Any of the systems (e.g., the Lamaze method) of managing birth without drugs or surgery. All begin with classes to teach pregnant women about the birth process, including when to push and what breathing and relaxation techniques to use at which stage. The goal is to reduce fear and muscle tension, which can increase the pain of labour, and to make the mother an active participant in the process. The father or another partner usually attends the classes with the mother and coaches her during the birth. Seealso midwifery; obstetrics and gynecology.
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Beginning in the 1940s, childbirth professionals began to challenge the conventional assumptions about the safety of medicalized births. Physicians Michel Odent and Frederick Leboyer and midwives such as Ina May Gaskin pioneered birthing centers, water birth, and safe homebirth as alternatives to the hospital model. Research has shown that low-tech midwifery provides labor outcomes as good as those found in hospital settings with fewer interventions, except for a small percentage of high-risk cases . Today natural childbirth is taught through a variety of childbirth classes and books.
Natural childbirth aims to maximize the innate birth physiology and laboring movement of healthy, well-nourished women.
For the mother, a natural birth increases the probability of a healthier postnatal period and an easier recovery due to fewer post-operative discomforts. This is because a woman who has given birth with minimal intervention is less likely to have to recover from major abdominal surgery (caesarean section), instrumental delivery (by forceps or ventouse), cutting of the perineum (called episiotomy), bruises from IV lines, or severe headache or backache (a possible and well-documented side effect of epidurals).
For the infant, a natural birth reduces the exposure to narcotics and drugs that augment labor. A natural birth also reduces the likelihood of needing to separate the infant from its mother after birth. This is important, as immediate skin-to-skin maternal contact and breastfeeding in the first hour after birth increases the likelihood of successful breastfeeding for a longer duration.
Other women consider natural birth to be primitive and unnecessarily painful. Many women report less anxiety surrounding the birthing process when they know medical intervention and pain relief will be available.
Methods to augment labor without medication include:
Methods to reduce need for episiotomy:
• Electronic fetal monitoring- 93%
• Epidural use- 63%
• Had their membranes ruptured- 55%
• Received oxytocin to progress labor- 53%
• Received episiotomies- 52%
Why Natural Childbirth Is Going out of Fashion; Womb Service: Caesareans Go Up as Women Opt to Give Labour Pains a Miss
Aug 19, 1998; Natural childbirth is at the centre of a new debate as doctors call for women to have the right to have Caesarean sections on...