Why I decided to plan for a natural childbirth

I never thought I’d write a post like this.

Anyway. Maybe I’m just noticing it more, but it seems like everyone is having children. I just got an email from a friend I hadn’t talked to in several months, and we caught up a bit. “You’re pregnant??” she said. “So am I!”

My sister-in-law is expecting her first child sometime this month (I’m gonna be an aunt!!! Eep!), a good friend who just left island had her first child–a beautiful little girl–last month, and I’m finding more and more people in my circles who are either expectant or toting very small people around with them everywhere.

Since finding out I’m going to have a child, I’ve read some (okay, a lot of) books, talked to a lot of people, and done my share of research on pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve learned a lot, stressed out a lot, prayed a lot, and come to several conclusions, including the following:

1. Pregnancy and childbirth are normal (albeit huge and life-altering), and almost never need to be treated like an illness or disease.

2. Most (not all) obstetricians are trained surgeons who view pregnancy more as a medical problem that needs to be solved than as a normal event.

3. Even the most innocuous-seeming interventions can have very dramatic effects on the outcome of your labor and delivery.

4. Just because your doctor says something is “standard” does not mean it is beneficial. You have a right to ask questions and to deny any test or procedure.

5. The midwife model of care is much more mother- and baby- friendly than the standard obstetrical method, and there’s a reason midwifery is the standard in countless other Western countries (which also have dramatically lower C-section and maternal mortality rates than the U.S.).

Now, those concerns would have been much easier to address if I didn’t live in Guam. Because I’m blessed with government-provided health insurance, a hospital birth would have been free–complete with every technological advantage and diagnostic test under the sun.

Great, right? Except after one appointment, and a little asking around, I figured out that I wasn’t really interested in that hospital’s model of care and their “standard” treatment of pregnant patients, which involves more intervention than necessary for low-risk pregnancies.

As it is, it took a few months for me to get everything in line to transfer my care from the military hospital to a local birthing center which, though not perfect, embraces a much more normal, natural approach to pregnancy and labor. That means I’ll be able to:

  • Walk around, shower, or bathe while I’m in labor–all techniques which, I’m told, make pain much more bearable and help gravity move the birthing process along (not easy if you’re hooked up to an IV; not possible if you’ve had an epidural)
  • Eat and drink while in labor (many hospitals prohibit this)
  • Maintain privacy (no vaginal “checks” that do more to introduce bacteria than anything else) in a private, home-like room
  • Labor with the attendance of a skilled practitioner who has years of experience with natural, unmedicated childbirth
  • Keep my baby in the room with me from the time he or she is born until we leave the birthing center

I learned a few other things about U.S. maternity care that really, really bother me:

  • In some states, it’s illegal to plan on having your baby at home. In some states, it’s also illegal for even certified nurse midwives to deliver babies.
  • Inductions, epidurals, and constant monitoring reduce (or eliminate) a woman’s ability to labor normally and increase the probability of interventions like C-sections, which now account for around 30% of births in the U.S.
  • Countless women choose to plan a C-section or an induction based on their or their doctor’s convenience, even though inductions and C-sections result in more interventions and more negative outcomes for both the mother and baby than women who go into labor naturally.
  • These interventions often also make it significantly more difficult to get started breastfeeding, which provides countless health benefits that formulas simply cannot match.

So, for all the new mamas out there–I’m begging you to do research on your own and make your decision mindfully, after weighing your options. If your doctor makes it sound like you don’t really have options, don’t be afraid to question what they say, and get a second opinion.

Any practitioner worth your time and money will be thrilled you want to be truly involved in your own pregnancy.

Websites on natural birth: 

Birth Without Fear Blog

What to Reject When You’re Expecting from Consumer Reports

Natural Birth Options from Wellness Mama

Books that helped me: 

Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care. If you’ve ever really wondered how important certain specific interventions are, this book offers a fantastic, in-depth look at common interventions and whether or not they actually result in better outcomes.

Natural Pregnancy: Practical Childbirth Advice and Holistic Wisdom for a Healthy Pregnancy and Childbirth. Lots of great advice for choosing a practitioner, deciding what kind of pregnancy you want, and homeopathic remedies to keep things more comfortable.

I could recommend tons more resources, but I’m going to stop now, before this post gets unwieldy. I guess mostly I just want to encourage you and the new mothers in your life to stay informed and know your options before just going along with the “standard” model of care.

3 comments

  1. Good for you! I know that I’m not as adamantly anti-pain meds as you are, but we agree in so many areas on this. We just had the childbirth class and found out the only thing our hospital doesn’t do is a water birth because they don’t think their bathrooms give enough room to do it, but every room has a jacuzzi tub to labor in. (Yay!)

  2. That’s awesome! The birthing center here has the same policy–no water births, but there are big tubs in every room. This makes me happy. :) I’ve heard some women go so far as to say that they labored in the tub as long as possible and “accidentally” had a water birth. Either way, I’ve heard water can make a huge difference.

  3. Haha, the nurse did tell us that they have had bathroom floor births because of getting women out of the tub too late. I was most impressed with the squat bar they put on the bed though, it was super versatile even if you do have pain meds. Anyway, I’m sure that the birthing center will be great. I’m glad that option was there, because even though I suggested it, I’m not sure Manny learning to do a home birth via YouTube would be safe or ideal.

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