I have a question and maybe you can help me out? When I started working as a doula and a childbirth educator almost 15 years ago, I had a lot of terms to learn. In my doula training, I learned it was important to understand and use the same terms as my clients as they discussed their body, their pregnancy and even their identity and family structure. And I did. I am sure you do too.

When I started doing birth work, “natural childbirth” was an unmedicated vaginal birth, where the person gave birth vaginally without any pain medications, (epidural, narcotics, or nitrous oxide or others). Pitocin, forceps, vacuum, induction, etc all could be involved, but the baby came out the vagina and the parent did not use pharmacological pain relief. My clients considered this to be the definition of a “natural childbirth” and would refer to this type of birth as such. If the birthing person had pain medication, that was a medicated birth (and it was still vaginal.)

I believe over the past decade and a half, this definition has changed in the minds of my doula clients and the students in my childbirth classes. For the most part, the people giving birth today define “natural childbirth” as a vaginal birth. Of any kind. Simply, that it was not a cesarean section.

Take this short poll, and then check out the results. Are you surprised by the responses?

I have to say, it took me a while to realize that the type of birth my clients referred to when they used the phrase “natural birth” had shifted from my original knowledge of what a “natural birth” had meant some years ago. As a doula and a childbirth educator, like all of you, I support whatever birth my clients have a preference for, and I also know that desires and circumstances change. Flexibility is always helpful. I do not have a vested interest in how the baby is born but rather that families feel positive about their experience and that they felt heard and respected.

I need to remind myself when I am talking with clients and students to clarify what they mean when they refer to “natural” when talking about a birth experience. I use the terms unmedicated and medicated myself, but it is critical to understand what terms today’s parents are using. I imagine that this may be cultural, regional and be influenced by experience and history for each family.

Are you surprised by the responses so far? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.