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Why would anyone want a natural childbirth?

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Updated June 30, 2014

Mother cradling newborn baby girl
Cultura RM/Jade Brookbank/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images
Question: Why would anyone want a natural childbirth?
From reader email: "With today's medical technology I have the option of feeling nothing in labor. I can show up early in labor and get an epidural and settle in until my baby is born comfortably. Why would anyone want a natural childbirth?"
Answer: Natural childbirth is actually something that many women are open to considering, up to 60% of women who had had a medicated birth reported, in a recent study, that they were open to the idea of a natural childbirth or unmedicated birth. Yet the list of reasons why women want a natural childbirth are varied. Here are some typical responses:

  • Better for Baby
    All medications used in labor can and will reach your baby, even an epidural. While some get there faster and have more drastic effects, there is no baby-proof drug used in the labor room. While you may not be able to notice the effects of medications on your baby, they are there, even when subtle and can increase difficulties in anything from breathing, to muscle tone to nursing difficulties, some of which last weeks.

  • Easier on Recovery
    Some mothers say that the medications cause them to feel worse in the postpartum period. One mother described it as having to recover from everything they had "done to her." Not using medication in labor allows a mom to have less medication to recover from, though labor is still hard work.

  • Less Risk of Cesarean Section or Other Intervention
    As the cesarean section rate has steadily risen in the last twenty years, there are women who still would do nearly anything they can to avoid an unnecessary surgery. While how much a medication increases your risk of cesarean can vary widely for a variety of reason, some estimates are high, like a 50% increase. Even when you are not talking cesarean birth, there are more interventions used in medicated births because of the extra monitoring and risks associated with medicine. This might be external or internal fetal monitoring increase, IV fluids, amniotomy (breaking your water), induction or augmentation of labor, etc.

  • More Control
    Having an epidural or other medication may make you feel odd or out of control. This may even be something as simple as being numb frightening you. If you don't like this feeling or it would cause you anxiety natural childbirth might be a better option for you. While you can't control labor, you can control, to some extent, how you feel during labor emotionally and physically.

  • It's How My Body is Made
    Faith and trust. There are also a growing number of women who simply trust that this is how their bodies were made - to give birth. They have the trust that with the guidance from their practitioners and support team that they can make it through labor comfortably and empowered without the use of medications.

One of the secrets of natural childbirth is to realize that the choice is not simply epidural or suffer. Women who choose to have a natural childbirth have a lot of tools that they use to labor comfortably. This can include:

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