Birth Series (3) – Comparing a Medical vs. Natural Birth

Welcome to a quick read of my analysis, takeaways, and comparisons of my experiences with both medical birth and natural birth.

Hospital birth

Read the whole story of my hospital birth experience: “Birth Series (1) – A Hospital Birth Experience”

Natural birth

Read the whole story of my natural birth experience: “Birth Series (2) – A Water Birth Experience”

My preparations during pregnancy

Medical birth

I dreaded the birth experience, expecting the worst pain of my life. Childbirth was about my biggest fear since I was a child. After 9 months of an incredibly challenging pregnancy, including severe morning sickness, all I could think about was getting it over with. I actively refused to learn more because it was so frightening and anxious a topic for me.

  • I chose a doctor at the nearest hospital. It was also the one in-network with my insurance.
  • I went to all of my prenatal appointments with my OBGYN.
  • My doctor prescribed me some anti-nausea medication, but I would immediately throw it up.
  • I followed my baby’s development and my pregnancy through an app, “What to Expect.”
  • I toured my birth facilities before giving birth.

Natural birth

This was another very challenging pregnancy, but I decided early on I would try a different approach.

  • I chose a new doctor at a different hospital who was committed to empowering women and helping me feel in control.
  • This doctor prescribed me a slightly different anti-nausea medicine that I usually kept down; it made this pregnancy significantly more bearable.
  • I read a lot of books and other material on natural birth.
  • I switched to a midwife.
  • I hired a doula.
  • I worked with my midwife and doula to find diet and lifestyle solutions to many pregnancy symptoms.
  • I took two natural birth classes.
  • I joined natural birth Facebook groups for support.
  • I included my husband in my preparations. He worked with me to practice relaxation techniques daily for several weeks. He took a birth class with me, and we wrote a birth plan together.

*You can read my natural birth research reviews at: “Birth Series (A) – Childbirth Research Reviews”

Interventions/medical procedures

Hospital birth

Prenatal appointments:

  • Several cervical checks in third trimester.
  • Opted out of the glucose test; did it at home with my diabetic husband (drank a soda, then tested blood sugar level).
  • Group B Strep (GBS) test performed on me; I came back positive.
  • Membranes stripped.

Birth:

  • Probably 10+ cervical checks.
  • Epidural, my choice.
  • Pitocin, to speed along the labor.
  • Continuous fetal monitoring after epidural.
  • IV. (Required by hospital with epidural. Also required by hospital to administer antibiotics to treat GBS.)
  • Episiotomy.

Postpartum:

  • Stitches for episiotomy.
  • Baby fed formula for first meal, after little opportunity to nurse.
  • Fundal massages in the hospital.

Natural birth

Prenatal appointments:

  • Zero cervical checks.
  • Did glucose test at midwife’s office but performed by my diabetic husband (ate a normal meal, then tested blood sugar level, showing midwife diabetic’s finger-pricking technique). 
  • One foot zoning and a prenatal massage, included with midwife package.
  • Visited a chiropractor about 8 times during pregnancy.
  • Self-administered GBS test; I came back negative (after midwife advised me on dietary changes to decrease risk).

Birth:

  • Intermittent fetal monitoring and vital checks on me.
  • Essential oils to help with nausea.
  • Manual pressure on my back to ease pain.
  • Inflatable birth tub.

Postpartum:

  • One no-contact vaginal check right after birth.
  • 3 hot rock and essential oil massages on belly and 3 herbal sitz baths within 1 week postpartum.

My overall thoughts, feelings, and analyses

Hospital birth

  • I am learning to feel peace about it, but it is only coming after now years of emotional pain.
  • I don’t like to relive it.
  • I felt out of control.
  • In large part, this birth happened to me; it doesn’t feel like something I actively did or chose.
  • In the moment, it was the path of least resistance, but it did not end up as the cut-and-clear “easier” way.
  • The actual birth was mostly painless.
  • The physical recovery took weeks of terrible pain and months of mild pain.
  • While I wouldn’t do an epidural again, I think it was necessary for where I was at the moment and considering the very meager preparation I had put in.
  • I mourn the experience that could have been and wish I had given my sweet baby girl a better, healthier, more bonding start to life.
  • Despite the trauma of both pregnancy and birth and the inherent work we both had to go through, 2 years later, she and I are both generally happy and healthy.

Natural birth

  • I feel complete peace about the moment.
  • I am happy to relive it.
  • I felt very much in control.
  • In the moment, the preparation and the birth took a lot of work, effort, and even some pain, but it ended up as an easier, less painful route in many ways.
  • The actual birth involved some pain, but it wasn’t as completely awful as I imagined it could be. The final hour or two were very hard; the rest was quite manageable.
  • The physical recovery took just a few days of moderate pain and a few weeks of mild pain.
  • I would absolutely choose this route again.
  • I am grateful to have given my sweet baby boy a peaceful, healthy, bonding start to life.
  • My baby and I are both generally happy and healthy.

Did you know?

Here are a few simple takeaways I wish I had ever heard before beginning my own digging. If this is one of your first introductions to the idea of a natural birth, I hope reading these ideas is helpful for you as you do a better job than I did the first time around in considering your options.

I’m sorry; I’m not citing them individually here. Please consider my birth reviews post and my birth experiences posts as my references.

  • Giving birth and laboring on your back is about the worst position possible and may increase your risk of c-section, tearing, and episiotomy.
  • Epidurals can cause babies to be too drowsy to eat when they are born.
  • Epidurals may cause increased chances of tearing and episiotomies.
  • Epidurals are associated with higher C-section rates.
  • If you were positive for Group B strep once, you can take measures to not be positive the second time (even though it’s not guaranteed).
  • Most hospital staff do want you to learn to breastfeed your baby. However, many hospitals don’t care to teach you a sustainable way to breastfeed. This is because many hospitals only track percent of moms who leave the hospital breastfeeding, checked yes or no. They get credit if they teach you a shortcut way to breastfeed that won’t work in the long run.
  • You have medical rights. You can say no to nearly everything a hospital requests to do to you or your baby.
  • Water birth may make birth easier for moms and is not dangerous for babies.
  • Birth is not usually a life-threatening situation.
  • You don’t necessarily need to receive cervical checks at birth.
  • Pitocin can increase the pain of contractions and even, sometimes, introduce new risks to your baby.
  • Labor may not be linear. It’s okay if your labor is split up into two or more bursts. It’s good, in fact; it means more rest time for mom!
  • You don’t necessarily need fundal massages after birth.

An important note

I do not mean to bash on anyone who has chosen a hospital birth or has needed a hospital birth. A birth is a birth, and that’s wonderful! I simply mean to bring honesty, truth, and light to a topic that I don’t feel I had my first go round.

A meager conclusion

This series has been pretty different than my typical content, and I guess now I am basically a full-blown mommy blogger. Whoops.

Allow me to wrap up this series with a testimony. I testify that God loves the work of mothers. He blesses mothers, and he foreordained motherhood. Childbearing is a difficult but holy work. Any way you choose or are able to bring life to this world is to be honored.

Let’s chat

What other questions do you have about my two experiences? How does my analysis here compare with your experiences or beliefs?

2 thoughts on “Birth Series (3) – Comparing a Medical vs. Natural Birth

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