Hospital birth is the path of choice for a large portion of pregnant women and families. Hospitals can be pleasant places, with kind and caring staff, and OBGYNs can be respectful, wise, gentle, and comforting. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Often, doctors and hospital staff pressure pregnant women into making choices that are not what is best for them or their babies. Why do they do this? Certainly not because they are uncaring, uneducated, or unqualified. They do this because they have seen it all, and they have to concern themselves with what could go wrong and who might sue them. They are doing their best within the system they work in, which is governed by policies, procedures, and preferred practices.
Because of this, doctors and the hospital setting in general can easily encourage fear and uncertainty in birthing women. They tend to use negative language and push for practices that they prefer, even when they are not up-to-date or evidence-based. They can often be rigid, and treat patients impersonally, because they simply don’t have the time or energy to change gears for each individual patient and family. All of this can end up causing unnecessary stress or harm on mothers, babies, and loved ones.
One major issue with medicalized birth is the basic idea that pregnancy and birth are medical problems, which need to be treated. The truth is that pregnancy and birth are a natural, normal, and healthy part of a woman’s life cycle, if she so chooses. Women don’t need to be saved from this process. We need to be empowered and reminded that our bodies were created to do this!
Viewing birth as a medical issue encourages the use of unnecessary interventions. When medical care providers start intervening in the natural birth process, women’s bodies are less able to cope. Interventions lead to more interventions, and ultimately, increase the likelihood of unnecessary cesarean sections.
The most common interventions I hear about are labor induction and augmentation, and the ever-popular epidural—all of which increase the chances of having a c-section. Health care providers induce labor, or speed it up, using methods such as sweeping the membranes, manually breaking the water, or administering Pitocin. In many cases, there is no need to rush the birthing process, and these interventions are unnecessary. Forcing the body to birth sooner or faster than it naturally would can place extra stress on the mom and baby, making the birthing time longer and more difficult. This can lead the mother to request an epidural, when she may have been able to cope just fine if her birthing time had been allowed to proceed naturally.
Using an epidural can cause labor to stall or slow down. Often times, health care providers then respond by adding or increasing Pitocin. This adds even more stress to the mother’s body and to the baby. Not only that, but the epidural eliminates the possibility for the mother to push in a more optimal position than from her back. Birthing while laying on your back is one of the most challenging ways to push a baby out, compared to squatting, hands and knees, kneeling, or even side-lying. As a result, it will often take longer and be more difficult to push the baby out with an epidural. Because the mother is numb, she also cannot feel the sensations which would normally lead her to push. This means she must be coached, and must push “blindly.” All of these issues add up to a more difficult birth process. And of course, the longer and more difficult a birth becomes, the more exhausted and defeated a mother may feel, and the more pressure she will receive from the doctor to go ahead with a surgical birth.
The cycle of interventions is a brutal one. One of the benefits of natural birth is that it removes this cycle from the process, enabling women to trust their bodies and birth the way they were created to.
Although I am passionate about natural birth, I also want to make a few comments about medical birth. I am by no means against c-sections, doctors, or hospitals. These tools are life-saving for the small percentage of women and babies who truly need them. And there is absolutely no shame in having a c-section, or any other intervention, when it is necessary. Even when it isn’t necessary, a birthing mom should have the freedom to choose whatever birthing path that she is most comfortable with. All birthing women are amazing. And the most important thing is that mother and baby are healthy and safe!
I only want to encourage women to explore the possibilities of natural birth, to learn about the benefits, and to become empowered through their choices. Too often, medicalized birth is chosen out of fear, lack of information, or outside pressure. Doctors are not infallible, and they don’t know everything. Hospital birth outcomes in our nation are shockingly poor compared to many other places in the world, and I believe this is because women and families have stopped being active participants in their own pregnancy and birth care. We are not bystanders in this process!
We do not need to approach pregnancy and birth with fear, dread, or helplessness. Instead, we can be informed, confident, and empowered. We can trust our bodies, knowing that they were created so incredibly and beautifully!
Do you want to be informed, confident, and empowered as you prepare for birthing?
Better Birthing courses give you the information you need to make empowered choices, so that you can look forward to your baby’s birth with confidence.