Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Selfish Reasons to Choose Natural Childbirth

I've not started drafting my birth plan yet. I mean, to be honest, it's almost completely written in my head (no drugs, yes tub, no bright lights, yes massage, no episiotomy, etc) but it feels too much like homework, and I'm in school until May. So, I probably won't put pen to paper (or whatever) until sometime after that.

However, it's definitely coming together in my mind. One thing that surprised me when I changed my mind about it was my decision to not take drugs to manage pain. Apparently, it's even more of a surprise to everyone else I talk to, based on the reactions I get.

Don't get me wrong, I like being an outlier sometimes, but I've also grown to feel strongly about this. Childbirth is something that most of us who haven't done it know most about through fictional depictions of it in TV and movies. So we don't have a very balanced view of how we can and do come into the world. Ironically, from the (non-fiction) childbirth movies I've previously mentioned, plus one my doula shared with me, I've decided there is a better way that I want to try. Further reading has confirmed that I think I'm doing the right thing for me. Not for everyone, but definitely for me.

My doula also gave me a copy of this article on The Purpose and Power of Pain in Labour. I've reread it several times and I'm still not very good at summarizing why this makes sense to me. However, it explains it more or less.

Essentially, being in pain during labour cues the mother to prepare to give birth, stimulates hormones needed for birth and a bunch of other good things. If you miss some of the good things, some of the later good things around breastfeeding and bonding might be more difficult or delayed, etc.

So all of this sounds good, bonding, breastfeeding, happy baby, etc. However, the inquisitive reader may ask, may we assume these are the reasons why BB is choosing natural childbirth? Oddly enough, no.

BB is choosing natural childbirth out of - wait for it - selfish reasons. Does that sound ironic? Maybe initially, but then:

  • In natural childbirth, contractions are less painful and less likely to cause a ruptured uterus than contractions in induced labour.
  • Without an epidural, I will feel the contractions more intensely than without, but I will be able to get up and move around (well, without an epidural and without constant fetal monitoring to tie me to a bed) and that moving around can help me manage the pain.
  • Epidural = paralysed from the waist down. Not good.
  • With an epidural, labour can slow down to a speed unacceptable to an obstetrician, often leading them to push for chemically inducing faster contractions or a c-section.
  • C-sections are major abdominal surgery. There's a reason why I'll get 8 weeks paid leave after a c-section instead of 6 weeks after vaginal birth - I really won't be able to get up and move around for ages. Not to mention scaring, potential infection, etc.
  • I feel that in a birth attended to by midwives and doulas, my desires are more likely respected, and medical interventions only initiated for true emergencies rather than convenience.
  • I've mentioned this before, but I just don't like painkillers. Oddly, I keep a lot around the house, but I almost never take them. When at the dentist, if they need to drill my teeth and expect not to have to go too deep, I'll usually ask them to start without numbing/freezing my mouth. I guess I can handle some pain.
I can't think of any of my other "selfish" reasons to chose natural childbirth, but please feel free to share yours below!

Also, I have great friends who have adopted a baby born by c-section and the baby is happy and healthy and bonded like glue, so all that good baby stuff - I think the way the baby is delivered can be impactful but overall, it's a whole parenting picture thing for me.

Finally, yes, I am thinking (and reading and listening to podcasts) a lot about parenting and what we'll be doing when little kickypants is out. But I'll leave that (terrifying) topic to another post and thank the good folks at The Parents Journal for their foresight in putting their program on iTunes.


melodie said...

You have an award waiting for you on my site. Just to say thank you for your support of my blog and all your great posts which if anyone is stumbling upon who don't actually know you, rock! Or maybe I am just biased because I'm a natural childbirth, midwife, breastfeeding kinda gal myself.
Anyway, thanks. :)

red storm said...

Hi Carolyn,

I'm very interested in comparing notes with you after our respective births. We have so much in common, including reasons to go natural (my plan, as well, for many of the same reasons).

I'm determined to have a natural childbirth in a hospital setting. I know that's not the easiest way to acheive a natural childbirth, but I've found a very supportive OB who is enthusiastic about the choice and I'm not afraid to flout any hospital "rules" necessary to acheive my objectives. Naturally, I'll allow any lifesaving interventions necessary, but I feel confident that my OB will only suggest these if truly necessary.

It will be interesting to compare our experiences -- natural childbirth in a hospital setting vs. a birthing center.

Good luck to you! :)

BB said...

Red Storm - definitely! I'd love to know the name of your doctor. I've heard really good things about Dr Imershein who works downtown ( I have a coworker who is 40 and expecting twins - I've suggested she try to get in to see Dr I, as her OB is essentially just saying so when shall we schedule the c-section? I'm hoping a second opinion will be worthwhile.

I agree - if my midwife says we go to hospital for some lifesaving issue, I'm probably not going to argue, and I'll be glad it's available to me. But I hope not to need to go of course! Good luck, hope all is going well through your pregnancy so far. :)

Shannon said...

Hey--around here, you wouldn't be an outlier. I haven't met anyone on good ol' VanIsle who would opt for medicated birth unless she felt unable to deal with the pain part way through--and I've never met a Canuck who opted to have an epidural during a normal birth (I'm sure they're out there, I just haven't heard of them). I think you've got a whole cultural thing going on in the USA.

CaroLyn said...

Yeah, it's funny. The women I socialize with are mostly in favour of natural, unmedicated childbirth and breastfeeding and whatnot. But then it seems like most of the (American) pregnant women I know (Faye? What's your plan?) are planning to have a medicated, in hospital birth. One woman pregnant with twins has been told that they'll probably be in the NICU for awhile - she seems to have been told that if that's the case, she won't be able to pump and give them breastmilk. I just about lost my mind when I heard that! (After I calmed down, I explained she could, and should, and all about the wonders of the special breastmilk we make for preemies... Fingers crossed for her!)