Scroll to the bottom of this article to see an all natural child birth in action.
The United States is the richest country in the world and we spend far more on health care than any other nation. Yet, patients often receive worse care and have inferior outcomes to people in other countries. One place the shocking disparity shows up loud and clear is in our birthing practices. In a report that the Washington Post called a “national embarrassment,” the Centers for Disease Control revealed last year that the United States ranked dead last in infant mortality among the 28 wealthiest countries.
Despite our seemingly advanced medical system, the death rate for infants is shockingly high, with 6.1 infant deaths per every 1,000 live births. That’s almost three times as high as Finland and Japan, which boast the lowest rates at 2.3 deaths per 1,000.
One prime factor for negative health outcomes for mothers and babies appears to be a high rate of unnecessary caesarian sections, performed at hospitals and conventional birthing centers that are more interested in following a strict schedule than allowing the mother’s body to direct the birthing process. About a third of all births in the United States are performed via c-section, according to the CDC, far more than the number necessary to preserve the health of the mother or child.
C-sections and other medical interventions can save lives in an emergency, but birth is not nearly as dangerous as some media hype makes it out to be. On the contrary, natural birth has proven to be remarkably healthy for most women.
Research published last year in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health showed that home births with a midwife had no increase in adverse effects compared to hospital birth, and showed a far lower rate of intervention. The massive study, which looked at nearly 17,000 births, found that the c-section rate for women who attempted home births was 5.2 percent, dramatically lower than the overall c-section rate of 31 percent during the same time period from 2004 to 2009. Women who gave birth at home received fewer episiotomies, pitocin and epidurals treatments, and only one percent of babies born at home were transferred to the hospital afterward.
“This study adds to the large and growing body of research that has found that planned home birth with a midwife is not only safe for babies and mothers with low-risk pregnancies,” the Midwives Alliance of North America notes on their blog, “but results in health and cost benefits that reach far beyond one pregnancy.
Other evidence shows a similar trend. One review published in The Journal of Perinatal Education compiled several studies that showed positive outcomes for natural births. In one, research conducted in the Netherlands showed that infants born via c-section had higher rates of harmful gut bacteria and lower rates of beneficial bacteria, the opposite result of infants born vaginally at home. The longer a baby stayed in the hospital, the more harmful bacteria it acquired.
“In normal vaginal birth, newborns encounter their mothers’ microbes during the critical first hours. Some of these microbes are beneficial and promote healthy gastrointestinal development,” the researchers note. “When a baby is born by cesarean surgery and/or subjected to prolonged hospitalization, unfamiliar hospital-borne pathogens such as C. difficile dominate the microbial environment of the newborn’s gut.”
The next study looked at how to reduce genital trauma requiring suturing during natural births, and found that the most effective method was for the mother to follow her own body’s instructions in regard to pushing, rather than taking direction from a doctor or midwife.
“A calm and unrushed approach to vaginal birth improved the health of new mothers by lowering overall trauma rates and reducing the need for suturing,” the study notes. “Attendance by caregivers who are confident in normal birth, such as the midwives who conducted this trial, supports the natural unfolding of the birth process and, thus, reduces maternal injury.”
Anther study that looked at data from 20 birthing centers in the United States found that numerous c-sections are performed unnecessarily, regardless of whether the mother or baby showed high risk signs that would call for the invasive surgery.
“Expectant families should be counseled that avoiding unnecessary inductions and laboring at home until an active labor pattern is established are two of the most important means of avoiding cesarean surgery,” the report notes. “Choosing the birth setting carefully, with attention given to rates of elective and routine obstetric practices, may also help avert surgical births.”
The Global Healing Center points out a number of advantages to natural childbirth. For one, it’s empowering to women to be in charge of their own birth. It also reduces the chances of acquiring an infection at the hospital or receiving an unnecessary episiotomy. The baby is also likely to be healthier because it is born on the woman’s schedule, not that of a doctor rushing to a shift change. Finally, the family saves money — instead of spending up to tens of thousands of dollars in hospital bills for a normal birth, they can save the money and put it toward the child instead.
A literal example of a natural birth is shown in a video of an Australian mother, Simone Surgeoner, a trained doula with experience assisting women before, during, and after childbirth. Surgeoner headed to the woods for her fourth delivery. “My dream had long been to give birth in nature,” Surgeoner says in the video. She flew to a friend’s house in the Daintree rainforest in northeast Australia and found a creek that spoke to her with its “pristine pure and the most amazing fresh water I have ever tasted in my life.”
According to the video, Surgeoner started going into labor overnight. Worried that the creek would be too cold, she sets up in an outdoor bathtub instead. By nine in the morning, she hadn’t delivered and decided to move down to her chosen spot in the creek after all.
While the other children played in the stream and along the rocky shore, she lies down on a mat in the creek for the final push. Once the baby crowns, it emerges quickly into the world. By 10:50, Surgeoner is sitting in the stream holding her new baby girl.
“There were some times I didn’t think I could do it,” she says in relief as she cradles her new daughter, sitting in nature and surrounded by her family.
“It was the singular most transforming event of my life,” she writes in the video description, “and my most conscious act as a woman to date.”
Watch the video below to see an all-natural birth in action.