Friday, May 20, 2011

my thoughts on the controversy: natural birth

this week two books came in the mail that i am pretty excited to read.

natural childbirth the bradley way
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition

and ina may's guide to child birth
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth

one of the upsides to the kids going back with their birth mom is that i have been able to focus a little more on our little "bun in the oven" and preparing for her to come.  one of the things i have been needing to think through and research more is having a natural child birth.  from my initial research it seems that this is just the right time to really start preparing for this major event, if you want to have a natural birth, because of all the exercises and practicing that is needed in order to be successful.

first let me define what i mean by natural child birth.  my desire is to give birth without any sort of medication or medical intervention whatsoever.  the kind of birth that could just as easily happen in my own home as in a hospital.  women have been doing this for thousands of years, and still do so around the world.

however, these days in america it is popular and accepted as the norm to have induced labor, an epidural, an episiotomy, and/or a cesarian section to "help" the laboring mother.  labor and birth are treated as an illness, as women are sent into hospitals to do something that is completely normal and healthy for their body.  traditionally women have given birth with the help of a midwife or other women with lots of childbirth experience, but these days doctors do the deliveries.  unfortunately doctors are trained to "do something" and not just stand idly by... and what they do is administer drugs and order unnecessary surgeries "just in case" (ie to avoid being sued in the very small chance that something will go wrong).  unfortunately, when you look at the statistics all of these medical interventions are actually hurting both mothers and babies more than helping.  (please note that i am not saying that these medical interventions are never acceptable, its just that they should be the exception and not the rule.)

america has the highest rate for medical interventions during birth anywhere in the world (in fact, a few years ago, the c-section rate was up to 30% of all births in america!!!) and one of the lowest rates for home birth among developed countries (less than 1% of births in america, but up to 30% of births in some european countries).  that being said, our infant mortality rates are the highest among developed counties.  the reason for this higher rate of death is that medical interventions bring risk for the mother and baby.  even when a medicated birth seems to go well, the effects of the drugs are always felt by the baby and there is no drug that has been proven completely safe for an newborn baby.

furthermore, it is completely a myth that giving birth with drugs will be a pain-free birth.  first of all, the drugs eventually wear off, and sometimes before more can be given.  second of all, getting an epidural messes with your spine, and some women continue to feel the effects for a long time afterwards.  third of all, when you are given an epidural it often slows down your laboring and contractions, which means that labor inducing drugs also need to be given (it is a vicious cycle, and the reason why many women need to be given LOTS of drugs to get through child birth).  these labor inducing drugs (such as pitocin) cause contractions to be much more painful than natural contractions.  you may have the impression (which is common) that laboring women scream out in pain during the process... this is only true of women given labor-inducing drugs (which, these days is the norm, which is why we think it is normal to scream while laboring).  if you ever watch a video of a women given birth without drugs, she is not screaming in pain, but occasionally moaning (if you are interested, search for "natural birth" in you tube).

on the other hand, women who do not taken medication are able to be up and moving around during labor, finding the most comfortable (and most effective) positions to labor in.  more important, though, is the fact that unmedicated women are able to feel the body's natural repsonse to the birth, a huge release of oxytocin and other chemicals which leave her feeling very alive and happy.  women i know that have had both medicated and unmedicated births have mentioned that they will never accept the drugs again, simply so that they can experience the high after the birth that you cannot feel when you have an epidural.

yesterday, in the bradley method book, i read this interesting quote: "many women start out with a medicated, monitered experience and then "graduate" to a more natural method."  using the words of the book, i am hoping to get the "graduate" experience without going through the undergraduate course.  but, i must add, this will only happen if the Lord allows (james 4:15).

more more information, in addition to the books above, i highly recommend the documentary, the business of being born which goes much more into depth than i can here about the differences between medicated and natural births, and why america has such high rates of medical interventions, as well as the effects of these interventions.

(i write all of this to share my thoughts and feelings about the subject.  before i did any research on this years ago, i figured that i would just have a medicated birth like most other american women.  however, the research is too compelling not to share, especially since i feel like many women are uneducted about their options and the reasons for going with a natural birth.  however, i do want to emphasize that medical intervention is need in a few births, and i praise God for giving us these tools when they are absolutely needed.)


  1. i loved the bradley book and had a great natural birth experience by God's grace :)
    Jessica Darling :)

  2. jessica- i am glad you said by God's grace... its definitely His grace to be able to get through that, especially going against the norm. thanks for sharing!

  3. I agree with most all that you said except a couple points. With my experiance as a labor and delivery nurse i've found that epidurals if done at the correct time (when a woman is in "actual" labor) don't slow down the laboring process. Where i work we also dont' give "heavy" epidurals, we give more of a walking epidural so that mom is able to feel all the pressure, not sharp pain, giving her the ability to push well. I'm not saying that epidurals are a necessity, i just think they have come a long way and are administered differently then they were 10 years ago.
    Second point is that home births are amazing and natural but i've seen too many times things go wrong when you least expect them to. I've had several moms come in, in natural labor and at some point during labor and the continuous monitoring baby loses blood supply and we have saved this mother and baby by emergent c-section. There is no way of telling if the cord is wrapped around the neck and it gets too tight, or there is a knot in the cord, or if it gets kinked due to natural contractions just by oxytocin. I highly recommend delivery at a facility or being super close to one, but having a birth plan that will work for you. If the heart rate goes down and stays down, it's best to have baby delivered in 10min with out brian damage. Soo with all that just because you go to a hospital doesn't mean you have to have an iv, pitocin, epidural, etc. Good Luck!

  4. You definitely should be free to go through the process naturally...but like Melissa said, please consider doing so in a safe place! Remember, the goal is healthy mom and baby, and there is no contest for who delivered the "most naturally". I had a set of ideas and expectations in my head, but quickly found that I had to give myself grace to be less than Superwoman. =)

  5. melissa- thanks for your input. i have heard that before, that epidurals don't have as much impact on the laboring if they are given later in the process. it is also good to hear that they are adjusting the technique to make it more effective and not just a numb-all.

    studies show that for a normal pregnancy with an experienced midwife, it is just as safe to give birth at home as in a hospital (because when she is well trained she knows the early signs of problems and can have the mother transported to a hospital if necessary). because of our insurance we only have the option of a hospital birth. i honestly don't know what i would choose if we had a choice (i think i would lean towards a birthing center, a happy medium between home and hospital). its kind of nice to not have to make that decision, but on the other hand it would also be nice to have a choice. like you said, just because i will be in a hospital doesn't mean i have to accept any of the intervention, and by God's grace i wont have to! (and i do thank God that i live in a country that it is an option, should it become medically necessary).

  6. hmmm..interesting post. i fully support your educated and thoughtful position on childbirth and i wish the best for you and the baby throughout your pregnancy and labor. <3

  7. How did your labor and delivery actually go?

    1. i posted our birth story here: