Why give birth naturally?
Why give birth naturally?
Natural birth is the first overwhelming successful experience shared by mother and child. It creates a close bond, is good for the health and breastfeeding, and has numerous other advantages as well.
Advantages of natural birth
Scientific studies show that fewer complications occur both during and after a natural birth, i.e. that the mother and child are healthier overall.
The complex interplay of the various hormones is focused on getting the mother and child through the birth as safely and painlessly as possible. The physiological processes in the mother’s body during labour make the birth easier and prepare the unborn child for life in the outside world:
- Natural hormones function in a targeted manner and do not cause any side effects.
- Stimulation with natural hormones better protects the unborn child. The hormones released by the mother’s body perform important functions. For example, they help with the baby’s metabolism, speed up lung maturation, reinforce bonding behaviour and set the flow of milk in motion.
- The mother achieves a trance state during an undisturbed natural birth. In the process, the otherwise dominant cerebrum, which is responsible for analytical thought, is “silenced” by the body’s own hormones and sensitivity to pain is substantially reduced. The mother is completely focused on herself, her body working instinctively.
- Natural birth makes it easier for the newborn to take his or her first breath. Both the contractions and the mechanism of vaginal birth, which stimulates the child mechanically and sensorially, contribute to this.
- Because it is coated with the mother’s protective vaginal flora as it passes through the birth canal, the newborn is equipped with a healthier immune system (see the film Microbirth for more on this).
- The “love hormone” oxytocin, which is released by the mother during natural birth, promotes a close bond between the mother and the child, stimulates the flow of milk and helps her to breastfeed the baby. Breastfeeding strengthens the child’s immune system, helps the mother’s recovery in the postnatal period, reinforces bonding and feelings of happiness (reducing the incidence of baby blues and postnatal depression) due to the hormones released in the process and reduces the mother’s risk of developing breast cancer.
- The mother recovers more quickly. She is able to look after her child independently and painlessly just a short time after the birth.
- Natural birth is good for the short and long-term health of both mother and child. Certain complications such as scarring or fertility problems are rarer in subsequent pregnancies after a natural birth. Vaginal birth reduces the risk of developing cervical cancer and women who breastfeed are less likely to get breast cancer.
- The mother is able to process the birth better because she is actively involved in it. During natural birth, every woman transcends herself and is connected to her primal female power in a unique way.
What does natural birth mean precisely?
There is no official definition of natural birth in Switzerland. For that reason, our director Bea Angehrn Okpara developed a definition as part of her thesis for her Master of Science in Midwifery, which she presented to specialists at the 2012 Swiss Midwifery Congress, triggering a big response from her audience.
Definition of natural birth
- The birth begins of its own accord (Goer et al., 2007)
- Movement during the birth and change of birthing positions
(Enkin et al., 2000)
- Continuous care by a midwife during the birth (Hodnett, Gates, Hofmeyr, & Sakala, 2003)
- If there are interventions, then only those that are medically required; no routine episiotomies (Goer et al., 2007)
- Pain medication can be used, but no opiates and no epidural anaesthesia
- Active birthing position without enforced pushing, i.e. not on the back (Enkin et al., 2000)
- Mother and child stay together at all times (Enkin et al., 2000)
At the birthing centre, we have been following these criteria since 1993. They provide a clear illustration of what midwife-led care can achieve and what its limits are. Specialist doctors remain responsible for epidural anaesthesia and any operative interventions in the birth. Incidentally, the most common reason to transfer from the birthing centre to the hospital is failure to progress in labour. Normally the mother is transferred in her own car (for more information, see our frequently asked questions).
Fortunately, we know from experience that trust and patience are often the best assistants during childbirth. Eighty-five to ninety percent of pregnant women – which therefore probably includes you – are healthy. In addition, 90% of unborn babies are in the head-first position at the start of the 38th week of pregnancy. If both of these factors apply, then conditions are ideal for a safe natural birth.
We are convinced that you too can give birth by your own efforts.
Angehrn Okpara B. (2010), Vertrauen in die Gebärfähigkeit, thesis for Master of Science in Midwifery, Danube University Krems, Austria.
Enkin M, Keirse M, Neilson J, Crowther C, Duley L, Hodnett E, et al. New York: Oxford University Press; 2000. A guide to effective care in pregnancy and childbirth.
Henci Goer, Mayri Sagady Leslie, Amy Romano, “Step 6: Does Not Routinely Employ Practices, Procedures Unsupported by Scientific Evidence:The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services”, J Perinat Educ. 2007 Winter; 16 (Suppl 1): 32S–64S. doi: 10.1624/105812407X173182.
A short digression: natural oxytocin, a real “all-rounder”
Oxytocin is an essential hormone in the birth process. It stimulates contractions and the body’s own endorphin production, relieves pain, protects the unborn child against potential oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) and promotes emotional bonding between the mother and child.
No wonder specialists were delighted when biochemist Vincent du Vigneaud succeeded in deciphering the structure of the hormone in 1953, making it possible to synthesise oxytocin for the first time. It has since become clear, however, that synthetic oxytocin has precisely the opposite effect to what is desired: it blocks the body’s natural oxytocin receptors. The woman feels morepain because endorphin production cannot be stimulated by the body’s own oxytocin. In addition, the child is no longer naturally protected against hypoxia and there can be a substantial negative impact on the bonding between mother and child.
Scientific studies show that disturbances in the oxytocin household during the birth can lead to serious problems in children. The French surgeon and obstetrician Dr Michel Odent even suspects that oxytocin disturbances can be partly responsible for sexual disorientation and certain forms of autism. A possible link between oxytocin disturbances and sudden infant death syndrome has also been discussed in specialist circles.
The decision to use synthetic oxytocin must therefore be well justified and should not be taken lightly. Since many hospitals routinely administer synthetic oxytocin, we campaign to restore natural, i.e. largely non-medicalised, birth as the normal way of giving birth.
Marsden Wagner, presentation at a congress in the Hague, Holland, 2002
Verena Schmid. Schwangerschaft, Geburt und Mutterwerden, [in German] p. 364.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxytocin for more information about the hormone oxytocin
Bell, A.F., Erickson, E.N. and Carter, C.S. (2014), Beyond Labor: The Role of Natural and Synthetic Oxytocin in the Transition to Motherhood. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 59: 35–42.