Natural birth. Some people cringe at the thought. Some may imagine barefoot women with sunflowers in their hair diffusing essential oils and eating organic hummus. Natural birth seems to be brushed off as being reserved for the "crunchiest" members of society. I would like to nip that stereotype in the bud and say that childbirth sans pain medication is for all women!
Why go natural? Let me count the ways! Avoiding pain medication is not out of a fear of "big pharma." Studies show that epidurals can actually increase your chances of needing further medical intervention (i.e., labor augmentation via Pitocin, or Cesarean section). This is referred to as the "Cascade of Interventions." Nobody wants to increase their chances of having major abdominal surgery!
Another reason to avoid medications during labor is so that your hormones can operate without interference. Your brain is releasing very specific amounts of oxytocin, endorphins, adrenaline, and other hormones to progress labor, to keep you going, and even to relieve pain! Dr. Sears compares this process to the conduction and performance of a great musical symphony. Medications of any kind disrupt the production of these hormones so that they are no longer working in harmony with one another. This dissonance can result in a lack of that beautiful rush of oxytocin - aka the love hormone - when baby is born. Believe me, you want the oxytocin!
Finally, I often hear women say that they are not strong enough or that their pain tolerance is too low to give birth without an epidural. Listen - if I can do it, anyone can! I'm pretty sure my toddler has a higher pain tolerance than I do. But, as I noted earlier, your body is making hormones to fight the pain! And the greatest thing? It is totally empowering! Giving birth without medication has the power make you feel like you can accomplish anything! It was definitely one of the greatest self-efficacy boosters I have ever experienced.
So, to the average woman I say "Natural birth is for you!" You don't need super strength, and you don't have to be one with Mother Nature. If you are educated and have a supportive birth team, then you can absolutely achieve a natural birth. No organic hummus required.
When I was pregnant, I had quite a few people in my life who didn't believe in my ability to have an unmedicated birth. They thought I would regret my choice to go without the epidural because, surely, I couldn't handle that much pain. They believed midwifery was inferior to obstetrics and that I would surely be in more danger giving birth at a birth center. And giving birth in water? Wouldn't the baby drown?
Despite the discouragement, I was confident in my willpower and ability to give birth without pain medication. My husband and I were well-prepared, and we had a great birth team. Plus, when someone tells me I can't achieve something, I get even more motivation to do it. Sometimes being stubborn has its advantages, I suppose.
Preparation is Everything
So what was it that gave me - the girl prone to crying over a stubbed toe - this confidence? It was the education I had gained by taking a Birth Boot Camp class with my husband. When we started the class, I actually wasn't so sure that I could accomplish what seemed to be a Herculean task. But as we learned about the balance of hormones and progression of labor, various methods to cope with and relieve pain, and about the midwifery model of care, I became more certain that this was what I wanted and that I would be able to do it. I went from fearing birth to looking forward to it.
The birth of my daughter was incredible. I actually look forward to being able to go through labor again someday. Birth Boot Camp truly empowered both me and my husband to achieve the birth we desired, and I want to share that empowerment with more couples. Natural birth takes a lot of physical, spiritual, and mental preparation. If I didn't have that, then I could have easily given in to the discouraging comments I received.
Education Relieves Fears
I have noticed that my friends have all sorts of questions about pregnancy and birth. Unfortunately, it isn't a topic that women know a lot about in the United States. I believe that lack of knowledge is part of what perpetuates this fear of childbirth. It makes people believe that natural birth is only for the strongest of women. That midwives are not truly qualified care providers. That childbirth is constantly on the edge of catastrophe. Lack of knowledge is what breeds discouragement. One class at a time, I am hoping to help break this cycle.
You CAN Have an Amazing Birth!
I decided to become a Birth Boot Camp instructor so that couples can learn that natural birth is possible and so they can face it without fear. Couples should feel strong, not discouraged or fearful, when thinking about the birth of their children. I had an amazing birth, and so can you!