Natural Birth

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Birth

No other experience puts a woman in touch with the process of creation as literally and vividly as that of giving birth. And no birth experience can connect her to the source as directly as a natural birth. Going through natural childbirth can empower a woman for the rest of her life, leaving her with unshakable trust in her own Mother Bear wisdom. Women who have been in touch with that wisdom rarely develop the postpartum depression or other mood disorders that are so common in our culture. And because they don’t fear birth, they don’t fear death either.

Women labor as they live. The process of labor tends to lay bare a woman’s inherent adaptability and inner resources for everyone, including herself, to see. If she’s well supported by her labor team and her loved ones and able to tune into her Mother Bear wisdom by taking part in the process consciously, then she will emerge from it with greater resources and adaptability than she had going in. Perhaps the most important thing she will get out of it is the experience of surrendering to a natural process that is enhanced by full consciousness but cannot be controlled with the intellect—exactly the skills required to raise a child (or follow a life passion) successfully.

Spiritual and Holistic Options

Natural birth is labor that proceeds without unnecessary medical interventions—for example, cesarean section, epidural anesthesia, artificial induction of labor. Such interventions have their place, of course, when there are problems, but for the vast majority of women, they aren’t needed.

Neurologically speaking, labor is a series of motor movements that your body knows how to engage in. They are as natural and automatic as the reflexes that cause your knee to kick out when a doctor taps it in the right place.

Anatomically speaking, no drug or medical procedure has ever been invented that can improve upon the original design of the female body when it comes to birthing. Let’s start with the uterus, the baby’s home during the nine months of pregnancy. Once labor begins, the uterus is a muscle that knows exactly how to do the work of pushing the baby down toward the cervix and, once the cervix has dilated to about ten centimeters, into and through the birth canal.

The cervix, which is the opening at the bottom of the uterus, consists of muscular tissue which remains tightly closed during pregnancy, keeping the baby safely within, until labor begins and it gradually opens.

The pelvis is almost always adequate in size to allow the passage of the baby, even a very large one, because the four bones that make up the pelvis are joined together by ligaments, which loosen up during late pregnancy and labor. This ensures that the pelvis can widen enough for birth to take place without damage to either mother or child. Yet many ob-gyns have been taught to routinely do pelvic measurements or ultrasound to determine whether or not a woman will need a cesarean section. My ninety-pound four feet eleven inch maternal grandmother delivered my mother and my aunt at home. Both weighed over nine pounds. Good thing no one ever told her that her pelvis wasn’t adequate to birth those babies.

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

If this seems foreign to you, I recommend seeing the movie Birth as We Know It shows us another way. Imagine watching a woman calmly allowing her body to open up and birth her baby—with no screaming, no yelling, no sense of an emergency or a crisis. Just calmly reaching down, allowing the baby to emerge into warm water, then bringing the child to her breast. Imagine a baby who doesn’t scream and cry but who emerges wide-eyed and curious, and gazes at its parents in wonder. Imagine being mesmerized by a laboring woman moving her hips in the time-honored tradition of hula or belly dance—movements designed to assist the birthing process. Imagine seeing a woman giving birth in full orgasmic ecstasy, allowing the energy of creation to flow through her body and open her up to birth safely and beautifully. That’s what this film shows.

I was so moved by Birth as We Know It by Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova that I had my daughters watch it along with their friends. They were completely transfixed. And all of them said, “I want that!” Who wouldn’t? This is a film about women remembering their birth power—women who have healed themselves at the deepest levels—and who have said “yes” to the power that is available through conscious birth.

My dream for women everywhere is that we each embrace our birth power and learn how to joyfully dance our creations into being—whether these creations are babies, books, or a happy, joyous life! A very powerful first step is embracing the wisdom your body and updating your beliefs about natural birth.

Learn More — Additional Resources

  • Ina May Gaskin is one of the best-known pioneers of midwifery. Learn more about her work at www.inamay.com or by reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.
  • Coalition for Improving Maternity Service (CIMS) is a collaborative effort of numerous individuals and more than 50 organizations representing over 90,000 members. CIMS aims to promote a wellness model of maternity care.
  • Doulas of North America (DONA) is an international association of more than 4,000 doulas nationwide who are trained to provide the highest quality emotional, physical, and educational support to women and their families during childbirth and postpartum.
  • Childbirth.org, founded by doula Robin Elise Weiss, is a source of comprehensive information on pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Birthworks believes in empowering women by developing their self-confidence, trust, and faith in their ability to give birth.
  • Mother-Daughter Wisdom, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 4, “Pregnancy: Trusting the Process of Life” and Chapter 5, “Labor and Birth: Accessing Your Feminine Power”
  • The Wisdom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup, M.D., Chapter 12, “Pregnancy and Birthing”
  • Birth As We Know It, a movie by Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova shows the beauty of natural birth in water
  • Journey into Motherhood: Inspiring Stories of Natural Birth, by Sheri Menelli
Last Updated: February 23, 2007

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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