The benefits of natural birth are on the mind of any woman preparing to bring a child in the world. It’s easy to get scared away from an unmedicated birth, especially after reading about the disadvantages of natural birth. After all, pain management is one of the few controllable things women choose about the laboring process. But before writing it off completely, learn a bit more about the reasons I chose natural birth over an epidural.
With my first son, I did alllll of the research. Like any new mom-to-be, I felt the pull to know all the things about what to expect. After months of research, Googling, reading, listening to podcasts, and devouring others’ birth stories, I settled into the mindset that I was going to attempt natural birth.
A Few Things I Should Note:
(1) My mom was in labor with me for over 24 long, painful hours. Her birthing experience is a famous story in my family. Apparently my dad actually ran into an old friend from high school the next day who’d had a baby the same day who asked, “Did you hear the lady screaming last night? I thought she was dying!”
That was my mom, birthing a 9 pound me.
(2) I have a GIANT phobia of needles, so the pain relieving concept of an epidural actually totally freaks me out.
The Real Reason I Chose Natural Birth
Even with all of my extensive research and convincing and pep talks, when I got to the hospital to give birth, I was more than ready for that epidural.
My water broke at home. Between that time and the 30-minute drive to the hospital, I decided that the contractions were NOT something I could handle. (Stick with me, though; there was a reason I stuck with natural labor!)
In the end, I didn’t get an epidural, or any type of pain medication.
You see, my stubborn behind didn’t want to get sent home. So I waited so long to go to the hospital that I walked into labor and delivery at 9.5 centimeters and ready to birth a little baby boy in about 30 minutes.
It’s a good thing I was planning a natural childbirth because there was literally no time for pain relief like an epidural.
But, crazy enough, when creating my second birth plan, I chose to birth without medical interventions again. I realized I really did love the benefits of natural birth the first time around.
My Favorite Benefits of Natural Birth
Natural Birth Benefit #1: Feeling like a Badass
I know ALL women feel like (or should feel like!) badasses for birthing babies in any way, shape, or form. Uh, hello, you made a whole human being!!
But I do think that having an unmedicated, natural birth gives me some kind of superwoman vibes and a badge of honor in some ways.
There have been times during a hard workout where I say to myself, “You can do hard things, Morgan. You birthed two babies with zero meds. You can do this too.”
Benefit #2: Shorter Labors
I’ve read many times that a benefit to unmedicated vaginal births is the reduced labor time.
It feels a little unfair using my labor as an affirmation of this since I have what my OB has classified as “precipitous labor,” which essentially means my labors come on fast and hard and I barely have time to make it to the hospital.
That said, the theory is that, since your body is uninhibited, it has the ability to do what it’s supposed to. Some say that the epidural can slow your labor since the contractions aren’t giving your body the same/correct signals.
Benefit #3: Shorter Recovery Times
Since you’re not on pain medicine, one of my favorite benefits of natural birth is that you are able to get up and around quicker! There’s no numbness to your legs prohibiting you from moving, so you’re able to walk as soon as you feel up to it. (I always try to walk a bit as soon as I’m transferred from the delivery room.)
Walking has been proven to help boost recovery times and also just makes you feel a little more human. Even though Katy did have an epidural, she refused medication and used wireless fetal monitoring for the first 5 cm so she could walk around to speed up her induced labor.
Benefit #4: More Alert Babies
Many sources cite that babies born without pain medication are more alert and easier to nurse from the very beginning. This is largely due to the fact that they have not taken on the pain-relieving drugs from the mother’s body.
In my case, this was SO true. Both of my babies were able to do the whole, “arm crawl to my boob and latch on” thing right after birth, goo covered and everything. Skin to skin was easy and productive.
Benefit #5: Possibly Prevent Tearing with Unmedicated Birth
I’m not a doctor, but my own OB did confirm this the second time around. When you’re pushing during an unmedicated birth, you’re more in touch with your body. This means when you’re pushing and the baby is crowning, you’re able better able to pause to help your body acclimate, then continue to push during your next contraction to reduce tearing.
I will say though, I tore a bit with my first because he was SO FAST and I had no idea what was going on. My second I didn’t tear at all, which I attribute to being more mindful in general.
Benefit #6: Reduce Labor Costs with a Natural Birth
Here’s the thing – having a baby is expensive, and in most cases it’s not about diapers and onesies.
That hospital stay and delivery is expensive, guys!!
If you’re stressed about the cost of labor and delivery, you might want to try going unmedicated. It’s one of the most unexpected benefits of natural birth! Money.com states that the average epidural costs $2,132!
Benefit #6: Contractions Happen for a Reason
Yes, the idea of contractions are scary. Movies like Knocked Up make them seem like something that will turn you into a hellbeast, screaming at your partner like a banshee. And, yo, I’m not going to sit here and sugar coat it – contractions hurt, guys.
But there’s a reason we have contractions. They prepare our bodies for birth and allow us to find positions that will make birthing more comfortable. (Another thing you can’t do with an epidural is move around much, though some hospitals do allow different positioning options for pushing.)
There’s also research that shows the pain from natural birth creates endorphins that allow for quick, efficient births and natural pain relief.
Is Natural Birth Better than Epidural?
The final answer to this question cannot be answered by me, unfortunately. It’s a question only you can decide, with the help of your doctor, partner, and support team.
I’m not saying unmedicated vaginal birth is for everyone. Not even close. There are circumstances that require medicated birth and I FULLY believe that as women, we need to choose what will work best for us.
If the benefits of an unmedicated birth do not outweigh the mental and physical benefits of an epidural, the obvious answer is to go the medicated route.
But if you’re on the fence, go in with an open mind. Learn some relaxation techniques, prepare for moving through contractions, and try to make it unmedicated. Do your research, talk yo your doctor, dig deep and see if the benefits of natural birth might be something you would like to see through.
What was your experience with unmedicated natural birth like?
Morgan is a millennial mom to two crazy boys, a crazy yellow lab, and a grumpy fat cat and a wife to a diesel mechanic. She’s no stranger to dirt, chaos, and stubborn males. Using her blog Morgan Manages Mommyhood, she strives to help moms make being a mom easier and being a kid more memorable through fun kid food, hidden veggie recipes, and simple ideas for having fun with littles.
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, toddler mom, and owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society has historically placed too many expectations on women, defining womanhood and motherhood in a way that is restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Scary Mommy, Motherhood and Social Exclusion, and various other podcasts and websites.