, its the "you're crazy for even trying natural" disdain/judgement that does.

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  7. in describing birth ive heard its either "natural" "medicated" or "c-section" ive never heard of someone say they had an 'unnatural birth'. Comparing one birth to another is like comparing a fingerprint…its not possible because everyone experiances birth differently.
    the definition of natural is-happening in the ordinary or usual course of things, without intervention. an epidural/csection are man made interventions. what you experiance when having a child come out of your body regardless of how…. those natural feelings of love and bonding, of exhaustion and the triumphant feeling that you created and survived such an awesome ordeal…now that is what is natural about birth. not about how the baby came out of you. i have had one medicated and one natural birth and i am proud of both because they both resulted in the birth of my children…beautiful healthy babies.

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    • But one could argue that at a hospital, getting pain medication or an epidural is the ordinary or usual course of things… :)

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  8. i agree with this article. labor in an incredibly unpredictable event. we can't always foresee what is going to happen or how it is going to go. we could be trying for a natural delivery and the contractions could be so intense we can't deal with them and need pain relief. our baby could be in danger or not in the right position and we might need a c-section. we can't look down at other mothers for choosing differently from what we would choose. all births are different for everyone. we can't decide for other people what they should do and judge them for their choices. we weren't there and we aren't them and it isn't our experience. what matters in the end is to have a healthy, happy baby and all experiences to bring us to that point are all beautiful and important.

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  9. I suppose I am part of the problem, but it just goes to show how personal birth is.

    I planned a homebirth and was forced to transfer after 3 days of labor and had a ton of intervention at the hospital just trying to deliver vaginally. My daughter was ultimately born via c-section and despite the 50 hours of labor, 4 hours of pushing, and fighting like hell with my midwives and hospital staff, I don't feel like I gave birth. The trauma of having my child taken out of me was absolutely un-natural and goes against my very belief that my body could birth my baby. How can I think that I gave birth when I had nothing to do with the c-section? I was completely removed from bringing her into the world. Of course that's unnatural.

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    • What a difficult experience that must have been for you. Have you processed it with anyone? My planned homebirth also ended in a transfer, and while I didn't have a Cesarean and it wasn't traumatic, it's still been difficult to work through all the emotions around the experience. Talking through it with my midwives, my partner and my best friend has been huge in helping me with that. I hope you have someone you can talk to.

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    • I had the same birth experience with my first baby 3 months ago. Planned homebirth, long labor and pushing and eventually, when she got stuck at the end, a c-section and horrible hospital experience. They whisked away my daughter at birth (for no medical reason) and I didn't meet her until 2 hours later. She could have been anyone's baby, I felt no connection between the baby they handed me and the one I had carried for 9 months. We had trouble bonding, and she wouldn’t breastfeed because they were giving her formula against my loudly expressed wishes that she only breastfeed. My hospital birth experience was hell, and to add insult to injury, I (like you) had both a homebirth and hospital intervention/ c-section so both “sides” of the natural v medicated debate have reasons to comment and criticize! It’s like…I failed at both? Ugh. I feel like I never had a birth, but that’s mainly because the hospital I was taken to had archaic attitudes like the 1950s. My girl and I are now finally bonding and are so-so at breastfeeding, but she still damages my nipples because she thinks they are bottles. And yes, I have started seeing a therapist, and she says bad birth experiences can possibly lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Post-Partum Depression (PPD).

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    • Thanks for posting this too!! I also had a similar experience with my daughter!
      Although I hadn't exactly planned on having a homebirth… I had a Doula (birth coach) and our birth plan was to be unmedicated and at home until last possible moment.
      We had complications with the pregnancy and my daughter was breech, thus requiring a Cesarean. Now although my Doula was supportive and did everything she could to help me with before/after birth… It was a truly horrible experience. I was given a extremely painful spinal (couldn't feel or move anything from the neck down), laid on the table buck naked, cut open and then wasn't able to hold my daughter for over an hour. Followed by a less then pleasant 4 days in the hospital with breast feeding complications stemming from not going into labor.
      I understand the need for people to not feel "less than" others. And they shouldn't!! You are a mother and type of delivery doesn't effect your ability to be a fabulous one!
      However… Having experienced what I did, not being able to follow my beliefs and the depression that ensued… There was nothing "natural" about my birth.
      I am NOT saying that I'm not grateful for the doctors and the procedure, my daughter was born healthy and I was able to live to be her mother! So for that I am thankful.
      But I stand by what I said… My delivery was not natural to me.

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      • Just posting to this comment Sarah/Beth/Liz/Ellen to say, I totally understand what you wrote – I was also a homebirth-to-hospital transfer! 3 days of labor at home for a planned homebirth, hospital xfer, c-section, feeling like I didn't give birth. I've come around a bit, I accept that it WAS birth, just so far from my conception of what I was going to experience that it was very hard to reconcile! An unplanned c-section can be very jarring to the psyche, to say the least. I found the book "Rebounding From Childbirth" a wonderful first step in healing for me – just wanted to post that title in case you don't already know about it. It's good for all women who didn't have the birth they expected, not just those who had unplanned c-sections.

  10. This post really hit home for me as my son was a cesarian birth! I was part of an attachment parenting group and felt less than the others when I decided to take my doctors advice and have my son through cesarian! This is such an eye opener because it is pure truth! All births are natural and should all be respected and treated as any other birth choice! With that said I will be trying a vbac with the next bundle of joy but unlike my strong sisters out there I'll most likely choose to be medicated lol I know myself to well!

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    • You are not less strong for choosing to be medicated. It may even take more strength to make the right decision for you when it goes against the norm in your circle.

      People have told me I was "strong" for refusing meds during my first labor (ultimately ending in cesarean). I disagree. I was foolish. I put myself through hell and by the end I was too exhausted to care what happened. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

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  11. It's funny (funny/sad, not funny/haha) – I think every woman ends up feeling attacked at some point for her birth choices. It might just depend what group of people you're talking to that dictates which group is in the minority. I love the idea of judgment-free language to describe births of all kinds.

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  12. Word. And while we're at it, let's stop talking about "natural" conceptions.

    I must say, thought, that the word "natural" probably got attached to unmedicated births pretty innocently.

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  13. I hope I don't get in trouble for saying this, but I support using the word natural to mean an unmedicated vaginal delivery because I think that's what nature intended. I do not support using the word natural to replace "better" or "best". Thank goodness we have necessary medical interventions in place when going with nature means risking a problem to mother or child. I wanted a "natural" birth at home and I ended up in the hospital to have my labor augmented with pitocin. I wouldn't refer to my sons birth as natural, even though he was delivered vaginally with no pain meds. I also don't feel bad about it, because I feel it was necessary to prevent further complications – it was the best for us. I think that's the problem, not whether a birth was natural or not, but the connotations. Natural shouldn't mean better but in our race to "take back birth" as it were, we forget that medical intervention when used wisely saves lives.

    Until the stigma is gone from using the term natural, I totally understand shying away from the term, but I do think it's semantics and the definition supports using the word for vaginally and unmedicated.

    • "Natural shouldn't mean better but in our race to "take back birth" as it were, we forget that medical intervention when used wisely saves lives." <— Love that! I am a total advocate for being able to birth at home and all of that hippy stuff lol, but sometimes I feel like people forget that medical interventions are sometimes VERY necessary! I realize that a lot of them are overused and a lot of people do not know the risks of them, but there are times where an intervention needs to be done for the health of the Mom or baby, and no one should feel guilt because of that. We should all be grateful we have that tech.

      Hopefully our world will find some balance in birth.

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    • “I hope I don't get in trouble for saying this, but I support using the word natural to mean an unmedicated vaginal delivery because I think that's what nature intended.”

      Nature has no intentions. If you mean evolution, well, that’s a system of jury-rigging one feature to serve well enough in a new situation to cause relatively good survival.

      We are a bipedal species with a quadrupedal skeleton jury-rigged to our new needs. Our lumbar skeleton is much thicker than our ancestors’, but not re-designed enough to prevent progressive lower back pain from being endemic in our species.

      Our jury-rigged skeletal system means that, in order to prevent our organs form falling out (which, eventually, they do in some women; it’s called vaginal prolapse), the opening in the bottom of our pelvis is smaller, proportionally, than is typical in quadripedal species. On the other side of the coin, our evolutionary strategy consists of large brains, which requires large heads. Large heads + small pelvic openings = very high death rate at birth.

      In areas with no medical care, 0.97% of labors end in the death of the mother, and a significantly higher number end in the death of the baby, or permanent disability of the baby or mother.

      *&^% nature. Nature can be as cool and loving as a welcoming breeze. It can be as hard and cruel as smallpox. Until “natural” stops meaning “better”, “healthier”, and “morally superior”, it’s time for it to exit birth narratives.

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  14. Love the concept of women-and people in general- being more supportive of one another instead of crapping on their choices. I see it all the time (medicated vs unmedicated, formula feeding vs breast feeding, circumcision vs not, etc. etc.). I think for the most part everyone makes the choices they feel are right for themselves and their families and there is no need for anyone else to judge that. It's very frustrating.

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    • YES. I find the whole thing VERY frustrating. I was unable to joint a local mom's group because I don't breastfeed, cosleep, baby wear, stay at home, cloth diaper or attachment parent. I didn't fit in with those women at all and I could see the judgment written all over their faces. I'm endlessly frustrated by this need mothers have to justify their own choices by putting different ones down.

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      • Save me from the competative mothering games- I'm looking for a approach that works. You approach works for your life- GO YOU!

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  15. Thank you thank you. I feel that polarizing language is rampant in our culture and I've felt it specifically as we've prepared for the birth of our daughter. We're trying to avoid medical interventions as much as possible, but we would NEVER begrudge anyone their personal choices.

  16. Having thought some more about it: I don't think the polarizing language is responsible for the polarization among women. The polarization is the result of differences of opinion. We can use other language, medicated/unmedicated, spontaneous/non-spontaneous, etc, but as long as people disapgree, there's going to be polarization.

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  17. Thanks for this.

    I hate when, while reading birth stories on this site, I feel the person writing it is apologizing between the lines. Like somehow birth can be measurably offbeat and if she hadn't HAD to do it the way they did, they would've done BETTER.

    Like there's a rating system. (+10 labor points for a water birth, +20 points if it was in your own tub?)

    It's BIRTH. Whether you can feel it or not, whether you're playing bongos naked in a mud pit to get into the birthing rhythm, or whether you're in a hospital gown, hooked up to monitors and blissfully unaware that you even HAVE legs, it's WILD and it's hugely important. You're moving an entire person from the inside of your abdomen to the outside. EW. And How. Fucking. COOL.

    There will be no one word to describe it because you'll fit into a bunch of categories. Like, do you still get points for an unmedicated labor if you only didn't get meds cause it didn't hurt enough? What about if you got meds but they didn't work? Which one means I love my kid more and makes me a bigger badass, again?

    Judging ourselves, judging each other, invalidating our own experiences in the face of another's or feeling superior for doing things the "right" way is so NOT the point of going through labor and sharing our stories. It's so NOT the point of having a community of mothers, partners, and caregivers to talk to about it.

    Thanks for posting this, Stephanie.

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    • Thank you for this! This is it, exactly. This comment is awesome. Thank you.

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      • You're welcome. I have a lot of guilt related to the way that I gave birth and I hurt for any other mom who feels judged by how their child was born. It sucks, I'd love to see it stop.

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    • "Which one means I love my kid more and makes me a bigger badass, again?" Exactly!

      My mother and mother in law both had uncomplicated labours under 3hours every time without the need for anything more than gas. They actually have said many times that labour doesnt even really hurt that much.

      Well great for them! But I feel like if my labour DOES hurt a lot and I choose medication I will be letting them both down….

      I dont think you can compare them doing it without medication because it didnt hurt that bad with someone who labours without medication for 20+ hours and is in huge amounts of pain.

      I dont think you can compare anyone's labour with anyone else's and assign who did it "better". We will all have different labour experiences and what is right for one person is not always right for another.

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      • Amen. I have heard people say things like, "oh, labor isn't that bad anyway" and I tell them, "no, YOUR labor wasn't that bad. But MY three days of back labor WAS that bad. Unfortunately, no one knows what they're going to get."

        My second labor actually wasn't "that bad" but after a full day of it, I just wanted some sleep. If it had been a three-hour thing, I probably would have gone without meds too.

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  18. Stephanie, Ariel et al, I don't know if it's something you or your contributors have considered, but I'd love to read or learn about how sharing birth stories (especially online) became so prevalent. I remember a real life friend was getting so worked up about writing a birth story for a forum she uses (she had intended to have a home birth but ended up being induced in hospital) and she was terrified of what the responses would be.

    In the end, I gave her a hug and said, "Dude, these people don't know you – you can just make something up!"

    I'd be very interested to learn more, especially as I've noticed friends now including details such as an unmedicated labour/home birth etc on Facebook-style birth announcements. It used to just be the name, birth date, time and weight.

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    • I have noticed this as well in the birth announcements! When my friend's husband sent round a text announcing the birth of their daughter, he included that my friend had an unmedicated labor. I've seen another friend's husband list this as well in email announcements, also drawing attention to the short number of hours in labor (as if that is something all women have control over?!). To include this in a short text or as you mentioned, Facebook announcements I thought was really interesting. Thank you for pointing out this phenomenon.

      1 agrees
    • For me, personally, because my second daughter was a VBAC, and drug-free at that, I really celebrated the fact that my body had done a complete 180 the second time around. I'm not going to lie– I was proud of myself and proud of my body, so yes, I made a point to say that I'd not only had a VBAC but a drug-free one at that. It was an important part of my need for closure on having an undesired/unwanted c-section the first time around. This is not a judgment on others–it's all about ME, selfish as it may sound. If other mamas feel judged by it, then that is something those mamas need to work through. I'm not going to diminish or downplay my pride because of how it might make someone I don't even know feel.

      Also, my theory is that publishing birth stories came into vogue in response to the alarmingly high rate of c-sections being done in this country. All these birth stories remind us that there is a HUGE range of birth experiences, all of them equally valid and important but also to send the message that while c-sections are prevalent, they are not inevitable.

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      • It's not just higher unneccessary intervention rates, etc..but the fact that EVERYTHING about our lives is getter more and more public. Mothers still talked about their birth experiences 15-10-25years ago it's just that now these cirles are much larger and tend to include people all over the place…social media has changed how we share information. Plus it's a wicked thing to talk about. I loved mybirth expereince and WANT to share it with others. AND i was really proud of having a med-free homebirth, so I wanted to share that too.

        3 agree
    • I don't know why online birth stories became so prevalent, but I'm so glad they did because I LOVE reading about all the different experiences! No two are exactly the same. :)

  19. I really appreciate this post! I have felt a lot of sadness and guilt that my birthing experience went counter to everything my husband and I had hoped and planned for. Our son was born via c-section after we tried everything our midwife/doula/on-call OB could think of to have a vaginal birth. His head was too big to fit through my pelvis and his heart started to drop, so I remind myself to be thankful for medical intervention because without it I hate to think what might have happened to us. I have a healthy, happy almost-1-year-old and that is the most important thing!

    5 agree
  20. Thank you so much. I read someone's comment (not here) that not only is C section not natural, it's not even a birth. It's an "extraction." I laughed that off until I discussed the comment with a friend, and she looked me in the eye and *agreed* that it wasn't a birth. I am still angry and hurt by this. Thank you for trying to un-divide this issue.

    (obviously, my son was a C Section, and his BIRTH matters)

    12 agree
    • ME TOO! It irks the crap outta me! Especially because with my second son I did EVERYTHING humanly possible to widen my hips and make that baby drop–but lo and behold it was not meant to be.
      I think the real problem is lack of education about medically necessary cesareans (and shit the planned ones too!)
      *HUGS* sometimes people are just plain dumb with their words 😉

      2 agree
    • I agree with this so much!

      My neice and nephew were both cesarean deliveries due to complications. But I would NEVER call their births disgusting, or not real. They are the sweetest things in the world who are VERY real children, who had a very REAL birth. I don't care how they got out of their mother…the point is…they are here. They are alive. And they are healthy!

      2 agree
  21. Damn! You know I never really put much thought to this. What really is a "unnatural" birth? Sharing this awesome post with friends

    2 agree
  22. THANK YOU for supporting ALL mommys/parents! This is THE ONLY mommy site I got to, specifically because of the divide between 'natural vs unnatural birthing' and the inherent guilt that is pressed upon you. I had 2 cesareans, both of which were necessary to get my sons out! Had it been any other way (if I were a cave woman per-say) my children and I would've died.
    I'm not sure where this divide started…quite frankly i don't care enough to find out!…but it is a sad thing to divide mothers because we ALL need EVERYONE'S support because dam it! This mommy (and parenting!) stuff is hard as hell no matter which way you slice it!
    Maybe with more sites like this, we can all come together and celebrate what is important–BEING A MOMMY….no matter how that 'being' came to be.
    And HOPEFULLY *fingers crossed* this understanding will span beyond the world wide web and into the 'real world' so that mommy's everywhere can stand together and work towards our goals. :)

    4 agree
    • I suspect the divide began in 70s when women began pushing back against the standard hospital births. When the medical establishment dismissed unmedicated birth as pointless, there was a "medicated/surgical birth is inauthentic" backlash.

      5 agree
      • i totally agree with this. i think the term "natural" came after a period of terrible violence towards labouring mothers, like the whole twilight sleep era where women were literally strapped to beds to give birth. Originally, i think the term "natural" was a way to empower women and make their options more visible. whereas i think a medicated birth is no wrong thing, i think a twilight sleep birth is very unnatural and inherently violent to woman and babe. thank god they don't happen anymore. i do agree that NOW the terms may need a change because the opposite of "natural" is "unnatural" and i don' t think that's accurate or empowering to anyone.

        5 agree
  23. I'm sorry, I completely disagree with this.

    There is nothing natural about a cesarean section or an intervention filled birth. Does that mean that a birth that was induced can't still be amazing? No! Does that mean that c-section mamas can't have good birth experiences? No! And it certainly does NOT mean that mamas who had interventions during their births somehow love their children less. I'm not sure where those thoughts or assumptions are coming from.

    Calling those births natural though? I'm sorry, but they aren't. We're already losing normal, natural birth here in the US? Why make it worse by letting everyone define their birth as natural to avoid hurt feelings? Referring to interventions as natural only perpetuates the myth that they are a normal and necessary part of childbirth. They may be necessary for some, but those "some" should be in the minority.

    33 agree
    • I agree with this completely, with one caveat. It's no skin off my nose if someone who's had a c-delivery or an epidural wants to call her birth natural. Doesn't take anything away from me. But the *overall* concept that any birth is a natural birth seems off to me. On the one hand, I don't want to hurt moms who've already been bullied (mentally or physically) into a medicalized childbirth any more than they already have been by telling them their birth experience was somehow inferior. And I certainly don't want to stigmatize those moms who chose, consenting, to have a medicalized birth. On the other hand, I don't want to give the medical industry a linguistic pass that makes their overuse of interventions acceptable.

      13 agree
    • I don't think the crux of this issue is that women who have had c-sections wish to call their birth "natural." I could be wrong, but I believe the idea is that the word "natural," (with all of the meanings we've attached to the term) implies that any other version is lesser – it's more about about connotative meanings, not denotative ones.

      Since both the word "natural" and the act of birth are emotionally charged, and since OM works to use inclusive language, the idea is just to omit "natural" when describing any birth experience. Using terms like "medicated" or "un-medicated," if one feels the need to use such descriptors, is less exclusive.

      24 agree
    • I agree – I feel that the current way "natural" is being used implies somehow better, implies the way labor and delivery is supposed to be . . . Certainly there was a time when it was natural for women and babies to die in childbirth, but we do not live in that time anymore. There are real, medically necessary reasons for interventions. While I do not call my cesarean delivery natural, without it, in a different time, perhaps either myself, my son or both of us might not have survived the "natural" process. I wanted the intervention-free labor and delivery experience, but it didn't happen.

      Natural, unmedicated, intervention-free vs intervention-filled, cesaeran delivery, cesarean section – whatever you call it – good or bad, we all went through the same process to become mamas.

      1 agrees
      • Death is not completely absent from childbirth today: http://www.inamay.com/?page_id=79 I think one of the deeper fears of proponents of unmedicated vaginal birth are concerns about the interventions and medical guidelines (must deliver in X number of hours after water broken) are not always in favor of the mother and child, but in favor of the convenience of the doctor or the fear of medical lawsuits.

    • May I gently suggest using the term "vaginal" instead of "natural" for a vaginal birth? It is more accurate as natural is…is a value loaded word these days and avoiding the implication of an "unnatural" birth could spare some women some undeserved hurt. Never a bad thing :)

      5 agree
      • Personally I'm happy to use the word vaginal in birth conversations, but I know a lot of people who are extremely uncomfortable using correct words for anatomy lol (the same people who think penis is a funny or dirty word).

        1 agrees
    • "Why make it worse by letting everyone define their birth as natural to avoid hurt feelings?"

      This! When I say a "natural birth" I choose the word natural because I think it is the most accurate word, not as a value judgment against others who need or choose other types of births.

      It seems like by choosing to call these births unmedicated rather than natural it reinforces medicated births as the norm. Why should I use a negative to describe my natural birth? I prefer to use natural birth rather than unmedicated for the same reason I prefer intact rather than uncircumcised penises and singe rather than unmarried/unwed mothers – it describes what they are rather than what they are not.

      9 agree
      • On the other hand, I could see that being a blow in the face to parents who, for whatever reason, chose not to do things that way.

        2 agree
  24. Good on ya, Offbeat Mama, for standing behind all women. I'm now in my second pregnancy, and there are fewer and fewer places online and off where I feel comfortable and safe enough to discuss how I will be using a hospital for the birth of my baby AND — wait for it! — a DOCTOR to deliver him or her. (And don't tell anyone, but I might even use disposable diapers, too. Shhhh…) Thanks for making this a safe place to discuss the experience of birth, in whatever its form.

    10 agree
  25. I had a super awesome mind blowing unmedicated water birth. I love that having that birth was an option for me. I also love that a mother can opt for as many interventions including a cesarean birth as she likes, and if those interventions are not just preferred but medically or compassionately required we all thank our God's they exist. I ALWAYS avoid the use of the term "natural" when describing birth. While a birth without interventions may be what nature intended modern medicine can save lives and offer compassionate care to those who seek or require it, and this does not strike me as "unnatural." While in theory, natural is just a descriptive word, in practice natural creates an atmosphere of elitism. An attitude of "crunchier than thou" is the last thing I want when I talk about how my daughter was born, and assuredly not at all what I want when my friends are giving enough to tell me about the day they birthed their children.

    5 agree
  26. I feel like it is my duty as a Classicist to point out that in the ancient world 50%, yeah that's right, 50% of first time mothers died in childbirth. That number did not significantly reduce until the medical advancements of the 20th century. No matter what anyone wants to say about medical interventions in childbirth it has saved A LOT of women's and babies' lives (including mine and my mother's).

    20 agree
    • I'm no anthropologist, but as a birth professional this statistic seems exaggerated. One in three maybe, but 50%? Nope not going to believe it without multiple sources. (I tried to google it)

      50% of Prims dying during childbirth when risks increase with each baby and as women get older? How did we survive? That would be a catastrophic loss in population.

      Seriously people. This is about feelings and if a simple changing of words makes mama's more comfortable so be it.

      Truthfully I have a hard time calling my unassisted birth "unmedicated".

      • http://www.ajcn.org/content/72/1/241S.full

        According to this information, maternal mortality rates in developed nations haven't gone above 900 per 100,000 (0.09%) since they've been keeping records (disregarding third-world countries).

        Of course, maternal death is reduced significantly when people get proper nutrition.

        • most of the reduction in maternal and infant mortality that occured early last century was more to do with doctors and midwives (but doctors especially) WASHING THEIR HANDS between patients. Most women died of "childbirth fever", due to massive infection related to lack of hygiene and poor nutrition.

          Medical advances have saved women and babies, no doubt. But the 50% prim mortality number is WAY off.

          3 agree
  27. I feel that there is still some connotation of judgement in the terms "medicated" and "unmedicated". How do we address this? I don't know.

    All I can say is that I'm in the middle of an induction needed because of hypertension (waiting, waiting for the Cervidil to take effect), and I really don't feel that this is any less "natural". I believe we need to move away from demonizing medical interventions. Does it matter whether I use tree bark containing salicylic acid or pop an aspirin if the effect is the same?

    6 agree
    • I was induced with cervidil 2 weeks ago. I ended up giving birth 11 hrs after it was administered- no pitocin needed for me! My amniotic fluid was very low and as it turned out the baby was indeed very squished inside of me. He is fine and healthy now and I am SO grateful that I had the opportunity to be induced and have a vaginal birth. I dont feel cheated or robbed because I needed medical intervention, just blessed that I have a healthy baby. Good luck with your birth!

  28. I'm not a fan of describing something by what it is not, example "unmedicated," same goes for "uncircumcised." I don't know what the solution is, I understand and appreciate what you all are trying to do, but it is still falling a bit short. Replacing natural vs. unnatural with unmedicated vs. medicated is still divisive.

    7 agree
  29. Rock on, chicas! We're here to be together, not to make categories.

    2 agree
  30. As someone who has fake ta-ta's, highlighted hair, occasionally colored contacts, and a spray tan, I've never cared one way or another whether my births (two c-sections) were considered natural or not ;). However, as a nurse and a member of the online community, it's true that the language in pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting has become incredibly divisive (btw, I formula-fed too; another 'unnatural' nail in the coffin, I guess 😉 ). To date, I have two beautiful and healthy little boys. Thanks for a great post, and I'll definitely be reading more!!

    10 agree
  31. I use the term natural to describe unmedicated birth, but certainly not to make other women feel guilty about their birth choices. I think it implies that it is a positive thing, which is important since its getting more and more uncommon. That doesn't mean medicated births are somehow bad or any less beautiful, but by definition they are not "natural". To use the word unmedicated seems to imply that medicated birth is standard and expected, it is only described in a negative way to say what it is not instead of what it is. No one actually calls medicated or cesarean "unnatural birth" and it would bother me for the same reason that "unmedicated" bothers me – it only describes it in a negative way. I see no problem with describing birth as it is whether than is natural, medicated, or cesarean and I don't see why that is decisive or offensive to anyone.

    5 agree
  32. Honestly I really want to thank you for making the change away from natural vs unnatural. I walked into my labour saying no to any medical intervention…and walked away with virtually every medical intervention in the book (epidural, internal monitor, catheter and then finally an emergency c-section under general anesthetic). And honestly, as the days and weeks passed I became jealous and guilt ridden. I questioned everything I had done during labour, every decision I had made. Part of that was due to the natural and unnatural label…did my decisions make me any less a mother? I decided no and I walked away from the labels (or tried too).

    So thank you for validating my own beliefs and experience.

    2 agree
  33. natural means it would happen in nature.
    thus it is totally appropriate to describe a birth with a medical intervention like medication 'unnatural'.
    its not a slur. its just a fact.

    4 agree
    • That is true. But, is also a fact that pitocin is chemically exactly the same as oxytocin (the exact same sequence of 9 amino acids). However one is produced naturally by the body, while the other is synthetically (unnaturally) produced in a lab – Our bodies do not know the difference. The body responds to pitocin in the exact same way it does to oxytocin, which is the same for many drugs. Example – diabetes who need to inject themselves with synthetic insulin. The body treats the synthetic insulin they inject as if it had been produced by their body. Most drugs are unnatural derivatives of compounds found in nature (or not found in nature at all), but we use them all the time. I'm not trying to justify unnecessary use of medical interventions in labor and delivery, but whether something is natural or unnatural is often irrelevant in other areas of life, but when we talk about L&D, it tends to bear more importance for some reason.

      8 agree
      • I had to jump in on this one. Synthetic pit is not the exact same thing. My mother and sisters and I allergic to it to the point that it being administered will lead to severe problems during L and D for the mother and child. I almost lost a sister (she should have died, we got lucky) due to the stuff. For us, not happy.

        • I am a biochemist, not a medical professional. Synthetic pitocin may not be pure, but, the names oxytocin and pitocin are used interchangeably because they are the same chemical, with the same sequence of amino acids.

          From Medicine Online:
          Pitocin (oxytocin injection, USP) is a sterile, clear, colorless aqueous solution of synthetic oxytocin, for intravenous infusion or intramuscular injection. Pitocin is a nonapeptide found in pituitary extracts from mammals. It is standardized to contain 10 units of oxytocic hormone/mL and contains 0.5% Chlorobutanol, a chloroform derivative as a preservative, with the pH adjusted with acetic acid. Pitocin may contain up to 16% of total impurities.

          http://www.medicineonline.com/drugs/p/3830/Pitocin-Oxytocin-Injection-USP-Synthetic.html

          Additionally, I will correct myself in that when a woman's body makes oxytocin, it is secreted in bursts. But, when it is administered in a hospital, it is through an IV that supplies a steady flow, so the pitocin-induced contractions are different than the ones a woman would experience on her own, often more powerful.

          Unfortunately, as your family found out, it usage is not without potential side effects. I’m glad that there were happy outcomes for all and everyone is ok.

          2 agree
          • Jill-Sorry if I get a little metaphysical here but: I wonder about the other "components" that go into a chemical that the body produces. I know that science has made incredible strides when it comes to measuring amino acid sequences and being able to replicate those sequences. But what about the stuff that we are not able to measure? Is it crazy to wonder if there are some other things that we are missing? What about a frequency of energy, or custom vibration of the molecules that is made for your body? The only reason I bring this up is…if the chemical structure is identical…why would there be potential side effects? What about the additives and preservatives that are added to most injectables?

            Oxytocin is also known as the "Love hormone". It is released at its highest concentration during labor. It is secreted in very small amounts during certain events in your life like: making dinner with family and friends, making love with your partner, etc. This hormone is not only utilized during L&D. And it is certainly important for bonding mother and baby. I understand that a small percentage of women may need the intervention of pitocin during their labor. But, unfortunately, this drug is ridiculously over-used in a hospital setting. And that makes me sad…

          • "But, unfortunately, this drug is ridiculously over-used in a hospital setting. And that makes me sad…"

            I couldn't agree with you more. The use of synthetic oxytocin is certainly changing the natural timeline of labor. There is plenty that science and medicine has worked out, that we know and can do, but a lot of scientists would be out of jobs if we had all the answers!

          • why the heck don't we administer it in bursts like in the body? Or is this biochem pathway, release levels not studied enough? would that make the effects feel more like the body's hormone? its worth a try, i feel some great research comining on. fund that anyone?

    • I respectfully disagree. How many 'natural' births really mirror what happens 'in nature'? I witnessed several deliveries as a student; sure they were unmedicated and intervention-free, but the midwife still used a doppler device every 15 minutes, there was a birthing pool available (humans don't give birth in water historically) and the suture packs aren't freely available in the wild.

      The only people I can see whose births are truly close to nature often in developed countries were many facilities are lacking. And I doubt many of them would retain the status quo if they had the choice.

      23 agree
  34. I guess by most people's term I would have had a Natural labor and an unnatural child birth. No pain medication at all until she wouldn't come out, so we had to do a c-section. That c-section did indeed save my daughters life, since she had her cord wrapped around her neck 4 times and she couldn't even be taken out of me until it was cut. She never fully descended into the birth canal and if she had she would have strangled and possibly pulled the placenta out with her. I would have definitely preferred a "natural birth" but it wasn't in the cards for us and I'm fine with that.

    2 agree
  35. AMEN!!!

    This whole thing of woman labeling birth as "natural" and "un-natural" and then getting competitive over it reminds me a bit too much of guys comparing penis size.

    5 agree
  36. One of my issues with the terms "natural" is that it seems to mean very different things to different people.

    Over the last 8 months I have been asked by at least 30 people if I plan to have a "natural" birth. Some of these people simply meant vaginal instead of cesarean. Some of these people meant only gas and no epi/pethadine. One of these people meant at home listening to enya. Almost all of them would consider vaginal with the assistance of forceps/vaccuum to still be "natural".

    If someone asked me if I was planning an unmedicated birth I would know what they mean. When they ask if I'm having a "natural" birth i have to ask them to clarify. That is reason enough for me to change the way we use terminology.

    4 agree
    • I agree, everyone (around me anyway) seems to try mighty hard to fit in the "natural" category. It kind of reminds me of the vegetarians around me. Some will eat fish but will still call themselves vegetarians. Others will eat fish AND chicken and still call themselves vegetarians. Then the vegetarians that eat eggs and dairy will complain that people insist on offering them fish even after they have identified as vegetarians!!! GAH!
      Next time someone asks me if I had a natural birth, I'm gonna say "No, it was totally fake."
      hehe

      4 agree
      • I'm definitely guilty of this, although it used to really bother my when i was an ovo-lacto-vegetarian. I eat seafood but no other meat and I would happily call myself a pescatarian if I didn't have to then explain what it meant every single time. I usually don't say I'm a vegetarian but I do say "I don't eat meat."

        1 agrees
  37. To everyone who defends "natural" as meaning without intervention, where do you draw the line? If you use a man-made birthing tub instead of wading in a fresh water lake, why is that still natural? If you wear clothes or lie in a bed or are in a building of any sort, is that natural? Why?

    Personally, I think it is more "natural" to have a desire to be comfortable, which for many people, means pain relief. It's also "natural" to want to save lives and prevent unnecessary injury, and "natural" for people to do everything they can to help someone. So sure, I am perfectly happy to call a cesarean natural. But I don't see much point, since the term isn't even relevant in the context of giving birth.

    I also don't see myself, as a human, as being above or separate from nature. "Unnatural," as far as I'm concerned, would have to go against the laws of nature. A show of hands: how many of you teleported your babies out? *That* I don't think I could call natural.

    13 agree
    • Teleporting unnatural yes, but how f*cking cool would that be?? I would totally put my hand up for that method of birthing!

      7 agree
      • I would be all over that like gravy on a biscuit. I kept hoping they'd invent it before my second was born, but no such luck!

    • "Personally, I think it is more "natural" to have a desire to be comfortable"

      I hear this judgment of women who choose to avoid interventions all the time, but I rarely see anyone mention this as judgement. It feels very divisive and re-enforces the stereotype that labor is torture and people who choose to feel it masochists.

      For me an intervention is a medical procedure that one would not take as part of normal everyday life that disrupts or replaces the natural processes of one's body.

      5 agree
      • You left out the rest of my sentence. "…which for many people, means pain relief." For you, it doesn't, because interventions make you uncomfortable.

        I am more likely to judge someone for cherry-picking and putting words in my mouth than I am about how they choose to give birth. If it feels divisive, it's because you ignored the whole point of my post, which is that we are all acting within nature and whatever we want for ourselves and our babies is as well.

        8 agree
        • Honestly, this wasn't intended to be cherry-picking. I did take the context into consideration, sorry if it didn't seem like it. I think it is completely normal to want to be comfortable but that the means of achieving comfort can be more or less natural.

          I agree that "natural" is a continuum, and humans are a part of nature so that something man-made is not necessarily not "natural." My main objection to interventions is that they can cause complications, although I admit I am personally uncomfortable with some interventions for other reasons. My preference for this type of birth has little to do with where it falls in the continuum of natural vs non-natural.

          I think all birth is birth, regardless of how the baby gets out. I don't think it has to be "natural" (however that is defined) to be beautiful and miraculous. When I describe my daughter's birth as natural, I only mean it as a descriptive not as a value judgement against others who prefer or need other types of births.

  38. Vaginal vs Cesarean is preferred then, I assume. But no matter what words you say to describe it there will always be the underlying emotions. Those you can't change. I think it's 2 parts curiosity and 1 part competition. It certainly was not "unnatural" for you to carry and deliver a child, assuming you had corresponding reproductive organs. But, and this is mostly Americans I think, people are curious of WHAT kind of birth you had… because, you see, here in Europe – it's pretty well assumed that you had an unmedicated birth. Whereas in the US, everyone is curious, were you able to have a child WITHOUT medication. Medication has become the norm, but really only in America. Here in Italy, it's out of pocket/expensive and pretty rare. I was able to labor naturally, that is without any intervention or medication, I pushed a baby out naturally, that is without any interventions. But most of my friends had to have C-sections due to breeched babies and other issues, and sure it's not the birth they had planned but they are still empowered by their own births… everyone is equally happy to share their awesome story of bringing a child into the world. None of them are less of women, none of them are weak or poor mothers. They did not have "natural" births, but they do have AWESOME stories to tell.

    Another thing to keep in mind, is that the US has a very high rate of elected c-sections and that's another story. There's nothing natural about trying to avoid the whole birth process all together…

    2 agree
    • Europe does not have a collective attitude towards birth. I am also in Europe, and the experience here is nothing at all like in Italy, nor in many other parts of Europe where I have mom friends. I don't know anyone here, in Europe, who makes assumptions about what kind of birth I had just because it was in Europe.

      5 agree
  39. I don't see much of a difference between natural vs. unmedicated to be honest, the latter is just specific. Regardless of the words that are used nothing is going to change until people start calling out other people when they are judgmental and nosy.

    I'm only 15 weeks pregnant and already I feel like turning into a pariah. It's weird reading all of the posts and comments in which women talk about feeling pressure to go the 'natural/unmediacted' route, I have the opposite problem. ALL of my friends and family have not only been questioning our decision to try for a home birth but have been outright hostile. I feel like the only support I have comes from my husband and midwives. And it freaking sucks!!

    I've been so offended by the way people have started talking to me. I'm a 28 year old with 2 years of nursing school under my belt, so yeah, I'm well aware of the dangers of alcohol thanks; and no, I haven't been drinking.

    My husband came up with our prenatal motto: "Your interest is appreciated but your input is not" and the next time someone judges me, or for that matter anyone else, for any decision they make regarding their own pregnancy, it's going to be my response.

    (Sorry for the rage filled post, I have very few outlets).

    5 agree
  40. A lot of people have argued that we should stick to "vaginal" and "caesarean". I disagree. If we feel (as I do) that minimizing interventions during birth is a worthwhile undertaking, then that kind of birth deserves its own name. If "natural" is too divisive, suggest something else. But like a previous poster, I'm not a fan of labeling things as "non-", i.e. non-medicated, non-mainstream, etc.

  41. Thank you! My first birth involved an epidural- a life saver since I kept panicking with each contraction. But when it came time to push, that was all me- for 2 hours!

    I really appreciate this sites willingness to question and challenge norms, esp. Those that pit women against women.

    5 agree
  42. As much as we like to talk about all of our birth choices (meds, no meds, midwife, MD, home, birth center, water, land, hypnobirth, lamaze) I believe that:

    1. The vast majority of women in the US are not aware that they may have these choices available to them. I say this partly because I believe (and some would disagree) that if women are truly being given education and options regarding their pregnancy and birth care, you would see substantially less women choosing to get their care from MD’s and birthing in a hospital setting. (The home birth rate is like 1%)

    2. If you step on the hospital treadmill its going to go where ever it wants to go with little input from you. And the vast majority of women in this country choose (or are forced to) step on this treadmill.

    The focus should be on educating women about their choices for where to give birth and making options available (ie, UN-outlawing home births in states), because that, more than anything will determine the type of birth you have.

    The picture of what has become a “normal” birth is very upsetting to me. IV’s and Fetal Monitors limiting mobility, strict time restraints on how long one can labor after the water breaks, everyone and their brother getting pitocin to speed things up and 1 in 3 women winding up with C-Sections. (which is also the highest rate in history and is not producing any better outcomes which tells me that there are a lot of C-sections being performed for dubious reasons.) But its hard to get too upset when we get a healthy baby (the objective in the first place.) We shouldn't stand for this kind of care.

    If we really want to band together as women the issue should not be around coming to consensus on how to label our births.

    We need to make sure that all women have access to safe affordable, non-hospital birth options and are aware that these choices even exist so they can be empowered to create a satisfying birth experience.

    11 agree
    • Yeah, I agree. So what should we call the birth experience you describe? Mainstream birth? Then what do we call birth experiences that are out of the mainstream?

      • Traditional vs. Non-traditional.
        I don't know, I'm not big on labels.

    • AliKon- You have written almost exactly what I was going to write! Education is key!
      Thank you for being in the minority on this thread. A great educational film (in case you have not already seen it) is: The Business of Being Born.

      1 agrees
    • I feel like the term "birth experience" is very new. Older women in my quite, uh, fertile family seem kind of confused by allusions to it (such as when I imply any type of failure on my part for having had a c-section). This is my opinion only but it would seem that the run up to creating the perfect birth experience is not unlike the planning and wishing and hoping that goes into a wedding. I understand that the underlying reason behind aiming for the ideal birth experience is giving one's child the best possible start but I feel like the importance of the actual birth experience (an importance that has generated its own industry, it seems) has eclipsed the actual act of bringing a new human being into the world.

      My birth experience was not at all what I had planned but I was lucky enough to have somewhat old fashioned folks, including midwives and family, telling me to snap out of any self-pity I felt, because I had a healthy child and that was enough! I am not saying that would work for everybody, I know some people need a gentler approach but those harsh words worked on me and kept me from slipping into depression. I just think that the emphasis on "the birth experience" may not always be so necessary and may sometimes be harmful.

      8 agree
  43. I think that the problem is in seeing this as a moral issue, in either direction.

    A lot of women are, very unfortunately, undereducated about their birthing choices and what the research says about the potential effects of different choices. THAT is a problem that needs to be rectified, and many believe that educating women will lead to fewer potentially problematic interventions.

    However, plenty of women have all of the facts and still choose a medicated or otherwise "unnatural" birth for a variety of reasons, and they shouldn't be judged for that decision. In reality, while interventions may increase the risk of various problems, the increases are generally small and the problems they do cause are unlikely to have lasting effects (except in the cases of mothers who are psychologically traumatized by their birth experience, which isn't something to take lightly). It's not like they decided to have a toddler cut the baby out with a machete or something. Everyone makes some parenting decisions that are above someone else's risk threshold, and everyone should be able to make those decisions independently and without judgment.

    I also think that some women get a little to zealous about the "education" aspect and start to assume that anyone who has interventions must have just not known any better – not so much judging them, but assuming ignorance as the default. On the one hand, it may be true that most women in the US don't have all the facts, but these people also need to be sensitive to the fact that there simply ARE many women out there who know as much as they do and yet will make a different decision based on those same facts.

    4 agree
    • Yes! I think all too often saying people should educate themselves is really code for "people need to come to my side of thinking." Someone may make a decision we wouldn't choose for ourselves, but that doesn't = an uneducated choice.

      8 agree
    • Thank you, this is exactly what I wanted to say but could not have said it so well!

      I completely agree that there are a lot of women who are undereducated on their birthing options (where/who/what interventions).

      However there are also many women who are extremely well informed who still choose to birth in a hospital, "unnaturally" with medication/interventions for a massive variety of reasons.

      Two people having access to all the same facts, evidence and studies can still make completely different decisions for what is best for them and their birthing experience.

      I find it offensive when people assume that if someone's choice was different to their own, that that person was ignorant and didn't know any better. *Your* way is not necessarily the right way for someone else.

      5 agree
  44. Education is the key! With my 2nd pregnancy I did a class-thing because it was free….best decision ever! I was able to talk with the doctors and nurses and go through my options and back up my choices with facts….it was soooo much more empowering than my first pregnancy and birth where I knew next to nothing. My hope is that prenatal classes be FREE for everyone! Then we can educate our fellow women and help them make the best decision for themselves. Because, afterall, there is only so much that can be gleaned from books. Talking first hand with other women gave me strength to get through 60 hours of labor and a cesarean delivery! Soooo anyone have ideas on how to start a free educational program???

    • In australia antenatal classes are run by the midwives of the hospital for free around week 28. Even though I consider myself pretty well read on pregnancy and labour, I found these really helpful and loved being able to ask questions about "real" labour which books dont always cover.

      They also showed us all the tools that can be used (forceps/vaccuum/epi line) which made them a lot less scary in the event we need them. And then went on to tell us roughly how often those are used in that particular hospital. (Thankfully very low rates at my hopsital)

      It was also a great way to meet the midwives who would be taking care of us during labour and the few days after. And they took us on a very detailed tour of the labour delivery rooms so we would know what to expect and not be scared.

      I definitely recommend these classes! And I hope somehow they do become free and standard in the U.S.

      1 agrees
  45. I think this is simply a differing of views. I believe the majority of women would chose less interventions over more interventions if given information on the nature, effectiveness, and risks of the interventions. Others may not.

    I’ve asked myself:

    Would women chose to give birth laying on their backs if hospitals encouraged alternative positions?

    Would women choose to be immobilized by a fetal monitor if they were given information on the effectiveness of intermittent fetal heart monitoring.

    Would women be okay with an episiotomy performed for the convenience of the doctor? (not long ago this was extremely common)

    Would women be willing to wait until they reach 40 weeks before they considered an induction if they weren’t inundated with doctors telling them their baby will be too big for them to push out?

    Yes, no, maybe? I do realize this is not something all women can agree on. We definitely have to respect each other decisions.

    We all have the power to make birth choices. Our choices will not all be the same.
    That is okay.

    2 agree
    • I don't mean to sound anti-U.S here, but why don't women in the U.S know all this stuff?

      In Australia we are informed of all the things you mentioned by our midwives/doctors and ante-natal classes? Sure, plenty of women still choose medication (therefore must be on their backs etc) or choose cesareans for convenience, but it is generally an informed decision.

      Why aren't women in america being told this stuff by their caregivers?

      1 agrees
      • I went into my delivery informed and educated as many American women do. I watched the Business of Being Born, I read every book I could get my hands on, my midwife, doula, my partner and I had many conversations prior to my labor. And, we avoided medical interventions as long as possible, but my son was not going to come out without help . . . . It was not for lack of education that I ended up where I did, with an intervention-filled delivery.

        No one has commented on the fact that intervention itself could be divisive. We don't talk about medical interventions when our babies have an ear infection, or when we vaccinate them to protect them – we just get them the medicine they need. And, sometimes women need help birthing their babies – this is not new.

        4 agree
        • I absolutely agree, medical intervention is often necessary to achieve the best outcome for mother and baby. When my friends/families' labours have needed intervention I know it hasnt been due to undereducation or not knowing their options and the potential risks.

          I'm just confused why so many comments on OBM suggest that women in America ARENT being told the basics (eg being upright and active helps labour progress in normal situations). Is this truly the case or is that an assumption being made because so many women do choose intervention?

          1 agrees
          • Jesscar- I think I have an answer to your question. Hospital care in the US is a business, a corporation. Healthcare in the US is not always performed with the best interest of the patient in mind, it is performed with the bottom line of the hospital, pharmaceutical company, or health insurance company in mind. I hate to be pointing fingers at "The Man", but it is true. (And I would know, I'm in graduate school for my Doctorate of Nursing Practice.) I feel that many American women who choose to have there births in a hospital and with an OB are put in a compromising position. Most of the women that I know that wanted to have a "natural" birth in the hospital where either mocked by the attending doctor for choosing so, or were talked into receiving medical intervention when they otherwise would not have chosen it. Unfortunately for most women, in most hosptials in the US they are not seen as a beautiful, courageous creature that has the strength and power to bring life into the world, they are seen as a patient that is taking up a bed. The quicker the doctor can get the woman into labor and get the baby out and send her home, the better.
            If you still don't believe me, check out the film Sicko and The Business of Being Born. These films show the harsh reality of the US healthcare system. Women are not educated enough on birthing options because education is power, power that is then taken away from the big business of the medical industry.
            I am so grateful that you live in a country that is supportive of women and provides extensive education. I am also grateful to you for asking this question!

            5 agree
        • >>We don't talk about medical interventions when our babies have an ear infection, or when we vaccinate them to protect them – we just get them the medicine they need.>>

          Actually, there are many places on the Internet where this IS an issue of contention, for good or for ill.

  46. I just discovered Offbeat Mama and what a wonderful discovery to fall on this article. I feel that it's true that the word "natural" came about and is important to show that there are alternatives to hospital birth, and that women have options and they have the right to choose what kind of birth they would like to try for, but unfortunately too often now the term "natural birth" inherently carries the implication of "superior". Women are very eager to tell their birth stories when they have had a home birth or a water birth in a birth center, etc. We so rarely hear women say "I had a beautiful, spiritual Cesarian birth". For my part, I set out to have a hospital birth with an epidural. It was a beautiful, spiritual experience, one I still have dreams about. The epidural took the edge off but I could still feel the waves of contractions move my son down through my body, and it allowed me to focus on that feeling, rather than try to get through the pain. The hospital staff was wonderful and we got breastfeeding going right away, with no problems. I am currently pregnant with number two and , and I'm looking forward to repeating the experience with my second child, in the same delivery room.

    1 agrees
    • Your birth experience sounds lovely. Maybe you could write a post about it for OBM?

  47. Thank you!

    My birth is an epic example of the hippy home birth, and was not only well attended, but later written up by one of the attendees as a "magical, mystical" event.

    While I was pregnant (and planning to have the most "natural" birth I could) I visited a friend and her baby, who had had to schedule a cesarean to have him due to known medical issues. She told me she and many others preferred the term "cesarean birth" and right then and there I made an effort to change my language.

    Fast forward to me in the hospital after 5 days of trying to induce labor due to potential medical issues and having no success. I had submitted to every medical procedure I had vowed to avoid so far (pitocen, epidural, etc.) and I had finally given in to the inevitable that I was going to have to have a cesarean after all. As I was about to be wheeled into surgery, my dad popped back into the room to say to me "I just want you to know: you have NOT failed."

    5 agree
  48. In all honesty it shouldn't matter what terms we use so long as they aren't used in a derogatory way. I think natural is an apt term for an unmedicated birth, it doesn't mean a C-delivery (I like that one) or a medicated birth isn't any less awesome. I hope I don't offend anyone by using the term natural delivery but I don't think its fair to totaly disregard the term. On the opposite side I'm the only "offbeatish" one amongst my husbands cirle and I've been ridiculed for aiming for a natural birth, I believe the words were "your an idiot for wanting a natural birth I had 2 minutes of labor and that was it for me" never mind that the pitocin caused a small amount of fetal distress she was just happy to not feel it, which is kind of… well it just makes me feel weird. But everyone here is super supportive so I don't think we need to worry about the terminology as much as we need to keep being sensitive to others choices (and sometimes the non choices)and keep the rah rah! attitude going.

    2 agree
  49. Most of the comments so far are divided between the idea of whether or not "natural" is hurtful/accusatory or not. After my vaginal, epidural birth, one of my first memories is coming home and a neighbor visiting me. The first words out of her mouth were "I'm so sorry you couldn't have a natural birth." Not everyone uses the word in a judgmental way, but it certainly happens.

    In the end, I do believe words have a transformative power. I believe the way we name things is important and frames the way we think and feel about things. However, I also know that when most people use a phrase that is hurtful to another person, they don't use it intending every implication of the phrase, or even realizing every implication. So I feel as conscientious speakers, we are under obligation to take into account the popular usage of words and their greater implications. And as conscientious listeners, we are obligated to be understanding about the limitations and unintended punches that come with communication.

    In the end, "natural" is, in our culture, such a buzz word at this point that I try to avoid using it in relation to many subjects, including this one. Why don't we just be specific about the exact birth we had, if we so want to talk about it?

    I had one vaginal, epidural-aided, pitocin-induced birth. Next I had an unmedicated, spontaneous labor birth. And, by the way, if I had another, I would still be in the "see how long I can hold out, but never say never" camp.

    7 agree
    • I agree. There is so much in between the two extremes. I think the only way to accurately describe a birth is to use more than one descriptive term.

  50. I think we should just call things as we see them:
    vaginal childbirth = vaginal childbirth
    cesarean = cesarean
    epidural = pain medication administered in the back which comes with its own set of risks/benefits

    I would rather see women be properly informed by unbiased professionals about the risks/benefits of each way to labor and give birth. It is unfortunate that so many women are treated by doctors who are afraid of being sued for malpractice and intervene more than is necessary.

    I do think that there is an enormous gap in terms of birth knowledge in this culture. It's led to skyrocketing cesarean rates and a maternal and infant death rate that is much too high for a developed nation.

    Let's get past the blame game and educate people.

    Also, just because you choose to formula feed/disposable diaper/not attachment parent/whatever it doesn't make you less of a parent. Most of the crap you probably get is a reaction to generations of people being told that they shouldn't breastfeed/attachment parent/etc.

    1 agrees
  51. I really disagree with this post. You have confused a word for a judgment. The word "natural childbirth" is actually a retronym. It was just "childbirth" until women felt they needed a descriptive term to distinguish between a birth without interventions and the medicalized experience of childbirth. The term "natural childbirth" has been in use for many years, since the 70's at least, when women first wanted to escape the horrors of twighlight sleep. It simply means that childbirth is proceding in the traditional sense. It is ridiculous to call it "unmedicated"! That implies that the normal way is "medicated". That's like saying "I got their by undriving" or "I ate unintroveinously". I don't see the problem here. Natural childbirth is a descriptive retronym and has been a part of the vocabulary for over 30 years at least. Only about 5 to 10% of women have a natural childbirth, so they actually the ones in the minority here. What is threatening about a small percentage of women using a term that describes their own experience for them? Why is a simple word seen as a judgment on the majority of women? And who ever said that any childbirth experience should be called "unnatural"? I can describe my own experience using the words I feel describe it, and you can use your own words. I strongly disagree with policing the words that people use. I had one vaginal birth in the hospital which was medicated. I had one natural birth at home. I am the one who gets to decide what I call them, and you can decide what to call your own birth experiences.

    12 agree
    • You absolutely have the right to use whatever words you want to describe your birth. I think the point is that OffbeatMama won't be using the word "natural" in their own descriptions.

      2 agree
  52. I agree with making this distinction. I had no drugs, but I don't feel at all that my birth was "natural." What's natural about hanging off the edge of a table with my feet in stirrups, with a doctor and two nurses shouting at me to push to the count of ten and a perinatologist trying to introduce himself to me while I was pushing?

    For me, a "natural" birth would be one where I got to follow my instincts. Ideally, I'd be alone, in a cave or forest glen, and catch my own baby. I really don't think this is going to happen. But the question, I guess, is this: how natural do you WANT your birth to be? Was it natural enough to suit you? Then it was natural enough.

  53. I disagree with the comments that the key to better maternity care is more education. British and Dutch women don't have fewer interventions and, not coincidentally, lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, because they are individually better educated. They have fewer interventions during birth because they are giving birth within medical systems which are more conducive to evidence based maternity care and lower intervention birth. All of the education in the world is only going to get you so far if your state effectively outlaws your preferred birthing method, or your insurance company will only cover certain obstetricians, or almost no-one is trained in how to assist in vaginal breech delivery, or you can't trust your obstetrician not to lie to you or perform procedures against your will. Saying that women need to be better educated about birth just throws the responsibility back on the individual woman rather than acknowledging that pregnant women shouldn't have to fight the medical system to receive appropriate care.

    6 agree
    • Sam- you are absolutely right about changing the medical system in order to provide the best possible care to women! I, unfortunately, do not see that happening anytime soon. So, we women, are left with the responsibility of advocating for ourselves. And in order to advocate appropriately and ensure the best outcome, we must be provided with the education and resources necessary to make our own choices. Most big hospitals and OB practices do not offer comprehensive pregnancy and labor education. They are usually 3 hour single-session classes that talk about birth in a short period of time. The birthing classes that I have attended are 3 hour 12-session classes that show a variety of different birthing choices and talk about the various stages of labor and delivery. This kind of education should be mandatory as far as I am concerned.

      1 agrees
  54. THANK YOU. I'm not a parent and I may never be one, but the whole "natural" childbirth thing has always pissed me off. Not because I don't think women have every right to choose how they give birth and that our current system is flawed, but because it always felt like another way to make women and mothers feel bad about themselves. So thank you, Stephanie, for giving a voice to this!

    – Becca

    1 agrees
  55. If you are interested in reading about where a lot of our medical terms used to describe reproduction originated (and implied sexism in many of these terms), read The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction by Emily Martin

    http://www.amazon.com/Woman-Body-Cultural-Analysis-Reproduction/dp/0807046450

    I read it for an anthropology class and though it is a bit dated, it is really relevant for the 'natural' terminology discussion here.

    2 agree
  56. Wow, your comments about pitting women against women really hit home for me. My husband and I are trying to get pregnant and I have been very excited by the prospect of what I have been calling a home "natural" birth (all assuming I can get pregnant and assuming I don't have high risk factors that make a home birth unsafe). Anyway your article reminded me that words have power. And the word "natural" carries a lot of weight and in using it I am demeaning the choices of other women (even if it is done unintentionally). I'm going to use new terminology to describe whatever birthing decisions I make. Thank you for pointing it out.

    2 agree
  57. i had a cesarean delivery with my first, who was transverse, and v-bac with my second. i'm currently 5 months pregnant with my 3rd and have the choice of going either way. i have opted to try for v-bac again, but as long as my baby and i are safe and healthy i'll be happy with either.

  58. This has been a really great post and discussion.

    I'm a feral homebirther – in water no less! My eldest was a transfer to hospital, but my youngest two were waterborn at home, less than 12 months apart. Our living room floor boards have a great, big, round watermark where we forgot to put a drop sheet under the pool for my last birth. Both babes were born in the same pool, in the same spot, with the same midwife. I love my births. I had trust in myself, and in my babes, and I knew that this was right for us.

    But I can only talk to other homebirth mammas about it, because almost no-one in my circle of friends or family want to know. They think that by choosing to homebirth, I'm judging their choices. Only my aunt and two close friends know my birth stories IRL.

    People can relate to ceasarean births. Hell, I was born by ceasar! But I've found that people rarely relate to homebirth, and it is terribly isolating.

    "natural" as a label sucks for everyone.

    1 agrees
  59. For the record, I totally appreciate and respect the inclusive tone here, and I would never advocate the intentional use of hurtful language. I think sensitivity in communication is noble and worthwhile. I fully support every mother's right to her own choices surrounding birth, and to her own feelings and opinions.
    But… I'm worried that this all-encompassing use of the word "natural" (or its omission all together) in the birth discussion is distracting and counter-productive, not to mention fallacious.
    I don't see how describing an un-medicated, vaginal birth as "natural" implies that any other birth is not as good. At worst, it implies that other ways of giving birth are unnatural. But unnatural is not synonymous with "bad", "less" or "wrong." It's simply the opposite of "natural", which means, as per the most common definition: "Existing in or caused by nature." Cesarean deliveries and epidurals are not existent in or caused by nature, except to the degree that humans are a part of nature. But then if all things created by humans count as natural, what does the word "natural" even mean? Nothing. Plastic bags, boob jobs, cocaine and HD TV would all be "natural". On the other hand, if we stick with the actual definition of "natural", let us be reminded that poison oak, tornadoes, herpes and mosquitoes are all perfectly natural. Does that make them good? Of course not.
    There are plenty of words in the English language that actually, by definition, imply something that should hurt our feelings. "Natural" is not really one of them. We can always assign our own meaning to words, but choosing to be hurt by someone's use of the word "natural" to describe a birth seems like an unintended and unnecessary source of grief. There's no position you'll ever have that you'll be judged more harshly for than that of mother, no matter how you choose to do it. You'll have practically endless opportunities to be hurt by the judgmental criticisms people (often other mothers) will unleash upon you. And that sucks. But do yourself a favor, and don't create judgmental criticisms where there probably are none. Focus on being the best mother you can be, whatever that means to you. If you know you're doing what's right for you and your kid/s as best you can, you can let go of all the comments and criticisms. That's where you have the power to rise above all the judgment. Trying to change other people's choices in language will only waste your energy.

    5 agree
  60. Many people commenting are still making the point that if they had a Cesaerean birth it was because it was necessary/for medical purposes/not her own choice. I can understand that if this kind of procedure was ONLY necessary and was something that normally would have been the last choice that can be upsetting, the control and choice is removed which is scary and horrible. However, I have two cousins each had a baby about a month apart, both were Cesaerean births, both were elective. One because of the dangers to her if vaginal birth was attempted (she'd had surgery just before falling pregnant) the other was purely through choice, I haven't asked her what motivated her to make this decision and as I am due in Aug I may ask her as part of educating myself, so I know all the options. Each situation produced beautiful baby girls, Skye and Ella. Both of my cousins are loving and dutiful mothers. Each relay to me with gusto the stories of their births and how special the experiences they had were to them and their partners. I feel the term 'natural' is bandied about more than it ought to be but the intension behind the term is dictated by the speaker and the inference by the listener. If you feel judged, this is something you need to express, but because you feel judged does not always mean that someone else is looking down on you. I don't know, I haven't been through it but I agree that education and being aware of all/most of the possibilities can have a massive impact on how a mother feels about the birth she has. Control and the feeling of having a choice plays such an important part of emotional well-being in all other aspects of life, why should it be taken away here? I send love and respect to all mothers, you're marvellous people. I so look forward to joining you.

  61. A different perspective, and one I've only seen a few times in this long list of comments: For all the women who feel guilty or feel like a "failure" for not having what they thought of as a natural birth, please remember: just 100 years ago, 1 in 100 births ended in the mother's death, and as many as 1 in 4 babies didn't live to see their first birthday. That is what it means to "let nature take its course." Just like you don't have to die of cholera and tuberculosis anymore, you don't have to die in childbirth– please don't think of it as unnatural, think of it as a miracle (of human ingenuity) !!

    4 agree
  62. It's always my home that women who are pregnant keep an open mind. When I get pregnant, I hope to have an unmedicated birth-but if it doesn't happen, I won't beat myself up about it. So many things can go awry. My fluid levels could drop. I could have a child in breech position. I could be in labor for a very long time and need an epidural to keep me going. I know someone who had planned an unmedicated water birth and ended up requiring a cecerian. She was depressed until I told her gently "You son is no less perfect and beautiful because you had a surgical birth." Any kind of birth is just that-welcoming a new baby into the world.

  63. LOVE IT. After my daughter was born by emergency c-section after an attempted "natural" home birth, I was smacked off my self-righteous pedestal and realized the truth you speak of. I think it's great that we share our birth stories with each other, but to share and receive without the judgement of what is better or worse…just like every other aspect of parenting, we're all doing what we think is best, we're muddling through it in our own ways, and what we really need to do is support and love one another.

    2 agree
  64. Leyla, I can see where you're coming from, but how would I begin to describe my munchkin's arrival? I planned a water birth in a midwife unit (thankfully attached to a maternity hospital), but wasn't able to because of my waters breaking over 24 hours earlier. Then she got her head wedged in my pelvis, so I wasn't even getting any urges to push, and after 36 hours she ended up being delivered by forceps in an operating theatre! Technically a vaginal birth, but probably not 'natural'!
    It never bothered me, though because as far as I was concerned the whole point was the tiny baby I was left holding. The reason we give birth in the first place is for the baby, not to experience it, surely? Although I can understand how some women may feel (or be made to feel) like they didn't do it 'properly'.
    And I'd do it again like a shot!

  65. So many women still making apologies for their cesareans. It's sad. Well, I make none. I had a totally elective cesearean. I had to talk my doctor into it. I LOVED it. No drama. No pain. Just scheduled wonderfulness. And a perfect baby boy was born (with a beautifully-round c-section head, as one nurse said!). I wouldn't necessarily call it natural. But it was normal, uneventful and wonderful. I have no war story to brag about because I didn't want one. I wanted a child, not birth-bragging rights. Shame on you mamas who try to tear other mamas down because they don't do things they way you did them.

    1 agrees
    • I must say (after a failed natural birth the first time ending in c-section) I'm actually looking forward to my next baby being born planned c-section.

      Labour was worse than torture for me and I hated the extra 2 weeks of being pregnant, and the not knowing when she was coming and the waiting (and the waste of 2 weeks maternity leave).

      I feel like I'm actually going to ENJOY my birth experience next time (through c-sec) and only getting to 39 weeks instead of 42. And being able to plan around it. As you said, no drama no pain. The recovery was pretty good for me after the emergency c and I'm told its even easier when elective.

      When people tell me "dont worry you can try again next time", for some reason people seem surprised and disappointed when I say I dont want to try natural again. I wont apologise for wanting to have my next birth experience MY way.

      1 agrees
  66. Totally agree that "natural birth" is a loaded, outdated, irrelevant expression. I cant stand it when I get asked if I had a natural birth. Usually the asker wants to know if I delivered vaginally. Sometimes they want to know if labour was drug-free. I never know how to answer! So, in revenge, I give them the very long and detailed version of my birth story :)

  67. I think that women who have their babies without medical pain management are, and should be, incredibly proud of themselves. I don't think that it's gloating, or superiority, just wanting to share a huge accomplishment. I encourage drug free deliveries mostly because it is a huge self esteem boost for the women who have them. If I can give birth without drugs, I can do anything! I can't tell you how many times I've told myself that! (disclaimer, I had an epidural with one of my three births and I don't beat myself up over it). On the other hand, some women need drugs to be able to have a vaginal delivery, and that doesn't make their births any less amazing. It's not the drugs that I have a beef with, it's the culture that tells women that EVERYONE needs drugs to accomplish something that we have been doing for millions of years without intervention.

    And technically, delivering a baby through an abdominal incision IS unnatural. But so is insulin, and radiation therapy, and organ transplantation, but the term unnatural doesn't have a negative connotation when associated with any medical procedure besides the c section. While I am one of the first to rage about the high rate of unnecessary c sections caused by a cascade of unnecessary interventions, sometimes c sections save lives. And sometimes physicians use scare tactics to manipulate women into having c sections, and no one can blame a woman who decides to have c section based on the "dead baby card."

    In the end, we are all mothers, and how our babies came into the world doesn't make us any less or any better than anyone else.

    • "but the term unnatural doesn't have a negative connotation when associated with any medical procedure besides the c section"

      I've never heard the term "unnatural" used to refer to any medical procedure, including a cesarean, but more importantly, the only time other than birth that I hear people talk about "natural" treatments is when they are talking about something that isn't a medical procedure at all. I honestly don't know what situations you're referring to when you say that the term doesn't have a negative connotation elsewhere.

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