In response to much debate on the hot topic of natural birth, the UK’s Royal College of Midwives (RCM) stopped running its Campaign for Normal Birth after 12 years, in favour of the Better Births initiative in an effort to change the way we talk about and approach birth. For many, the term ‘natural birth’ is akin to ‘normal birth’ in being a loaded value judgement. It’s been recommended that the term ‘physiological’ birth be used instead.
Shalome Stone, founder of the Rockstar Birth Radio podcast, agrees that the term natural birth needs a rethink: “Some people think all birth is natural, some think vaginal birth is natural, and others think only an unmedicated birth is natural.
I think birth is birth.
“You are birthing your baby, however they exit your womb. We fail women when we try and label their birth experiences and the assumed context, i.e. that they are too soft to birth naturally, they gave up in some way. Instead we should be trusting each woman’s instincts and supporting her choices in birth. No woman fails in birth. Take the focus off the labels and bring it back to how powerful we are.”
Belly Birth not C-Section: Mothers and birth workers are renaming the term C-section ‘belly birth’ in an effort to empower women who deliver this way, emphasising the connection between the mother and the baby rather than the surgery.
Melbourne-based Shalome, who also runs an online academy for expectant mums and whose own birth stories have ranged from a medicalised hospital birth to two home births, believes it’s important for women to take control of their birth experience, no matter their choice. She says: “There is a tendency to hand over our power in birth by simply turning up at the hospital and saying ‘tell me what to do’ rather than empowering ourselves through education and information in our pregnancy. This impacts our births and that then has a ripple effect. C-section rates are on the rise because we view birth as a medical scenario filled with risk. It is the perfect storm for increased interventions, increased inductions, and subsequently an increased rise in C-sections.
“I am not anti-C-section,” continues Shalome. “I know some women for whom a C-section birth was the perfect powerful experience for them. However, I am anti a society which minimises a women’s ability to birth her baby without intervention by not providing the language, support and environment which she would optimally birth in.
“Don’t let birth be something that is done to you. Be the central decision-maker in your birth experience, not a passenger.”
Dubai midwife Nikki Oliver says she also doesn’t like the term ‘natural’ birth. “I do think it can make a lot of women feel as if they have somehow failed because their experience was not what is deemed ‘natural’. I prefer to use the term ‘holistic birth’. Growing and birthing a baby is one of the most natural things a woman can do. It doesn’t matter if you birth your baby in a pool, on a bed, using all the drugs or nothing at all, or in the operating theatre. You still do your job as a mother.”
Dubai-based doula Yasmin AbuAyed, adds that there should be a focus on providing the right education for mums-to-be, instead of the terminology around birth.
She says: “The attention on the wording is misplaced in my opinion. The attention should be on educating mothers and birthing professionals about how to prepare for and encourage physiological birth.”