Baby Business: The Birthing Debate

28 Jul

Lately babies are looking cuter and the idea of having one sounding more appealing.  I figure it is because I am 29 and so many of my friends are pregnant or have babies.  As a massage therapist and a person with an interest in alternative therapies and natural living, I have often heard about the debate between natural birthing and hospital births and their effect on babies and mothers.  I like to think that I would have a natural birth because, in general, I am skeptical of western medicine’s philosophy of healing and the idea of having a newborn baby in an environment full of contaminants, like a hospital.

Since I have not actually had a baby, I am not going to say that I won’t have a baby in the hospital, but I am on a quest to get informed about all of my options.  I recently watched Ricki Lake’s documentary “The Business of Being Born” where she details how disappointing of an experience she had with her first child being born in a hospital and goes in depth about the natural birthing process.  The film definitely was eye-opening for me because they actually show several women giving birth without pain medication at home and in birthing centers.  Most of the women had moments when they thought that they couldn’t handle the pain, but kept going anyway and in the end were really happy with the experience.  One of the points made in the film is that women are depriving themselves of an empowering experience that creates a stronger bond with their baby.  While I don’t know if this is true for all women, it was an interesting point.

What I found most important is that the drugs administered in typical hospital births often start a chain reaction of events that can end in C-sections.  For example, Pitocin, is used to mimic Oxytocin which is the natural hormone within the body that causes contractions in the woman’s uterus during childbirth.  Oxytocin is also related to sexual pleasure and love, hence the claims of it creating the strong bond between mother and child since the levels are so high during birth.  The problem according to the film is that Pitocin does not actually create the same effect as Oxytocin.  The contractions brought on by Pitocin are much more intense so they are much more painful for the mother and, worse, they cut of the blood supply to the baby for longer periods which deprives the baby of oxygen and can lead to distress.  So basically, once a woman accepts Pitocin the chain of events has been set in action. With the increased pain from the stronger contractions  she is more likely to choose pain medication. Then if the woman is not able to give birth vaginally and has a C-section, there are other issues such as the fluid that accumulates in the babies lungs which is normally squeezed out during vaginal delivery and can lead to respiratory issues after C-sections.

All of this gives a very strong impression that if your pregnancy is not high-risk, than it is best to not give birth with unnecessary medical interventions.  Yet, it is just really hard to shake the worry of “what if something goes wrong and I’m not at the hospital?!” While I understand intellectually the points against medical interventions during pregnancy, I still find it hard to commit to the idea of not having the “security blanket” of western medicine which is quite effective for emergency situations.  The solution for many women is birthing centers, where you can have a natural birthing process and still have all of the medical personnel and interventions available in case they are needed.

So this brings me to my next point, why are there hardly any birthing centers in Hawaii and none on the Capital island, Oahu?  In my knowledge, the closest thing we have to one is at Castle Hospital where my friend Donna is a head nurse in the birthing center ( http://www.castlemed.com/birth_center.htm ).  I have several friends who have had positive birthing experiences there and at present I would probably also choose this hospital.  They have 4 rooms that have birthing tubs and all rooms are equipped for the baby to be able to stay in the room the entire time the mother is in the hospital.  My question is though, how do you get one of the rooms with the tub?  It would suck to get there and they say that they are all full and then you’re whole plan is just tossed aside!

There are so many things to think about! A woman who works in my building stopped by the office this morning to drop of a time-off request form since she is having her baby soon.  I asked her when she was due and she told me Friday at 11:30 a.m.  because she is having a C-section.  Apparently with her first child she ended up having a C-section after her son was a week late and the Pitocin didn’t work as they had hoped.  So now she has opted to just go straight for a C-section and not try a vaginal birth.  I can understand her situation.

This brings up to mind the issue with C-sections that is taking place in Brazil (and in the U.S. to an extent too); women are choosing to have C-sections out of convenience and to “avoid pain.”  My sister-in-law is due next week Friday in Brazil. In the beginning of her pregnancy her doctor asked her if she wanted to have a vaginal birth or a C-section even though she is not a high-risk pregnancy.  She chose to have a C-section because, as with many of the Brazilian women that I have spoken too, “it is easier and more pleasant.”  To me this is just absurd (And yes I told her this too).  I have studied muscles extensively, and I can tell you that cutting through the abdominal muscles/wall is NOT going to be pain free in the healing process. It will take longer to recover and is gonna HURT! So the whole no pain excuse is totally bogus.  Perhaps it is fear of the process and what it does to our girlie parts, but I still have a very hard time accepting it as something that women should just choose as if they are just choosing to have some cosmetic surgery.

This is all coming from me, a woman who has never experienced it, who can be quite opinionated about certain things and this is one of them.

So what do you think?

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4 Responses to “Baby Business: The Birthing Debate”

  1. alisapark July 28, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Hi, Jessica. I came across your blog while continuing on my endless search for more insight into natural/home births.. and I’m so glad I did! I’m 28 and also a grad student thinking about planning for our first baby in the next year or so. (Oh, and my husband is also South American:)) But you are so right. It seems very odd that the rate of elective C-sections has gone up so much as of late. While I know it’s unavoidable at times, I think some women forget that it is major surgery. I recently listened to a podcast about a woman who went through months and months of horrible recovery complications after her cesarean. And with all the wonderful & empowering stories out there about delivering your child naturally, feeling all the emotions and sensations God gifted us with… well, I don’t think I’d choose it to be any other way! Good luck on your journey, and please let me know if you come across any cool resources.
    ~Alisa

    • lovemeanyway July 28, 2010 at 11:35 am #

      Hi Alisa! We have a lot in common 🙂 Thanks so much for your comments. Yeah the complications from C-sections can be horrific and I have also read that each time a woman has a C-section there is an increased risk in the likelihood of dangerous complications.
      Good luck on your journey too! I will definitely let you know if I come across good resources for us.

      Jessica

  2. Cheri July 28, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    Hi Jessica,
    I’ve been reading your blog – love getting to know you a little bit better before we see you next month!

    Without going into too much detail, I’ll add that I was 29 and in great physical shape when Ashton was born. We took all the classes, read many books, and hoped and planned for little or no drugs. But unfortunately nobody tells the baby about your birthing plans and sometimes they don’t follow along. I went into labor with no medical intervention 10 days after my due date. I ended up having a C-section because of complications that would have resulted in one or both of our deaths before that surgery was made available.
    Because of the problems the first time around it was wisest to plan a C-section with #2. I really had no pain, was off my pain meds by the time I left the hospital, and healed very quickly both times.
    So while I think it is great to educate yourself as much as possible and hope for the experience you most desire, having a healthy baby and keeping yourself healthy is what matters. And not to get too hung up on the “process” because you will very quickly have to turn your attention to taking care of a tiny, very demanding but adorable human 🙂

    • lovemeanyway July 28, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

      Hi Cheri,

      Thanks so much for your insight! You are so right that you never know what can happen. The mother’s and baby’s health and safety are what is most important. Many mothers have told me to keep an open mind because as you said the baby doesn’t know about your birthing plans. I am glad that you healed quickly from your C-sections without any complications. I am still gonna keep praying that God allows me to have a natural childbirth when we have a baby, but God’s plans are not always the same as our own 😉 Thanks so much for commenting and I too look forward to seeing you next month!

      Jessica

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