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by Julie Le Gal Brodeur





ON THIS PAGE: Advantages of a natural birth, Midwives, Doulas, A birth plan, Prenatal (antenatal) classes, Perineal massage, Preparing for the baby, Baby equipment


Advantages of a natural birth - A natural birth simply means going through labour and birth without pain relief medications and without unnecessary medical interventions. Of course, in planning a birth one has to remain open minded, but in a healthy low-risk pregnancy, it is possible to plan for a birth without drugs or medical interventions. Women who have natural births tend to be more satisfied with their childbirth experience, they often bond with their babies more easily and quickly, and they are more likely to breastfeed successfully.[1] And it seems that the miracle of the hormonal physiology of labour is such a subtle and intricate process, that it would best function unimpeded by medical intervention and procedures.[2], [3]


Avoiding pain medication lessens chances of a caesarean birth and avoids a whole range of possible side effects both for the mother and the baby. Without drugs, the mother is able to feel the best positioning for labour and she is able to respond to changes she feels. She is often able push the baby out better and faster, able to be more present for the birth and the baby is less likely to be drowsy after the delivery. Often recovery after the birth is faster.[4]

   A woman laboring with an epidural therefore misses out on the final powerful contractions of labor and must use her own effort, often against gravity, to compensate for this loss. This explains the increased length of the second stage of labor and the increased need for forceps when an epidural is used.             Sarah J Buckley [5]

In avoiding induction, the mother is able to move freely during labour, changing position in response to what she is feeling, whereas in induced labour, the mother is attached to a foetal monitor or an IV. Movement such as walking, pacing, or squatting is an important part of natural pain relief and often helps speed the process of labour. The pain of natural labour is often less painful than when a woman's labour is medically induced, and there is less likelihood of having a caesarean birth or medical complications. The experience of an induced labour is also more intense for the baby.[6]


Another advantage in choosing a natural birth is that you can have a midwife. Studies have shown great advantages in women having a supported birth, preferably with a midwife or a doula rather than hospital staff.[7]

I highly recommend interviewing prospective caregivers and asking their attitude towards different screening tests during pregnancy, and their attitude towards natural birth. Your relationship and the support you feel from your caregiver can play a very important role for you and your baby.

We are learning that the capacity to love develops through a long chain of early experiences, particularly     in the period surrounding birth. The way babies are born is the critical link of the chain that is routinely disturbed. It is also the link of the chain on which it is possible to act. (…) That is why the industrialisation of childbirth should become the main preoccupation of those interested in the future of humanity.         Michel Odent MD [8]

See Prenatal care and tests

Preparation for labour

How to make decisions

Recommended Reading - Pregnancy and Birth

Giving Birth at Home -

Birthing Naturally

Pain in Labour: Your Hormones are your Helpers -

also by Sarah Buckley: Ecstatic Birth - The Hormonal Blueprint of Labour

 [1] Chait, Jennifer and Holly Swanson. Advantages of Natural Childbirth. Love To Know researched July 2009 <

[2] Buckley, Sarah J.. Ecstatic Birth: The Hormonal Blueprint of Labor. Mothering Magazine, Issue 111, March/April 2002, researched August 2009 <>

[3] Nathanielsz, Peter W., M.D., Ph.D. Life Before Birth and A Time to be Born. Promethean Press, Ithica, New York, 1992, chapters 11 and 12

[4] Chait

[5] Buckley, Sarah J. MD. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. Celestial Arts, New York 2009 Page 117

[6] Winder, Kelly. The Induction of Labour - To Induce or Not Induce?  Belly Belly, 2009, researched August 2009 <>

[7] Hodnett ED, et al.. Continuous support for women during childbirth. The Cochrane Collaboration - Cochrane Reviews, 18 April 2007, researched August 2009 <> 

[8] Odent, Michel, The Farmer and the Obstetrician, Free Association Books, London 2002 page 137




Midwives - Midwives view pregnancy and birth as a natural process. They are a very common presence at European births. Most midwife-accompanied births occur in hospitals or hospital birthing centres. Generally, a midwife follows you through the pregnancy, is with you throughout the birth, and follows you and the baby for a few weeks after. Rarely will one get this amount of personal care with an obstetrician or family doctor.  Midwives support you in whatever kind of birth you wish to have (hospital, birthing centre, home), they encourage you to make informed decisions about your prenatal (antenatal) care, birth, and care of the baby. They have a gentle, warm and humane approach, and use natural methods and remedies. They are trained to recognize any health issues or complications that are beyond their area of expertise. If such a case occurs, the care is then taken over by a doctor. (The arrangement varies depending on local health-care regulations.)


Clinical studies show that a midwife-assisted birth has better chances of having a shorter labour, less medical interventions, less need for pain medications and women tend to have a better feeling about the birth experience.[8], [9] A newborn in a supported birth has lower chances of having foetal distress and needing medical intervention, and breastfeeding has a higher rate of success.[10]


A home birth with a midwife can be a wonderful way to welcome a baby into life, if you are comfortable with the idea and have a low-risk pregnancy. At home, you are free to create the surroundings you wish, you have complete privacy and, after the birth, you and your baby are in a place much more conducive to rest.  You are much less likely to be rushed during labour or brought unnecessarily into a medical situation, and your baby can be received in a much gentler environment.[11] Studies also shows that planned homebirths are as safe as hospital births.[12],[13],[14],[15] But the most important thing is the mother's confidence, that she trust that what she needs will be available, and that she feel comfortable and supported by those around her.


Today, more and more midwife-run birth centres are being created, both in hospitals and free standing. If the idea of a home birth worries you, or if your home seems too far from emergency help, or if it simply isn't possible, but you still would like to have a quieter, more home-like setting, a birth centre can be a good alternative to a hospital. They all vary in setup and in how they are run, so it's worth going for a visit before choosing one.

To find a local midwife see Birthing Naturally 

Prenatal care and tests

[8] University of Washington. Women With Low-Risk Pregnancies Receive Fewer Obstetrical Interventions When Cared For By Midwives, Compared To Women Attended By Physicians. ScienceDaily, 18 April 1997, June 2009, <­ /releases/1997/04/970418123423.htm>


[9] Butler, Jaida. During childbirth - a friend in need is a friend indeed. Continuous Support During Childbirth. Research News in the Cochrane Library, 8 September 2003, researched August 2009 <>

[10] Symon, Andrew, et al.. Outcomes for births booked under an independent midwife and births in NHS maternity units: matched comparison study. British Medical Journal, BMJ 2009;338:b2060, 11 June 2009, June 2009 <>

[11] Johnson, Kenneth C, Betty-Anne Daviss. Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America. British Medical Journal bmj.330.7505.1416, 18 June 2005, researched June 2009 <>

 [12] Janssen, Patricia A. et al.. Outcomes of planned home births versus planned hospital births after regulation of midwifery in British Columbia Canadian Medical Journal, CMAJ • February 5, 2002; 166 (3),  2009, researched September 2009 <>

[13] Wiegers, T.A. et al. Outcome of planned home and planned hospital births in low risk pregnancies: prospective study in midwifery practices in the Netherlands, BMJ 313 : 1309, 23 November 1996, researched May 29, 2011<>

[14] Davis D. et al. Planned Place of Birth in New Zealand: Does it Affect Mode of Birth and Intervention Rates Among Low-Risk Women? Birth Volume 38, Issue 2, pages 111–119, June 2011(Birth, 38: 111–119. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-536X.2010.00458.x), researched May 29, 2011 <>

[15] Ackermann-Liebrich U, et al. Home versus hospital deliveries: follow up study of matched pairs for procedures and outcome. Zurich Study Team. BMJ. 1996 Nov 23;313(7068):1313-8., researched May 2011 <>





Doulas - If you have a doctor for the birth but wish to have support before and during the birth or for the post-partum time, you can find a doula. A doula is a professional caregiver that knows the birth process and assists the mother with physical and emotional support. They give prenatal (ante-natal) support, and they stay with the mother throughout the birth, help her with natural pain management and can explain medical procedures. Doulas do not perform clinical exams but support using massage, position suggestions for labour and other natural means. They can help you to prepare for the birth, and help to prepare a birth plan (see link below), as well as be there after the birth for help with breastfeeding and baby care.


Studies show that a doula supported birth, like with midwives, is more likely to be faster, have less medical interventions, less pain medication, a lesser chance of having a caesarean birth, a higher breastfeeding success rate, as well as having less chances of medical interventions for the baby.[16], [17],[18] A study also reveals that women in a doula supported birth were likely to experience the same amount of labour pain as women who received epidural analgesia for pain relief.[19]


See A birth plan

Prenatal care and tests

To find a local doula see Birthing Naturally


Gaskin, Ina May - post partum depression.htm

[16] McGrath, S. K., & Kennell, J. H..  A randomized controlled trial of continuous labor support for middle-class couples: Effect on cesarean delivery rates. Birth, 35(2), 92-97 Wolters Kluwer Health -, June 2008, researched July 2009 <;jsessionid=KwpPK6hcR2X2nXzhlqhzGGJJy9sn5LbvVw0VNX17cJqGTgkGwg1F!-1104825961!181195629!8091!-1>

[17] Butler, Jaida. During childbirth - a friend in need is a friend indeed. Continuous Support During Childbirth. Research News in the Cochrane Library, 8 September 2003, researched August 2009 <>


[18] Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Doula Support Found To Be A Risk-Free Alternative For Pain Relief During Childbirth. ScienceDaily, 4 June 1997, researched June 2009, <­/releases/1997/06/970604100308.htm>


[19] McGrath, Susan K, et al.. Doula Support: A Risk Free Alternative for Pain Relief During Childbirth. The American Pediatric Society and The Society for Pediatric Research, 79 Pediatric Research: April 1997 - Volume 41 - Issue 4, Part 2 - p 16,  April 1997, researched July 2009 <>




A birth plan -It's a good idea to think about what you would like, for each stage of the birth process and write it down. This is something the parents can do together. Imagine an ideal scenario: what feels right, where would you like to be (hospital, home, birthing centre), who will be there (who do you trust, especially who does the mother trust), what exercises or images you would like to prepare for the occasion, what brings you comfort and security.


It's always good to know what medical interventions are for and what the effects are, both for you and the baby, even if you want a natural birth, and it's good to know what your caregiver usually does with the newborn baby. Decide what your ideal scenario would be. Decide how you want to receive the baby, what medical procedures you want or not, and what you wish those around you to do. For example, who should cut the cord, where you would like the baby placed, how much time you would like. Go over your birth plan with your caregiver so they know your preferences and your preferences for treatment and handling of the baby. Of course it has to be a flexible plan, but this way, you may have things happen as you envision them, if all is well.

  The point is to take advantage of the whole physiological potential of mother and baby. It is the                                     opposite of culturally controlled childbirth, which is in fact medically controlled childbirth in our society. Michel Odent MD [20]


See Care of the new born immediately after the birth


About The Birth Plan in Birthing Naturally

[20] Odent, Michel, The Farmer and the Obstetrician, Free Association Books, London 2002 page 105




Prenatal (antenatal) classes - It can be a big help for the birth and after if the mother and father are familiar with the stages of labour, the birth process, procedures, typical medical interventions and caring for a newborn. Various studies show that knowing what is coming, what procedures are possible and what effects they have are a great stress reliever, and any stress that can be eliminated from the birthing process is better for the mother and the baby. [21] Prenatal (antenatal) classes can be very good for taking one through all stages together, bring up discussions about preferences and allow one to ask questions. It's good to find out who is hosting them and what their background and philosophy is. And, of course, there's the library that is also a wonderful resource.

[21] Why Take Childbirth Classes?, from database: MEDLINE, 1997-1998, researched July 2009 <>





Perineal massage - To help prevent tearing during birth, some advise to prepare the perineum (the skin between the vagina the anus) for a few weeks before the due date by massaging it with oil (such as sunflower oil or Weleda calendula oil) or copper ointment (Wala) and gently stretching it.

Others propose the education of the mother so she knows what to expect and do...

See Herbal Bath recipe in The first forty days for care of perineum after birth.


Lemay, Gloria - A Midwife’s Guide to an Intact perenium - link


Preparing the home for the baby - As you begin to gather all the things needed for the baby's personal care, you may want to think of the sensitivity of a newborn and what that entails.  Over-stimulation of the senses, shock and trauma are never conducive to growth and health. And so it is of great value to prepare the surroundings, clothes and bedding of the child with gentleness and softness in mind. Picture the simplicity of the womb environment that the newborn will be arriving from. Choose soft colours for walls and furniture, avoiding loud pictures, cartoon characters and bold patterns that distract the attention. You may even like to find a gentle coloured silk to hang over the head of the baby's cradle to soften the light. (Think of gentle colours of the dawn sky.) Also look for light, gentle colours and natural materials such as cotton, wool and silk for clothing and bedding, as these are warmer and allow the skin to breathe. 


See The baby's surroundings


The importance of warmth


The importance of natural fabrics


How to make decisions



Gloeckler- clothing.htm


Gloeckler, Michaela  and Wolfgang Goebel - Using sheep's wool.htm


Pikler, Emmi - development of movement- stages.htm





Baby equipment - Here are things you may want to consider before acquiring baby equipment. Though they are quite popular, the use of baby chairs that prop the baby up, baby swings, car seats used outside the car, jumping and walking devices, are not beneficial for the baby. The newborn especially is mostly focused on learning to see, learning to eat and digest, and finding a new relationship to his body. There is little need for stimulation or propping them up. (For slings, look for horizontal ones for the first months - see Out and about) The ideal position for a newborn is horizontal. This allows the head to be well supported and weight to be distributed evenly along spine and hips that are growing and becoming stronger, and it allows the child to come to the upright position in their own time, when they are physically able and ready for it.

Gravity can actively deform a baby’s body during the first months of life.‘                                                 Michael Glöckler MD and Wolfgang Goebel [21]


See Welcoming the baby, nourishing the senses


Respecting the baby's first tasks


How to make decisions


About conscious parenting


Out and about





Pikler, Emmi - development of movement- stages.htm


zur Linden - daily fresh air.htm

[21] Glöckler, Michaela and Wolfgang Goebel. Guide to Child Health. Floris Books, Edinburgh and Anthropsophic Press, Hudson, New York 1990, Page 205



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