Why I’ve Decided to Give Birth Naturally


When I tell people (especially women) that I want to give birth without the use of drugs, their eyes usually widen and the first word out of their mouths is “ouch”.

(Occasionally, though, I do get the “you go, girl!” or “that is so inspiring.”)

But why, though? Why did I decide on a natural birth so early on in my pregnancy? The reasons are simple:

1.) It’s healthier for my baby.  I’m not saying you will have an unhealthy baby if you get an epidural or an IV. However, I personally like the idea of my baby not being drowsy from the effects of a potentially dangerous drug. IV’s cross the placenta and epidurals sometimes lower a baby’s heart rate.  Babies born without the use of drugs are usually more awake and alert upon entering the world. That is enough for me.

2.) It’s healthier for me. I don’t like the idea of losing control and awareness of my mind and body during a moment as transforming as childbirth. I don’t want to be sleepy or nauseous from narcotics, or have limited movement and constant monitoring because of an epidural. When the midwife tells me to push, I want that control. I want to move around as much as possible and spend as little time as I can on my back to avoid an unnecessary induction. Drugs during labor may also make labor last longer: less pain equals less control of your body; you lose the instinct to “push” during an epidural unless it’s shut off (which sometimes takes around 45 minutes!) Additionally, I don’t want to risk the potential side effects and/or consequences of an epidural, as rare as some of them might be: a decrease in blood pressure,  difficulty breathing, a catheter, severe headache… I want to be up and alert, just like my baby is, right after birth. That is why I’m making these choices on my end and hoping for everything to run smoothly.

3.) I want to avoid a Cesarean and/or any other unnecessary intervention. Some women choose to have one. For me, a non-emergency cesarean is the LAST thing I want. When women are allowed to labor on their own, the natural way, listening to their bodies (besides, every newborn’s timing is different!), labor tends to require less intervention. Cesareans also sometimes come with a lot of baggage: risk of infection, numbness from the waist down, narcotics, catheters, longer hospital stay, longer recovery, difficulties or pain during breastfeeding, etc… Bottom line: If I can avoid it, I will.

4.) I want to successfully breastfeed. As I previously mentioned, a baby born without drugs tends to be more awake and alert, hence more coordinated for a first breastfeeding attempt. Same goes for me: after delivering my baby, I want to be ready to tackle breastfeeding, not drowsy or in pain, recovering from a surgical procedure. I’m not saying a woman who gets a cesarean or an epidural won’t be able to breastfeed, it just might be a little more difficult.

5.) I want to experience labor. As crazy as it sounds, I want to experience childbirth. My childbirth instructor and doula told me that she hasn’t met a single woman who hasn’t been changed by childbirth. Some realize it instantly, others might realize it years later. I want to give in to childbirth, be transformed by it, grow from it, and not regret anything. Besides, the feeling of  childbirth “pain” is one that no woman knows the extent of until the day she delivers. It isn’t the kind of pain you want to run away from (the kind we’re all used to) but one that is as healthy as can be. So why not try? Why doubt yourself before even knowing what it feels like? I feel ready for the challenge and trust that I am strong enough for it.

(Note: Women are ALL strong for carrying and giving birth to their children, no matter how they do it. It is all a matter of personal preference early on and how things progress on the day of delivery. Every kind of birth has pros and cons and every woman sees them differently. I started this blog to share my journey towards a natural birth and not, in any way, to say my decision is better than anyone else’s.)

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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