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Natural Birth Statistics Infographic

Where’s the disconnect? Why can good midwives, and I’m sure some obstetricians too, safely achieve a 95% natural birth rate while the natural birth rate in America at large is below 2%? I respect women’s rights to make an informed decision to choose pain relief during labor. When will women who desire a natural birth be given the same respect and support by medical professionals? Unnecessary procedures during labor and birth put the health of moms and babies at risk, waste money, and deny women of the sacred experience of birthing naturally. If you support a woman’s right to a natural birth, please share this infographic.

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This post is linked up with Frugally Sustainable, Your Green Resource, Simple Lives Thursday, Wellness Wednesday.

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39 Comments

  1. Great information! I had so many friends tell me that I must be so strong to handle a natural birth, but the truth was, if I hadn’t been at home, I’d have definitely gotten an epidural! I definitely understand why women get them when they’re so readily available! But once I conquered the pain, I got such an incredible rush…it was worth every second!

    Reply
    • That’s a great point, it’s sort of just a matter of convenience. I’ve also heard all too often of nurses and doctors pressuring women into getting epidurals or telling them they won’t be able to handle it without one. It’d be tough to stay strong when your support team doesn’t believe in you!

      Reply
    • I had a wonderful doctor during my labor with my youngest. He knew I didn’t want an epidural and when I felt like I couldn’t handle the pain anymore I told the nurse I changed my mind. The doctor came in and talked to me. He said “I know that you really didn’t want one so is there anything I can do to make you feel more comfortable” He helped me calm down and get repositioned in the bed so I didn’t need one.
      But, I also had the opposite experience with my oldest. the doc tried to talk me into an epidural and I was somehow able to hold my ground.

      Reply
  2. Thanks! I’ll be sure to share this on facebook!

    Reply
  3. Yes. I can look at both of my births and pinpoint where I started believing that my baby was in danger. If I had been informed, if my partner had been informed, we would have chosen differently. I wanted a natural birth and tried both times. Both times I ended up with a c-section. Thank you for sharing this important information.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry to hear you didn’t get the natural births that you were hoping for. Thank you for sharing your story! I hope it will encourage others to seek good information in preparation for natural birth.

      Reply
  4. I had one birth with an epidural and was convinced the entire time I couldn’t birth her. My second baby I had without ANY intervention and knew my body knew what to do and how to do it. As a matter of fact my midwife was surprised when I calmly told her I was going to have a baby and birthed my 9 lb 15 oz babe with 3 pushes.
    I found so much strength reading Ina May Gaskin and realized that the female body is awesome, amazing, inspiring and POWERFUL!

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing your perspective as someone who has seen both sides of birth! It is such an amazing and empowering experience to birth naturally!

      Reply
    • Thank you Tamara! I hope the information will be helpful!

      Reply
  5. Thanks for helping inform. My second would have been natural if the doctor hadn’t offered it. I really wish that it was the standard to NOT offer it by default. The birth went remarkably, but I know that I (and my baby) are lucky in that regard.

    Reply
    • You’re right! With all of the unnecessary risks that come with an epidural, it should be standard not to offer it. If a woman has it in her birth plan that she wants it, then that’s just fine. Why do they have to pressure those who don’t want it? I’m so happy to hear you had a great birth despite that.

      Reply
  6. Honestly, I think that most of the 98% don’t WANT a natural birth.

    But we’re also not really told of any of the risks. And some of this stuff is just craziness. I went into preterm labor with my last baby. You know what they gave me to stop it? One of the painkilling drugs they give mamas in labor. Hmmm…I wonder why there’s so much “failure to progress.”

    Women too often truly aren’t taught about the impact these decisions have on their births and their babies. And yet, most women I know have 0 interest in a drug-free birth.

    I’ll just take my undrugged babies (whose alertness people always marvel over for WEEKS – I think because it’s so rare for them to see babies born without the influence of painkillers!)

    Reply
    • You bring up a really interesting point: How many women actually WANT to have a natural birth? I would suspect it’s higher than 2%, but my view is probably a little skewed. Being that I write about natural birth and I live in Seattle, I come into contact with a ton of women who want or have had a natural birth. It’s tough to find any info on that. However, like you say, if more people were informed about the risks they may feel differently. Congratulations on making a healthy choice for yourself and your babies!

      Reply
    • This is such a good point about women not wanting to do natural births. I know that whenever I’ve told people about the births of my boys (both births were natural, one while on pitocin), one of the common reactions is “Why?” I even had one person tell me that not getting an epidural was like not taking medicine when you’re sick. Seriously.

      When I tell people how great I felt after giving birth, it’s like new information to them. They can’t believe it. And I’m with you Rachel — I’ll take my undrugged babies, too (both of my boys were so alert, too).

      Reply
    • Wow Heather! Anyone who makes it through without pain meds while on Pitocin is amazing! I’m so glad you’re able to share with others about your great experience! Maybe if we all just keep sharing our stories we can change the birth culture.

      Reply
  7. I had planned to get an epidural and due to a complication was not able to get any pain medication. (Usually it’s the other way around, right?!) It was actually a blessing in disguise to experience a natural birth. Don’t get me wrong – it was so painful! But in retrospect, although it was not a “choice” for me, I’m glad to have experienced childbirth in the way I did.

    Reply
    • What a crazy turn of events! I’m glad you got to enjoy the benefits of natural childbirth even if it was by accident. :)

      Reply
  8. I think you have a great point, and I certainly am an advocate of natural birth. I did it myself and thought it was a great experience.

    However, as a research professional, I have to point out that women who would give birth with Ina May Gaskin are not a random sample of the United States population. They are most likely healthier, less accustomed to taking painkillers for every discomfort, more experienced with mellow habits of mind, more willing to put some effort into labor instead of just lying there, more experienced with using natural approaches to life processes, more familiar with their private parts–and all of those things contribute to success in natural birth.

    So, while I agree that American OBs and hospitals could do a whole lot more to encourage natural birth and that doing so would improve the statistics, I doubt they would come down to the levels of Ina May’s clients.

    Reply
    • That’s a great point Becca! I guess my point in all this is that natural birth is possible. Maybe we’re not going to get to 95%, but I do believe it’s possible and a healthy choice for the majority of us. If we do prepare, if we put the effort into learning to relax, into learning what natural labor and birth look like, etc, like Ina May’s patients probably did, it is possible to birth naturally.

      It’s also interesting to note that Ina May’s patients did include some higher risk births including multiples, grand-multiparas, diabetics, breech, VBAC, etc.

      Reply
  9. Love this! As the commenter above mentioned, no the ladies going to Ina May Gaskin are not a random sample. They are however average ladies in most ways. The big difference is that they are educated on natural birth and hospital practices. I’m convinced that the number of interventions would be greatly reduced if more women took the time to educate themselves.
    For myself, my studies led me to a home birth largely because I didn’t want to give myself the option of easy intervention and a good thing it was! My labor was long and hard enough, with little enough progress that, according to statistics, I would have at least been put on pitocin, and probably given a c-section. Things turned out fine though, and I’m glad I didn’t add to that 43% statistic.

    Reply
    • I agree, education and preparation makes a big difference. Most people in our culture just don’t know what natural birth looks like or even that it’s possible. If anyone knew how great it was, I am sure many more people would want to try it! It’s too bad people just blindly trust the doctors and hospitals to do what is best without really researching for their own family.

      I’m so happy you got to experience a natural home birth for yourself! Congratulations!

      Reply
  10. I love this graphic so much! I’ve shared it on Pinterest and my FB. Love Ina May!

    Reply
  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    Reply
  12. While I agree that women should be informed, I believe that as a parent, even before your baby is born, you have a responsibility to do your research and ask a ton of questions. I had my daughter via a planned c-section. I had a very long conversation with my OB, talked to everyone I knew who had had a c-section and did a ton of research before making my decisiion. My daughter was estimated at close to 11lbs through an ultra sound done by a specialist. My OB was open to me attempting a natural birth and layed out all of the pros and cons for all of my options. My daughter ended up weighing. 10lbs 7oz at 39 weeks. I chose my Dr because she speaks to me like I am an intelligent person, listens to me, and answers my questions. I have been amazed by some of the stories my friends have told me about their Drs. Do your research and don’t put up with being patted on the head!

    Reply
  13. While I agree that women should be informed, I believe that as a parent, even before your baby is born, you have a responsibility to do your research and ask a ton of questions. I had my daughter via a planned c-section. I had a very long conversation with my OB, talked to everyone I knew who had had a c-section and did a ton of research before making my decisiion. My daughter was estimated at close to 11lbs through an ultra sound done by a specialist. My OB was open to me attempting a natural birth and layed out all of the pros and cons for all of my options. My daughter ended up weighing. 10lbs 7oz at 39 weeks. I chose my Dr because she speaks to me like I am an intelligent person, listens to me, and answers my questions. I have been amazed by some of the stories my friends have told me about their Drs. Do your research and don’t put up with being patted on the head!

    Reply
  14. What is sad is that alot of people these days think that “natural birth” means “vaginal birth”!! My mother has four children and all four were natural births. I planned to have a natural birth as well. At 38 1/2 weeks and ultrasound estimated my baby to weigh over 10 pounds. My doctor said that her policy was to do a c-section at that point. We discussed the risks of trying to have her naturally and decided to go with the c-section. She ended up weighing 10lb 7oz and my doctor said that if I had had her naturally she would most likely have broken her shoulder and my pelvic bone. I am all for natural birth but in some cases the risk is too much!

    Reply
  15. I agree with the two above comments. I wanted to have a natural birth. I really tried, too. But my baby was too big (over 10 lbs.) and my body could not handle it. I could not even go into full labor with all the pit they pumped into me. I ended up having a c-section because it was healthier for the baby (infection was starting to set in). So yes, more people probably could have a natural birth. But please do not judge those who do not. You do not know their reasons. It is ignorant to think you are “stronger” than someone else because you went through natural birth and they did not. Sometimes you have to be strong in doing what is best for the baby and not what you want.

    Reply
  16. This is great information. I live near the farm and would love to deliver there if we can afford it. Right now our insurance won’t cover it unfortunately, but I am hopeful that will change in the future. Her book was absolutely amazing.

    Reply
  17. Powerful! This would make a great billboard for our area’s Improving Birth rally in September!

    Pinning and sharing.

    Reply
  18. Just shared this on Pinterest, thanks for making it available for us! I found your blog via the Wellness Wednesday link up on Raising the Barrs :)

    Reply
  19. I am having a baby in April of 2014. I am young. (19) But very excited about my baby coming into this world. I was shocked, when i first became pregnant because coming up in this day and age, to me, there was nothing natural, about natural birth. By that i mean, I simple thought why you would I want to go through all the pain when I can just take some drugs and my baby can be here the same way? (Vaginally) When I talked this over with my mother, she told me her story about having to have an emergency C-section, because of the pitocin they gave her. I then watched the movie “The business of being born” which gave me tons of info about natural child birth and quickly convinced me that, that was the way to go. I’ve been researching tons of techniques about how to handle the labor pain, and how NOT to give in. Very much looking forward to my natural birth and am praying it will go as I plan. :)

    Reply
  20. I was wondering how you got your statistics. I am all for natural birth, but the data seems to be flawed. I cannot find a reliable source that lists the natural birth rate at less than 2%.

    Reply
    • All of the citations for each of the statistics are in the bottom right of the infographic. The overall birth rates for the US come from CDC data, and the midwife rates come from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and represent the 30+ of experience of the Farm midwives. I think your confusion may come from which definition of “natural birth” that you use. To many, a natural birth simply means a vaginal (non-surgical) birth. What I’m talking about here is a natural birth without medical interventions. You can easily find the rates of epidural, induction, augmentation, and c-section to derive the remaining maximum proportion of natural births.

      Reply
  21. I had my son at home with just my husband tending to me. It is a beautiful opportunity to experience the wonder of life and creation. It was many hours of laboring but well worth the journey :)

    Reply

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