Natural Birth is Actually Better!

13 May

Monday, April 18, 2011

Natural Birth is Actually BETTER

I received a comment recently on the blog about a natural birth post. I don’t want to single out this person individually so I won’t quote it directly but the basic point she made was this:

“Natural birth might be a great choice for you, but it isn’t for everybody. I was perfectly happy with my birth involving XYZ interventions, and so are lots of women. It is about choices.”

I have to disagree. This isn’t just about “choices.” Natural birth is not just a great choice for women like me. It is almost always the best choice for the mother and baby.

Yes- I just said that. Natural birth is usually the best choice for mother and baby. And, I can prove it.


There is an interesting aspect to a lot of natural birth discussions these days. I notice many people wanting so much not to be judgmental that they talk about natural birth like it is all about the mother’s choice. If mama feels like she needs an epidural, then that is her choice. If mama is fearful of labor for whatever reason, she has the choice to schedule an abdominal surgery. If she is tired of being pregnant, she can choose an induction. Basically it is up to her.

There is a lot of truth in this and I do think that women should be allowed to choose whatever they feel is best for them. Partly I think this because I don’t want my choices taken away from me just because somebody disagrees or thinks that home birth or not vaccinating or whatever is unsafe. So, don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating taking away a woman’s right to choose how she births. I do however want to point out that there is much more to this topic than what is best for the mother or our ability to choose whatever we are comfy with.

At some point we need to recognize though that birth doesn’t just involve the well being of the mother. There are TWO people involved. The other one is silent and is the BABY.

Is an epidural the best choice for the baby? Is a scheduled c-section the best choice for the baby? Is pitocin the best choice for the baby? Are we being honest with ourselves when we answer these questions, or are we just thinking about how the choice will make us feel?

~Our Choices Affect the Baby~

Let’s first consider the choice for non-medical induction with pitocin. (Yes, this happens because mom is tired, uncomfortable, or just “done” with her pregnancy.)

Some possible side effects of pitocin administration:

“Because of maternal and fetal risks, oxytocin must be administered with caution . It has been reported to cause fetal bradycardia, neonatal retinal hemorrhage, and neonatal jaundice, in addition to maternal effects . Fetal deaths due to various causes have reportedly been associated with the parenteral use of oxytocics for induction or augmentation of labor . Excessive dosage or administration of oxytocin to hypersensitive patients may cause uterine hypertonicity with spasm and tetanic contraction or uterine rupture . Abruptio placentae, impaired uterine blood flow, amniotic fluid embolism, and fetal trauma including cardiac arrhythmias, intracranial hemorrhage, and asphyxia may occur as a result .”

-You can find more information from the package insert for pitocin here.-

Do you still think natural birth is all about the mother’s “choice” and what she is comfortable with?

Let’s consider one of the drugs common in epidural anaesthesia, Bupivacaine.

“Adverse reactions in the parturient, fetus, and neonate involve alterations of the central nervous system, peripheral vascular tone, and cardiac function. Maternal hypotension has resulted from regional anesthesia. Local anesthetics produce vasodilation by blocking sympathetic nerves. Elevating the patient’s legs and positioning her on her left side will help prevent decreases in blood pressure. The fetal heart rate also should be monitored continuously and electronic fetal monitoring is highly advisable. Epidural, caudal, or pudendal anesthesia may alter the forces of parturition through changes in uterine contractility or maternal expulsive efforts. Epidural anesthesia has been reported to prolong the second stage of labor by removing the parturient’s reflex urge to bear down or by interfering with motor function. The use of obstetrical anesthesia may increase the need for forceps assistance.”
You can read more about this drug here.

Still think natural birth is all about what is best for the mother? Do you still think this is just about what mama wants? Do you believe that an increase in forceps delivery has no negative implications for the newborn?

Let’s take a look at some of the con’s related to the elective c-section from a mainstream news source.

Cons: Possible pre-term delivery if due date calculation is inaccurate Rare: Possible infant injury when the doctor makes the uterine incision Risk of damage to the mother’s bowels and/or bladder Increased maternal blood loss and risk of needing a transfusion Risk of complications from anesthesia (pneumonia, allergic reactions, low blood pressure) Slightly higher mortality rate for the mother Twice the risk of infant mortality Higher risk of infection and blood clots for the mother”
You can read this article in full here.

This article also mentions that more than half of the c-sections were done on an elective basis. You can read the study by the New England Journal of Medicine on their website, here. The idea that all cesareans are necessary is false.

~Educated Choices, Not Just Choices~

The access to natural birth is not just a feminist issue. It is not just a woman’s issue. It is a human rights issue. Whatever we “want” is not necessarily best for our baby. In fact, it might not even be best for us.

I realize that this argument goes both ways. Sometimes a c-section is best for mom and baby even when mama desperately wants a beautiful home birth. That is life and that is just how it goes.

For my commenter who thinks that “natural birth might be great for me, but not everybody,” well, I just think you are wrong. I truly believe that birth is intended to be a natural process. All common sense and logic tends to point in this direction. Most women throughout history have birthed without drugs and considering the current population of the earth, it looks like it was pretty safe.

I am frankly just plain tired of hearing people talk about all this like it is just choices and what is right for you. Natural birth really is better. It is safer. It is normal. It is how it should be. Drugs used unnecessarily cause problems for both the mother and baby. The drug manufacturers themselves will tell you this in their own package inserts. The negative effect of drugs on the baby is the same whether you “felt comfortable” with your choice or not.

(As with anything, there are of course, exceptions.)


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