The birthing process begins with the onset of labour and ends with the delivery of the baby. Most women give birth vaginally, some do so with the help of pain alleviating medicines and others prefer to have an unmedicated birth. The thought of labour can be very stressful for a woman as it is a painful process, but there are various ways the pain can be managed and controlled. There are different birthing methods to make labour easier and a meaningful experience for women, and also to make the entry into the world a pleasant one for the baby.
Traditional birthing method
In the traditional birthing method widely prevalent today, an obstetrician looks after the mother during pregnancy and delivery. The delivery happens in a delivery room, where the mother is laid down with her legs in stirrups, and the baby is born vaginally.
The drawback to the traditional birthing method is that, with her legs in stirrups, the woman has to push the baby in an upward direction which is against the gravity. This may lead to prolonged labour and greater pain.
The concept of natural birthing came due to these drawbacks of a traditional birthing method.
Natural childbirth methods:
All over the world, more and more women are choosing to go through childbirth naturally. Natural childbirth gives a woman more control over her experience of childbirth and is beneficial for both mother and baby. Many hospitals now have birthing centres where childbirth can happen in a more relaxed setting with staff trained for a natural birthing method. Some people even choose to have a baby at home with a trained midwife present. Fathers are also actively involved in the natural birthing process.
Some natural birthing methods are:
This method was developed in the 1950s by Dr. Ferdinand Lamaze in Russia. This method utilizes breathing exercises and concentration on a focal point during contractions to decrease the perception of pain during labour while remaining conscious. This allows oxygen to flow to the baby in the uterus. Lamaze classes teach both partners controlled deep breathing, massage, and maintaining control during labour. The partner coaches the mother during the birth process with the techniques learnt.
The Bradley Method:
This method was developed by Dr. Robert Bradley in the late 1940s. Normal activities are encouraged in the initial stages of labour in this method. The father coaches the mother throughout the labour process, so it is also called the father coached birthing method.
In the LeBoyer method, the delivery takes place in a quiet, dim room. It attempts to have a relaxed delivery to avoid over-stimulation of the baby and to foster mother-child bonding by placing the baby on the mother immediately after the birth. The mother massages the baby and then the father washes the baby in a warm bath.
Alternative Birthing Methods
Traditional home birth, with a midwife in attendance, has always been the norm in rural India. Home birth is regaining popularity in western countries again as it is a relaxed and dignified way of giving birth at home. It may work if the pregnancy is without complication and the mother has no health problem. However, it is not advisable in a high-risk pregnancy or multiple pregnancy.
Recently, water birth has gained in popularity. It is based on the idea that as babies spend their time in the womb in water, a water birth is the least traumatic way for it to enter the world. The mother-to-be sits in a tub of lukewarm water called a birthing pool, and the midwife holds the baby as soon as it is born. Pain is lesser and contractions are smoother in this kind of birth.
Hypnosis has been used for a long time during birthing. When used in childbirth and labour, hypnosis allows deep relaxation and with an elimination of pain and fear. The birth process is quicker for both mother and child, with less bleeding, fewer complications and quicker recovery.
Sometimes the doctors may choose to do a caesarian delivery due to a high-risk pregnancy, or complication during labour. Some of the reasons could be:
- Physical abnormalities such as the mother’s abnormal pelvic structure or the baby’s position (breech), or if the baby is exceptionally large.
- Serious maternal health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
- Cord prolapse.
- Dystocia, a catch-all term that refers to any form of difficult childbirth
- Signs of foetal distress such as a slowing of the heart rate or acid in the blood.
Some women may also elect to have a caesarian delivery because of an earlier difficult delivery, trauma to the pelvic floor or some other concern. Doctors feel that they have the right to make such a request and also point out that the risks associated with such procedures are minimal.