Natural Birth

Terminology

Hi ladies.  This has been bothering me.  I am planning a birthing center delivery with a midwife.  It's important to me to pursue an un-medicated, intervention-free labor and delivery.  I made the mistake of using the term "natural childbirth" with a friend who kind of defensively told me there was nothing unnatural about her two hospital births with epidurals etc.  I didn't mean to offend her, and I don't judge other women's preferences or choices. This board is called "Natural Birth" and it seems to be a term used fairly often still, but I can see how others might not like what it implies.

This friend told me I need to use the term "unmedicated" which is fine, but to me, that word doesn't cover everything I want it to.  To me, that just means no epidural, and possibly I could see it also meaning no Pitocin and other drugs.  But the kind of birth I'm hoping for is more than just avoiding medications.  It's about a lot more... no IV, no monitors, no episiotomies, no induction, etc etc. 

Is there a better word to use? 

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Re: Terminology

  • I just go with "med-free". You could say "low intervention", too.

    I don't actually find it comes up much, but I don't discuss my birth choices much IRL.

  • My wishes for birthing are pretty much the same as yours and I use the word natural.  I too have heard women who had epis get very upset with that word.  I have no issues with women who choose to go that route and don't judge their decision.  I can't help but wonder if those women who dislike our use of the word "natural" are having trouble accepting their own decisions and/or are having guilt issues.  Who knows, I'm not a psychologist!  Anyway, I say keep using the word natural...I will!  It's what holds the most meaning for you and best describes what you want.
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  • I agree that the term natural birth is problematic for several reasons. I think medfree is better. I like the term physiological birthmeaning the birth proceeded as a physiological process with minimal interference. It sounds less valueladen to me.
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  • I would also say med-free or low-intervention. It does imply to me that a different choice is unnatural. I do not consider my med-free birth any more natural than my birth where I had an epidural. I just felt less pain and was better rested with the epidural.

    EDIT PP, I do not agree that people who feel the term carries value judgement feel guilty or badly about their birth. That's actually a really unfair thing to suggest. I have no guilt about the epidural, at all. I loved it every bit as much as my med-free birth. At that time it was the right choice and I am happy to have had both experiences. (my med-free birth was with my first son)

    To be honest if you go to a birthing centre or a hospital or use any sort of modern equipement that's not really natural. A/S to check the health of the baby, not natural. Accepting a transfer to the hospital, unnatural. Unassisted birth at home or a birth assisted by someone who may have experience but not through medical training, that's natural. That's what women did before we had other options.

    EDIT

  • By that definition, blush64, our cows don't even achieve a natural birth. On the other end of the spectrum is people that say out of the vagina = natural.

    The main reason I use other terms isn't the baggage, it's the fact that it's unclear. Med-free, low intervention, or physiological are all far more descriptive.

  • Thanks for your replies.  Lots of good points to think about!
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  • imageintheflowers:
    imagetokenhoser:

    The main reason I use other terms isn't the baggage, it's the fact that it's unclear. Med-free, low intervention, or physiological are all far more descriptive.

    I like the clarity these terms provide, too.

    I also don't want to imply that natural birth = better birth to anyone I might be talking to, so I always avoid that term. Why use a term that could be hurtful to someone else when there are more precise words available anyway? 

     

    This is exactly what I was referring to when I questioned why women would get upset at the word.  If a woman who had an epi or other intervention (either voluntarily or necessarily), interprets my use of the word "natural" as "better" and gets offended, then that's on them.  They are the one assigning that meaning, not me.  I know many women who chose to be induced early for convenience or chose to use pain meds and were completely happy with their births, so I'm happy for them too!  I'm not judging their choices so I think it would be unfair of them to judge me and my desire for a "natural" birth.

  • Drugs and surgery (and hospitals, for that matter!) are not natural. I don't see how anyone can argue that point. But the word natural is not synonymous with the word good, and it doesn't not carry any connotation of being better. The problem occurs when people think that it does. 

    It reminds me of the age-old argument about homosexuality. It is bad because it isn't natural. Very common response to that is "well medication isn't natural, but I can guarantee that you still take it when you get sick!". 

    Unnatural things can be good and natural things can be bad. End of story.

    Why do we need to change our terminology to avoid offending people? It is just ridiculous. The word natural is not offensive and if you are someone that thinks it is, then that is on YOU and you alone.

    What bothers me is when people use "natural" birth as a substitution for saying "vaginal" birth. Not all vaginal births are natural. A vaginal birth describes how the baby came out. A natural birth describes both how the baby came out (vaginally, that is to say, naturally, not surgically), and what interventions were used (none). A birth with pit or an epi or other medications was not natural, even if the baby was still born vaginally. But that isn't necessary a bad thing, it just is what it is!

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  • imagetokenhoser:

    By that definition, blush64, our cows don't even achieve a natural birth. On the other end of the spectrum is people that say out of the vagina = natural.

    The main reason I use other terms isn't the baggage, it's the fact that it's unclear. Med-free, low intervention, or physiological are all far more descriptive.

    That was my point. Even natural birth has its limits as to how natural it can be and how clear. Most people hearing natural birth aren't going to assume low intervention, they assume med-free.

    I don't use the term natural birth. I was just pointing out that for those who choose to call it a natural birth they are still accepting some things that aren't natural" 

  • imagestarshineamator:

    Drugs and surgery (and hospitals, for that matter!) are not natural. I don't see how anyone can argue that point. But the word natural is not synonymous with the word good, and it doesn't not carry any connotation of being better. The problem occurs when people think that it does. 

    It reminds me of the age-old argument about homosexuality. It is bad because it isn't natural. Very common response to that is "well medication isn't natural, but I can guarantee that you still take it when you get sick!". 

    Unnatural things can be good and natural things can be bad. End of story.

    Why do we need to change our terminology to avoid offending people? It is just ridiculous. The word natural is not offensive and if you are someone that thinks it is, then that is on YOU and you alone.

    What bothers me is when people use "natural" birth as a substitution for saying "vaginal" birth. Not all vaginal births are natural. A vaginal birth describes how the baby came out. A natural birth describes both how the baby came out (vaginally, that is to say, naturally, not surgically), and what interventions were used (none). A birth with pit or an epi or other medications was not natural, even if the baby was still born vaginally. But that isn't necessary a bad thing, it just is what it is!

    I just don't agree with you. The way many women use natural birth does come across as better and good. Saying a woman's birth is unnatural is offensive to many women whether or  not you feel it should be.  

    Your comments about homosexuality aren't entirely clear. To those who say it isn't natural I would never think of saying "so what neither is medication." I would say "Yes, it is natural"  

    If you don't think your idea of natural birth is better than any other sort, why does it bug you so much if other women use the word for a birth that was vaginal but with an epidural?  

  • imagestarshineamator:

    Drugs and surgery (and hospitals, for that matter!) are not natural. I don't see how anyone can argue that point. But the word natural is not synonymous with the word good, and it doesn't not carry any connotation of being better. The problem occurs when people think that it does. 

    It reminds me of the age-old argument about homosexuality. It is bad because it isn't natural. Very common response to that is "well medication isn't natural, but I can guarantee that you still take it when you get sick!". 

    Unnatural things can be good and natural things can be bad. End of story.

    Why do we need to change our terminology to avoid offending people? It is just ridiculous. The word natural is not offensive and if you are someone that thinks it is, then that is on YOU and you alone.

    What bothers me is when people use "natural" birth as a substitution for saying "vaginal" birth. Not all vaginal births are natural. A vaginal birth describes how the baby came out. A natural birth describes both how the baby came out (vaginally, that is to say, naturally, not surgically), and what interventions were used (none). A birth with pit or an epi or other medications was not natural, even if the baby was still born vaginally. But that isn't necessary a bad thing, it just is what it is!

    But the word natural is not synonymous with the word good, and it doesn't not carry any connotation of being better. "

    This is just not true.  

    I'm kind of laughing at "we shouldn't change our terminology just because it offends people" when in the next paragraph you are complaining about other people using the term natural birth in a way that you don't like.  

    Also I find your definition problematic.  A "natural" birth cannot have ANY interventions?   Not a single one?  And how do you define intervention?  Is a cervical exam an intervention?  Is fetal monitoring an intervention, and if so does it matter whether it is continuous or intermittent?  Vacuum extraction?  Third stage Pitocin?  Perineal massage?  Is laboring in a tub an intervention, because I'm pretty sure hunter-gatherers or cave women or whatever arbitrary metric we are using to establish what is or is not a natural human birth did not have inflatable tubs filled with hot water.  Is it natural to have Pit but no epidural, but not natural to have an epidural but no Pitocin, because we get posts on here just about every week asking whether people have "gone natural" with Pitocin, so clearly even in the NB community there is not one accepted definition of natural childbirth.  

    I get that "natural birth" is a convenient term.  But let's at least acknowledge that there are many ways to define it, all legitimate, and that birth, with its many variables, often defies labels. 

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  • imageintheflowers:
    imagestarshineamator:

    It reminds me of the age-old argument about homosexuality. It is bad because it isn't natural. Very common response to that is "well medication isn't natural, but I can guarantee that you still take it when you get sick!". 

    Unnatural things can be good and natural things can be bad. End of story.

    Um, wtf? This is a terrible analogy (since when is homosexuality not natural?) and it lends zero credibility to your argument.

    You've never heard that? Or the other PP? That's one of the most common arguments against homosexuality, outside of religious ones- that it isn't natural (because sexual relations are naturally for procreation, and only a man and a woman can procreate), and animals don't practice homosexuality (though there are rare cases of it, it isn't really something seen on a wide scale like it is with humans), which proves that it isn't natural. I can't even count how many times I've heard people say this. 

    You may have misunderstood- I'm saying that the argument for or against *anything* based on it being "natural" or "unnatural" isn't sound. Adding value judgement to the word is to use the word incorrectly. To say "x is natural, therefore x is good" and "y is unnatural, therefore y is bad" is a fallacy. It is absolutely fair to establish that some things are natural and others are unnatural, but what does that tell us about that thing? Absolutely nothing. Just that it is what it is. So people that say "homosexuality is wrong because it is unnatural" are just as incorrect as people that say "my birth was better because it was natural". Do you see what I mean? 

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  • imageBreanneL24:
    Personally I think people get way too uptight about this word. You're right OP, the birth you want is natural. If you take it literally, having an epi or interventions is not natural because you're putting something foreign in your body to help the process. That being said, I don't judge or care about other people's birth choices. I certainly don't think there is anything wrong with interventions if that is what is wanted or needed. But using the term "natural" in reference to a no intervention, no med birth is completely correct.

     I agree 100%.  You don't need to change your terminology to appease your friend's opinion.  

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