“…yeah, just ask for an epidural and all the drugs…………………I’m sure then it’ll be fine….”
I was standing in the queue at the parcel collection office, two women in their early 20s were chatting, and I overheard this snippet. It made me think. I know many women are fearful of labour and childbirth. What I question is why so many are fearful of a natural process, a beautiful journey that sees the interplay between mother and baby unfold so powerfully that it results in the birth of a new soul and the emergence of a mother. And yet, they are not fearful of accepting synthetic painkillers and accept epidurals without asking the risks involved. Many women ask for epidural in the belief it will make childbirth easier. What they are not told is that it can inhibit their production of oxytocin, which can both reduce the effectiveness of uterine contractions, therefore making labour longer (and therefore inevitably harder) and also reducing it to such a level that the intended, natural peak of its release at birth is not sufficient to trigger that moment of all-consuming love…
This is what women should be afraid of, that their reliance on medical pain relief will affect their ability to labour and to birth their babies, and subsequently may inhibit their motherly instincts for a time. It is essential that women also come to understand that several types of analgesics (pain medications) are associated with more crying, less breast-seeking behaviours and less sucking (ie inhibition of breastfeeding) and that babies may be less alerd, less able to orient themselves and have less organised movements than babies whose mothers did not receive medication in labour, and that these differences were measurable for the whole first month after birth (The Breastfeeding Answer Book, La Leche League International, Third Revised Edition 2003, Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC & Julie Stock, MA, IBCLC).
Women are afraid of the great unknown of labour & birth that has been the norm of human existence for thousands of years, and yet perfectly prepared to accept medical intervention that has existed for mere decades.
It is time that we encouraged all mothers to know what medical interventions mean – not simply how they may *benefit* the mother, but how they may affect her in other ways, how they may impede her natural ability to birth her baby, how they may mean her baby is born sleepy and less able to breastfeed effectively, how they may impact her health in the long term.
Until we ensure that women are presented with the risks as well as the *benefits* of intervention, there is no such thing as freedom in birth, no such thing as informed choice for pregnant, labouring, birthing women.
Don’t be afraid of what we know – that women have survived & even relished labour and childbirth for millennia. Be afraid of what you don’t know when offered drugs that will make it *easier*.
Want to find out more – these are some good places to start…
Want to see a good birth, a beautiful birth, what it really looks like? Check out this amazing film (only about 5 mins) and then have a good look around the rest of the site too ❤