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"Natural childbirth" many people are talking about this concept, both online and offline. But just what is natural birth all about? Is it a physiological thing, or an ideological thing? Views are divided, and debates about this topic get unbelievably heated. But why?

We asked a few people to define natural childbirth. Here's what we got:

"Natural childbirth, as far as I'm concerned, is birth without medical intervention. But I don't think a midwife is medical intervention, or anything. As long as you let nature take it's course." Anna.

"I guess there's no painkillers involved." Mom of two.

"Natural childbirth is a movement that is opposed to medication and other procedures, like epidurals. I was induced, and this friend who had a natural birth at home made me feel like a terrible mother for it." Tonica.

Natural childbirth has become something that is rather hard to define. Indeed, this phrase is often specifically used to describe a set of beliefs often held by midwives. Natural childbirth, in this sense, is a backlash against the medicalized maternity system in which inductions, epidural anesthesia, and c-sections are commonplace often without a real medical need. Women who hold these beliefs wish to go "back to nature", and want to avoid the medical interventions they see as dangerous.

What exactly is natural, and what is the opposite of that... unnatural? The "natural childbirth movement" would probably stick an unassisted homebirth and lotus birth at the extreme end of natural and an elective, scheduled c-section at the other end that is, the medicalized birth end. I've seen actual discussions on natural parenting forums about whether it's still a natural birth if you've taken a paracetomal, "but because I had a headache, not for the labor pains".

To people with a more pragmatic view of birth, natural childbirth may simply mean vaginal birth, or an unmedicated birth. Although the term natural childbirth has become a bit loaded, we can probably all agree that it means what you want it to mean.

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