I'm not sure why the books leave out this piece of information. Or why in 3 pregnancies, I never heard it from a doctor, nurse, or midwife.
So here's the secret: When a baby is in the womb, the last thing to fully develop is the lungs. In a typical pregnancy, when the baby's lungs reach full development, the baby will release a hormone that triggers labor to start in the mama.
It's actually the baby that induces labor - when the baby is ready.
Now, most of the doctors I've heard of are worried about babies that are "too big". As a result, most women are usually so scared to have a baby larger than 7-8 lbs. This encourages them to opt for inducing labor artificially in order to avoid having to deliver a "large" baby. Often this artificial induction causes a higher than normal level of pain for the mom, which then leads to an epidural, which then causes a stagnation in the artificial labor, and makes it very hard for mom to tap into her natural instincts for delivering a baby. This can then lead to "failure to progress" and ultimately a c-section. The c-section can increase the rate of jaundice in infants, and trouble with nursing for mom and baby.
I know this unfortunately from personal experience. The cascade of interventions from induction, to epidural, to c-section, to bilirubin lights for a baby, to weeks of struggle breastfeeding.
I learned after the fact that the hospital I was at had a c-section rate of over 33%. ONE THIRD of all the babies born in that hospital were born by c-section! That's an alarmingly high number. By contrast, the average home birth midwife has a total cesarian rate of about 5% or less. After searching for a better place to birth for my second, I learned that this is the standard percentage at virtually every hospital across the country. And then top this off with the growing epidemic of babies who spend the beginning days, weeks, and months in the NICU instead of in their mothers arms because their lungs aren't fully developed.
I mentioned this to a friend of mine, and her response was "Do you think there is any correlation to the number of kids who suffer from asthma too?" I have no scientific studies for this, but it sure seems like a reasonable hypothesis worth investigating that inducing labor before a baby's lungs are truly fully developed could have lifelong detrimental effects like asthma.
So let's fast forward to my third born - I had learned a lot between having my first, and having a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian) with my second. (He happened to be 15 days "late" and the smallest of my babies). When my third was born, I gladly waited 7 days after his "due date" for him to trigger that cascade of hormones.
I also had learned to wait until my body had the urge to push, rather than waiting until a midwife or doctor measured 10 centimeters and said it was time. He was out, in my arms, healthy as can be just 2 hours and 15 minutes after the labor started with a minimal amount of tearing. Oh - and the pain level for natural labor really wasn't that bad. There's tricks like making a deep guttural moan (my oldest said it sounded like the vacuum cleaner) that help to move baby down the birth canal, and help your body work with each contraction to be productive instead of resisting it.
Another thing I learned was that the typical "birthing position" that you see everywhere (tv, movies, hospital videos, etc) is the worst position to try to get a baby out. A mom has an instinctive desire to labor and deliver in the position that works best for her. For me, that was transitioning between a seated position and a supported standing position with each contraction. I would sit and rest between contractions, and then stand during the contraction.
Now, I know not all stories look quite like mine, and there are certainly times when medical intervention is necessary. But it shouldn't be the standard of care to have all these interventions. It shouldn't be the astronomical percentages of cesarians, episiotomies, and more.
A natural birth CAN happen in a hospital, but be prepared to fight for it - the invitation for intervention will happen a lot, and there is a moment when the intensity feels like a lot, and its easy to cave in. (Recognize that moment as transition - it won't last long, and it means baby is coming very soon! It is also the MOST intense part. It actually will seem to get easier toward the end.) I didn't want that hospital battle to do the natural thing for myself, so for me, the home birth option made more sense.
If you are seeking to avoid becoming one of those statistics, and you are ready to prepare yourself for an amazing birth experience wherever you decide to do that, there are some tools I recommend. (And yes, two of them are books).