We often hear why we should be considering natural birth, but usually this is positioned as something to consider from the mother’s perspective. But that’s not what I want to talk about here. Instead, I’d like to offer up reasons why we should be thinking about a natural birth but from baby’s perspective.
What is a natural birth? Well, a natural birth is unmedicated one. That is to say, free of the medical interventions such as pain relief or anaesthetics.
Why opt for a natural birth?
I chose to aim for a natural childbirth because I wanted what was best for my baby. When I was pregnant, I was conscious about trying to do the right thing “for my baby”… you know, things like eating well and avoiding certain foods and drinks. So for me it seemed like a natural thing to want to continue trying to do the best thing for baby in my birth choices. Once I started educating myself around the impact of the various birthing choices, I realised that a natural birth was the right choice for me and my baby.
Now, I say “aiming” because, that’s all you can really do. You never know how things are going to unfold on the day. Any number of complications may arise and your idea of a natural birth might have to go out the window if you or baby are suffering. But I think it’s crucial to understand our choices fully so that we can make better decisions. And more importantly, decisions that we can live with.
5 reasons why your baby wants you to have a natural birth
So here are 5 reasons why your baby wants you to have a natural birth.
1. Baby is more alert
Babies born naturally without medication tend to be more alert, responsive and have higher Apgar* scores.
*Virginia Apgar invented the Apgar score in 1952 as a simple and replicable method to quickly summarise and assess the health of newborn children immediately after birth.The Apgar score evaluates the newborn baby on five criteria; Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration.
Now it’s not hard to see why a baby would be more alert without the drugs. Let’s just stop and think for a minute what’s happening drug wise. When a woman chooses to have an epidural to kill the pain, essentially the bottom half of her body is numbed. Given that the medication also goes into the baby’s system, just imagine what it must be doing to the baby. Babies typically weigh less than 5% of their mothers. So it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out how that epidural must be affecting her baby; they must feel completely zapped!
No wonder it can take baby days to recover.
2. Better connection with mum and dad
During a natural birth, the baby benefits from the abundance of hormones flooding mum’s body. This helps to foster a strong connection between mum and baby. Also, because they’re more alert, they can use their instincts better.
When an alert and active (undrugged) baby is placed on the abdomen of an alert and undrugged mother, amazing things happen: the baby and mother are able to create a strong bond. Because they are both flowing with oxytocin, the bond is a real chemical one that feels very strong.
As the baby is alert, they are able to make significant and deliberate eye contact with the mother and father and respond to them. Some mothers who had difficult, medicalised births often say that it took them weeks to start loving their baby. Why? Probably because they missed out on that initial love hit that comes from having all that oxytocin flowing uninterrupted.
3. Easier to breastfeed
Baby will be much better able to find the breast through breast crawling and begin feeding. This simply does not happen when mother and child are drugged, and as a result breastfeeding starts off on a much rockier road and mum might find it hard to FEEL the connection with her baby.
Difficulties with breastfeeding can cause mum and baby quite a lot of stress in those first few weeks. And of course, it means that baby might be missing out on enjoying the goodness of mother’s milk.
4. Babies cope better
The endorphins, nature’s feel-good hormones, which are secreted during an unmedicated childbirth have been found in the placenta and umbilical cord. These hormones may help the baby adjust to life outside the womb as well as make the birth passage more comfortable for baby. Also, the process of labor is reported to enable babies born vaginally to cope with stress better than those born dramatically by cesarean. Cesarean birth triggers a dramatic stress response which could set up a child to always over-respond to stress 4
4. Hannah Dahlen, Australian College of Midwives
5. Less risk of premature baby
Babies born naturally will arrive when they’re ready, whereas if labour is induced, there is no real way of knowing if the baby is actually ready.
If you’re being pressured for an induction by your care provider, and baby isn’t ready to come out, then your baby isn’t going to like it. When a baby is prised out early it could be at risk of prematurity and encounter respiratory problems as a result of under-developed lungs.
Now I admit, there’s quite a debate as to whether epidurals should really detract from what is considered to be a natural birth. So if we just park the ‘natural’ definition for a minute and focus on the benefits of vaginal delivery… then what benefits can we expect?
4 benefits of vaginal delivery…
1. Lower risk of respiratory problems
Babies born by vaginal birth have considerable lower risk of respiratory problems. The compression of the baby’s thorax expels the amniotic fluid during the birth process and helps to prepare the lungs to breathe air. There is a high risk of respiratory distress syndrome in babies born by cesarean and a high risk of asthma. CC Buhimschi, MD and I.A Buhimschi, MD, Advantages of Vaginal Delivery, Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 49, Number 1, 167-183
2. Babies benefit from receiving protective bacteria
Babies born vaginally receive protective bacteria as they pass through the birth canal. These bacteria colonise in the intestine and are crucial for developing a balanced immune system, from childhood right through to adulthood. Professor Patricia Conway, of the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of NSW.
3. Less chance of developing diabetes
A European study in 2008 found that babies born vaginally had a 20% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes than babies born surgically.
(Caesarean section is associated with an increased risk of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of observational studies; Cardwell CR, Stene LC, Joner G, Cinek O, Svensson J, Goldacre MJ, Parslow RC, Pozzilli P, Brigis G, Stoyanov D, Urbonaite B, Sipeti? S, Schober E, Ionescu-Tirgoviste C, Devoti G, de Beaufort CE, Buschard K, Patterson CC. Diabetologia. 2008 May; 51(5):726-35.)
4. Avoids the potential health risks associated with caesarean delivery (CD)
CD has been associated with a significant increased rate of asthma and allergic rhinitis,
(Caesarean section delivery and the risk of allergic disorders in childhood. Renz-Polster H, David MR, Buist AS, Vollmer WM, O’Connor EA, Frazier EA, Wall MA Clin Exp Allergy. 2005 Nov; 35(11):1466-72.)
Children born by CD are also significantly more likely to suffer from celiac disease and to be hospitalised for gastroenteritis.
(Decker E, Engelmann G, Findeisen A, Gerner P, Laass M, Ney D, Posovszky C, Hoy L, Hornef MW Pediatrics. 2010 Jun; 125(6):e1433-40.)
Resources and Research
I mentioned during the podcast that I would share my sources of information, so feel free to read them here.
Vaginal Birth Benefits – A must read list.
Cesarean delivery is associated with celiac disease but not inflammatory bowel disease in children.
Natural birth better for babies – Sydney Morning Herald