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What Is Physiologic Birth, and Is It Right for You?

Physiologic, or natural, labor and birth emphasizes an unrushed, supported process. Karen McEvoy Shields, certified nurse midwife at Virtua Midwifery, explains the advantages.

Updated October 05, 2021

By Karen McEvoy Shields, Certified Nurse Midwife, Virtua Midwifery

Did you know your childbirth experience can be just as individual as you are?

Physiologic, or natural, labor and birth emphasizes an unrushed, supported process, with less-invasive monitoring. Women give birth spontaneously without an epidural or other obstetric intervention unless it’s medically necessary. This approach is based on trusting your body, and your baby’s ability, to labor through childbirth using its innate power.

Women who prefer physiologic childbirth often attend classes to learn what to expect and how to be prepared, such as learning breathing and relaxation techniques. Classes also teach birth partners how to use comfort measures to support women in labor and birth.

Physiologic births are often facilitated by a midwife, a nurse, and/or a doula who have undergone specialized training. Currently, the majority of physiologic births occur in a hospital setting, where a full range of medical options are available if the need arises.

The advantages of physiologic birth are tremendous for both mom and baby. During a normal, healthy birth, your body releases certain hormones intended to help you labor and manage your discomfort. These hormones also help your baby transition to life outside the womb — maintaining a normal body temperature, breastfeeding successfully, and bonding quickly.

And because neither mom nor baby are exposed to medications that may affect their behavior, moms can better respond to their baby’s needs.

According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, physiologic births in hospital settings:

  • Reduce cesarean deliveries (commonly known as C-sections), episiotomies, and related surgical complications
  • Reduce complications during delivery
  • Increase the likelihood of breastfeeding
  • Improve maternal-infant attachment
  • Improve the birth experience through access to supportive care and involvement in decision making

The Virtua Midwifery team is passionate about putting moms and babies first, providing women with the birth experience they desire.

As part of our mission, in spring 2021, we will open the Midwifery Birth & Wellness Center, the first and only freestanding birth center of its kind in the tri-county region of Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties.

Located near Virtua Voorhees Hospital, our family-focused birth center will offer home-like labor and delivery suites supporting the birthing option of your choice, including water births. The center also will have a kitchen, comfortable lounge, and sibling play area to keep your family together as you await the birth of your little one.

Additionally, this location will serve as a practice location for midwifery-led women’s routine gynecological and wellness care for women of all ages.

Get to Know Midwife Karen McEvoy Shields, CNM, MS

Karen McEvoy Shields is a midwife as well as the administrative and clinical director of the Midwifery Birth & Wellness Center. She has been providing midwifery care for 25 years and has caught over 3,000 babies. Karen loves the birthing process and considers it a privilege to assist individuals throughout pregnancy, birth, and becoming a family. She supports women's wellness throughout their lifespan.  Karen is committed to creating an environment where each person feels listened to, seen for who they are and truly cared for.