Is the Curtis Method only for Natural Births?

If your goal is to birth without medication, you’re taking a powerful step towards that outcome. Most of the couples who complete our program will be able to have completely unmedicated births. Birthing without unnecessary medications and interventions has many proven benefits for mothers and babies. In the right circumstances it can facilitate quicker bonding, faster recovery, an easier start to breastfeeding, and a sense of empowerment and confidence. Labor without medical anesthesia may help reduce the number of birth interventions and complications.

However, this is NOT an anti-medical, anti-epidural, anti-hospital, anti-doctor program. Some mothers will end up choosing to use medical pain relief for their births, and a small percentage will need a cesarean birth. If that is the case for you after your careful preparation and education, you can be assured that you knew your options, you prepared thoroughly both physically and mentally, and that you were then able to make difficult choices without fear and birth without regret. We are committed to helping couples take ownership of their births; to prepare thoroughly, birth confidently, and then LOVE their birth stories, however they unfold.

In our classes, we avoid using the term “Natural Birth.” If some births are “natural”, does that mean other births are unnatural? Labeling birth without an epidural as natural birth implies that other ways of bringing a baby into the world must be un-natural. Instead, to be more accurate, we use the term un-medicated birth.

I don’t believe that there is such a thing as an un-natural birth. It is natural for a woman to listen to her body and her intuition in labor. It’s natural for her to allow labor to unfold as the patterns deep in her DNA dictate. It’s natural for mothers to choose a skilled birth attendant to help ensure a safe, healthy birth. It’s natural for a woman to desire privacy, respect, support, and intimacy as she does her work. It’s natural for a mother to seek help if necessary, for herself or for her baby. It’s natural for her to change her mind at any time if she wants to, and it’s natural for her to have full power over all decisions about her body and her family. Never apologize for following these inclinations; they are part of that ancient mother’s intuition, which has been keeping families safe and healthy throughout the ages.

This is another way in which we take the fear out of birth: by honoring and embracing all the many possible variations that birth encompasses. In this way, every birth is a natural birth: each of us is part of nature, not separate from it, and nature is always stunning in its variety. Your birth, then, is part of the natural world, however it unfolds.

It’s frustrating to me that a woman who labored for many, many hours un-medicated but then chose an epidural towards the end feels like she can’t say “I had a natural birth”, and may even feel like she failed at something, even though she may have labored without medication for 12, 24, 36 hours or more! I once spoke with a new mother who was in active labor (an induced labor with Pitocin, no less) FOR 70 HOURS, and didn’t get an epidural until hour 60. She started the conversation by explaining that “she didn’t get her natural birth”, and said that she “gave up and got the epidural after 60 hours…” This is essentially what I said to her:

“First of all, I understand the disappointment of not getting the experience you wanted and prepared for, especially when you worked so hard for it. But I’ve got to say, you are one of the most hard-core birth warriors I’ve ever met! You’re a samurai! You’re an extreme birth athlete! I’m so glad you showed compassion and kindness to yourself when you were suffering, and used the epidural as a tool to help you relax and cope. You knew what your limits were, and you respected them. That’s really courageous. And it’s totally natural and healthy for a woman to seek medical help when she and her baby need it, so I think you should claim that natural birth! You rocked it!”

See why I don’t like the term “natural birth”? What about empowered birth, compassionate birth, joyful birth, educated birth, powerful birth, healthy birth, positive birth, ecstatic birth? There are so many other beautiful words we could use to describe our experiences, and we get SO hung up on this one aspect.

Everything we learned in class was so helpful for the remainder of pregnancy, and in helping us get our baby here. We felt calm, confident, and prepared as we looked forward to our baby’s arrival. The day didn’t end up going like we had ‘planned': after 22 hours of labor our baby was born by emergency cesarean due to seriously decreased fetal heart rate. We were grateful to get our baby here safely, and I’m glad we proceeded through the pregnancy with the confidence that everything would work out for the best! If I had worried the whole time about worst-case scenarios, my pregnancy and labor would have been so scary. Instead we made confident choices as we were presented with them, and just the ability to let go of my idea of how things were ‘supposed’ to go and not feel ruined or broken afterwards has been a huge blessing, and it was overall a positive experience. I didn’t even feel like I was in labor during my expansions, so much that I was worried they might not take me seriously when we did finally go in to labor and delivery–but I was at 7 cm when we arrived! My husband was an awesome support, taking the Daddy-Doula skills we learned in class and really going for it. I was so proud of him. We’re excited to do a VBAC next time.

Andrea & Justin