natural birth vs. medicated birth
November 11, 2008 4:35 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are expecting baby #1 in May. While the baby will be born in a hospital, I would like to have an unmedicated birth. My husband is being very supportive about this decision but is concerned about the amount of pain I will be in without medication. While I realize all births and experiences are different, I would be interested to hear others experiences with natural birth and medicated birth, especially if you've experienced both and which choice were you happier with. Thank you in advance!
posted by Elaisa to Health & Fitness (47 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen The Business of Being Born?

I haven't had any kids, but I found the movie a very interesting. It takes on natural childbirth, pain, and medication in a very honest seeming way.
posted by aetg at 4:58 PM on November 11, 2008

I came here to recommend the same movie. You should definitely watch it if these concerns are on your mind. At least you can make an informed opinion by researching both sides of the equation.
posted by theantikitty at 5:02 PM on November 11, 2008

I'm about to give birth. The first thing that I'd put forth is that you look into pregnancy and parenting-specific forums. I LOVE MeFi, of course, but there is a lot to be said for the hundreds of people involved in these other communities. Pregnant and Parenting101 on LiveJournal are two that I follow. Clicking on the labor tag alone will get you dozens of birth stories.

Anyway, our plan is to be as natural as possible for as long as possible. This is partially due to the fact that I have high pain tolerance. We don't have a "birth plan" as we don't want to limit ourselves to medical interventions that might be required. My interest in going natural has decreased as I've been more pregnant. (And I have had an extremely easy pregnancy.) My doc is also very open to whatever we want to do and is a bit on the crunchy side herself. I'd guess that there is a 40% chance that I'll do some sort of pain control. Here are some thoughts that I have:

- As the Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy says, no one gets an award for going unmedicated. If you aren't reading this book, I would highly recommend it. In fact, I will send it to you if you'd like! It is great about being realistic about the entire pregnancy experience.
- I have only heard regrets from people that went unmedicated and never regrets from people that went for the epidural.
- Unless you are really amazing at learning those breathing patterns (like yoga teacher good), they (I hear) are completely useless for pain management and many people feel more frustrated trying to remember them than any value that they give.
- As active labor gets closer, I am in more pain. These contractions are not fun. I have a very high pain tolerance and I am still in pain. If this is a preview of active labor, I will be more inclined to go for the pain meds.
- If going medicated means that I am going to be less exhausted after labor and get to enjoy the "glory of motherhood" more, that's great.

So, my advice would be to keep your minds open (like we are) and go in with intentions to not, but open to making the switch once you know how much the contractions actually do hurt you (something which no one else can really speak to, right?) and what you're comfortable with. Good luck!
posted by k8t at 5:03 PM on November 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

Nthing The Business of Being Born. You can watch it here in poopy quality.
posted by phunniemee at 5:05 PM on November 11, 2008

My wife had two kids, at home, without any pain management. We had midwives. I don't know if I can really speak for her fairly, but I think she was in pain at least some of the time. At one point our first child was backwards, so she had what's called back labour where the baby's spine rubs aagainst her spine (from the inside of course) which is apparently more painful than usual. Eventually the baby turned around and after a long labour kid #1 was born. She went on to do the same thing for #2 except that labour was much shorter and there was no back labour.

For us (her really) the issue was that we wanted to have the kids at home with midwives. Once you make that decision, pain medication is a non-question - anesthesiologists don't make house calls with midwives.

We did try some vaguely alternative stuff - a TENS machine for baby #1 and we took hypnobirthing classes for baby #2. Both were of no use to her in the end and made no difference. The TENS machine got used for about 2 seconds before I was told quite clearly to "take it off!" So IMO if you want pain relief, stick with the epidural.
posted by GuyZero at 5:09 PM on November 11, 2008

My babies' mama did Hypnobirthing when our second son was born and she did it with no meds. We had a nurse-practitioner instead of a doctor, who was great. She was there for most of the labor.
With first son, we had MD who flitted in for five minutes and returned a couple of hours later repeatedly until the birth. She also had an epidural that didn't help much as she delivered soon after it. She was entirely more pleased with the non-medicated birth. It was less clinical and more relaxed.
posted by lee at 5:10 PM on November 11, 2008

I hang out at the forums. Lots of good stories and advice there about both sides.

I'm about to go through an unmedicated birth (hopefully). It's very important your caregiver is on board with you about this and be sure to find out your caregiver's model. Is it primary? Meaning, you see that person for all your appointments but you get whomever is on call for the birth. Or do you get the one you see for all your prenatals for the birth? You may have a tougher time convincing the person doing the birth of your intentions if it's not someone you've met before. What's the induction rate for your caregiver/hospital? What's the c-section rate? These can give you clues as to how supportive the environment will be for an unmedicated, natural birth.

Get a doula. Get a doula. Get a doula. Oh my gosh, get a doula. The presence of a doula will definitely help you in keeping your birth unmedicated and can provide support to you and to your husband. Your doula can also help you develop a good birth plan and will definitely be there at the birth, so even if you get a doctor or a labor nurse who doesn't understand your wishes, your doula can make sure your wishes are kept.

That said, I'm going in as open minded as possible. I do not want any medications if I can help it but if it happens that I need something, then I need something and I'm willing to consider it.

As for how to convince your husband about having an unmedicated birth, does he know that epidurals mean you'll be lying on one side or the other? You won't be able to move into a standing or squatting position, which has gravity working with you. On average, pushing with an epidural takes 3 hours whereas pushing without on average takes 2. It's thought that's the case because women with epidurals can't feel how hard they are or are not pushing as well as the factor in not being able to change positions during pushing.

If you want to find out how things go for us, feel free to contact me in another 6 weeks or so.
posted by zizzle at 5:15 PM on November 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

I think that if you want unmedicated, you should go for it. Pain management has only been around for a short amount of time compared to the amount of time that women have been giving birth and everyone is different (as you pointed out). With that supportive comment to kick this answer off with, let me tell you about my medicated birth.

I was 39 and I was very confident in my anesthesiologist (I was at a top notch teaching hospital in a urban area). I knew months before giving birth that I was going to opt for the epidural. I had already had two ruptured ovarian cysts in my lifetime and that was all the pain I wanted, thankyouverymuch. I am a wimp, obviously and I don't care who knows it. When I had that second ruptured cyst and they gave me some dilaudid, I became a junkie.

So, contractions started about 20 hours before I went to the hospital. They were manageable but I could not sleep through them. After I got to the hospital, I slowed down a little, but not much. I was only 4 cm dilated and I was getting very tired. I really needed to sleep to ramp up some energy for pushing but could not still sleep through contractions. I got the epidural which didn't hurt at all beyond the pinch and felt immediate relief. I am told that I asked the anesthesiologist if I could kiss him on the mouth. When he declined, I offered to name our child after him. I finally slept a couple of hours. I could still feel the pain when I went from 7 cm to 10 cm in a very short amount of time (the nurses were shocked) but I imagine that, without the epidural, it would have been much worse. I never got groggy. Never lost track of anything once I woke up after my nap. I was very alert and kind of jazzed, actually. I was joking with the doctor and the nurses. I could bend my knees and move so I wasn't completely numb below the waist. But the edge was definitely off. When it was time to push, I had energy from my nap and pushed 3-4 times and that was it. My daughter's APGAR was perfect, she was alert and she nursed right away.

I am the only one of my friends who had an epidural. I was happy with it, but to each his own, you know?
posted by jeanmari at 5:17 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Husband-father here. You asked for birthing experiences, and I can't give you that, but I can say that my wife delivered with only a shot of Stadol. She says if she does it again, she would definitely do it the same way. The Stadol helped her with her anxiety, but still allowed her to feel present for the birthing experience. Present being a difficult word to explain because she describes the pain as so intense it was transcendent. I'm more writing to your husband though. I'm pretty sure that one of the reasons everything happened so smoothly was that my wife delivered naturally and had prepared to do so from the beginning (diet, exercise, yoga, classes, etc.). That didn't make my role any less intense though. If I had not prepared myself by going to every appointment and every lesson with her, I probably would have crumbled into a fetal position in the delivery room. It will be easier if your husband is really behind you, prepares with you, let's you change your mind a few times, and is 110% present in the delivery room as your partner and advocate.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:18 PM on November 11, 2008

I have given birth both with and without anesthesia. (no epidurals; just a little something-something to take the edge off.)

The cold hard truth is that every mom is different and every labor is different.

As to how it feels-it's like really really bad menstrual cramps. If you have a high pain threshold for that specific type of pain, most likely you will do just fine. Being very well informed, learning how to relax, and the suchlike will help you meet your goal.

My suggestion is that if at all possible you stay out of the hospital as long as you can after labor starts.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:20 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I am probably going to be in the minority here, but I will speak up anyway.

I got an epidural with both of my kids. I got it at 9cm with baby #1 and at 5cm with baby #2. The pain is difficult to explain. I described it as a volume knob on your groin. Someone turns it up to 2 for a second, just long enough for you to realize that a contraction is about to start, then the pain goes up to 10 for 30 more seconds, followed by a 2 again for just a second. Between contractions, I felt like muscles feel after a charlie horse. The pain is gone, but lingers.

Having said all that, it is doable without medication. Personally, i am not planning to do it without medication, but that is because I am a giant wuss. I cried at every contraction with baby #1. I started crying as soon as I knew the contraction was coming and didn't stop until it was over. (which was very upsetting for my husband) I had no intention of going medication free. No one belived I was in labor, so no one wanted to give me an epidural. And then the blood work wasn't done. And then the paperwork wasn't ready. And I get from 7 to 10 really damn fast. But, I digress.

Also, with both epidurals I could certainly feel how hard I was pushing. I felt plenty of pressure. I knew what i was doing and was in control. I couldn't have walked around, but I was completely in control of my labor. In fact, without the pain, I had a clearer head.

just my opinion. Please don't shoot the pro-epidural messanger. I know this is an emotional issue and I am not trying to pooh-pooh other's thoughts. Good luck!
posted by beachhead2 at 5:26 PM on November 11, 2008

I have only heard regrets from people that went unmedicated and never regrets from people that went for the epidural.

Umm, well, ok. I had a totally unmedicated birth (at a freestanding birth center, not a hospital) and I have no regrets. I also didn't take any classes or do any fancy breathing. I also wouldn't say I have an unusually high pain tolerance. My son's birth was a wonderful experience, and very, very quick. (My labor started around 4-5 am, my water broke at 830 am, I had a baby on my tummy at noon.)

(The following is sort of stream of consciousness, and I apologize -- I have a broken knee and I'm typing while listening to a friend put my son to bed, which is distracting me because he doesn't want to go....)

For me, there were three keys that I think made for a successful birth. First and foremost, I trusted my body. Trusted completely that it knew what it was doing. There did come a point during transition where I became very, very afraid of all the unfamiliar sensations, but my midwife was able to talk me through what was happening, and both my midwife and my partner were very supportive. Fear, as they say, is the mind-killer. Fear of pain, fear of the process, those things will cause your body to tense up. Its hard to trust your body, but your body really, truly does know what its doing. As prep, I spent months reading about and watching videos of natural births (YouTube has tons of them) so I went into it really knowing what birth looked and sounded like, knowing what to expect.

Second, because I didn't have an epidural, I was able to move around at will. I honestly and truly believe that being upright (standing, squatting, or kneeling in the tub) made all the difference. Being able to move around kept things ... moving. Also, gravity is your friend. Once you have the epidural, you're pretty much stuck on your back or side, laying down, which (from a purely mechanical point of view) isn't the best position in which to labor and give birth. (That being said, at the end I did push and give birth laying on my back.)

Third, The Tub. I can't speak highly enough of the experience of laboring in a tub. The warm water all around you is very comforting and soothing, you're buoyant so the pressure is lessened, and overall it just made things much more comfortable.

I wouldn't call myself a natural hippy chick by any stretch of the imagination, but comparing my birth experience to the experience of many friends, I can only tell you this: My labor was fast, my baby was healthy, and the entire experience felt right and real and true and exactly as it should. As I mentioned, I gave birth around noon and I was home sleeping in my own bed by 7pm. My recovery time from the birth (other than the swelling ... no one talks much about the swelling, but its real, and kind of gross, and you'll experience it with or without medication) was very quick. I didn't need to shake any drugs out of my system. I was up and around and basically myself again within 24 hours of his birth.

K8t mentions two things above that I want to comment on: First, that you don't get any awards for going undedicated. This is totally true. If you have a very long labor, or just plain fear the pain, then the drugs may help. If you need them, don't be afraid to ask for them. But understand that most women don't need them if they can overcome the fear of the pain, which is much worse than the actual pain. Second, yes you will be in pain. I would compare my labor to the worst menstrual cramps I've ever had - I've also had kidney stones and the pain from the stones was worse than all but the very peak of my labor (so maybe it helped that I had a frame of reference for the pain). But the good part about not being medicated (ie; feeling the pain) was that I could also feel the baby start to descend (oddly, for a minute or two it feels exactly like the baby is going to come directly out your rectum, which is slightly unnerving) and could move around, shift position, squat, and most importantly push when it felt right to push rather than having someone else tell me when to push. I honestly felt like I was in total control of the process, because I had such a strong feedback loop going with my own body.

In the end, you'll do the thing that is right for you, and there are really no wrong choices.
posted by anastasiav at 5:30 PM on November 11, 2008 [4 favorites]

Do you have recourse to utilize a nurse midwife (CNM) or perhaps a doula? We lucked out with a practice that had several CNMs on staff (including the on-call rotation) and they worked with my wife extensively through her natural deliveries. We've found that states vary on this sort of thing. Georgia seemed to have CNMs all over the place, but in TN, we've only found a single practice that uses them and they're sort of hike from where we are.

On preview, it looks like I'm seconding a doula. If not a doula, then maybe a lay midwife.
posted by jquinby at 5:30 PM on November 11, 2008

While the baby will be born in a hospital

You may be frightened into buying the idea that the baby will die if the baby's birth is not speeded up, frightened into interventions, and find yourself very happy for a large amount of pain relief if this is the case. Do be prepared for plans to go out the window.
posted by kmennie at 5:39 PM on November 11, 2008

First - congratulations, and welcome to the club!

All birthing experiences are different - you already know that. That said, I had my first child unmedicated, and it was agonizing. I went into labor after my water broke, labored for 14+ hours, and pushed for 3+ hours. I was exhausted (water broke at midnight, so I was sleep deprived), which made it worse, I'm sure. My baby was also 9 and half lbs, which contributed to the pain. But, it was ridiculously painful and I honestly didn't enjoy it other than the fact that I got my son at the end of it. I should add that I had a written birth plan that stated that I preferred to avoid pain meds, and the midwife that attended my birth happened to be the most "natural" one at the practice and as a result she brushed off my requests for an epidural while I was in labor. This still annoys me 4 1/2 years later - make sure you and your caregiver are on the same page no matter what you decide.

For my second baby, I got an epidural a couple hours after serious labor started (water broke). There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted it, and my midwife was fine with that. It was imperfect (it numbed my left side fine, but only partially dulled the pain on my right side), and it's possible that it slowed my labor slightly, but I'm so glad I got it because I had another big baby (9lbs 4oz) but I actually remember the experience vividly and it was truly wonderful. It was what I had hoped my son's birth would have been like. I still felt enormous pain/pressure during the actual birth, I don't think there's any way around that. But it was the best decision for me and I don't regret a thing!

Best of luck to you!
posted by missuswayne at 5:40 PM on November 11, 2008

I was unmedicated for both babies, and so was my wife. It was challenging for both of us but I have a hunch her job was harder.

She says, "The idea that you forget the pain after a while is nonsense."
posted by trinity8-director at 5:41 PM on November 11, 2008

Third, The Tub. I can't speak highly enough of the experience of laboring in a tub. The warm water all around you is very comforting and soothing, you're buoyant so the pressure is lessened, and overall it just made things much more comfortable.

Oh, yeah, I should follow-on here. For a lot of the first birth and nearly all of the second birth my wife just hung out in the shower. That's the advantage of not being in the hospital - because the first labour was long (like 40 hours I think?) she walked up and down stairs trying to get the baby to turn around. We had a nice walk around the neighbourhood on a warm summer night while she was in labour with the second kid. But yeah, she really loved taking a shower during labour. If we had a bigger shower she would have given birth in there.
posted by GuyZero at 5:44 PM on November 11, 2008

I had no painkillers with either of my children (I use the term advisedly, this was in the late 80s). My son's labor was long-- 20 hours, with 11 in true labor, my daughter's very short, just 4 start to finish. The experiences remain defining moments in my identity as a daughter of Eve, and I use that term because that is what childbirth felt like to me. The next link in a long chain connecting me back to the Urmother. What I remember of the pain is two things: it is not as bad as a really bad toothache, and you get a baby at the end of it. The pain stops, and you have a baby. Amazing. Worth it.

That said, do not feel guilt over a decision made at the time. If you want pain medication after all, then do it. Just know that if the doctor decides the pain is too stressful after it's too late for an epidural, s/he can, I believe, still give you narcotics which don't so much dull the pain, but they take away the stress. (Kinda, "Hey, that hurts! Why am I not more upset about that?")
posted by nax at 5:50 PM on November 11, 2008

It depends on how much you want to go unmedicated. I was hardcore and unless something had gone Very Seriously Wrong I knew I wouldn't go for any medication. I was fanatical about it. I wanted an un-drugged baby to start off with breastfeeding, and that's what I kept in mind throughout. And everyone there knew how I felt, so no one was trying to talk me into an epidural or anything.

Yeah, it hurt like hell. It's one of those things I couldn't believe that I would withstand but somehow I did. It feels endless at the time. Your sense of perspective can get all out of wack. Extreme pain does weird things to your head. I found that once each contraction peaked and started receding, the pain wasn't bad at all. The feeling of relief after getting past the peak was tremendous.

Nature has been at this a long time, and most people can cope (again as long as there's not something Very Seriously Wrong going on) even if they don't think they can.

For me, it was maybe 5 hours of very intense labor (in a small hospital dedicated just to birth and gynecological surgery), so not as arduous as those who have to go for a much longer time. I was able to get up and try squatting, sit on a birth ball, and eventually gave birth on my side. I know that if I had been numb, pushing would have been very difficult as I would not have been able to feel that I was making any progress.

Overall, I would suggest making sure the father has Something To Do to feel like he is helping her get through the contractions. Being near someone in severe pain (especially one who is quite vocal about it) makes people uncomfortable, and they want to do something, anything, to feel like they are helping make it better. If they're just kind of standing around feeling impotent, they might be more likely to suggest drugs to ameliorate the pain - then something would be done about it and nobody would have to hear (or see) her suffer. Anyway, that's just my theory.
posted by marble at 5:52 PM on November 11, 2008

I went the regular route of straight to the normal delivery suite, but had decided in my own mind that I would wait until I really felt it necessary to ask for pain relief, and I would wait as long as I could. I didn't tell anyone else this, it was my own personal decision. I wanted to reduce stress for myself by not delcaring that I would do something under circumstances where I didn't know what I would do, or need.

Ultimately I lasted about an hour before I BEGGED screaming for the painkillers - gas, then pethadine, then I wanted an epidural, but oops! Baby!

I may be an enormous wuss, but I ended my relatively short labour experience (six hours) wondering how on earth people did that without medical help.

Yes, I breathed/visualised/moved around, and yes, I know people have been doing without assistance for centuries. I seriously would stop at one baby if I thought I'd have to do it without pain relief.

In brief: Give me the drugs every time.

(also, a heartfelt bravo to the amazing women who achieve natural, drug-free water births etc. I admire you muchly.)
posted by lottie at 5:56 PM on November 11, 2008

I went completely drug free with all 3 of my kids and look back with such joy on each experience. Of course it hurts, but I liken it to a marathon. At mile 22 you see God no matter what you believe in, but you push through and reap the rewards at mile 26.

That said, my advice would be to go in with an open mind in case things don't go the way you have pictured them. Your experience will be staisfying if you don't put too many expectations on yourself other than having a healthy baby and self.

It is a good idea to be a staunch advocate for a drug-free birth though if it's what you want, because at every turn the nurses will be offering you something. It would be easy to cave. This is where husband is invaluable, often reminding you of the goal.

Congrats on the upcoming one!
posted by agentwills at 6:03 PM on November 11, 2008

While the baby will be born in a hospital

You may be frightened into buying the idea that the baby will die if the baby's birth is not speeded up, frightened into interventions, and find yourself very happy for a large amount of pain relief if this is the case. Do be prepared for plans to go out the window.

This is an extraordinarily unhelpful, combative, and scaremongering tone. One might as well pull up a few cases of incompetant home births conducted by midwives and suggest you should always go to hospital or your baby will dies, and it would be about as useful to the discussion.

My wife eventually had an epidural, later than she wanted[1]. She currently will be getting one as early as possible for any future kids. Our daughter had perfect APGARs, fed like a champion, and so on.

I'll echo the people who note that, at the end of the day, what works for you and your wee one works for you.

[1] In the part of New Zealand where my daughter was born, you cannot get an epidural until you reach a particular level of dilation and until your midwife attends. If your midwife happens to take some time to attend, or is bsy handling multiple births, the hospital's staff midwives are not allowed to sign off on an epidural.
posted by rodgerd at 6:03 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh my. Labor to me was much much worse than a bad toothache or a broken bone, but the most recent was 16 years ago, so my memories are dimmed, and I think I was wimpier back then.

My only advice would be to be prepared to change your mind when you experience it, not to lock yourself into a decision. It might soothe your husband a little to say something along the lines of if you can't stand the pain, you will try (or consider) a pain relief option. Even with gas (me, not him), my husband was extremely disturbed by the level of pain I was going through, and his inability to do anything about it.

I didn't feel like I missed out on anything, by the way, because I still experienced pain, and I was still aware of everything that was going on and making decisions throughout both labors.
posted by b33j at 6:15 PM on November 11, 2008

You asked for a birth story, here's a birth story. My wife wrote this down the day after her birth. It was an unmedicated birth at a freestanding birthing center. We had two midwives, a midwife in training, and our doula attending. But really, my wife did pretty much everything on her own, just trusting her body. She did say that if she'd been at the hospital, she would have been very tempted to take the epidural. But, she is very glad she didn't. The amazing thing was how wide-eyed and responsive our child was as soon as he was born. We only have the one boy (He was born this past May) so we don't have anything to compare it to. However, my wife and I know ten other couples who had hospital births over the past year and a half. The very large majority of them had medical interventions, and most of them had cesarean sections. I realize that's anecdotal, but from the stories we have been told by our friends, medications and interventions seem to have a way of building on one another, and cascading until the doctors are telling you what must be done for the safety of the child. Anyways, here is her story...
My due date was April 26th and I started having Braxton-Hicks type contractions on an off all day, about 3-4 an hour. This went on for about 4 days. It made me anxious, like labor was going to come and go and I might miss it. At my pre-natal visit on Monday my midwife assured me that I’d know it when it happened.

On Wednesday April 30th I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with painful contractions. I woke up every half hour with them. When Brian woke up I said, “Better stay home today.” So he stayed home, I went back to sleep and the contractions pretty much went away. I was discouraged because Brian began his two-week vacation and I was worried this would go on another week.

In the afternoon the contractions picked back up. I called my doula and she suggested we go on a date. So we went for Chinese food and a movie. However, after we ate, my contractions were about 10 minutes apart and we decided to go home. We watched a movie and I labored on my exercise ball and then called the midwives to check in. Bridgett said that I should try to go to sleep. We went to bed but I couldn’t sleep through the contractions. We called my doula. Kate said to try taking a bath to see if I could sleep in the bath.

By 2 a.m. my contractions were 5 minutes apart and getting more intense. We called the midwives to say that we wanted to come to the birth center. Kate came over to our house to help get me into the car and followed us to The Birthplace in Taylor. We arrived around 3 a.m. on April 1st. Having contractions in the car made me feel nauseous.

After getting to the birth center I alternated between laboring on the ball, on the floor on my hands and knees, or on the bed on my hands and knees. Brian was constantly rubbing my lower back, which was very helpful. Kate and Brian’s encouraging words were helpful as well. I was concentrating on relaxing between contractions and breathing through the contractions. The more intense they became the more I used my voice. Kate and Brian would remind me to ‘keep it low’.

Kate encouraged me to change positions every so often. Also, having to use the restroom would initiate a position change. When I had a new position, sometimes it was hard at first to get a handle on the contractions in the new position. Lying on my side was the worst position I tried. I needed to be facing down. I wished I had yoga bolsters because leaning on the pillows felt smothering to me. I had to use the restroom often and the contractions that I had on the toilet were really strong and hard to deal with.

This seemed to go on forever. Kate filled up the tub and I got in and labored there for a while. I was on my side. Things were getting intense. I was using my voice like you would not believe. I felt like I was trying to ‘harmonize’ with the contractions. The water was not as ‘magical’ as I hoped it would be. Lying on my side was hard but seemed like the best position in the tub. At some point my mucous plug came out.

I got out of the tub to use the restroom and Linda offered to check me. I was scared to know. I was 6 cm, 80% effaced, -2 station. I was pretty disappointed, I was hoping for 8. She said, “You’re in transition”. That made me feel better because it felt like transition.

My water finally broke around this time. It felt like it broke several times after that as well. The fluid was clear. I labored out of the water again on the ball. My favorite part was when Linda was behind me massaging my back and Kate was in front of me massaging my arms. Linda suggested that I do some side-lying because it puts lots of pressure on the cervix. I reluctantly did it for a while. It was hard but I was able to get a handle on it.

Bridgett showed up and when I saw her beautiful face I felt like crying. After laboring for an eternity more, Bridgett wanted me back in the tub. So I got back in. I felt like I was in transition forever. Everyone was very hungry and ordered Thai food, except Brian, who stayed with me. It smelled so good, I felt really jealous. I wanted to take a break and eat too!

Bridgett decided to check me. I was almost completely dilated. There was one part of my cervix that wasn’t completely dilated on one side. She decided to push on it while I had a contraction. I guess the baby’s head was turned slightly to one side so I wasn’t dilating evenly. My active labor was 15 hours.

It was push time at last! At first it was like little ‘catches’ where all I could do is push a little bit – kind of like having to cough. Then as the contractions and the feeling came I just went with it. I didn’t push any harder or longer than my body told me to. I pushed for 45 minutes. Brian was behind me (outside the tub). When a contraction came I got into a squatting position and pushed. When the contraction was over I sat down and rested. I was like Jello between contractions.

They told me to put my fingers in and see if I could feel the head. I could. As he got close to crowning they could see that the amniotic sac was still attached to his head. It looked like a veil coming out of me. The lights were on in the tub. They gave me a mirror so I could see. It looked very cool. Brian looked quickly and then said, “ok, that’s enough.”

As he was crowning I was trying to ‘monitor’ it with my hand. I couldn’t really apply pressure, but I could try to feel what was going on. I didn’t want to tear, I wasn’t sure if I was or not. The midwives were giving me so many ‘props.’ They said, “Wow, look at her supporting/protecting herself.” It made me feel empowered. They seemed impressed with my ‘instincts’ and I felt proud of myself. I was a little bit surprised that nobody was ‘doing’ anything at this point. I was in charge.

Finally I pushed the head out. I slumped back down in the tub. Jello. I could see the head sticking out. I heard Brian ask, “What are we waiting for?” Somebody replied, “She’ll have another contraction and the baby’s body will come out.” It was 4 and ½ minutes until the next contraction. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was making everyone a bit nervous that my contractions were slowing down toward the end.

The next contraction came and the body came shooting out into the water. Brian said, “It was like a baby rocket riding on a plume of blood.” I slumped down again. Double Jello. Then one of the midwives said, “Sherlyn, pick up your baby!” I seriously thought, “You’re kidding me.” But I quickly picked the baby up, lifted him out of the water and put him against me. They said the look on my fact was priceless. At first he was blue with big huge eyes. Brian said, “He looks like Gollum!” He immediately began to cry and we watched him quickly turn from blue to pink.

He was nursing within 15 minutes or so. I felt energized. After sitting there for about 30 minutes we got the placenta out and checked it. All there. Brian cut the cord when it was done pulsating. I ended up with a very small superficial tear on one side.

I was so impressed with the support that Brian gave me. He was there for me every moment, massaging me, telling me he loves me, helping me cope. I’ve never felt closer to him. Kate, my doula was incredible as well. Her support, encouragement, and expertise helped me to feel confidant that things were on track and kept me from getting ‘lost’ during labor. My midwives were fantastic and so was the facility. They let me do what I need to do to get my baby out and have an incredibly empowering experience.

Our son was born at 5:09pm, on May 1st. He was 7 pounds 11 oz and 21 inches long. He rocks our world.
posted by Roger Dodger at 6:24 PM on November 11, 2008 [4 favorites]

a good friend delivered both of her girls without medication, on purpose. she said it hurt--a lot--but it was manageable. an aunt delivered my cousin pretty much with full feeling after a botched epidural and had a really unpleasant experience.

learning some sort of meditation/breathing/relaxation/focusing technique seems to make all the difference. it probably doesn't make it hurt less, but it helps you prepare for the pain, and deal with it, which i would imagine makes it less scary. so much of the distress involved with pain is actually the surprise of it, but going into a painful experience willingly, with coping strategies, makes it much easier to bear. i have never given birth but did have to undergo some painful physical therapy, which was often more painful than the actual injury, but more manageable because it was a controlled situation.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:41 PM on November 11, 2008

I mean this gently: is there some reason you have to plan this now? If you say "I'd like to avoid medication," that's not binding. Tell your husband that you will request medication if you need it.

I had an unmedicated (and scary) labor and while I'm proud of it, like I'd be proud if I ran a marathon, it's more a novelty than anything else. Labor is not the hardest thing I've had to do as a parent, and I have a relatively easy 20-month-old.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:43 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have only heard regrets from people that went unmedicated and never regrets from people that went for the epidural.

And I've heard only the opposite. Confirmation bias, probably.

I had mine without drugs. Deep breathing & meditation helped a lot. I also had read a book on the Bradley Method ("husband-coached childbirth") but as my husband was rather unhelpful throughout, I did the drug-free deep-breathing on my own. It hurt, oh my did that second kid's birth ever hurt, but it was well worth it & I'm grateful for the experience.
posted by headnsouth at 6:51 PM on November 11, 2008

Just remember that you can't predict what will happen to you, and how your body will react once you start labor. Every delivery is different.

My first - water broke, labor stalled out after 7 hours, had pitocin to move things along, had an Intrathecal Narcotic (which wore off by the time I delivered), 4 hours of pushing and a vacuum extraction, breast fed right after. (27 hours total)

My second - induced labor with pitocin, s l o w progression (9 hours of labor, only 2 more cm dialation), epidural, relaxed labor, pushed for 7 minutes, breast fed right after. (12 hours-second births are quicker, generally)

With the epidural you can't move from the bed, but for me that wasn't an issue. The pain level was quite high and I wasn't going to move much anyway. But each of my pregnancies was different; having an epidural for the first wouldn't have guaranteed a different result by any stretch.

There is a great deal of rhetoric out there regarding pregnancy/childbirth/parenting. The best advice I received? Go into your delivery with a open mind for the best experience FOR YOU and YOUR FAMILY. You have not failed if you opt for the epidural.

Having said that, if we have another child I will have an epidural.
posted by Mrs. Green at 7:18 PM on November 11, 2008

I had my first child in a hospital - labor was induced, pitocin, epidural, c-section after 36 hours of labor. Number 2 was born at home w/midwives - 35 hour labor - obviously no drugs, #3 was also born at home - ~5 hours of labor.

There is an increased risk of further medical interventions when you have any - in particular, pitocin and epidurals increase the likelihood of c-sections. That said, you do what you need to do in labor - what's best for you and your baby. I will say that I found labor to be very painful, that going unmedicated was enormously empowering and life changing for me and that the recovery from a long labor with a vaginal delivery was MUCH easier than recovering from a long labor followed by a section. Having good support is crucial - I did not have a doula for my hospital birth and the difference between that and my wonderfully supportive midwives was huge.

and congratulations!
posted by leslies at 7:29 PM on November 11, 2008

Not sure if anyone pointed this out, but it might be important to consider: how big are your hips? if you're tiny, I hear the pain is pretty terrible. If you've got hips that look like they're made for makin' babies (like I've been told I do), then maybe unmedicated would be a bit easier to do.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:05 PM on November 11, 2008

My birth plan pretty much went something like "As long as the baby's healthy, whatever. And I'd prefer not to have to deliver in a car or an elevator or something like that."

My labor came on with all the subtlety of a Mack truck. I went from watching an episode of MST3K to thirty second contractions two minutes apart. Anything I might have remembered from the Lamaze classes went straight out the window. So by the time I got to the hospital, I was pretty much a mess and was begging for an epidural.

Which I got.

And it was wonderful. I went from "GAAAAAAAAAH OHMYGOD I AM GOING TO DIE [vomit] THIS IS HORRIBLE" to "Oh, I had another contraction? Hm. Hey, isn't the Yankees game on?"

Absolutely no regrets. There's no extra gold star on your chart if you don't get an epidural (although I do remember one baby announcement e-mail I got at work made sure to let everyone know that the mother had had a drug-free birth, big whoopty doo), and the end result of that experience is now the smartest, sweetest 7 year old boy I know.
posted by Lucinda at 8:27 PM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

I gave birth in a hospital 9 weeks ago. I had a nurse-midwife attending me and was unmedicated.

For me, the contractions hurt a lot. But I only had a few of them. If my labor hadn't progressed so quickly (4 hours from start to finish) I would have asked for an epidural. As it was, I was ready to push only 30 minutes after arriving to the hospital (and before my midwife even made it there). Once I started pushing, it really didn't hurt much at all, because I was so focused. Intense yes, painful not so much.

I would do it unmedicated again.
posted by gaspode at 8:35 PM on November 11, 2008

Seconding KateHasQuestions: how big are you? My mother is 5'2" (I am 5'0", by the way, so I was not a particularly large babies) and gave birth to my older sister and myself with absolutely no medications, simply because no such thing was common or perhaps even available in Bulgaria in the 80s. The few times that she has mentioned her experience giving birth, she has been incredibly regretful, in the sense that she wishes medications had been offered to her at the time.

Even though as babies neither my sister nor I were big (smaller than average, actually), she suffered incredibly during labor and delivery, describing the pain as "at first I thought that I was dying, then I just hoped that I would die". The births occured without any complications, but lasted more than 20-24 hours with rather a lot of vaginal tearing. She told me that this turned what should have been the greatest experience of her life into something terrible. The pain was so intense, so much unlike anything she had ever felt in her life, she dreaded the memory of the birth of her daughters for years and years afterwards, and event she says should have been a joyful and wonderful recollection, regretfully.

Also, I should mention that she did have a midwife in addition to her doctors, and approached birth with very positive feelings and complete confidence (at least the first time around). The babies (my sister and I) came out very bruised and comically "crumpled" (her words--I still have a pretty cool birthmark on my forehead which only shows when I am angry or excited, but was very prominent when I was younger due to these abrasions). My dad was not in the delivery room (this was not acceptable at the time, and in retrospect, thankfully so), but her mother was.

Mom and her daughters do not like pain at all and embrace all kinds of anesthesia gladly, so YMMV, but I am certain that it has to do a lot with how well you are physically equipped to give birth.
posted by halogen at 8:43 PM on November 11, 2008

if you're tiny, I hear the pain is pretty terrible. If you've got hips that look like they're made for makin' babies (like I've been told I do), then maybe unmedicated would be a bit easier to do.

My midwife said not to get to tied up in this kind of thinking. Plenty of "small" women have big babies naturally and plenty of "big" women have all sorts of trouble birthing smaller babies. Your internal anatomy and pelvis geometry are not necessarily correlated with how tall you are.

I had a baby five months ago and went in with the idea that I would do it unmedicated for as long as possible. I was in labor for about 5 hours, starting at 10 am, before I asked for fentanyl at about 4:30 pm which really did work for a while. It takes the edge off of the contractions and really allowed me to relax btwn them. But my labor went on way too long and I reached the limit of how much fentanyl they'd give me and in the mean time, the contractions got way worse. By 9pm, I asked for n epidural. I could then still feel the contractions but they didn't hurt. I could still feel and move my legs but I was calm and much more focused.

I was STILL in active labor and pushing at 4:30 the next morning and by then the epidural had worn off so I experienced the full effect of the contractions and let me tell you, it was truly unbearable. I was thrashing around on the bed, couldn't talk, and could barely stop myself from shrieking. Finally the anesthesiologist came back and re-dosed me and I have never been so thankful in my life.

In the end, I had a c-section since the baby was wedged in my pelvis. But I think I experienced a pretty broad range of the birth having gone through most of the labor both medicated and unmedicated.

I think it's a good plan to be open to the possibility that you might need pain relief. You'll be much happier and not feel as disapointed with yourself if you allow that it's a possibility. Modern medicine is a miracle and you should take advantage of it! You're not a failure if you opt for pain relief but if you can do it without, more power to you.

I also loved The Business of Being Born. It really helps to have some idea of what you're getting into.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:17 PM on November 11, 2008

Well, I'm only 5'1", slim-hipped (or they were slim, before the babies), and I had problem-free, unmedicated, 2 1/2 hour start-to-fiinish births. I don't take any credit for this: it's all about good birthing genetics (how were your mom, grandma, sister, aunts, sisters' births?-my grandma weighed 110 pounds after her fourth child was born and gave birth to that child in the hospital hallway). Anyway, short labors are not all they've cracked up to be-I guess you don't need as much endurance, but the contractions are intense and out of control-feeling fast, and it's very hard to ever get a handle on anything.

I disagree a little bit with some of the above, in that I think too much time spent reading birth stories, especially scary birth stories, doesn't prepare you as much as scare you. Although I'm not particularly crunchy, I really like Pam England's Birthing From Within. She is pro-unmedicated birth, but not rigidly so. She says "Labor is hard. It hurts a lot. You can do it" which is probably the most honest advice I've heard in a book (screw other books with their talk of "pressure" and "cramping" and "discomfort").

While I think it's important to be flexible, I also think it's important to decide ahead of time what is really important to you, communicate that to others, and really strive for it. It's totally absolutely fine to DECIDE to take an epidural, for instance, but only if you are really deciding that, not falling into it. And I'd describe labor pains as like horrible stomache cramps when you have diarrhea, for instance, more than menstrual cramps.

Here's the thing for me: my births were over fast, but were gaspingly overwhelming during. I did not have time either time for an epidural, by the time I got to the hospital (baby number was born 12 minutes after I got to labor and delivery), though I absolutely could see asking for one if my labor had gone on and on at that same intensity. But when my babies were born, I immediately felt really, really good. I could get up, I could shower. No wooziness, no epidural headache from hell, no precautions. I also really liked, if that's the right word, the pushing stage-the pain bothered me much less because it felt productive, it didn't last horribly long, and that feel of the slippery new person emerging is something I never will forget (while I have forgotten the details of labor pain). I would hate to have missed that by being numb.

Good luck! And hey, congratulations.
posted by purenitrous at 9:26 PM on November 11, 2008

My wife has had both our kids without medication.

The pain was strong, she says. Not an acute, pointy thing, but a ponderous pressing force. The sensations were very intense, and coming in relentless waves. She doesn't say it, but she's very proud she pulled it off.

The fact that everyone -doctor, pediatrician, doula, hospital- was on board with the plan helped quite a bit, and we trust them all completely; but the single, most important factor in our success was the Lamaze class. It gave my wife enough information to avoid being surprised at all that was happening and focus on managing the pain. Our doula led the class and it covered pretty much everything we might encounter during the later stages of the pregnancy, the actual delivery, and the first weeks with the baby. It lasted for about five months and fathers were required to attend at specific points during the course, about half of the sessions. Over 80% of the couples succeeded in medication-free deliveries.

The timing is perfect for you to find the best class and GO. Even if you plan of doing a caesarean section, or going all out with the drugs, go to the class. It will make the entire experience easier and much more rewarding.

It's like going to a concert and knowing the lyrics. GO.
posted by Cobalt at 9:49 PM on November 11, 2008

I thought that my naturally fairly high pain tolerance and lots of breathing and bear hugs (as shown in childbirth class) would help me get through my son's birth without drugs.

Until my water broke, and they started me on pitocin. WOW that was like nothing I've ever experienced before, and the not-knowing how long I had to feel that feeling definitely influenced my decision to go for the pain meds. And then it turned out that the baby never dropped, I never dilated all the way, and had to have a c-section after 26 hours anyway. So yes, sometimes plans do go out the window, but I really didn't mind. The healthy baby was what I was after, the how of it didn't bother me at all.

(I have been asked if I "mourned" my lack of vaginal birth. Nope, not for a second.)
posted by pinky at 10:09 PM on November 11, 2008

Ha, I love how it sounds like there is mini mefi babyboom. It is really hard to watch someone you love be in pain and be helpless to stop the pain but know it can be helped with drugs. Talk to your husband and make sure he understands that you need to focus on yourself during labour and diverting your attention onto his need to see you comfortable is counter-productive. I know quite a few women that regret having their husbands in the delivery room; they thought it was great he participated in the birth but rather than being supportive of the mother, she was irritated or distracted by his needs imposing on her. Not that this is going to happen, but if he is aware that this is an organic process and you need to be in control of it, and what his role is, it may be helpful. FWIW my husband massage me constantly because that is my absolute favourite thing and it helped me immensely.

I have had four children, two at my mother's house, one in the hospital (emergency) and the last at home. I used midwives and I was extremely happy with the care I received. I did not use doulas but I think they are a great idea (I felt the midwives filled the doula's role). A good doula is not there to "support" you like your husband will, she will have specific pain-relieving techniques to help. So do not think your husband can perform the role of a doula. My midwife corrected my use of the birthing ball (what had worked during my second labour didn't work for my fourth) and had other suggestions for making me comfortable, including sequestering me away from the raucous party that was happening in my living room until the baby was about to pop out. I did use drugs (I don't know what, I think it was a drip, definitely not an epidural) with my second because the hospital would not let me give birth without an OB in the room and I was in the pushing stage (hard work) for 45 mins while he was "too busy" to see me. (There were abnormalities with the birth and I needed my water broken by him in order to deliver). I regret the drugs, I was far too out of it to fully experience the birth and my memories are hazy. Mostly I regret the OB's arrogance in creating the situation that necessitated drugs.

I did not take classes or learn special breathing because my research debunked the breathing exercises for me. I think a lot of it is psychological/placebo so being convinced it would not work nullified any positive effect others may have gotten. I got out of the tub because I don't like baths anyway. I did not find childbirth painful. I wasn't scared of it, I had seen four other children born (IRL, not on TV) so I had experience that was positive. I think it is easier to get stressed and feel pain with what is unknown.

A couple of months before my first child was born I read the story of Rositha Pedro, born while her mother was starved, exhausted and stuck up a tree while the floods of Mozambique raged closer to her perch. Woman have given birth for millennia. We can do it.

If you need to use drugs (and I actually asked for drugs just before my first push on my forth labour because the hour-long labour was harder than my previous ones and I was exhausted from walking around the block for hours beforehand tryng to start labour) there is no shame in it. I'm one of those annoying women that will tell you labour and delivery are not painful (except when the OB won't let you deliver when your body wants to deliver). I had crushing menstrual pain from menarche and had reigned myself to adoption because I couldn't see how I could endure that pain during labour but it actually was so much easier than I dreamed. There was pressure - like popping a zit! - but not pain. Again, I believe that is because of my mental state as well as the midwives that gave me perineal massage with olive oil and catered to my physical and psychological needs. Less than twelve hours after giving birth to my fourth I walked over to my children's school so their classmates could see their new sister. Newborns are awesome.

Good luck and congrats!
posted by saucysault at 11:23 PM on November 11, 2008

I too have heard someone -- a 60-year-old man -- rave about that movie everyone is recommending above, the Business of Being Born. He talked to me about it unprompted for about 10 minutes straight, so it is apparently quite compelling.
posted by salvia at 11:42 PM on November 11, 2008

With my son, I intended to go all natural. My OB, however, turned out to be the sort that was agreeable in the office visits, but liked to have things more scheduled, for her own benefit, when the actual births occurred. The monitor didn't fit my belly very well and folks were thinking my son was in crisis. He was fine, but I ended up hooked up to every sort of monitor and a pitocin drip. I have chronic back problems and the idea of a needle near my spine was more terrifying than the pain. I ended up getting 25 mg of demerol via my IV, relaxed enough that my labor quit stalling and pushed out a very healthy boy.

Everyone here who mentions how powerful the pushing experience is, they are so right. He's 11 and I can still remember it vividly. There happened to be a clock on the wall right over the doc's head. 4:51pm is etched permanently into my memory.

My daughter was very breach, but she had turned herself in the last week, so we didn't know it until I got to the hospital. I had thought it was all pre-labor type movement and discomfort. I ended up having an emergency c-section at 8 cm. No time for an epidural, even if I'd wanted one, so I had general anesthetic and didn't get to welcome the little gal into the world. I still miss that. I had to ask the nurses what time she was born. On the other hand, she had a perfectly round head and wasn't squished at all like her brother had been.

The recovery from a vaginal birth is definitely easier than from a c-section. A couple stitches in a very tender area versus a line of staples across my tummy and having my insides rearranged. As a bonus of sorts, though, I had my tubes tied when she was born. My most clear memory of the whole process was saying "while you're in there, I signed the release forms two weeks ago" while finding out for the first time I was going to have a girl (I'd opted to be surprised by the gender that time) and that I was going to have to have surgery (my first and only real surgery ever).

Both of my kids had 9/9 apgars, so they were fine. They've both turned into very interesting little people.

I agree with the folks above who say it's best to not have a plan set in stone. Those plans can change for any number of reasons. I also agree with those who say to trust your body and yourself. Regardless of how it all ends up happening, you'll be amazed with your baby and yourself, too.
posted by lilywing13 at 12:03 AM on November 12, 2008

My wife has zero pain tolerance. She never even considered foregoing medication. On the big day, she progressed fairly quickly, and by the time we got into the delivery room she was fairly far along. The labor nurse told her that she was tolerating the pain very well, and she could probably get through the birth without medication. My wife said ok (much to my suprise), and she got through it just fine. It wasn't even a simple delivery. Our daughter got stuck in the birth canal for like 20 minutes.
posted by diogenes at 4:39 AM on November 12, 2008

You don't have to decide ahead of time.

My wife went into the delivery room with an open mind, planning to ask for medication if she felt she needed it. (This was a hospital delivery, with a doula for moral support.)

This is atypical, but her contractions started out two or three minutes apart, and stayed that way through the entire labor process -- which meant she was getting no time to recuperate at all between contractions: it looked exhausting and to say the least Not Fun At All. After a few hours of this she was getting desperate and a little panicky from the pain, and asked for an epidural.

Once that went in, the rest of the delivery went like magic. The painkillers gave her a couple hours of much-needed rest before the final stage. Either we lucked out or had an especially talented anesthesiologist, but she didn't wind up totally numbed out: she could still move around, was even able to squat on all fours for part of the end labor, and she could still feel the contractions -- they just weren't wracking her entire body with pain anymore.

I know that's strongly phrased, but I'm trying to give an honest impression of what it looked like. I don't have any agenda about childbirth methods, I would've supported any decision she wanted to make about the delivery because she's the one doing all the work after all, but frankly the unmedicated part of her labor was a deeply unhappy time for both of us (for her more than me, I'm sure.) I don't believe this was just a state-of-mind thing -- she was in good spirits going in, and felt prepared and confident. It just hurt. A lot. I am absolutely certain that if we have another child she will ask for an epidural (and will probably ask for it earlier in the process than she did this time.)

Just reading through this thread, it's clear that everyone's labor is so different -- some people say no pain at all, some people say the opposite. You don't know how your body is going to respond at this point: maybe it'll be as easy for you as it was for saucysault (for example), maybe it will be really painful like it was for my wife. No way to predict. So like many above, I'd strongly suggest making the decision when the time comes, not before.
posted by ook at 7:23 AM on November 12, 2008

Wow, thank you everyone for your stories, congrats and words of encouragement. I will definitely look into the movies and books suggested, thank you all so much!
posted by Elaisa at 7:26 AM on November 12, 2008

As if you didn't have enough responses.... I had my son medication free in January. I was in labor for 17 hours. The first 12 of which were manageable, the next two were challenging and the last three were very intense. During those three hours I was really out of it, barely acknowledging my husband and the nurses who stopped in. At its worst I remember thinking I needed an epidural, but I knew I couldn't stay still for one. Shortly after that thought I remembered our childbirth instructor saying when you think you can't take anymore you are almost done and she was right.

A half hour later my son was in my arms. Birth was far easier than labor and because I could feel what was going on I was able to tell my doctor where I felt pain so she could apply counter pressure to help limit any tearing. I ended up with 2nd degree tears, with an epidural I strongly believe I would have ventured into 3rd or 4th degree tear territory (if you don't know what the degrees mean do yourself a favor and wait until after you give birth to find out).

Congratulations! Motherhood is a wild ride!
posted by a22lamia at 1:00 PM on November 12, 2008

You still have a long way to go until May and you will probably change your mind a zillion times about everything. That's OK. Or sometimes, situations come around where you have no realistic choice. "The Business of Being Born" casts a very negative eye toward the health care professionals that want to deliver babies as safely as possible. (More on that later.)
I developed pre-eclampsia around week 30. At week 31 I was placed in the hospital on bedrest because my blood pressure was 200/100 at admission. I was induced and delivered vaginally at week 32. Now I have a lovely 6 month old baby girl.
I was taking a wait and see approach about pain management. Yes, I was induced, and that is supposed to make it more painful. I tried narcotics through my IV but that did absolutely nothing for me. So I got an epidural, and although it helped, it still hurt really bad. The contractions were the worst for me. The actual childbirth was not bad, but my baby was only about 4 lbs at birth. She was out in two pushes and it came so suddenly that no one had any time to prepare.
I also want to point out that for most people, pain is extremely stressful. It can make you want to curl up and withdraw. That being said, if you want to be alert and more "present" at your childbirth, managing your pain through medications or any other method is a wonderful idea. Medication isn't the only way to go, and every person is different. I think I was more concerned with the stress of labor and delivery wearing me out, rather than the pain. But it HURT. REAL. BAD. I've gone through appendicitis and having an ovarian cyst burst and this was still the worst thing by far.
Regarding "The Business of Being Born:" It won't apply if you have any deviation to a 100% clinically perfect birth. Your doctor wants a safe and healthy mom and baby, end of story. Obstetricians know what they are doing and they will tell you if you ask them their opinions about all of your questions. If they say "I think it's best that every woman get an epidural," and you don't think you want that, it's probably time to find a new doctor. I'm not suspicious of doctors and their intentions unless I have a good reason to be. I am glad they were there for me to help manage my pregnancy and deliver my baby safely. It's not about you, it's about the baby, when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth.
Good luck!
posted by FergieBelle at 1:56 PM on November 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Gave birth on Saturday morning. GET THE EPIDURAL. For reals.
posted by k8t at 11:06 PM on November 16, 2008

Congratulations k8t!
posted by nax at 6:11 AM on November 17, 2008

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