Pregnant mothers who are planning to give birth naturally today are in the minority. Since so many expectant mothers are choosing otherwise, it is not uncommon for women who prefer a drug-free labor to hear comments like, “Just wait until you go into labor. You’ll change your mind!”
Can expectant mothers really have a natural childbirth if they are motivated to have one?
Mother’s Age and Giving Birth Naturally
When it comes to natural childbirth, age may not be a benefit to a woman. One study reported that younger women (under age 25) were more likely to meet their goal of having a natural childbirth versus older moms. In fact, many studies have consistently shown that being an older mom can lead to a longer and more complicated labor including a higher chance of a cesarean.
It is important to remember that being older does not mean a woman cannot have a drug-free labor. It simply means that giving birth at a younger age has an advantage for a woman who has a goal of natural childbirth.
Effects of Education Level on Ability to Labor Drug-Free
Apparently having additional years of education can increase the odds for a woman to give birth naturally. Studies show that having an education level over 12 years was a strong predictor for whether or not the mother could achieve a natural childbirth.
While researchers may not know the reason for why a woman’s education plays a role in how she gives birth, perhaps having a desire to learn about birthing options, reading research and planning the birth with confidence might be a bit easier for a woman who has some experience doing some of those things in other aspects of her life.
First or Later Baby – How Can it Help or Hinder Natural Childbirth?
No surprise that having a first baby can make things more challenging for a mother planning to give birth naturally. Perhaps one of the most significant reasons is that labors tend to be longer for a first-time mother (primipara or primip). In fact, studies show that both the first (dilation) and second (pushing) stages of labor are both longer for a primip than for mothers with one or more previous births (multip).
Length of Labor – Does it Affect Ability to Have a Natural Childbirth?
When labors get long, it certainly makes good sense that more mothers would turn to pain medication to get through it. Mothers having a first baby or mothers planning a VBAC are often likely to have a long labor. There are even the unlucky mothers who seem to have long labors, whether it’s a first baby or a fifth baby.
Not to mention, if a mother is having a fast labor, there simply may not be adequate time for her to have an epidural. The medical care providers may also be reluctant to give the mother narcotics if she was having a fast labor since narcotics (such as stadol) are known to reach the baby. Without sufficient time to get rid of the drug, babies can be sleepy and less able to breastfeed after birth.
Do Certain Childbirth Class Methods Increase the Odds of Natural Childbirth?
If parents are exploring various childbirth classes in the hopes that taking one will increase their chances of giving birth naturally, they should know that the jury is still out. One study showed that parents who participated in a specific natural childbirth class compared to those that took a standard class, the epidural rate was the same (54%).
What about the various childbirth methods that claim high percentages of mothers who give birth naturally when they participate in their classes? Unfortunately many of the methods that make these claims provide sufficient evidence to support them.
Whether parents read books, read articles online, participate in a live class, or take an online childbirth class, it may not matter. Likely the most important aspect of preparing for an unmedicated birth is that parents prepare in the best way for them.
Physical and Emotional Support – Does it Reduce Requests for Drugs?
One of the benefits of using a doula is that her presence can increase a woman’s chance of having a natural childbirth. All of the studies on doulas have demonstrated at least some difference in the use of medication during labor as compared to mothers without doula support.
Not only do doulas provide alternatives to pain medication such as massage, hot packs, ideas for position changes and back labor techniques, many mothers explain that the doula’s verbal encouragement and reassurance gave them the confidence to give birth naturally.
Emotional Well-Being in Relation to Medication Use in Labor
It makes good sense that if the mother is emotionally well she will be more likely to handle the challenges of labor and perhaps also handle the pain without resorting to an epidural or other labor drugs. In fact, one study did show that the mothers who reported having lower levels of depression and anxiety were more likely to have a natural childbirth.
While many of these factors can help a woman’s chances of being able to give birth naturally, it is not a formula. Each woman is different. Exploring options and being motivated is an important first step in having a natural childbirth.