Natural childbirth is now considered controversial. Practically cult-like. At least, according to the UK’s The Times.
Every woman I know, who planned for a “natural birth” before having their baby at a hospital, was constantly told by nurses, doctors, family, and friends that they would change their mind. When it was go-time, they were continuously asked if they wanted to scrap their plan and take drugs, during contractions…
Now, to someone like me, who had four natural homebirths – the last one of which resulted in my son being born one minute before the midwife arrived – this sounds pretty frustrating. Imagine the social pressure or even just the confidence hit we take when the people we love don’t support us. Now imagine that you’re in labor and you feel like a bomb is going off inside you. You know your plan, your goals, and your dreams for your baby. You know that you want your child to be born free of unnecessary drugs, but then the doctor and nurses just keep offering you something to ease the pain.
Some women crack. Not because they want to, but because they’re tired of fighting and just want everyone to shut up and let them push that baby out! And I don’t blame them.
This is exactly why I chose to birth my babies at home. I didn’t want that temptation, but not everyone can have a homebirth, and some women need that extra layer of protection that birthing centers and hospitals offer. So what’s the deal? Why do so many people act like giving birth naturally is a thing of the past, or worse, they treat you like you’re some crazy cult member who needs to be reconditioned to fit their standards?
Pain Has a Purpose in Childbirth
Pain has a purpose. Especially in childbirth. It’s the pain that tells you how close you are to pushing, and when it’s time, you’ll know because you can’t stop until the baby is out.
Masking that pain makes it harder for women to listen to their bodies and know what’s going on with the baby. Drugs, even the lesser ones, can prolong labor, and increase a woman’s risk of needing an emergency C-section. This makes sense because the body goes into survival mode when you shock the system with doses of unnecessary chemicals that can drop your blood pressure and influence your mental state.
Masking the pain makes it harder for women to listen to their bodies and know what’s going on with the baby.
In addition, the effects of pain medication during labor affect the baby’s cognition and delay the mother’s ability to respond to her newborn. Babies born to mothers who received pain medication during labor also have a harder time breastfeeding as it lowers the sensation of the baby’s soft pallet.
It makes me think back to all the warnings we received as children about how drugs are harmful to the human body. Well, it turns out most legal drugs are too. Just because they’re legal doesn’t mean they’re free of harmful side effects, short-term or long-term. So mothers who understand this and wish to avoid these concerns and complications altogether are not being stubborn or trying to prove anything; in reality, we’re just doing everything we can to give our baby the healthiest start possible.
It’s the same reason I ate fruit instead of candy during my pregnancy, and why I eat vegetables regularly now. Because I know my kids will eat what I eat, and I want them to properly fuel their bodies. That’s not old-fashioned, it’s just smart.
The C-Section Craze
Even how a baby comes out contributes to their health and wellness. “Natural childbirth” usually refers to having a baby without drugs, but some women just think avoiding a C-section is natural childbirth. I can’t blame them. C-section rates have been climbing through the years.
In 2019, about 25% of low-risk births were performed by cesarean. This is insane. Why? What is the purpose of cutting a baby out of 1 in 4 women if she has little to no medical issues?
Some doctors are afraid of liabilities with high-risk pregnancies and that is at least understandable, but in truth, I’ve been hearing more and more women asking for C-sections and it just baffles me. They schedule it like they’re getting their nails done. It’s definitely not an approach I understand.
When I was pregnant with my youngest in 2020, so was one of my colleagues. She happily confided in me that she had already scheduled the C-section when we were both still in the second trimester. I didn’t want to make her feel bad so I just asked, “Is everything okay?”
Women are asking for C-sections to accommodate their schedules and to keep from “damaging” their vaginas.
She happily smiled and told me, “Oh yeah, but my due date is so close to my eldest’s birthday that I wanted to take him a few weeks early so they’re not too close together.”
I smiled and nodded. Sometimes it’s just best to smile and nod. It’s not my place to tell other people what to do with their babies, but the thought that anyone would schedule an elective C-section, before the due date when a baby is still developing, horrified me.
Despite the fact that babies grow at their own rate and come at the time that's best for them, this is becoming a trend. My husband’s ex asked for one because she didn’t want to “damage” her vagina. Women who had to have an emergency C-section are told they have to have one with their next baby, even if their risks are low, and women who are extremely overweight are also offered the option to avoid preeclampsia.
That’s the latest news I heard from my cousin, who is morbidly obese and due this summer. She’s already planned her due date C-section with her doctor. No one has discussed the possibility of eating better or drinking water instead of chugging soda, because well…that’s just crazy! We can’t ask pregnant women to control what goes into their bodies to promote better health.
The Big Entrance
The thing about C-sections is they’re risky. C-sections cost a lot, and they take a huge toll on mothers and babies. Infection, hemorrhage, adhesions, and even death are all complications mothers have to face when getting a C-section. The babies are more likely to receive a birthing injury, have breathing problems, and experience difficulty nursing.
In addition, vaginal births give babies the proper gut bacteria they need to digest food and combat illness. Babies delivered by cesarean don't receive this natural boost to their immune system because they don’t pass through the birth canal and ingest that needed microbiome from their mother's gut.
Vaginal births give babies the proper gut bacteria they need to digest food and combat illness.
How a baby is born is just as important as how they're cared for and raised. The fact that anyone questions mothers who know this and utilize the information to make better decisions for themselves and their children is what should be stigmatized.
But instead, women who wish to do as women have done for thousands of years – to naturally birth their babies without modern medical interventions – are treated as if they’re paranoid or crazy. It’s almost as if society has accepted a weakened state of femininity. Instead of rising to the occasion and facing the pain of childbirth with grace and dignity, it has become commonplace to openly fear and hide from something countless women have been doing since the dawn of humanity.
Heralding the end of natural childbirth enables women to grow weaker, more childish. Like the men who are constantly attacked for displaying their natural biological masculinity, feminine mothers who birth their children “the old fashioned” way are berated by women who just do whatever they’re told by the medical industry.
How we bring our children into the world is incredibly personal. Sometimes medical intervention is necessary, but most often it’s not. Natural mothers, like me, aren’t running around trying to ban labor drugs or to stop doctors from performing C-sections, so why are women, doctors, and nurses constantly trying to coax expectant mothers into accepting drugs when they express a desire to avoid them?
Because adding drugs and surgeries to the bill makes hospitals a lot of money. It’s a business. And anyone not profiting from it should take note instead of avoiding this fact. But even if they can’t do that, at the very least, women who wish to have their babies naturally should be respected and encouraged to do what they know is best for their children. It’s not an unreasonable request, really.
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