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The Language of Birth (Or Why I'm Tired of hearing the term "Natural Birth")

Updated: Oct 29, 2019

I love language. I have always adored the words we have available to us to describe the wonder and awe of existence on this planet.

Our ideas can be transmitted to others, our experiences transmuted into stories, songs, art.

Words are powerful.

They can make us feel loved, feel understood, feel heard and validated. They can connect us, distance us and allow wisdom to passed on.

All of those reasons are why I believe it is crucial that we use our words correctly.

That we are all on the same page when it comes to defining experiences, sharing ideas and communicating with each other.

In several birth or parenthood forums, I see a number of terms being thrown around willy nilly and I wanted to clear up some common misconceptions or simply misuses of words and expressions used to talk about birth and parenting.

Let's jump right in, shall we?

Natural Birth

(Disclaimer: There are no badges of honour being given out for having a so called natural birth. Aim to have an educated birth, an empowered birth, a birth that felt positive and respectful. That can look many different ways)

I often hear/read this being used in this context: "I had an all natural birth, even with Pitocin and after they broke my waters." You had a VAGINAL birth, not a natural one (and that's okay!)

Okay, let's break this down.

1. A "natural" birth is actually a normal physiologic birth and the definition of that is:

A normal physiologic labor and birth is one that is powered by the innate human capacity of the woman and fetus. (from )

That means no induction. No drugs. No interventions. (Of course, leaving space for the moments when these medical interventions are necessary for the safety and wellbeing of birthing person and baby)

Normal physiologic childbirth

• is characterized by spontaneous onset and progression of labor;

• includes biological and psychological conditions that promote effective labor;

• results in the vaginal birth of the infant and placenta;

• results in physiological blood loss;

• facilitates optimal newborn transition through skin-to-skin contact and keeping the mother and infant together during the postpartum period; and

• supports early initiation of breastfeeding.

The following factors disrupt normal physiologic childbirth:

• induction or augmentation of labor;

• an unsupportive environment, i.e., bright lights, cold room, lack of privacy, multiple providers, lack of supportive companions, etc.;

• time constraints, including those driven by institutional policy and/or staffing;

• nutritional deprivation, e.g., food and drink;

• opiates, regional analgesia, or general anesthesia;

• episiotomy;

• operative vaginal (vacuum, forceps) or abdominal (cesarean) birth;

• immediate cord clamping;

• separation of mother and infant; and/or

• any situation in which the mother feels threatened or unsupported.

If you have an induction, use pharmaceutical pain relief, have an operative or tool assisted delivery, you did not have a natural birth (but you still rocked it, you superhero, you!! So, own that shit!)


Vaginal Birth: When baby is born via the vaginal canal.

Operative Vaginal Birth (sometimes referred to as Tool Assisted): This means that baby was born via the vaginal canal AND tools were used to assist them, such as forceps (NOT RECOMMENDED ANYMORE), or the vacuum.

Operative Birth (AKA Cesarean Birth or C-Section): Baby is born via abdominal surgery.

Parenting Terms or Expressions

Self Soothing: An expression used to describe a baby's behaviour when they do not signal for help. A physical impossibility for babies. The infant neocortex (the part of the brain responsible for reasoning, rational thought, and regulating emotions) is largely undeveloped.

"Self-soothing was a term created by Dr. Thomas Anders in the 1970’s to mean the opposite of signalling. It was certainly never meant to be used to promote the idea that a child could calm down from a state of extreme stress (and relax), eventually falling asleep peacefully. He never intended for the term to be taken out of context to suggest that it is a skill that could be taught"

(Check her out! An amazing Infant Sleep Educator, trained by the same teachers I trained with!)

If even the researcher who coined the term is saying it has been taken out of context, can we please just remove it from our vocabulary? It is setting us up for frustration, guilt and non responsive parenting.

Sleeping Through the Night (AKA "Are they a good baby?" *eye roll*)

Sleeping through the night for our young ones means a 5 hour stretch. That is it.

Not 7 pm to 7 am. Not 8 hours straight.




(And for the record, all babies are good babies, even the ones who do not sleep through the night)

I could go on for a long time and in the future, I will try to do more of these informative and myth busting posts!

Happy Learning!

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