pregnant woman

What is a straightforward birth?

Straightforward birth means giving birth vaginally without any procedures or interventions. Read about the advantages and how to encourage a straightforward birth.

This article covers the definition of straightforward birth, the benefits for mother and baby, and who can have a straightforward birth. Straightforward birth, which is sometimes called natural birth, means giving birth vaginally, without any procedures or interventions. Interventions include those that are carried out in hospital by a specialist hospital doctor, such as:

It is possible to experience a straightforward birth at home, in a birth centre, or in hospital.

What are the benefits of straightforward birth?

Evidence shows that improving opportunities for women to experience straightforward birth has positive benefits, both physical and psychological. Some of these benefits are:

  • You are less likely to suffer from pain after childbirth than women recovering from a caesarean or an assisted delivery.
  • You are more likely to initiate breastfeeding than women who had a caesarean birth.
  • You are more likely to feel satisfied with spontaneous vaginal delivery than if you have your labour induced or accelerated, or have an episiotomy or epidural.

After a straightforward birth you have a greater chance of starting motherhood fit and healthy and able to cope with the demands of a new baby.  

Who can have a straightforward birth?

Although some women need interventions for the safety of their baby or themselves, many more can have their baby safely without. Having a baby is a normal physiological process. With appropriate support, the majority of healthy women are able to have a straightforward vaginal birth with minimal assistance. 

Can I do anything to encourage a straightforward birth?

There are lots of things you can do in pregnancy and labour to make a straightforward birth more likely. Read our articles about encouraging a natural birth in pregnancy and labour.

In addition, it's worth noting that guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), released in December 2014, says that for women expecting their second or more baby and having a straightforward pregnancy planning to have their baby at home or in a midwife led unit (freestanding or alongside) is particularly suitable because the rate of interventions is lower and the outcome for their baby is no different compared with having your baby in a hospital labour ward.

For first-time mums, planning to have their baby midwife led unit is also particularly suitable with no difference in risk for their baby compared to birth in a hospital labour ward. However, if they plan a home birth there is a slightly increased risk to their baby.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about labour and life with a new baby.