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Natural Childbirth: Advantages and Disadvantages

A list of natural childbirth advantages and disadvantages presents the reasons for different individual's choices during labor and birth.

Advantages of Natural Childbirth Disdvantages of Natural Childbirth

All the advantages and disadvantages listed below for normal, unmedicated birth have been documented in research. Specific studies can be found in the text Enhancing Birth, Breastfeeding, and Bonding: A Guide to Optimal Childbearing Outcomes.

Advantages of Natural Childbirth

Advantages for the Labor Process

  • Avoid common effect where one medical procedure requires the next
  • Decreased perineal lacerations
  • Shorter second stage
  • Decreased chance of cesarean for this or subsequent births

Advantages for the Infant

  • More alert, responsive infant
  • Decrease in need for oxygen or resuscitation
  • Less likely to need to go to nursery for special care
  • Increased amount of time spent held by parents
  • Increased amount of one-on-one interaction with mother
  • Decreased amount of time spent

Advantages for the mother

  • Increased satisfaction with birth
  • Increased feelings of empowerment
  • Decreased mood disorders postpartum
  • Increased confidence in caring for infant

Advantages for the breastfeeding process

  • Breastfeeding initiated sooner
  • Infants able to self attach
  • More frequent feedings in the first 24 hours
  • Infants more successful at latching on to breast
  • Less use of supplemental formula
  • Longer duration of breastfeeding postpartum

Advantages of Pain Medication and Interventions in Childbirth

  • Medical interventions can interrupt the labor process to deliver the infant quicker when the infant’s or mother’s health is in jeopardy.
  • Epidurals can allow a mother to sleep which can be beneficial in a long labor or nighttime labor.
  • Pitocin can strengthen contractions so the delivery occurs sooner.
  • Inductions and/or cesareans can be convenient.
  • Pain medication, including epidurals

Self-Attachment Behavior in Unmedicated Infants

In the first hour of life, unmedicated infants display these set of behaviors
  1. Meet mother’s gaze
  2. Suck their own fist
  3. Propel themselves towards her breast using the scent from their fist
  4. Stroke mother with their hands
  5. Lift their heads in a bobbing motion for placement at the breast
  6. Latch on to the nipple
  7. Coordinate a pattern of sucking, swallowing, stroking

Advantages & Disadvantages of Natural Childbirth and Medical Interventions

Who Should Decide?

Factors for those who work with childbearing families to consider:
  • There is an increased chance of birth trauma for the mother if her needs and desires for birth are not addressed. This is true whether her desire is for a natural birth or for pain medication.
  • While research indicates the most optimal outcome for health and bonding occur with a normal unmedicated delivery, it also shows that bonding and emotional health postpartum are hindered by severe pain that is more than the mother can deal with. Pain medication is an adaptative response to such a situation.
  • No one knows better than the laboring woman what the best long-term outcome for her should be. Neither friends, family, nor health care professionals should pressure a woman towards or away from pain medication.

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By Karen Newell Copyright 2003 - 2012 Better Childbirth Outcomes - All Rights Reserved
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, USA