What is a Safe and Healthy Birth?

Adapted from The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence.

We are just one generation away from the days when a girl grew up on a farm watching the sheep and pigs give birth. Anyone who saw that year after year knew that giving birth was a natural process, a process that could be trusted. —Ina May Gaskin

The mission of Lamaze International is to promote, support and protect natural, safe and healthy birth through education and advocacy through the dedicated efforts of childbirth educators, providers and parents. A normal birth is one that unfolds naturally, free of unnecessary interventions. A woman’s body is beautifully designed to grow, birth and nurture a baby. To work properly, this elegant design requires patience and trust.

An evolving body of research repeatedly shows the danger of interfering without a valid reason in the natural processes of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. Any intervention, no matter how simple it seems, may disrupt the normal process and create problems that, in turn, must be managed with more interventions. All interventions have side effects that can be risky for both mothers and babies. In light of such evidence, the World Health Organization (WHO), a leader in the international public health effort to promote normal birth, says that maternity care should aim to achieve a healthy mother and child with the least intervention safely possible.

In the United States, reality falls far short of this goal. Most births in the U.S. today are interrupted by procedures designed to start, maintain, and finish labor according to an arbitrary schedule. Few women experience their pregnant bodies unfolding and opening in their own time, in their own way. Ironically, normal birth isn’t the norm for American women.

Practices That Support Normal Birth

Research reveals not only the dangers of interfering in the natural process of birth, but also maternity care practices that help keep birth normal. The WHO identifies four care practices, and Lamaze adds two more (marked with asterisks: *). These practices ensure the best care for birthing women around the world.

  1. Let Labor begin on its own.
  2. Walk, move around, and change position throughout labor.*
  3. Bring a loved one, friend, or doula for continuous support.
  4. Avoid interventions that are not medically indicated.*
  5. Avoid giving birth on your back, and follow your body’s urges to push.
  6. Keep mother and baby together – its best for mother, baby, and breastfeeding.

Additional important information:

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