Today I am turning my attention to childbirth delivery options, after having considered childbirth locations (Home Birth, Midwifery Unit or Hospital) and a birth plan.

Delivery options include natural and assisted childbirth and delivery by Cesarean surgery (more commonly known as a C-section.)  

First up, natural birth…

Vaginal births without medication can be less painful and smoother if the mother and birthing partner learn various techniques and other strategies via a birthing class. These include Lamaze, Bradley or Hypnobirthing methods.

So a natural birth can have mean different connotations to different people.  For example, some Mums would consider if they gave birth vaginally, they have had a natural birth (no matter what occurred during labour.) Whilst to other Mums it means a labour without any medical pain relief, leading to a vaginal birth, and possibly third stage, without any interventions at all.

The Terminology

The HCP (Midwives and Obstetricians) have their own professional definition of natural birth. This will sit somewhere between the two above views.  HCPs will tend to talk about ‘normal birth’ rather than ‘natural birth,’ although they may well use either term. The definition ‘natural birth’ helps them to record how much intervention has been used when women have their babies.

When choosing a location for your birth it is always helpful to see the rates of normal birth.  So if you want to avoid interventions, knowing the normal birth rate at your local maternity units can be very helpful in choosing the right birth place for you.

The Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the NCT have all agreed on a definition for normal birth which is:

‘Labour starts spontaneously (on its own).  Labour progresses without certain drugs or assistance forceps or ventouse are not used.’

The definition of ‘normal birth’, as agreed by the Royal College of Midwives and others.

A ‘Normal Birth’ can mean a range of things:

Having a normal birth doesn’t necessarily mean there are no interventions.  Statistics for normal birth includes births where Mums have had any of the following:

This may seem confusing. It may be easier to understand what a normal birth is if we understand what the term does not include. 

So Mums-to-be who experience the following would not be included in the statistics for normal births:

  • Labour being induced (with prostaglandins, syntocinon drip or by having their waters broken)
  • Epidural or spinal
  • Episiotomy
  • Forceps or ventouse
  • Caesarean section
  • General anaesthetic

It is Not a Judgement!

You may well be surprised at what comes within the definition of a normal birth.  But please don’t be worry about the terminology! The definition of normal birth or natural labour isn’t being used to judge women. Instead it is to do with keeping a check on the types of pain relief and interventions use that can affect the normal course of labour.

It is worth pointing out that normal birth figures don’t reflect any complications that may happen during or after birth.  For example, some women would be termed to have had a normal birth even if she had complications. For example, if Mum had a perineal tear requiring stitches.

This Which? Birth Choice place of birth tool is a good place to start if you want to find out more about your area.

Next time I will be taking a look at assisted births and what this means.

Happy Body, Happy Mind, Happy Mum-to-be!


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