What I Believe: Natural Childbirth

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I believe that natural childbirth is best. I believe that the female body was created to give birth. We were not created to be cut open so that our babies could be through a man-made hole in our abdomen. We were not created to need the assistance of synthetic hormones to push labor along. And believe it or not, being created with the purpose of giving birth in mind, we were even made to accommodate the incredible size of a newborn baby’s head. I even believe that God’s intention was for childbirth to be an exciting, intimate experience that women would look forward to.

However, all of creation was affected by the fall of [wo]man – the first sin, which separated us from the perfect existence God had dreamed for us. Now there are miscarriages. There are stillbirths. There are breech babies. There are labors that stall or stop for various reasons. There are maternal deaths. There is pain.

So man has created ways to avoid these horrific experiences. We have ultrasounds to be able to view the baby and any potential health problems. We have cesarean sections, which have saved countless lives (both mother and child). We have pitocin, which can kick-start a stalled labor. We have epidurals, which numb the mother to the pain of childbirth.

It sounds like we have created the perfect labor – painless and safe. But it is not as risk-free as the doctors would have you believe. These interventions may be the best options when facing health issues for mother and/or child, but when they are used to accommodate schedules and personal preferences, they are putting health and lives at risk needlessly.

Inducing labor has gone from only being used when absolutely necessary to becoming the most popular option when a woman goes over her due date. In a time when science can tell us so much about the world around us and our own bodies, we come to think of “due dates” rather too concretely. Your due date could be two weeks before the doctor’s prediction, or two weeks after. If you induce labor because your baby wasn’t born by a specific day, you could be delivering your child two weeks early. And along with the health concerns that prematurity can cause, induction itself has dangerous side effects.

Induction causes more painful and intense contractions without the three to ten minute breaks that God intended our bodies to have during this exhausting process. Those unnaturally hard contractions have been known to cause uterine rupture and placental abruption (either your uterus or the placenta ruptures or tears). Induction can also cause limited blood flow and oxygen supply to the baby which can cause cerebral palsy among other things, and can lead to a drop in the baby’s heart rate. Because of these risks, induction also increases the chance of a cesarean section. And on top of that, inductions require constant monitoring, which limits the movements of the laboring mommy. Induced labors are also longer than natural ones. Still sound like the perfect labor?

Due to the intense contractions and decreased mobility, induced mommies often turn to the epidural for relief. I know I did when I was laboring with my first (which was also induced – I was blindly following professional advice – skip to the end for my opinion on that matter). Epidural risks are not explained by medical professionals. This is probably what frustrates me the most about nurses in the delivery room. Instead of coaching the laboring mother through the pain with helpful massages and encouraging words, they immediately go for the epidural permission form. But there are risks! They can range from week-long headaches to year-long backaches. When you think about the pain of labor and delivery, consider the relative speed with which that passes. Then compare it to living with a chronic backache AND a newborn. If you had to choose, which would you? Also, a laboring mommy with an epidural would not be mobile, and the absence of movement could cause labor to slow or stop, leading to a cesarean. Epidurals also could cause a drop in maternal blood pressure, which would, again, lead to an emergency cesarean. And then there is the ever-present risk of the needle which is inserted into your spine.

Cesarean sections are a serious abdominal surgery in and of themselves and are full of risk as well. The World Health Organization estimates that the rate of C-section should be between 5 and 15% of all births. Yet they found in sample hospitals that the average rate for a C-section was 27.3%! And part of the blame for the rise of that statistic is on uninformed women who are actually choosing C-sections over natural births because doctors tell them it is safer. However, these women are increasing their risk of maternal death, hysterectomy, hemorrhage, surgical injury to other organs, infection, blood clots, and rehospitalization for complications.

The following statistics from WebMD seem slim – until you know personally know someone in the 2.13%.

The most commonly seen complication with repeat C-sections in the newly reported study was attachment of the placenta too deeply into the uterine wall, a potentially life-threatening condition called placenta accreta.

Scar tissue that forms following a first surgical delivery increases the risk for placenta accreta with subsequent pregnancies.

Just 0.31% of the women in the study delivering by C-section for the second time developed the condition, compared with 2.13% of women who had a fourth surgical birth and 6.74% of women who had six or more cesarean deliveries.

A good friend of mine was having her third child. She wanted a natural birth, but due to complications, she delivered her angel girl via her third C-section. Afterward, the doctor explained that during the operation, he opened her abdomen to find the “most beautiful blue eye staring up” at him through a quarter-sized hole in her uterus. The doctor who had stitched up her previous two C-sections had left her womb resembling “Frankenstein’s monster” – a quote from the doctor himself. The doctor then explained that if her water would have broken – if she would have gone into labor naturally – due to her poorly stitched uterus, she and her baby would have died.

One of the most amazing facts I have learned on this journey is the benefit to the baby to be born naturally. It is normally assumed that childbirth is a traumatic experience for the baby, and the connection then is often made that a C-section would be better for the baby, even if it may be worse for the mother. However, most babies born through C-sections have to receive breathing treatments and are more likely to have asthma later in life. Why? Because before birth, the baby’s lungs are filled with fluid – as they have no need for them in the womb. During natural childbirth, this fluid is squeezed out. During a C-section, however, this does not take place, making it more likely that the lungs will not inflate properly, which leads to the newborn laying in the incubation unit with tubes coming out of her nose. And more studies have shown that when babies are born this way, it effects their breathing for years to come.

And yet doctors continue to perform C-sections. They continue to recommend induction – which increases odds for C-sections. They continue to recommend epidurals – which increase odds for C-sections. They continue to perform episiotomies (I’ll let you research that one on your own) after research calls them all but an unnecessary evil. They get irritated (at the least and irate at the most) when you refuse to lay on your back during labor (my nurse actually told me the doctor would not deliver my baby unless I was in bed) – which increases your odds for needing an episiotomy and an induction, and with that, the risk of a C-section.

Henci Goer, award-winning medical writer, writes in this article:

How can obstetricians hold beliefs so contrary to the facts? Primarily because “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Despite rhetoric about being “women’s health physicians,” obstetricians are surgical specialists in the pathology of women’s reproductive organs. The belief that birth is difficult, dangerous, and damaging and that major surgery is preferable validates and reinforces their sense of professional worth.

I appreciate doctors. In this fallen world, we need them. For unhealthy pregnancies, for breech babies that will not turn, for emergencies that would otherwise turn deadly – we need doctors.

However, they tend to lean towards a very unnatural laboring and birthing experience for mothers. And I Believe that, unless your specific situation prohibits it, childbirth should be left to progress as God intended: naturally.

For those special mothers who have endured cesarean sections for their babies, I dearly hope that you do not consider yourselves less in any way. You have endured more pain and more risk for the safety and health of your child and I salute you for it.

What do you believe?

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