As many of you know, I had a natural childbirth. I did not use medicine of any kind, did not have the epidural, wasn’t induced with Pitocin or any labor inducing drugs, and birthed in a birthing center with a big bathtub for a water birth. It didn’t take me long to discover the pro’s of natural childbirth, but I needed to do research and speak with other women who had done it before I felt confident in my decision. I want to give my opinion and helpful pro’s and con’s about natural childbirth in the hopes that I can help in a woman’s decision much like other women did for me.
This is a very sensitive subject for a lot of women. Some people are very pro-epidural and others are very pro-natural childbirth. I realize that I may be biased because I am pro-natural, but I feel that too many people completely overlook this option. Most OBGYN’s are very similar, you show up for your appointment, meet with a nurse practitioner who weighs you and takes your vitals, the doctor comes in to hear the heartbeat and asks you for any questions, and then you both go along your merry way. He may talk to you about “options” aka, the epidural as soon as you get to the hospital or the epidural once he convinces you to get it when your contractions get intense. OBGYN’s are certified surgeons who are also trained in gynecology. They are trained to handle the worst case scenarios, emergency C-sections, and often push toward what they are specialized in to avoid maternal and infant complications. If you have an abnormal pregnancy with pre-existing problems, then I can understand the risk. But if you’re healthy, have a totally normal pregnancy, and aren’t at risk for complications, a C-section is rarely necessary. However, thanks to combinations of other modern medicines, it’s getting more and more popular.
America is now at 30% of all babies being born by C-section. At the Salem Hospital, it’s over 40%. This is from a number of very debilitating choices from both the mother and her doctors. Over 22% of all pregnancies are induced before 41 weeks gestation. The process of induction begins with a drug called Pitocin. Pitocin is pumped into your body from an IV drip, the amount of which is turned up every hour until you reach the contraction pattern that your doctors are looking for. It also will help dilate your cervix; once it reaches 10cm, it’s usually time to begin the pushing process of labor. Pitocin is a very hard drug on both the mother and the baby. It speeds contractions up, makes them significantly more intense and you’re unable to leave the hospital bed to get into a more comfortable position for contractions, such as squatting, bouncing on a medicine ball, lounging in a bath, or leaning over the hospital bed. Because it makes contractions so intense, many women decide to get the epidural. The epidural is an anesthetic that is supposed to numb your lower half to make contractions more bearable. It’s inserted via a needle into your spine. For some reason, epidurals and Pitocin don’t really get along. When you get the epidural, often times your cervix will retract and your contractions will lessen. Because doctors like to see quick progress, they’ll up the Pitocin even more. And so begins a downward spiral. Many babies do not react well to the extreme intensity of the Pitocin-induced contractions, causing heartrates to drop and fetal distress. And because the two drugs counteract each other, over 25% of all inductions will result in an emergency c-section.
Now, the con’s of epidurals don’t stop there. “Epidurals are associated with increased rates of operative vaginal delivery, prolonged labor, fetal malposition, and intrapartum fever–Evidence supports the claim that epidurals increase the duration of both the first and second stages of labor. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595214/)” There is also talk that the aftereffects of the epidural for the mother can be anywhere from numbness at the injection site, to periodic back pain, to severe back pain or becoming paralyzed. While most OBGYN’s know the side effects, they very rarely tell mothers. Most OBGYN’s encourage the epidural for the immediate relief from contractions. The use of epidurals is over 50%, in some places it’s between 80-90%. Apart from the epidural side effects, I know from firsthand experience that it dramatically effects the ability to breastfeed.
Many women have a very hard time breastfeeding their babies: lack of production, bad latches, and tongue-ties to name a few. “As many women are induced with Pitocin, which must be given through an IV, the amount of fluids given to many mothers in labor increases. With a constantly running IV, fluid can accumulate in the mother and baby. This situation can set up several problems. If a mother is edematous (swollen with fluid) her nipples will be harder to latch onto. If a baby is edematous it can lose more than the standard 10% of it’s bodyweight, thus giving the doctor the indication that baby isn’t nursing enough, setting up for the supplementation cycle, when in reality the baby could be draining off excess fluid (http://www.lactivist.com/medbirth.html).” Your milk can take anywhere from a day to a week to come in, allowing babies to eat Colostrum, a milk produced with a very high fat content. All babies lose weight within the first 24 hours, but once they begin eating healthy amounts of Colostrum, they gain the weight back tenfold. When babies suck and pacify on mom’s nipples, it stimulates milk production, causing the milk to come in quicker. The amount of milk production differs from each woman, but with the right diet, calorie intake, and stimulation, breast feeding production should be easy to obtain. A month after my daughter was born, my midwife posted a video of something called the “breast crawl”. In short, the video was about the ability for newborn babies to crawl up the mother’s chest to latch on to her breast within the first 15 minutes after birth. The study showed less than 50% of the babies who were medicated and did not go to the mother’s chest within the first 15 minutes were unable to perform the crawl. It also showed that 50% of all women who had a medicated birth and had their baby on their chest within 15 minutes had babies who could not perform the breast crawl. Almost 100% of the babies who were not medicated and on the mother’s chest within the 15 minutes were able to breast crawl and latch on correctly. The effects from medicated births are very real and proven to make labor and newborns much more difficult for mother’s.
I know a lot of mom’s are easily convinced to use drugs because they’re afraid of labor and the pain of contractions. After reading books like Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Orgasmic Birth, as well as watching documentaries such as Business of Being Born and Pregnant in America, I’ve learned that, for myself and for my family, I will do whatever it takes to always have a natural childbirth. From personal experience, I went into labor with the mindset that it would be intense not painful. My Oma performed hypnosis and relaxation techniques of imagining a smooth, calm labor that was quick and successful. I achieved that 100%. My labor was 4 hours long, I was laughing and cracking jokes for the majority of my labor, and was very proud of myself for accomplishing a natural birth. To know that your body took control and you were able to birth with just your power alone is one of the most empowering things women can ever experience. To this day, I am so proud that I was able to do that at only 18 years old. And I honestly believe it was the best choice for both myself and my daughter. Not all women will agree with me, many women swear by the epidural and don’t understand why anyone would go through it without pain-relief. I wonder though, are they empowered by their birth? Did they feel the absolute rush of Oxytocin that I felt as soon as my baby was out of me and onto my chest? Were they able to get up only minutes after the birth and walk into the bathroom?
I want to inform, not judge. If you had the epidural, I don’t look down upon you. That was your choice, and your choice only. But if I can relay this information to just one woman and have her make up her own mind about the different options, then I am satisfied. Birth can be a very stressful, scary experience, but it can also be a beautiful, empowering and life-changing. Research is everything, and sticking to what you want your birth to be. Having a strong support system with husbands, mothers, siblings, doulas or midwives will ensure that you are not easily pressured into making a decision you didn’t originally want. Stick to those guns, ladies, because the ride of raising a child will definitely test your decisions over and over again. Happy birthing!
Ps, a few other things that may be beneficial to research: vaccines (pro’s and con’s, delayed schedule), Vitamin K injections (pro’s and con’s), infant eye drops (pro’s and con’s—this one is especially unnecessary unless the mother has a sexually transmitted disease), cord clamping (the benefits of waiting for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it), saving the placenta (how dried capsules can help with postpartum depression and milk production), attachment parenting (thinking of the first weeks of life like the “4th trimester” of pregnancy), co-sleeping (the ease for breastfeeding mothers and the untruths told about dangers of bed-sharing), and wearing baby (baby bjorns, moby wraps, ergo’s, and the help they can be on new parents).