Natural Childbirth: Expectations vs Reality

"Natural childbirth" is a concept which gained popularity as long ago as the 1950s, when Dr Grantly Dick-Read advocated a series of deep relaxation and breathing exercises, similar to contemporary hypnosis techniques. More recently, the term has evolved to mean a labour which starts, progresses and is completed without medical intervention, and one which empowers the mother to make choices about the way her labour is managed. It is, therefore, essentially a physiological labour, but contemporary moves to empower women have largely been a revolt against medical interference in childbirth, which started in the 1970s when women were increasingly encouraged to labour in hospital rather than at home, because the medical profession, unlike midwives, views birth as "only normal in retrospect". This led doctors to set parameters for what they considered to be 'normal' labour, a trend which has continued almost unabated ever since. Maternal dissatisfaction has resulted, over the years, in a series of maternity service reports including the Maternity Care in Action reports (1982,1984)[1] and the Changing Childbirth document (1993) which advocated "choice, control and continuity" within antenatal and intrapartum care, yet in many respects little has changed. 

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