These are just a few responses heard when a woman mentions that she is interested or planning a natural birth….a pain medication and intervention free birth that is. A natural birth is a tough choice for any woman to make and yet instead of being applauded for bearing through the worst pain life has to offer without interventions, women are taunted about their choice. “There’s no trophy…” is probably the most heart-wrenching comment to hear as many women who choose to forgo pain medicine and other detours do feel as though there is a trophy given. Maybe it’s not a physical one, but it’s a mental trophy. “Wow! I just did that!” Natural birth is not for everyone and some women do not have a choice in the matter. But, while there may not be a trophy given to women who deliver without any medical interventions, there are dangers to women who do have interventions during childbirth.
Induction is one of the main interventions that come between a woman and natural child birth. Many women have no choice in the matter. Things such as fetal distress, high blood pressure, etc. require an induction for both mother and child. There are times when an induction is not necessary though. Circumstances such as “overdue” are often used to justify an induction. However, a due date is an estimate. Many times a baby just isn’t ready to come quite on their due date. If baby and mother are both not prepared for labor and delivery, complications can easily arise. Many women have been told an induction is necessary due to a large baby, only to deliver a much smaller than expected child. Inductions can lead to previously unwanted pain medication, the use of forceps, or even a c-section in some cases. Natural deliveries can obviously bring about the same endings, but at a much smaller rate.
Minus the risk during pregnancy
Doctor breaking the water
In a textbook pregnancy, a woman’s water would break shortly after labor began which would speed up the process. Sometimes (or rather many times) things don’t follow the textbook plan. Doctors will break a woman’s water sac for one of two reasons usually; to induce labour or to speed up the process. When a doctor manually breaks the water sac to start or speed up labour complications can arise. It can work out as planned, but it can also very easily end in a c-section. This is because once the water breaks, a woman only has so long to deliver before the risk of infection becomes very high. Doctors will generally give a time frame for the delivery to occur after the water breaking before a c-section is performed. Many women have their water broken manually with no complications, but if not necessary for a healthy baby/mom why not let nature take its course and have the water sac break on its own?
For many women, an epidural is the best choice for their birth. Epidurals are especially great for a woman who has laboured long and hard and needs to rest up to continue on. Also an epidural can calm a tense or nervous woman down, enabling labour to speed up in many cases with a relaxed mom. However, this path to delivery comes with a price tag at times. The biggest worry for many women considering an epidural is the fear of an almost guaranteed c-section. Rest assured epi-mamas, after much extensive research, there is no direct yes or no as to whether or not epidural lead to more C-sections. Although the c-section fear seems to be mostly unfounded, there are still other added risks that are introduced with the epidural that are simply not there with a natural birth.
While the epidural is possibly the most widely used (or at least widely known) medication for labour discomforts, there are other options available to mothers in labour There is also a spinal tap, narcotics, local anaesthetic pudendal block, tranquillizers and nitrous oxide. Again, these medications all have their place in some labours but there are risks involved. This isn’t to say that things don’t go wrong with a natural birth because they obviously do. However, the further one gets away from a natural birth, the higher the risk that something can go wrong.
Obviously the majority of mothers cannot and do not chose to deliver via c-section. Generally they are done for medical reasons in extreme cases where the safety of mother, baby, or both is in danger. C-sections can be the result of a completely otherwise natural birth as well, but the risks of having a c-section delivery rise with each intervention used. C-sections are generally safe for baby and mother, but do pose some problems as it is a major surgery. All major surgeries come with risks. Also, babies born via c-section sometimes have issues with breathing. When a baby is born via the birth canal, the contractions force fluid out of their lungs and boost their breathing abilities. When a baby is born via c-section, it misses that critical step. The last issue with a c-section birth is that future pregnancies and labours will be more complicated. Some doctors recommend no more than 2 c-section births. If a mother is planning on having a large family, she may want to take all necessary steps to avoid a c-section delivery.
Each woman is different, each woman handles labour and delivery differently, and each woman has a different story to tell. That being said, there is something magical about delivering without any interventions whatsoever. To know that your child was brought into the world without anything but your own body is amazing. However, two months after delivery, it isn’t going to matter whether we used pain medication, had our waters broke, were induced, had a c-section, or even had a completely natural birth. In the end, the important thing is that we all have our babies. They are our trophies and we all get them despite the route we took.
Christy Rasmussen is the mother of one very active preschooler with baby #2 due in December. She holds degrees in business and in political science/government, but discovered her love of writing after starting a blog for fun about her parenting experiences.
Here are some related articles regarding pregnancy:
Doctor tells all on complications during labour
I gave birth at home!
How to overcome childbirth fears