Often times when I hear women discussing their choice to have a medicated birth, I hear things like, “I don’t have anything to prove,” or “Getting an epidural doesn’t make me any less of a woman.” I agree with those sentiments. You know why? Because I wasn’t out to prove anything with my natural births either, and I certainly don’t think the way we choose to birth makes us more or less of a woman.
So I didn’t have anything to prove. BUT, there were several aspects about my births that I wanted to imPROVE upon. And while this has a lot to do with my overall experience, the obvious desired outcome for ANY birth is a healthy mom and baby. I knew that allowing labor and birth to occur spontaneously without interference would imPROVE my chances of a positive outcome and a positive experience.
imPROVEd Hemorrhage Risk:
Did you know that just being induced could potentially increase the risk of you hemorrhaging after your baby is born? Pitocin is the most common drug used for induction of labor, yet the manufacturer's label lists fatal afibrinogenemia (uncontrollable bleeding that can lead to death) as a possible side effect from the use of their drug.
Now, I know what you're thinking - doesn't Pitocin help the uterus contract and stop the bleeding? Yes, it can. When used appropriately, Pitocin can help a woman who is experiencing a postpartum hemorrhage. However, when the drug is used to start or speed up labor, it can actually CAUSE a woman to hemorrhage.
It is noteworthy to also mention that good nutrition can play a huge part in hemorrhage risk. My midwife recommended taking liquid chlorophyll daily (consult your care provider for their recommendations). I also enjoyed the health benefits of this NORA tea recipe: http://www.pocoleon.com/happy-healthy-hippie-food/nora-tea/
imPROVE My Ability to Manage Contractions:
Though it's anecdotal evidence, most women who've experienced Pitocin will tell you that the contractions are ridiculously painful. A big reason for this is that natural labor creeps up on you gradually and allows you to cope with them as they come. In contrast, Pitocin contractions come on almost immediatley with no gradual progression - things are difficult right off the bat.
Compound this with routine artificial rupture of the membrane (breaking your water) and you can be on a path to completely unmanagable contractions. This is when many women choose to get an epidural. I prefer a path that allows me to take things as they come and cope with them with freedom of movement and doula support (they work better than epidurals anyway).
imPROVEd Ability to Birth Without the Need for Assisted Delivery (Vacuum/Forceps):
Sometimes women find it difficult to push when they've had an epidural. Because they are completely numb, it becomes tough to tell how/where to exhert their pushing. When this happens, a doctor may decide to assist a woman with the use of a vacuum or forceps.
These are not gentle devices. Have you ever seen a baby being extracted from its mother's womb with a vacuum? I have. In fact, I show all of my childbirth students what it looks like. No, it is not a scare tactic, but I would not be doing my job as a birth educator if I didn't share such possible sights and sounds with future moms and dads. If you knew the kind of force that was used on the baby's head and against mom's perineum, you'd want to learn every technique available to help avoid this intervention.
"There is substantial evidence that instrumental deliveries increase maternal morbidity, including perineal pain at delivery, pain in the immediate postpartum period, perineal lacerations, hematomas, blood loss and anemia, urinary retention, and long-term problems with urinary and fecal incontinence."
imPROVE My Risk of Birth Trauma or Injury:
Birth trauma and injury are real. I can't promise you that an unmedicated birth will completely sheild you from this, but I can promise you that it will imPROVE your odds. When birth is medicated with an epidural, it can make it difficult for a mom to know when to ease back on pushes and allow your body to stretch and accomodate baby.
Time for an anecdote: I pushed my 3rd baby out in lightening speed with the use of an epidural - my smallest baby at 5lbs 15oz gave me a 3rd degree laceration. It was the most painful recovery I've ever had (and I have given birth 5 times). My two biggest babies, one of which was a frank breechling, all came out unmedicated and leaving me with no more than a tiny skid on my perineum.
imPROVEd Ability to Breastfeed:
I don't know if you've heard, but the early days of breastfeeding are not easy - at least for most. Anything a mom can do to have an easier time with nursing their little one is worth it! The first weeks are exhausting and come with some pain and discomfort for a lot of moms. It's no wonder that so many moms throw in the towel!
In addition to caring for their new baby, they may be dealing with stitches on their most private parts. They may be loopy from the pain pills they're taking to manage the pain of a tear or episiotomy. They may be emotionally fatigued as they try to process an unexpected birth process. Of course it is difficult to stick with breastfeeding!
By preparing for a natural birth and being educated on all of the possibilities that can occur during birth, women can actively imPROVE their birth outcomes INCLUDING successful breastfeeding!
So, I have nothing to PROVE by giving birth naturally or by encouraging women to research natural birth. I desperately want to imPROVE the the outcomes and experiences of all women! If you are pregnant, please take the time to research birth. TAKE A BIRTH CLASS! Hire a doula to support you! You have nothing to PROVE to anyone. But if you take steps to imPROVE your birth experience, you won't regret that decision.
Ali, Unzila. "Vacuum Assisted Vaginal Delivery." Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynocology. (2009): 5-17. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.