Can we just let go of the term “natural birth” already?
Here’s a hot take: it does more harm than it has usefulness.
There’s a phrase that a local midwife we adore uses – have intentions and hold them loosely.
Thousands of birth stories into our careers and we can say this confidently: the dream of “natural childbirth” is rarely held loosely.
There is research that shows that having goals helps you get where you want to go.
So yes, we encourage people 1000000% to think about how they want their birth to go. And to think about (and plan for) how to get there.
But when folx hold on to a framework like “natural childbirth”, they set themselves up for a right/wrong, good/bad kind, succeed/fail experience.
And who the heck wants to be feeling like they’ve done it wrong or badly or like they’ve failed as they meet their baby, if birth didn’t go the way they had hoped?
Not to mention that it puts the onus on the pregnant/laboring human to “succeed” or “fail”. And when the medical system is as broken as it is in the United States, that means you’re willing to take on feelings of succeeding or failing when the chips are stacked against you in a very big picture way.
(Even for folx planning to have their babes out-of-hospital, when the backup system should you need it is the hospital system – you’re still dealing with giving birth in an overall broken system.)
Does this mean we believe it’s difficult to have a drug/intervention-free vaginal birth?
We often work with families who have the goal of a low-intervention birth.
[Sidenote – sometimes folx assume doulas prefer to work only with folx who want a low intervention birth; very few doulas we know who practice professionally fall into this category. Most doulas support all types of births/birth plans.]
We work with families who want a low-intervention birth to be sure they understand the hormonal process of labor and set themselves up in all the ways they can in order to navigate a crappy system that isn’t necessarily set up to support low-intervention births.
And we witness a whole lot of no-intervention births.
We encourage folx to frame (and sometimes re-frame) their goals away from concepts like “natural childbirth” and instead imagine what it would look like to have an empowered birth.
We encourage folx to think about how they want to feel as they labor and give birth (and oh my goodness are their a WHOLE lot of ways to feel about it) and take the time to imagine all the ways they can feel those feelings no matter how they end up navigating birth.
Essentially we encourage folx to ditch the idea of “natural childbirth” as a goal.
Big picture, we see the ways in which “natural birth” is a polarizing framing of how a birth can go. In our experience, it’s often a sucky judgy kind of term – whether it’s being used by folx who’ve had one or folx who have not.
And parenting (and humaning) in a mainstream society altogether too obsessed with good/bad, right/wrong, succeed/fail, we’re over seeing the term used in birth.
We support all kinds of plans and all kinds of births. And our goal is *always* to help folx have a birth they’ll feel good about.
You’ll never hear the term “natural childbirth” used to describe what is important to us in this work. Let’s all work to let that frame work go, shall we?