Feature Archive

Natural Childbirth Options

WebMD Feature

Natural childbirth, which women have experienced for centuries, is undergoing a renaissance of sorts as a growing number of women are electing to have a midwife shepherd them through the delivery at home or in a birthing center.

Although the numbers are small -- only a tiny percentage of births in this country occur at home or at birthing centers -- more and more women are choosing a self-directed approach to birth. Combining safety with the comfort of home or a birthing center allows for the natural process of birth to unfold in an unhurried manner.

Birthing Centers

Birthing rooms at birthing centers resemble homes with a large bed, a living area, and bathroom and kitchen facilities. Centers are usually equipped with hot tubs or whirlpool baths. Lighting is low, the mood intimate, and the environment soothing. Mothers are encouraged to walk, eat, drink, and get into positions that are comfortable for them throughout labor and birth -- such as on their hands and knees, in a birthing chair, or in a tub. As soon as the baby is born, he or she is placed into the hands of the mother to promote bonding.

Home Births

The mother and caregiver create the home-birth setting as they see fit, usually in a spare room made as comfortable and as clean as possible. If a woman opts for a water birth, a portable tub is set up in a designated room. A midwife brings the necessary medical accoutrements, which may include a birthing chair to take advantage of gravity during labor.