Many women believe that natural birthing is a labor and delivery that happens without drugs for the pain. Some even believe that no matter what intervention is taken, if the baby comes out of the vagina it qualifies as natural birth - it doesn't. Actual natural childbirth is the act of letting the woman's body go through the full process of labor and delivery without medical intervention such as inductions, drugs (IV medication or Epidural) or other interventions such as forceps, vacuums, episiotomies or C-Sections - even things that are 'seemingly harmless' like breaking the bag of water alter the birth and can lead to other interventions. Normal birth is the act of believing in the woman's body and it's basic ability to do exactly what it is designed to do - to give birth to her baby.
Our modern medical system has failed us as women and mothers by not providing fair information and taking away our rights to birth as we choose. Many women get defensive when the subject is brought forth that natural is better than "medically assisted" births. Though medical intervention is important when needed, it is sorely abused and it's abuse encouraged by the medical business. It's easy to feel like defending any experience one has had to bring their children into this world because no matter how a baby is born the outcome is always special and beautiful. Facing the fact that we have been misled or somehow cheated on the best experience we could have had would naturally incite anger, frustration or regret. Especially when it is discovered that the initial, smaller interventions led to a more painful, scary experience or even a Cesarean. But, we need to remember that this is an issue that deserves our attention - and even our anger. We should be outraged that women are being denied the right to be fully informed and are not being encouraged to believe in their own ability to birth naturally and even ~GASP~ enjoy it.
The birthing experience is something that has a bad reputation. When a lot of women think about birth the first thought that comes into their minds is usually about the pain. We hear horror stories and see screaming women giving birth on television our whole lives. It is ingrained within us to fear birth and before many women even try it, they are convinced they can't handle it. This is the greatest contributor TO those horror stories and all the pain we hear about or experience in labor. The fact of the matter is, if we didn't go into labor so terrified in the first place - many of those horror stories we've heard wouldn't exist because those women would have been much more relaxed and ready to take on the task of birthing their children. Compare to something as simple as getting a shot or drawing blood. If we tell ourselves that it is going to hurt and that we are afraid of it, we will likely react with anxiety and tension and therefore create pain. On the other hand, if we are unafraid, we are relaxed and able to get the shot with very little to no discomfort. The same goes for labor and delivery.
Our minds are a very powerful tool - which is reason number one we should use them for our advantage in the birthing room. Choosing to take drugs cuts off the mind/body/spirit connection, actually keeping us from having much control over or communication with our laboring bodies. Without the use of drugs we are able to go within ourselves and listen to what our body is telling us to do to get the baby out. The act of labor was meant to be experienced, and when one gets to experience it fully it can be far more rewarding - and ultimately safer for baby and mother.
The following is a picture of what happens at any given time in any given hospital anywhere in the United States:
A woman is brought into the hospital either in labor or to be induced. The woman who is being induced is given any number of medications to artificially begin the labor process - some which are NOT approved by the FDA for use in pregnancy, labor and delivery or lactation (see http://www.givingbirthnaturally.com/medications-in-pregnancy.html). Prostaglandin Gels/Suppositories or Cytotec can be inserted directly into the woman's vagina to soften and begin the opening process of the cervix, or given artificial hormones such as Pitocin (the most common drug used to induce or "assist" in labor progression). In the case of hormones being used when the woman is already in labor the idea is to push the labor process along - but this often leads to more pain or fetal distress because the contractions are much harder and longer than before and in some cases this will eventually contribute to a Cesarean Section but in the majority of cases will certainly lead to pain medications.
Pain medications are often IV drugs such as Stadol, Demeraol, Fentanyl or Morphine but can also be a spinal block or an epidural. These can ease labor - but they can and often do slow it back down as well. Ultimately meaning more Pitocin to push contractions along. It's a roller coaster that is hard to get off of once it has started, and each intervention increases the chances of the woman ultimately having longer labors and pushing sessions or a C-Section. Most women never even know that the initial interventions they were offered or given were the cause of this outcome because they were never told that this could happen before given the intervention - and are often even brought to the conclusion by their health care providers that it was a good thing that they were there to do all those interventions to "save their baby" when in reality they helped create the problem in the first place.
Postpartum is another interesting comparison. The woman who has a normal, natural birth is able to get out of the bed after her bonding session with her baby and urinate, get right in the shower and is feeling pretty good fairly quickly after the birth. The next day she is usually able to be pretty mobile and usually reports feeling very good.
A woman who receives any sort of intervention, however, will be given an IV and will require more (if not constant) fetal monitoring. If she has had an epidural or a C-Section, she will also have a catheter in place. After the baby is born, she may struggle more to initiate breastfeeding (because every intervention does effect your baby, they don't really tell you that either - or they down play the side effects), she will not be able to shower for hours after the birth, she will have to wait to have her catheter and IV removed and most of all - she will take a lot longer to heal or feel "good" after the birth. So, relieving your pain in childbirth through the use of drugs is in a way only postponing it until after - when you also have a new baby to take care of. Is it any wonder that the statistics for successful breastfeeding are lower among these women? Initiating breastfeeding isn't always easy. If you are already feeling a lot of pain from your birth or C-Section, it's going to be that much easier for you to get frustrated with the breastfeeding process and give up.
It's interesting that the medical descriptions of many of the drugs administered are said to "fight anxiety and relax the patient" more than to kill pain. This brings us back to the fear factor. If we didn't go into our labor experiences filled with this fear and anxiety initially - we would be far less likely to need any medical interventions or aids to help us do what we already have a natural ability to do.
If this is true, then why aren't we more focused on believing that a woman is more than capable of giving birth normally and with even less pain than a woman who chooses drug interventions? Why aren't we encouraging this experience above all else?
The natural/normal birthing movement is an effort to give women that power to not only know what normal birth is, but to make educated decisions about how they choose to bring their babies into the world. It's important to understand our options, but also the possible consequences of the choices we make in the labor room. The goal of the labor experience should always be having a natural childbirth and THEN if intervention is necessary it is utilized as a last resort after all other attempts have been made to alleviate pain, reposition the baby, etc.
As stated before, medical intervention is useful in the small percentage of births which actually require it (around 90% of women are perfectly capable of giving birth without ANY medical assistance). Unfortunately, its abuse is costing us more not only financially - but spiritually, physically and mentally as well. Women everywhere are missing out and they don't even know it. A woman who births naturally (especially one who knows why she's doing it) gets a sense of accomplishment and a rush of ecstasy like hormones when she gives birth unlike anyone who has dulled those senses or has their child through a surgical procedure - that is science, not opinion. These women are active participants in their birthing experience and have climbed a mountain that from the bottom seemed impossible. The view from the top is a beautiful one, and one we should try to be "all there" for. For ourselves, for our babies.
When we walk through the doors and hand our bodies over to medicine, we are dis-empowering ourselves. We are saying that we do not believe in our ability to do this without the aid of man and medicine. If a woman does not know her choices, then she doesn't have any. Do not rely on the medical profession to give you this information - they usually wont. Find out for yourself. Read, research, hire a doula and talk to other mothers who have had positive childbirth experiences.