Live birth: Natural

5:42 min

Video note: Contains medical situations and nudity. If you're in a public place, consider watching this later.

In a natural birth, the mother gives birth vaginally without pain medication (like an epidural). Natural childbirth can be a safe option for a low-risk pregnancy.

If your pregnancy is high risk – if you have a heart condition, preeclampsia, or diabetes; are carrying twins; or your baby is breech – or if there's a chance a C-section will be necessary, a natural birth may not be recommended. Talk to your healthcare provider about your best options for labor and delivery.

Natural births also forgo some other medical interventions, like fetal monitoring, episiotomies, and medications to induce or speed up labor. Your fetus will likely be monitored intermittently using a hand-held Doppler device or a fetoscope (a fetal stethoscope).

One benefit of natural birth is you can move around, exploring different labor positions to find the ones that are most comfortable for you. If you get an epidural, you'll be numb from the waist down, so you won't be able to move around freely. During a hospital birth, you may also have IVs or other equipment that might restrict your movement.

Another benefit of natural birth is that many moms describe it as an empowering experience. It allows you to remain in control of your body and be an active participant throughout labor.

Natural birth isn't without drawbacks, though. It can be very painful and exhausting to give birth without pain medication. If you choose an unmedicated birth, healthcare providers recommend having a support person with you the entire time to help you through it. Midwives often recommend your partner, a close family member or friend, or a doula.

You can also explore natural methods of pain relief, like breathing techniques, walking, yoga and stretching, massage, and warm baths or showers. Water immersion in a Jacuzzi or other hot tub can provide great relief in active labor. Hypnosis and acupuncture are also possibilities.

While it's possible to have a natural delivery at a hospital, women often opt to go to a birth center or have a home birth because of the flexibility these settings provide. One important factor to consider when making your birth plan is to make sure there's a hospital close to your birth center or home that you can transfer to quickly in case of complications during labor. Ideally, your midwife already has a relationship with a hospital and has transferred patients there before.

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Robyn Horsager-Boehrer. 2020. 5 tips on natural childbirth from an Ob/Gyn who experienced it. a new window [Accessed September 2022]

Mayo Clinic. 2022. Stages of labor and birth: Baby, it's time! a new window [Accessed September 2022]

Nemours Foundation. 2022. Natural Childbirth. a new window [Accessed September 2022]

Lothian, J. 2000. Why Natural Childbirth? The Journal of Perinatal Education 9(4): 44-46. a new window [Accessed September 2022]