In a culture where birth has turned into something quite medicalized, I’ve been pondering the different beliefs that are circulating about labor and birth. So I thought I’d throw something together with some information. Please feel free to share more topics in the comments that I can touch on and I’ll make a second post! 🙂
1. ) First, let’s address our “EDD”. This is our, estimated due date, and determines a general date around which we can expect the baby. However, what is often not shared is the commonality of women giving birth up to 5wks before or after that date (check out the info here)! While many have come to believe 40wks is the time that which a baby must be born, it’s actually the average time frame of when a woman gives birth. This date is determined by last menstrual cycle, however many women’s cycles vary! Women can have a cycle from anywhere between 20 days and 45 days, however, most doctors automatically determine the 40wk mark by a 28 day cycle. So, not only could the 40wk mark be off due to the cycle calculations, one may not even give birth to their babies at 40wks! Try and picture the math for a moment:
If a woman cycled at 20 days and her last period was on August 4th, her 40wk mark would be May 1st.
Compare that to a woman who cycles at 45 days and her 40wk mark lands on May 26th.
That’s a full 25 day difference!
Add to that a woman who naturally delivers around 42 weeks, she’d give birth on June 9th.
A woman with a 28 day cycle would be due on May 9th. If one were to consider induction at 36-38wks based on this 28 day cycle (what many believe to be considered “full term”), the dates would be between April 11-25th! That would be nearly two months premature!! Two months!
2. ) And so the transition into induction: The belief is that inductions carry little to no risk. A medically induced labor is the use of synthetic drugs in order to trigger labor and acts much like a spontaneous labor. However, what’s actually happening is quite different. The drug, Pitocin for instance, mimics that of the hormone Oxytocin (what your body naturally releases to initiate labor). Pitocin however does not take into consideration what the body as a whole needs and is a constant drip, whereas the communicators in the body determine how much and how often Oxytocin should be released. Therefore, the drugs cause more intense labor than the body is built for and at a pace the laboring woman has a difficult time keeping up with. For a VBAC, this can be especially dangerous because it can put added stress on the previously made cesarean scar and in some cases lead to uterine rupture. This includes what some deem as “natural inductions” because it is still pushing the body harder and encourages it to go farther than what the body knows it is capable of. However, even for a birth without prior c-sections, this can still lead to pain medication and other interventions.
3. ) Pain management: Epidural, Demerol, Staidol, etc. are all synthetic drugs to aid in pain management in hospitals. However, while they may manage pain, there are lots of side effects to be aware of. Each of these can minimize the ability to work with your body as labor progresses. I personally used Staidol while in labor with my second child and I felt completely out of control. I could not stay awake, I couldn’t communicate with my husband, I found it difficult to make my body push… I could barely function. I threw up all over myself and I had to lay in it until my baby was born 2 hours later. You know that feeling when you’re falling asleep at the wheel and you wake up suddenly and panic because you realize you’re falling asleep while driving? That’s how it felt with each contraction at one minute apart…. for at least 2½ hours. As each contraction came, I woke up in a panic, confused. I have found in my 4 other births that I did not use pain killers, that I was able to focus, have clarity of mind, communicate what I needed and wanted, work with my body, move around, and most importantly, remain calm.
From research and from my own experience, I’ve found that these drugs will completely alter how a woman will instinctively behave while in labor. A progressive labor then turns into an active mission because your mind and body are no longer able to work together – either the mind is foggy from the drugs, or your body is numb from the drugs, or both. You now have to help your body bring the baby down the birth canal through encouraging certain movements rather than allowing natural instinct to come into play. For the epidural, that also means not being able to move around like one may need or desire to do if not medicated.
4. ) Laying on your back: Also called Lithotomy (flat-on-back) or C-position (resting on tailbone with body curled in the shape of a C) are the most used birth positions in hospitals. They are almost solely used for the purpose of convenience for the doctors and rarely because the woman has preferred that position. Not only are these positions often the least comfortable to labor in, they can actually hinder the laboring process. It results in reducing the pelvic outlet up to 30% smaller and puts greater pressure on the perineum (which can thus lead to tearing, episiotomy, forceps delivery, or vacuum extraction). It also can decrease the fetal heart rate and other types of distress leading to continuous electronic fetal monitoring (EFM), increased risk of shoulder dystocia, problems with presentation, or a prolonged pushing phase. There is no need for a woman’s legs to be held back and can in fact lead to putting lots of unnecessary stress on the perineum which in turn could also lead to tearing.
5. ) Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM) also known as the non-stress test (NST): This is a machine that measures both the fetal heart rate and the uterine contractions at the same time and was invented by Orvan Hess and Edward Hon. It was introduced to make a reduction in cerebral palsy which has essentially been proven to have made no progress (the rates have remained the same for the past 30+ years). The EFM became universally used in the US, it has been linked to dependence on the machine, and thus has led to increased misdiagnoses of fetal distress and increased (and often unnecessary) cesarean deliveries. That being said, often, any varying combination of pitocin, pain medication, and the lithotomy position can cause such distress and thus lead to a now necessary cesarean delivery.