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Natural Birth

What Is Natural Birth?

Also called drug-free birth, this is a vaginal delivery in a hospital without an epidural or other pain-control medications. Many women want to avoid medications throughout the birthing experience and elect natural methods to control pain. Your care team will still monitor you and your baby throughout the experience but will limit interventions only to those necessary for your and your baby's health.

How to prepare for natural delivery

You will prepare much like you would for a vaginal delivery. Childbirth classes and classes on breathing and labor techniques are helpful. One advantage of not receiving the epidural is that you'll be able to move around more freely and try different labor positions. Get familiar with these positions well before going into labor.

If you want to have a doula or birthing coach, choose them early and begin establishing that relationship. Be sure your birthing team knows what your wishes are for delivery and are familiar with your support people. You can complete a birth plan to note your decisions and communicate with your health care provider or midwife and nurses. Remember that the plan is a guide and may change based on medical circumstances during labor and delivery.

Natural birth risk factors and complications

Vaginal birth, with or without pain medications, is safe for most women. Giving birth at UPMC gives you access to the latest medical technology and experts who can respond quickly if something goes wrong.

Your risks with a natural birth are the same as with a vaginal delivery:

  • Vaginal tears
  • Infection
  • Hemorrhage
  • Weakened pelvic muscles

Sometimes things don't go as planned and you may need an emergency cesarean section or an assisted delivery with forceps or vacuum extraction. Your care team will be monitoring you and your baby closely throughout the process and will act quickly to care for you and your baby.

What to Expect During Natural Birth

Your natural birth delivery will follow much the same course as a vaginal delivery with medication. Your cervix will open (dilate) and thin (efface) as you undergo the stages of labor. The contractions will steadily get stronger and closer together.

Labor, especially with a first child, can last for hours, and the pain can be exhausting. That's where your support team and relaxation techniques come in. Another potential advantage to forgoing pain medication is that those medications can sometimes slow labor. By avoiding them, you may be able to push through the last stage of labor faster.

Recovery After Natural Birth

Immediately after giving birth you will be encouraged to hold your baby for skin-to-skin contact. You can also begin breastfeeding right away if you choose. UPMC has lactation consultants available to help you get started with breastfeeding.

After a vaginal delivery, most women stay in the hospital for 24 to 48 hours. Your vaginal area will be sore, and it may hurt to urinate or have a bowel movement at first. A sitz bath may help ease soreness. You may also experience bleeding for a few days to a few weeks after giving birth. Take it easy for four to six weeks when you get home. Stick with light chores and avoid heavy lifting.

Your health care provider will give you instructions to care for yourself and your baby when you first get home.

Why Choose UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital?

Our birthing center offers a family-friendly environment where you can labor and deliver in the same room. We understand how important this time is to you, and we want to support your birth plan while delivering high-quality medical care. We have a shower, birthing balls, and other options to help you labor without medications.

To find out how we can help you through your natural birth, call 1-866-MyMagee (696-2433) to speak with a member of our staff.

Learn about other birth methods offered at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

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