Upholders of natural childbirth refuse the term alternative birth because they are afraid to be connected with charlatanism. They put emphasis on the historical origin of their approach. “Definitely not an alternative” is what they say, “because it is not an alternative. It’s a normal and natural birth, which has occurred in nature for millions of years, so it’s nothing new, it is nothing else but natural.”
While the supporters of conventional birth see birth as a risky issue, the supporters of alternative birth point out the risks of side effects with the conventional birth. Supporters of conventionally led birth speak about risky birth by turning their attention towards pathological births, and by strongly emphasising how risky the birth process is, while supporters of alternative birth speak about how a natural birth is, referring especially to spontaneous births and how smooth they can be thanks to the natural process. The prevailing opinion against conventional birth is that this method has stopped seeing it as a natural and non-risky event. Medical intervention is even performed in situations where it is not needed at all. Birth (similarly as death) became disconnected from our daily lives. Even though it is considered as the biggest family event, it has basically taken away from the family. If someone thinks such words are too harsh, try to find other words for the following facts.
CHANGED SITUATION IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
For years our women used to accept institutional authority without really venting their opinions concerning birth. In more recent years, thanks to a changed political situation in the Czech Republic and more intensive access to information from other countries, our situation is changing. Women have started to think more about the thought of where and how they will bring their children into the world, and they want to adapt to the birth process according to their own wishes and ideas. Those that choose to give birth at a hospital doesn’t have any problem. But women who decide an alternative birth in a birthing center will have problem because there are no birthing centers in Czechia, nor is there any secured birth care if you decide to give birth at home. Many women remember especially their first labor with discontent; the unpleasant and impersonal environment, how they felt powerless and afraid because of the impatient manipulation by the medical staff, how they could not have their partner by their side without an explanation, the applied drugs, injections, intravenous therapy and how they took the newborn baby right away after the birth. Significant medical intervention has caused mothers to suddenly fall into depression after the birth because of the feeling of failing in the most important moment of her female life. In this connection there is a negative impact of modern medicine on the patients. It is caused by improper human behavior of the doctors and nurses, as well as the usage of problematic or undesirable methods, interventions and medicaments.
PREFERENCE TO MEDICALLY LED BIRTH
Choosing the medically led childbirth is without a doubt the safest way to give birth in cases where more serious complications occur. In such cases, the use of modern medicine represents an enormous potential for securing the health of the mother as well as of the baby. For example, the caesarean section is considered to be the most important surgical intervention when it comes to saving lives. Other medical interventions also have an irreplaceable role by pathological types of births: using forceps, vacuum-assisted delivery, using medicaments or correctly applied anesthesia also helps to ease the pain and save lives, if it’s applied by a competent doctor at the right time. Women giving birth prematurely need experienced medical help as they may not be able to give birth to a healthy child without the help of doctors due to the complications.
CONTACT BETWEEN MOTHER AND CHILD DIRECTLY AFTER THE BIRTH
In the beginning of the 80’s, people started to discuss the risks of the contact between the mother and child after the birth in the sense of transferring an infection from the mother to the child, and vice versa. Nowadays, new risks have been constructed in a different kind of sense. These are risks such as psychological and physiological consequences resulting from the separation of the mother from the child after the birth in the sense of starting breastfeeding. Separation of the mother from the child directly after the birth was explained by the need for a professional care of the child in order to quickly evaluate the pathological symptoms which could not be observed by the exhausted by the mother - especially if she gives birth for the first time. The argument for placing mothers on the infirmary unit and the baby to the neonatal unit, was to give the mother needed rest. From the view of the propagators of the natural birth, this requirement for the ‘needed rest’ is typical by the medically led births (and it’s a logical result), because the medical interventions exhaust the woman physically as well as mentally. The subsequent rest is then really needed, whereas by natural birth, women are able to walk home from the birthing center after a few hours.
GIVING BIRTH IN OTHER THAN CLASSICAL POSITION
Many maternity hospitals offer the option to give birth in a different position than in the classical position, and many have available adequate birth aids, such as a birthing chair. About one half of Czech maternity hospitals declare the willingness to allow women to give birth in a different position than in the classical position on the back, but the reality is that only one quarter of women with spontaneous births have the free choice to choose which position they will give birth in. Mothers who give birth in a different position are about 5%. It is happening mainly because the mothers are uninformed; more than a quarter of mothers don’t have a clue about the option to give birth in a different position. The second reason is the conservativity of the obstetricians. Women who are not able to give birth naturally usually haven’t been giving birth for the first time, and they spend a long time preparing for the birth and choosing the right maternity hospital. Stastically, such women give birth in a position other than the classical position more often.
RISKS OF CLASSICAL CHILDBIRTH
Even though it is not a very discussed topic, even modern medicine hides the risks which can, in the final effect, prevail over the expected positives of the chosen treatment. Problems with the classical childbirth involves the doctors and birth attendants paradoxically creating harm when the woman just needs the time to flow peacefully and to be undisturbed, instead of consciously being pushed to the “birth” condition. It can be said that the modern classical childbirth has gotten used to an order that far more suits the medical personnel than the mother who is giving birth, as well as her family. It is mainly because the maternity hospital (and many other medical facilities as well) tries to run as smoothly and easily as possible. The request to also secure adequate individual care and kind manipulation adapted to the different needs of each individual and difficulty of each situation creates significant problems for our health care (but it’s not impossible).
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF NATURAL BIRTH
Natural birth has following advantages:
- The rhythm is not disturbed, nor is continuity of the birth
- Contractions of the uterus are regular, more frequent and stronger
- Supported dilatation of the cervix
- More comfort, less stress and pain
- Better condition of the newborn baby
During the active birth, women feel like they are fully participating and that the birth is in their power. After the birth, the mother feels like she really gave birth to a baby, and that it wasn’t pulled out of her. During the active birth, the woman doesn’t only change internally, but she also changes externally and becomes more beautiful. If we focus on the subjective feelings of the women who had an active birth, we will understand that the birth can be fascinating, creative and sometimes even an ecstatic experience. Women speak about indescribable moves of their mind, about “different states of consciousness” and the need to scream, move around and the beatitude shortly after the birth when they held the naked body of their newborn baby.
As already mentioned several times, a natural birth is understood as a preconceived risky matter, instead of as a completely natural manifestation of the female organism, into which we don’t need to interfere externally. It is concluded from the belief that the primary assumption for a successful birth is respecting the basic needs of the woman giving birth. That is connected mainly to the need of undisturbed peace, warmth, having enough intimacy and feeling of security. If the woman is going through her birth in a pleasant atmosphere, her body will naturally produce enough amounts of hormones that are needed for spontaneous birthing activity. If the conditions of the birth are adverse, the spontaneous activity will stop and the child has to be helped to be born with artificial help.
The hormones needed for a spontaneous birth can easily be produced in a female’s body automatically, but it can also be artificially produced. These hormones are usually produced in the limbic system of the brain, which also control events and lower manifestations of our organism which cannot be affected by will, for example: blood circulation, body temperature etc. In order for these areas to work properly during birth, the female brain has to be “shut down” in certain areas of the cerebral cortex. The Cerebral Cortex is responsible for higher, specific human functions, such as consciousness, memory, will, etc. Ideally, the spontaneously laboring woman will be in a completely extraordinary conscious condition (comparable to sexual arousal during sex). All similar “exceptional conditions” are unfortunately very vulnerable, and therefore if something or someone disturbs the woman, it will be very probable that she will be unable to concentrate and give a spontaneous birth. The benefits of natural birth is the individual and personal treatment of the pregnant woman even by her partner and sensitive manipulation with the newborn baby (elimination of the causes of the so-called postnatal trauma), not applying routine prenatal preventive measures, not using opiates and analgesics, the option of choosing the birthing position, the low percentage of episiotomy and surgical interventions, the fast recovery of the mothers after birth, the smooth postpartum period, the high percentage of successful and long-term breastfeeding, and the natural bonding between all the family members.
In connection to disadvantages, people mostly talk about the worsened option to give immediate help to the woman who is about to give birth, or to the baby in case of the formation of acute danger. The supporters of natural birth argue that complications in most cases can be uncovered beforehand, and apart from that, no serious alternative birthing center works without a connection to classic medicine, so the option of a fast medical intervention is always taken into account from a direct proximity to a modernly equipped delivery room, or the option of fast transportation to the closest hospital.
OPTIONS OF USING BIRTHING ALTERNATIVES
Described birthing alternatives should be offered to all women with a normally processed pregnancy. The term of the birth should be determined by calculation of the size of the foetus during the first ultrasound examination. A pregnant woman will on the day of her birth term check in to the outpatient department in order to check her pregnancy condition, maturity of the birth canal, blood pressure and urine. If the results are normal, the woman is observed and if the birth doesn’t start or there is no abnormality within 14 days, the birth will be induced. The birth will start spontaneously by most pregnant women within this period.
Women who think about a natural childbirth should know that a natural birth is not for every woman, and it can be only recommended to a woman who:
- Is generally healthy, without any indications of complications for her and the baby
- Went through a thorough prenatal preparation
- Decided for a natural birth by her own conscious, free and informed decision
Doctors will put emphasis on the mother being controlled every moment, and instead of continual human treatment they use technology (frequent device monitoring of the foetus, using infusion pump, epidural analgesia, etc.). The result by both approaches is the approximate similar number of healthy babies and mothers. The difference is mainly in how this good result was achieved. And it is very possible to combine the technological and emotional approach. Even though the woman is giving birth with the help of “birth techniques”, it is important for her to stay in constant contact with her close ones, and with the birth attendant whom she trusts in order to get a full psychological support. This combination of treatment is the most secure and most effective, especially for mothers, who go through more complicated births or where there is a risk of some serious complication.
World studies did not prove a connection between the choice of birth method and mortality or morbidity of the newborn babies, but nor did the world studies prove the impact of regularly used diagnostic (ultrasound) and analgesics (epidural anesthesia) methods on the process and quality of the birth either. Such studies - apart from the first - do not exist.
If we look at any research which compares both types of births, those that have been affected with those that haven’t been affected, the latter comes out with better results. Many labour procedures also bring risks, or they go without any effect. Therefore they become worthless.
Long-term national statistics say that 90% of all births are physiological, only 10% are pathological. But the word “all” is here very important, because it represents births performed in hospitals as well as outside of them! From this we derive that if we transfer all the births to the hospital, we will not decrease the 10% amount! This fact is accepted even by the doctors themselves.
The most happy babies are born to women who are going with their natural intellect and that at the same time are thoughtfully supported by their surroundings.
At the closing of this article, let us use a quote from the American birth physiotherapist, lecturer and writer Penny Simkin:
“Being alive from birth is not enough. There is a time to listen to women. Paying attention to their needs and wishes. Cheering them up so that they will not be afraid to express themselves and promote that which they care about; what should be done differently and better in midwifery.”
Author: FYZIOklinika physiotherapy Ltd., Prague, Czech Republic
Source: Clinical experience from private practice in physiotherapeutic field, FYZIOklinika