Everyone has their own different desires and expectations for how their birth will go and different outcomes of how it actually ends up going. The expectation and outcomes of births are a wide range, from the ones with most medical intervention (hospital birth with epidural and/or C-section), to home births where there is only a midwife present. I personally wanted to have a “natural” birth (i.e. no epidural), but with it being my first child I was definitely not confident enough to have a home birth. I was able to successfully carry out my desires for the most part, since I did not have any complications during pregnancy or labor and I was able to manage the pain well enough to not ask for an epidural. However, it does not seem like labor usually goes the way the mom “planned” for it to go. Regardless of your desires or how the labor actually goes, the end goal is always the same: the birth of your baby. No matter what your circumstances, if you have gone through pregnancy and labor and come out with a child, you are a champion; you fought hard and won the prize.
Although it does seem as though many women’s labor and delivery does not go how they planned it, I believe that having a plan for how you would like your birth to go is still beneficial, as long as you are not devastated if things do not go according exactly to that plan. That being said, I’d like to list what I think are the pros and cons of having a natural birth, whether in a hospital or not.
Pros of Natural Birth:
- No medicine to you/baby. While generally medicine can be very beneficial, sometimes there are side effects that take place, and sometimes the medicine affects the patient much stronger than anticipated. I am generally more sensitive to medicine than most people (I take one Tylenol instead of two for a headache), so I try to stay away from medicine as much as possible. When Lilly was born the doctors and nurses commented on how she was so alert and nursing so well, and I think that was because she didn’t have any drugs in her system when she was born.
- No side effects of epidural. Even though I understand epidurals to be very safe (doctors perform them all the time), there still is a slight risk involved. It is a very low chance, but with devastating consequences. With inserting a needle into your spine in order to numb the lower half of your body, there is the slight chance that you could be paralyzed from the waist down. Even though the odds are slim, those are odds I don’t want to mess with.
- Freedom to move around during labor. Once you have received the epidural, obviously you will be confined to the bed because you can no longer move your legs. This takes you “out of the driver’s seat” during your labor, and could cause your labor to be longer. Studies have shown that moving around during labor may cause your labor to be shorter, as well as being able to stand up or squat can assist gravity in moving your baby downward, as opposed to lying in a bed.
- Quicker recovery for mom/baby. The less drugs you have in your system, the faster you should be able to recover from labor. If you have an epidural usually that doesn’t wear off for an hour or two after you’ve had your baby. I was up and walking around in my own clothes about an hour after having Lilly, and though I still felt weak, I was glad to feel somewhat like myself. As mentioned in #1 above, Lilly was able to nurse successfully as soon as she popped out because she didn’t have any drugs slowing her down. She was able to focus on eating and do other things that you don’t usually see most babies doing until about 2 weeks of age.
The cons of not having an epidural are pretty obvious: the pain. If you are planning on having a natural birth, most likely you will also have to prepare more for labor and monitor your pregnancy. But the biggest reason why people choose to have an epidural is to escape the pain, or at least most of it.
However, if you are considering having a natural birth, there are some cons in attempting to have one in a hospital instead of at home or in a birth center. These are all things that I was quite shocked to realize as I was going through my labor, so hopefully this list will help you be better prepared for what you’ll face with having a natural birth at a hospital!
- Nurses/Doctors are not sure how to help you. When I was in labor, most of the nurses didn’t really know how to coach me on how to manage the contractions. If they did give me any advice, it was more of a textbook answer rather than insight from experience. I am so glad I read a lot about having a natural childbirth before going into labor instead of relying on the nurses to coach me. However, if you hire a doula you can escape this disadvantage altogether, no matter where you give birth. My husband ended up being my biggest coach throughout labor, because even though he didn’t know all the ins and outs of labor, he knew me and was committed to getting me through it.
- Not many resources for natural labor. My doctor was totally on board with me having a natural childbirth, and so she wrote on my birth plan that I would have a walking monitor during labor. A walking monitor allows you to move around and not be confined to the bed – all you have to do is wear some stickies on your belly and hold the transmitter thing. The hardest part was getting the darn thing on. The nurse really had no idea how to put it on – she said that in the two years she had been at this hospital this was only her second time to assemble a walking monitor. What?! It became very apparent to me during my labor and delivery that not many women give birth naturally in a hospital setting. Also, the hospital has certain rules that they enforce that would not be required if you were at home. One is that you have to bed in the bed once you start pushing, which may not be advantageous for the mom but it is for the doctor who has to catch the baby. Other resources the hospital may not have would be a shower/bathtub, cooler/freezer for ice, and the luxury of privacy.
So, altogether my first experience of having a natural labor was pretty decent. Through it all I realized that doctors specialize in medicine, not the “natural way”; that is their job. Thus, if you want to have pain medicine during your labor, you should give birth in a hospital. I would like for all of my other deliveries to be natural from here on out, so I am considering having a home birth next time. It can become stressful to try to do things naturally in a place where medicine is so strongly encouraged and accepted.