5 Reasons to choose a natural birth

South Africa has one of the highest C-Section rates in the world. Here’s why you should choose to go natural instead – if at all possible.

South Africa has one of the highest C-Section delivery rates in the world. Between 70 – 90% of deliveries in private hospitals are Caesareans.

The fact that some hospitals restrict your movement during labour and won’t let you adopt the position that feels right for you, or won’t let you eat or drink during labour can put many moms-to-be off natural birth. “This kind of environment breeds fear and feelings of isolation, which tends to make labour slower and more painful, with more medical intervention needed,” says Jude Polack, founder and director of active birthing hospital, Genesis Clinic in Johannesburg.

Polack believes the best natural birth is an active one, where the mom follows her own instinctive responses and works with her body. “She needs a secure, relaxing environment with good support and the freedom to move around. In an active birth, moms are encouraged to remain mobile and upright and to adopt whichever position they choose. They also eat and drink to strengthen themselves through labour.”

Can anyone have a natural birth?

The World Health Organisation estimates that only 20% of women require a C-section to ensure the safe delivery of their babies. “If you’re healthy and have an uncomplicated pregnancy, you are most likely a candidate for a successful natural labour,” says Polack.

Reasons to choose a natural birth

Pros for moms

  • A natural birth doesn’t require any surgical recovery time. You are immediately mobile after the birth and will have a shorter hospital stay.
  • There’s no risk of your wound getting infected, injury to internal organs or complications from the anaesthetic or epidural.
  • A lower incidence of postnatal depression.
  • Labour in future pregnancies may be shorter.
  • Moms feel capable and empowered.

Pros for babies

  • Four to six times less likely to suffer from respiratory distress syndrome or fluid in the lungs.
  • Better and quicker control of body temperature, breathing and heart rate, so there’s less call for incubators and oxygen.
  • Quicker and more effective latching and feeding. Breastfeeding has a 75% higher success rate among babies born naturally compared to those delivered by C-Section.
  • Oxytocin released during a natural birth facilitates bonding.
  • Less colic in the early months.

Risks of natural birth

Cons for moms

  • There’s a possibility of perineal damage or tearing, which could require a stitch, or in severe cases, surgical repair. Daily perineal massaging from week 34 can help prevent this.
  • Loss of vaginal and pelvic floor muscle tone can lead to urine leaks. Regular Kegel exercises after birth help to restore these muscles.

Cons for babies

  • There’s a risk of oxygen deprivation if the umbilical cord is constricted or if there are other problems during labour and delivery. It’s essential that someone trained in delivering babies is on hand during a natural birth to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
  • Possibility of physical trauma, such as bruising, from passing through the birth canal.

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