Do we really want birth to be the safest it can be, or do we as a society only pay lip-service to this ideal?
Numerous studies show that natural birth (meaning, unmedicated and without interventions) to be the safest for babies, for mothers, for the nursing relationship, and for maternal-infant bonding which can affect the rest of a child’s life. Yet many mothers who opt for unmedicated births hear from their doctor or their family members that they are being acting as a martyr for no cause! We don’t accuse people who climb mountains or run marathons as acting as a martyr. We don’t criticize people for picking the best schools, moving to the safest neighborhoods, or purchasing the carseats with the highest safety ratings. Why then, do some people criticize women for working to have the safest birth?
((Let me preface this post by saying this: If a mom was told she couldn’t have a natural birth or was denied the a birth experience she wanted, then I mourn with that mom and want to encourage her that there is more than one right way to have a baby! It is absolutely not true that any mom is inferior because of how she birthed! I also understand and have empathy for those mothers who criticize and mock someone else’s desire for a natural birth because they feel pain or sadness that their own birth stories are not as “impressive” as a natural birth story. I get it. I still think it is wrong to belittle someone else’s dreams, but I understand where they are coming from. ))
And truly, giving birth without medicine is the “safest” way for most women to give birth! There are several benefits to natural birth! Pursuing a natural birth means moms are less likely to induce, which is great for baby because research shows that spontaneous labor won’t occur until after the baby’s lungs finish developing. Having the eustress of gentle contractions (not Pitocin or artificial contractions) is good for babies, too; it makes babies produce cortisol and catecholamines which help the newborn to clear lung fluid, secrete surfactant, begin the onset of consistent breathing, transition their blood’s circulation, dilate the blood vessels, and regulate his/her energy metabolism and body temperature. Avoiding pain medicines reduces the mother’s risk of stalled labor, blood pressure problems, delivering with vacuum/forceps, episiotomy, or pushing for more than 2 hours. Avoiding pain medicines help baby avoid admission to the nursery for maternal fever (caused by epidurals), help baby be more awake at birth and not be as likely to need resuscitation measures, to nurse better immediately following birth. Having a drug-free birth means mom and baby are less likely to need a c-section, which has its own risks including possible harm to mom and to baby during the surgery, possible drug reactions or anesthesia complication, increased risk of lung problems as an infant, lack of healthy microbiota in the baby’s gut from the colonization that would have otherwise happened in mom’s birth canal, and other risks.
In my opinion, it is outrageous that mothers are not being told the benefits of drug-free births and/ or are being told that unmedicated births have no benefits. It’s shameful that America has one of the worst maternal and fetal outcomes IN THE ENTIRE WORLD! It’s a tragedy that all our money wasted in healthcare can’t buy us the healthy outcomes obtained by developing countries.
So, what can we do to change the birth climate? To change the world, we must always start by changing ourselves; and the first step to do that is by education. Watch birth documentaries on Netflix. Download birth books in your electronic reader, or borrow the physical books from a library. Attend a childbirth class. Read some birth blogs and follow them on Facebook–evidencebasedbirth.com and childbirthconnection.com are two good ones! Talk to moms who have had natural births.
Then, educate your physician! They come in contact with far more expectant mothers than any of us do; so ask them to share the health benefits and financial benefits of natural birth as well as the true risks and known dangers of medications. After that, keep educating others! The only way we can affect change is to teach, teach, teach! As natural birth becomes more popular (Kate Middleton had a natural birth for royal baby George; Kourtney Kardashian had natural births; and Morena Baccarin had a natural BREECH birth!), more moms will be asking questions and will be wondering if information is being kept from them. So, step up and answer those questions! Talk about what you are learning and what has worked for yourself and other women. Tell your friends and everyone you know, “Yes, you NEED a doula!” Share what you heard on the news or an article you just read on social media. We can all change the birth climate–one mom at a time!