What about Drugs?
Yep, drugs are also an option. As I said at the beginning of the book, the purpose of this book is not to preach about what you should or shouldn’t do during birth, but rather to get you thinking about what you want – and don’t want – from childbirth and how to best go about achieving that outcome.
I’m not going to list all of the drugs and interventions available but instead give you a quick overview of why natural birth:
1. Is safer for you and baby.
2. Will be a faster birth than when having drugs.
3. Has less post-partum recovery time afterwards.
The main thing is to actually have the correct information. So I want to provide you some information on why, top line drugs are not always the easiest option. If you want to find out more about drugs and their pros and cons, then you’ll have to buy another book, sorry
Natural Birth Benefit 1: Its Safer For You and Your Baby
Since there are no epidurals or other drugs administered to the mother, natural childbirth removes the dangers of possible toxins which may come in contact with the baby. There are some cases where anaesthesia does more harm than good to both mother and baby.
In addition, forceps applied to pull out the baby from the mother’s birth canal are notorious for the hazards they may bring. Most of the time forceps leave marks on the baby’s soft forehead or even some cases cause brain damage. An epidural prevents the mother from feeling if she is pushing correctly, so forceps may be used to help the mother’s push. With natural childbirth, the mother knows that the baby is coming out well, and there is usually no need for forceps.
Babies birthed without drugs tend to bond quicker with their mum. The babies tend to be able to use their instincts better, and are generally more responsive to their parents touch.
Natural Birth Benefit 2: Natural Childbirth is Faster
Need I go any further? Using drugs such as an epidural prevents mum from feeling – anything – below the waist. So you can’t feel as baby progresses or when you need to push. This can lead to excessive tearing of the perineum. Ultimately, the whole process will be faster when compared to being under anaesthesia.
Breathing through your surges or contractions is more effective when no sedatives have been given, as you can feel what you are doing. There are no risks of side effects for mum and baby when no anaesthesia has been administered. For example, if mum has pethidine, did you know that this can make baby sleepy and dazed, less likely to take to the breast and less successful at feeding all round.
Natural Birth Benefit 3: It Takes Less Time to Recover
Mums who have had a natural birth heal quicker than those who have given birth using drugs. They don’t need to lie down (as is the case with an epidural) and will be able to move around and make themselves comfortable during birthing. They won’t be groggy from the drugs which mean they will be better able to experience the first moments of their babies’ lives: why would you want to miss this??
Mums birthing in hospitals tend to stay shorter periods of time and can get back to their normal activities after a couple of days. The healing process is also shorter, and mums generally feel more connected to their new baby.
But What if I Decide I Want Drugs Anyway?
If you have read the information above and still feel strongly that you want to have drugs during childbirth, then that’s okay. We want women to feel empowered and supported and if considering everything we’ve just talked about, you still feel that drugs will do this for you, then absolutely have drugs during the birth. But you need to be aware (I said we would be honest with you) that the drugs don’t always work and they won’t always make it easier.
I remember people saying to me when I mentioned that I wanted to have a natural birth, “Why are you being a martyr? Just have an epidural. It’s great you won’t feel anything!” I don’t want anyone to be a martyr or to be in pain, I just want you to know that there are honestly more comfortable, easier and more effective natural ways of dealing with the sensations of childbirth than drugs.
The Body’s Natural Pain Killers: Endorphins
Our body has an amazing natural pain killers built in called endorphins. That’s why we don’t need artificial drugs!
A woman’s body produces beta-endorphins that are opiate-like substances to counter the pain of the surges or contractions of childbirth. The levels of endorphins rise as the labour progresses – literally to match the increasing intensity of the contractions. Isn’t this amazing?
So if we have an epidural for example, the endorphins switch off. The artificial medication takes the place of our natural pain killers, the endorphins. So if an epidural is allowed to “wear off” for the second stage of labour, to allow mums to breathe baby down or push, mum will only have the endorphin level of earlier in labour. It will not have increased with the strength of the surges as it would have done had she chosen not to have artificial drugs. So in fact mum will be in pain as her body’s natural defences will not be at their peak.
This blog is adapted from the revised edition of Birth ROCKS by Cheryl MacDonald, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.