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Childbirth: Medical Fear-Mongering from Both Sides

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When it comes to having a baby there are two views of what is right: the naturalistic view and the pharmaceutical view. Proponents of each are equally passionate about their beliefs, and both use similar tactics to push their ideals on mothers-to-be. Both are fear-mongers.

Naturalists encourage the most natural birthing experience possible. To press their opinions onto expecting mothers, they spout statistics of the possible harms medications can cause your child. I’ve heard it all. For example, using Pitocin to initiate labor causes extremely painful contractions, more painful that those your body would naturally cause during labor. I don’t have a problem with this statement. Pitocin does cause contractions that are much more intense than natural contractions. What I do have a problem with is what cycle naturalists say will happen if you use Pitocin.

According to the naturalists, if you use Pitocin to initiate labor you will have an epidural. The epidural slows the labor process, and forces the physicians to up your levels of Pitocin; then you need a higher dose of the epidural. According to the naturalists this puts a lot of undue stress on the baby, and usually leads to a C-section. This is a horrible fear for most mothers-to-be. C-sections take much longer to recover from than vaginal births. Most hospitals require at least a three-day stay after a C-section, versus anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for a normal vaginal delivery.

The naturalists continue to use fear to influence mothers’ decisions after birth. One of the biggest issues is whether or not to vaccinate. According to the naturalists, vaccinations are the leading cause of autism in children, and may even cause S.I.D.S. When you read the books bashing vaccinations, they mention studies they have done to prove that vaccinations only cause problems. They also mention that there is no proof that vaccinations help people. But, after looking closely at the studies quoted in the books, it is evident that many of these studies are performed by the books’ authors, and that they can be discredited by other studies published in scientific magazines.

The naturalists use the fear of death or extreme harm to the baby to coax an expectant mother into making decisions. Unfortunately, proponents of the pharmaceutical view use very similar tactics. Those who encourage drugs and medical intervention are often the ones who have the most sway with pregnant women. These are often their obstetricians and the media itself.

These people are possibly more harmful because they are heavily influenced by a paycheck. The pharmaceutical companies pay physicians to prescribe their products. If you’ve ever seen the samples being dropped off at your physician’s office then you’ve most definitely seen the schmoozing that happens at the same time. Also, the more women physicians can get in and out of a delivery room the more money they can get paid.

Because of the temptations of bigger paychecks from intervening in natural birth, either from the pharmaceutical companies or from the ability to see more women in a day, physicians are much more likely to prescribe Pitocin and even C-sections to make their lives more convenient. It is sad, and slightly frightening, that physicians may be more interested in their paycheck (or the hospital’s) than in giving a woman the absolute best care possible.

These same physicians hand out the vaccination schedules. While some vaccinations make sense for a baby, it is slightly ridiculous to see a newborn get a hepatitis vaccine, unless they will certainly be exposed to it. Until recently, this vaccine was not recommended until a child entered the sixth grade.

The hardest critic I will have to silence is the media. My husband is convinced that childbirth is going to be a horrible, frantic experience that cannot be calmed without an epidural. All the information he has are the images of screaming women supposedly going into labor and about to die from pain.

Labor is undeniably one of the most painful experiences a woman can have, but it is not necessarily as painful as it is painted on television (which typically portrays a woman beginning labor to be in the same pain as they would be in during the transitional stage). It can be managed without screaming, cursing, and bad attitudes. I will have an epidural to ease the pain, but my husband does not understand why I don’t want it immediately after going into labor. Eventually I will have to get him to stop watching the dramatized Hollywood portrayals of childbirth, and show him how it can really be.

So, the question remains, whom do we trust? How do we make informed decisions? I’ve read books from both sides, and can’t say that either is right. I have earnestly looked for information written from the middle, and found nothing.  Unbiased information is mainly available in highly technical scientific journals. To say these journals are difficult to interpret would be like saying the sun is hot. These journals are nearly impossible to understand unless you know the jargon of the field. Good luck using that information. And how do we make those around us understand that these decisions are being made rationally, not based on what we see in fictional television shows?

In the end all you can do is what you feel is right for you and your child. If you choose a medicated route, and are close to naturalists, this can be very difficult decision, especially when they warn that you are killing your child. If you choose to go natural this may be difficult in a hospital setting and while dealing with your physician. If you want a natural childbirth then look for a doula or midwife. They are becoming more widely available, and are even often covered by insurance in the same way an obstetrician would be. Many hospitals will also allow a natural birthing experience, but you have to make sure you stick to your convictions when the epidural is offered.

No matter your decision on how to deliver your child, be proud of it. Know that you are making the best decision you can for yourself and your family. You can listen to those who disagree with you, but don’t put any more value on their statements than what they are worth. If they have valid points and you want to take them, then you can. Most importantly, remember that how you have your child is no one’s business but our own. You don’t have to tell anyone about your birth plan (if you have one). Don’t let anyone pressure you into changing your plans just to please them.

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About Diana Goodwin

  • http://thecorbinstory.blogspot.com Ruth

    I somewhat agree. I know some doctors seem to urge an epidural, but mine did not. I had an almost 24 hour labor with no pain medications. My doctor asked once if I wanted an epidural, and I said no. I think one reason they ask, is because so many mothers jump into labor immediately asking for an epidural. I know some (not all) go in with no knowledge of doing it any other way. They have always heard “get an epidural”, so they do.
    I wasn’t pushed for an epidural, nor was I pushed for a c-section. I only had a c-section after 21 hours of labor, an hour and a half of pushing, then realizing my son’s shoulders were too big. After waiting another hour for the surgery team to be ready, THEN I had a c-section. I wanted a “natural” birth, my doctor was patient and waited with me, but in the end, it didn’t go as planned. And that’s okay! My son is healthy and thriving and the three days in the hospital were great! I didn’t have to cook, clean, or take care of myself. I quite enjoyed my recovery time and how everyone took care of me!