Labor Pains: Screw Natural Childbirth, Give Me The Drugs!

Natural childbirth has become a badge of honor for mothers who endure it. Celebrities everywhere tout their natural bonafides in every birth announcement. Miranda Kerr let the world know that she had to work to get that baby by announcing, “‘I gave birth to him naturally; without any pain medication and it was a long, arduous and difficult labour.” Kelly Preston not only refused drugs, she didn’t even speak. Gisele Bundchen famously irked mothers everywhere when she said that childbirth, “didn’t hurt in the slightest”. Even Jessica Alba proved to the world that she was one centered momma by saying, “I didn’t scream. It was really Zen. The labor was more like meditation.”

So does natural childbirth prove that you’re a better or more committed mother? Does it demonstrate just how willing you are to sacrifice your own comfort for your child’s? Or is it just an all-natural, all-organic, I’m-so-much-better-than-you way to prove your “Top Mama” status?

The CDC reports that 61% of vaginal births in the United States use an epidural. Honestly, I was surprised that the number was so low. I assumed that they were much more common-place.

When I was pregnant, I began researching childbirth plans, trying to find what worked best for me. My biggest fear was going into labor without having any idea what I was doing. I didn’t want the stress of decision-making to deal with while I was trying to pop a child out. I took Lamaze classes, I searched online. After a few hours with a Googled “Natural Childbirth” search, I realized that there were a lot of very passionate people who believed that natural was the only way to go. Natural is the pure and loving way to go through childbirth. It’s the way our mothers and grandmothers went through childbirth. It is the way God wanted us to go through childbirth. I read horror stories about failed epidurals and increased cesarean rates. All of it made medications seem a lot more scary than a little pain.

However, plenty of reputable sources supported epidural anesthesia. My mother was speaking to an anesthesiologist and asked why natural childbirth was pushed so heavily when she had kids. The doctor told her that there simply weren’t enough anesthesiologists working to cover all the deliveries. Many hospitals didn’t have full-time staff, so they encouraged natural childbirth. I asked my mother, if she had the option, would she have chosen medication? “Probably,” she told me, though it sounded very much like, “Hell Yes!” 

Finally, I asked the person that I should have spoken to in the beginning, my doctor. He was honest and open about the realities of medication during childbirth. Yes, there are risks to having an epidural or pain killers. The reason epidurals are so popular is because those risks are relatively minimal. Yes, epidurals can bring down the mother’s blood pressure. However, without the medication, the pain of childbirth can dramatically increase a woman’s blood pressure. For a woman constantly fighting pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), that was something to be nervous about.

In the end, I waited until the very last possible moment to decide, which was exactly what I didn’t want to do. I chose to have the epidural. My labor was wonderful and magical and all the obnoxious things beaming mothers brag about. My daughter was happy and healthy. I felt no less proud of my accomplishments simply because I chose some medical assistance. Labor still wasn’t painless and recovery wasn’t any easier.

I guess if I had gone through with a natural childbirth, I would brag about it too. I would want to show the world that I was tough and dedicated and as-natural-as-can-be. But I don’t think it would make me a better mother and I know that it couldn’t have given me a better labor. So, to all those natural mommas, I’m glad you have healthy and beautiful little babies! I’m sorry if your labor was long and hard. But I don’t think that makes it any more special or amazing than my 7 hour, relatively uneventful childbirth. And to every woman still deciding, all I can say is that you’ll find a style that works for you. Talk to people you trust, talk to your doctor, and remember, that little one will make its way out somehow. Then the real fun starts.

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    • Autumn

      Thank You for this article! My sister in law is one of those obnoxious natural birth moms who, every time I’m around, goes on and on about what a perfect, text book birth she had and how it wasn’t painful and she didn’t need the drugs. She even goes as far as to say her baby had a PERFECT umbilical cord and the doctors and nurses were oohhing and ahhing over it. WHAT???? Look, I may have taken the epidural but thank goodness because during the pushing part of labor, he was stressed and his heart rate was up and they had to get him out…then he was in the NICU. So I had to work pretty hard and then deal with the emotional aspect of not being able to see my baby because he was rushed off. So, I agree, EVERY MOTHER who gives birth deserves a serious degree of recognition because its just the beginning and being a parent is the hardest, most rewarding thing you could ever do…drugs or no drugs.

    • Kimmelin Hull

      Lindsay,
      Childbirth is definitely not something that is or was meant to be fodder for bragging rights. Birth takes all shapes and directions–most of which are unpredictable. Choosing a medication and intervention-free birth ought to be about making evidence-based decisions, not about showing other people how “tough” we are (or are not). The fact that you had a wonderful birth experience that resulted in a happy, healthy baby and mama is wonderful. Women who birth their babies without interventions, who describe the event as happy and healthy…well, they (and their experiences) are wonderful too. More than just the result of “healthy baby, health mom,” striving for good health (all around), happiness AND empowerment should be every woman/family’s goal.

      That, of course, if the ultimate goal of childbirth preparation classes: to inform expectant parents of options and issues revolving around childbirth and to empower them to make the best possible decisions for themselves/their babies when the time comes.

      • Mrs. Lynn

        I couldn’t agree more. The birth that is the least stressful on the mother is going to be best for the baby, too.

    • RW

      A friend of mine is fond of saying when someone brags about no drugs “oh, did you get a cookie for it?”

      I don’t think toughing through extreme pain makes you more of a champion – if you want to choose to go through needless pain, have fun. I went into labour with the thought of “”how bad can it be? Women do this every day around the world.” My pain tolerance is high. Not bragging, just fact. But I had back labour so extreme that after 10 hours I asked for an epidural and by that point was shaking so bad it took 3 people to hold me still enough to insert it. It was great. I was able to get some rest.

      Maybe they can put it in different places and different things, but what I can tell you is that the epidural helped with the contractions. It did NOT numb anything lower than that and I got to experience every agonizing moment of a 3 hour delivery.

      So women getting epidurals – they help, but don’t expect it to make delivery a cakewalk and know that you still get to experience the full joy of having your ladybits stretched and torn.