Study Identifies Why Some Women Are More Likely to Have a “Normal Birth”

A new Australian study sheds light on a variety of factors that may help to promote or prohibit “normal birth.”Many woman desire intervention-free births, but only a small minority end up having the birth that they envisioned. A new Australian study sheds light on a variety of factors that may help to promote or prohibit “normal birth.”

The idea of a normal birth varies from woman to woman. While some might consider any form of vaginal birth normal, others might feel that the use of medication during delivery is far from normal. The definition of normal birth is, indeed, up to interpretation.

It’s relatively safe to say that the vast of majority of women would prefer to have a birth that is as intervention-free as possible. However, with nearly 32% of births in the United States resulting in C-sections, and many more requiring anesthesia, induction medications, and forceps, very few hospital births happen without intervention.

Related: Unexpected Interventions Women Often Leave Off Their Birth Plan

New research from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia sheds light on the various reasons why some women are unable to have what is considered a “normal birth.”

For the purpose of the study, normal birth was defined as unassisted vaginal birth without induction of labor, epidural or general anesthetic, forceps or episiotomy.

For the study, 5,840 Australian women who gave birth over a four-month period responded to a questionnaire about their preferences for and experiences during pregnancy, labor, birth, and postnatal care. Their responses were then analyzed around four aspects of normal birth: onset of labor, use of anesthesia, mode of birth, and use of episiotomy.

The researchers found that 28.7% of women in the study had normal births. The study identified several non-modifiable factors that decreased the odds that a woman would have a normal birth. First-time moms, those with a previous history of caesareans, older mothers, and mothers who had pregnancy-related health conditions were much less likely to have an intervention-free birth.

Related: Natural Birth or Not, We Need to Be Educated About Interventions

Researchers identified several modifiable factors that enhanced the chances that a mother would have a normal birth. Those who lived outside of major cities, had freedom of movement throughout labor, did not labor while lying down, received continuity of care by shared providers or midwives, and did not receive any method of induction were more likely to have natural births.

“We do this kind of research primarily to give women the information they need to make informed decisions about their maternity care,” said study author and Professor Yvette Miller.

The study concludes: “To support the desired promotion of normal birth, care providers and women must be made aware of existing evidence for how care and treatment-related factors influence normal birth outcomes.”


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