Natural childbirth: should I be afraid?

January 11, 2024

Choosing the type of childbirth is an important time for every mother-to-be. Lately, much attention has been directed toward natural childbirth, which is vaginal delivery. In some cases, we go so far as to think that natural childbirth is home birth, out of a strange belief that dislikes the medicalization of childbirth (completely ignoring the fact that neonatal mortality is infinitely lower in countries where childbirth is handled in proper hospitals and with trained staff, because you can solve situations like neonatal asphyxia for example). It is good, therefore, to be well-informed about what natural childbirth entails and how it is carried out. In this article, we will try to answer some of the most common questions.

What is the most painful stage of natural childbirth?

The most painful phase of natural childbirth is usually the phase before the actual expulsion of the baby, known as the labor phase. During this phase, contractions increase in both intensity and frequency, becoming very painful. Pain can vary from woman to woman and can be influenced by several factors, including the position of the baby, the mother’s health status, and her physical and mental preparation for childbirth.

The second stage of childbirth, that of expulsion, is still painful even if an epidural injection has been given no less challenging. During this stage, the mother has to make great physical effort to push the baby out, but the sensation of pain is sometimes mitigated by the knowledge that the moment of birth is near.

There is one component that is common to many mothers to note: although the pain can be very severe, almost all of them completely forget the sensation shortly after the birth and quietly come to want to do it again.

How does natural childbirth take place?

Natural childbirth takes place “ideally” without the use of drugs or medical interventions to speed up or facilitate the process. Childbirth begins with contractions, which gradually become more frequent and intense. When contractions reach a certain frequency, the woman is taken to the delivery room, where she is assisted by a team of doctors and nurses.

During natural childbirth, the woman can assume the position she prefers and that seems most comfortable to her. The expulsion phase begins when the cervix is fully dilated and ends with the birth of the baby. After birth, there is the postpartum phase, during which the placenta is expelled and the mother is assisted with any necessary care.

How long does an average natural childbirth last?

The duration of a natural birth can vary greatly from woman to woman. On average, a woman’s first natural birth can last between 12 and 14 hours, while subsequent births are usually shorter, with an average duration of 6 to 8 hours. However, these are only averages, and it is not uncommon for a birth to last much longer or be shorter than expected. It depends a lot on the preparation of the woman and her body, the rapidity of dilation, and the speed of expulsion… in short, we can safely say that it is impossible to make accurate predictions.

What does it feel like during natural childbirth?

During natural childbirth, women experience a range of physical and emotional sensations. Contractions can be painful, and women often describe a feeling of pressure or cramping. Some women find it helpful to focus on breathing or use relaxation techniques to manage the pain.

Technically, the more relaxed you are, the less the pain will be. But in any case, let’s remember that we are not left in the Middle Ages: it is not necessary to experience all the pain that a normal birth causes: an epidural with analgesia or anesthesia has become a right, a basic welfare treatment.

Emotionally, natural childbirth can be a very intense experience. Many women experience a feeling of empowerment and connection with their bodies, while others may experience fear or anxiety. It is important to remember that every woman has a unique experience of childbirth and that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to experience this moment and force a woman to go through unnecessary torture to adhere to an ideal of “natural childbirth,” especially, in cases where a cesarean section, perhaps emergency, would be better.

That, in some cases, can loom large in obstetric violence. That’s why it’s important to inform yourself in advance about your hospital’s capabilities and mode of action, so you don’t have wrong expectations and know what your rights are.

How to have a quick and easy birth?

To facilitate natural childbirth and make the experience more comfortable, it is important to prepare physically and mentally. Regular exercise during pregnancy can help strengthen the muscles used during childbirth and improve endurance. Good nutrition is also essential to keep the body strong and healthy. Perineal massage in the third trimester can also help some flexibility of the pelvic muscles and avoid tears.

On a mental level, childbirth preparation classes can help you understand the birthing process and manage anxiety. Knowing your body and learning relaxation techniques can help you manage pain and stay focused during childbirth.

To what do childbirth pains compare?

The pain of childbirth is a very personal experience and each woman describes it differently. Some women compare contractions to very intense menstrual cramps, while others describe them as pain similar to that caused by severe back pain. Some women find it helpful to think of the pain of childbirth as “productive” or “positive,” as it is a pain that leads to the birth of their child.

We are with you.

Natural childbirth is a unique and intense experience. Being well-prepared and informed can help make the experience more comfortable and better manage the pain. That’s why we have created in collaboration with the Policentro Pediatrico e Donna in Milan a beautiful preparatory course that you can attend from home, you can find it at this link.

We also support you postpartum, with our courses, guides, and consultations aimed at helping you solve a specific problem.

Remember: in this magnificent journey you will never be alone: we are with you.


WHO recommendations: intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience