Thursday, May 21, 2009

God, family, natural childbirth (warning: this is long!)

There is not much that gets me super fired up (meaning heart-pumping, emotional, about to come out of my seat fired-up). Some things that do: Authentic worship. I could sing praises to God for hours and hours. Its one of my favorite ways to communicate with God. I sing at the top of my lungs and don't really care who is listening. Next: My family. Of course, most people understand me when I say that. When it comes to your family, ain't nobody better be messin' with 'em!!

Last: Natural Childbirth. Okay, I know this is a touchy subject and I know there will be people who don't agree. I'm really okay with that, but this is my blog and I get to say what I want, right? ;)

My absolute DREAM job is to be a doula (a labor support person). I have started the certification and slowly plan to finish it. If I could support women in labor every day, I would be happy as a lark. I would be even happier if the majority of those women chose natural childbirth and the incredible rewards that come with it!

How in the world did I become so passionate about this?

Well, my own childbirth experience. Chloe was born completely naturally, but not without a big 'ol fight. I won't go into the whole story (maybe I will save that for another post...I know you all are just chomping at the bit for that one!), but I will tell you that I never should have had to fight so much opposition from people and even more imporantly from my doctors.

I truly do not understand why this country can not get it together when it comes to childbirth. Natural is safest. period. Why on EARTH do we have a national c-section rate of over 30%, when evidence shows that 5-10% is optimal. C-sections are a SERIOUS surgery! We are 41st on the list of mortality of mothers giving birth in the world? Really? In the land of the free and the brave? It's astounding to me!

I'll tell you why we are failing childbirthing mothers: because our labors have so many interventions that lead to more interventions that lead to more interventions that lead to c-sections. So many women are induced for whatever reason (there are MANY and most of them absolutely ridiculous), which leads to harder stronger contractions, which then leads to an epidural because the woman can't handle the pain of the unnatural contractions, many times the epidural then slows down the labor progress (which happens to be 1cm every 2 hours...that's 20 hours, people!), so we kick up the pitocin and suddenly the baby is in distress....time for a c-section!

Listen, I completely understand that these interventions (drugs, c-sections, etc.) are there for good reason. SOME women do need these things because the labor isn't going how it should. I get that! I'm not saying no woman should ever be induced or have a c-section, what I am saying is that the number should be WAY less!

Here are some very important reasons why natural childbirth really IS best for mom and baby (some information from Natural Mothers Radio Talk):

There won’t be any reactions to drugs. Even though a large percentage of people do not experience serious side effects to drugs, there are still many mothers who do. These drugs can cause complications with the delivery and even afterwards - both for mom and baby. Babies exposed to drugs in labor also sometimes have difficulty learning to breastfeed.

Natural childbirth without medication helps to keep mom aware and functioning at high levels during her birth. Using numbing drugs that paralyze her from the waist down can mean the birth process lasts for much longer and mom and baby can get tired, leading to the possibility of a c-section. Anesthesia also tends to cause a “slippery slope” of intervention that can lead to induction and again, unnecessary c-section.

Statistics show that reduced medical intervention mean fewer difficulties during birth. This includes pitocin to induce contractions, breaking the water to start labor and even a planned cesarean.

Medical intervention tends to cause stress in the mother (sometimes without her being aware of it) and can cause labor to slow or stall out completely. Although some women report that anesthesia during labor helps them relax you so you can dilate better, other times it slows down the whole process putting you and the baby through a lot more work than is needed.

Since medical intervention often interferes with the normal birthing process it also raises the statistic for cesareans. Doctors only want you to birth so long, they say you get too tired and you can’t handle it, etc. Many times they could be more worried about getting it over with so they can get back to their families. This is another reason so many people have planned cesareans. **Don't try to tell me this one isn't ever true because my doctor DID this!!**

Interestingly, in other developed nations where home birth and natural birth are more common, outcomes are better and there is much lower infant mortality.

Our bodies were designed to deliver babies! God made women so that the birthing process could happen naturally. It's not an "injury" or something that needs to be fixed. It's a rite of passage for women and as women, we shouldn't take it lightly. I can't even explain the empowerment that came from having Chloe naturally. It was one of the most incredible, proud moments of my life!

My opinion (and really its backed by research) is that natural childbirth is safest for mom and baby. I am not going to tell you that you are stupid and wrong for choosing a hospital birth where you are most likely going to encounter most if not all of the interventions I talked about. My MAIN concern is that women are not educating themselves. Doctors aren't telling you these things, trust me! So, if the doctors aren't going to step up and educate their patients as they should be, then who is? So, my biggest advice if you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant....EDUCATE yourself! Learn how your body works and the amazing capabilities it has!

Here are some really great resources:

Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin (my hero!)

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a better Birth by Henci Goer

The Business of Being Born (DVD)

I know this is a touchy subject, so I would LOVE to hear your thoughts! There is nothing I love more than a dialogue about childbirth! And yes, I realize you may think I'm a crazy hippie. I'm okay with that ;)


Matt Aviles said...

Jo had 3 naturals and was/is a TOTAL stud about it. Not a peep! She tried to visit with the doctor about natural childbirth with Eli but the doc would hear nothing of it (breach). She went into labor and had an emergency c-section. We both hated it. Unless there is a medical reason, I say do it naturally.

Ashleigh said...

I had forgotten that she had to have a c-section with Eli. There are some midwives who successfully deliver breech babies, but yeah, I don't think you'll find an OB who would do it. Breech presentation is definitely one of the reasons its wonderful that we do have the advancements and knowledge to do cesareans.

Jennifer said...

came to your site from little april rose's- prayed for you guys as you're are waiting on God's timing and blessing of another addition to your family.

enjoyed reading this post very much as i have very similar feelings to you regarding natural birth.

April said...

I totally agree with you Ashleigh! Only, I was one of those that needed intervention all 3 times! I tried and had serious problems each time ending in c-sections. I do believe that natural is the best route and why some choose to automatically have a c-section, I have no idea! l

Mrs. Haid said...

Another very good resource is "The Big Book of Birth" by Erica Lyon.

I am 35 weeks pregnant after a few unsuccessful pregnancies, and I have been taking birth education very seriously. I do think most moms-to-be take things seriously and research as well. I don't have any knowledge of women I know who just only listen to doctors or who only just read natural childbirthing resources.

I like Lyon's book because it is very balanced. I agree with you when you say that God created our bodies to birth, but I challege to you consider that God created doctors without selfish intentions who are good problem solvers and who want women to enjoy and relax during their birth. I think there are many anesthesiologist who seek to help and comfort women and who have a God given talent.

So even though I am really pro-medical intervention to help mom and baby (medical interventions allowed me to carry this baby this long, "naturally" I'd have had another miscarriage at 5-10 weeks), I would also love to be a doula. I would love to be helpful and comforting to women and to help them feel empowered, educated, and confident!

Ashleigh said...

Mrs. Haid. Thanks for your comment :) I am so glad to hear that you have been so pro-active with your birth and that medical intervention is allowing your baby to thrive in the womb. Forgive me if I wasn't clear in that I DO believe interventions are there for good reason (you are an example of that!), but I believe WHOLEHEARTEDLY that they are carelessly and over used many times.

I do actually know quite a few women (I could name about 10 off the top of my head) who did not educate themselves and went strictly by what their doctors told them. Now, if their doctors were giving them FULL information and education about normal childbirth and ALL their choices, then that's great -- none of the ones I know of did.

Also, I am SO glad you have found a doctor without selfish intentions and one who is willing to work with you. I truly believe they are few and far between when it comes to OB's today. My own birth experience proved to me exactly what MUCH of The Business of Being Born talks about. I had two doctors the day I delivered, both of who were unprofessional and one of which who was incredibly selfish and arrogant. Mine isn't the only story out there, believe me!

I DO believe natural childbirth is best, BUT I also believe that women should have the birth they want and choose. They shouldn't have to fight doctors to have the birth they desire, as I did (and no, there was NOTHING medically wrong with the me or the baby...which is often the case when they start all the interventions).

I am so glad to hear that you want to become a doula! We need more out there!! Education is power! When women are presented with ALL the facts and choices out there, rather than just half the story, then they CAN be empowered and confident!

Kourtney said...

This is great, Ashleigh. Very helpful and empowering. I have been wanting to find some books and other resources to learn more about the different ways to have a natural birth, so I am very happy you included a few recommendations!

I must say, though...there are several girls I knew from the past and have kept up with through facebook (so sad, haha)...each have given birth within the last month or so, or will be in the next week, and are being induced simply because they're ready to have their babies. Not because of complications or health reasons, but just because they don't want to be pregnant anymore. It makes me so sad, as a baby thrives on each day he/she is in the mother's womb and it is still a healthy environment and there are no complications or concerns. I don't believe enough women educate themselves, either. And too many, if they do, do so blindly, leaving the final say to their doctors (which sometimes is best, sometimes not).