A Path to Natural Childbirth

The importance of having a labor plan before giving birth.

I never planned on having a natural birth. Having worked in pharmaceuticals my entire career, I felt pain medication had its rightful place in the delivery room.

When I finally became pregnant, however, I researched classes and birth experiences. I found that many of my friends had relied on an epidural to get them through birth, but not all of them had great experiences. It seemed when the drug worked, it worked well— though the women ended up with episiotomies. When things went wrong, they went really wrong, ending in surgery or C-section— two things I wanted to avoid.

I wanted my first days as a Mom to be pain-free. To accomplish that I would need to look into other birth styles. I heard about the Bradley Method from two sources, a woman in the cubicle behind me at work and my prenatal massage therapist. Both women had successful natural births and were able to breastfeed for a year. After they mentioned how to find a class, I began my adventure. At first, I thought I’d learn what I needed to learn and if it worked out, great, if not, no one needed to know. It could be my dirty little secret.

I found a local teacher and learned a great deal about some of the disadvantages of a medically managed birth. I also learned about postpartum issues, the many disadvantages of formula feeding, recovery, the stages of labor, nutrition in pregnancy and relaxation. In addition, I learned exercises to prepare the body for labor, ways the coach can help, how to deal with unwanted advice, how to find supportive birth teams and how to find proper breastfeeding advice via La Leche League groups.

I also became aware that OBs, pediatricians and many hospital nurses do not study lactation, and they may give misleading information.

Dr. Bradley became an OB during the “knock em out, drag em out” days when doctors completely knocked women out, using forceps to deliver babies. Delivered babies were so drugged that they were not able to breathe well, and doctors would then cut babies’ cords— as if administering oxygen in time were a race. In his career, I am sure Dr. Bradley saw many things in contradiction to what actually made medical sense. Many women had pelvic floor damage due to forceps birth.

Though Dr. Bradley had always done things the way everyone else did— including routine episiotomies— he decided to walk women through natural childbirth and he included their husbands. He created the “husband coached childbirth” before men were permitted in the delivery room, because he believed men had the right to support women in birth and witness the miracle of childbirth. As a result, many delivering moms pushed to the point of comfort and were able to deliver a baby in second stage under the two hour normal range. Such women had an 87 percent spontaneous vaginal birth rate and no floor damage, and they trusted their bodies and immediately breastfed.

On the contrary, the routine use of pain medication can have major side effects for the baby and mother. For example, the drug Pitocin causes extreme and unnatural contractions that can put a first-time mother at major risk for a uterine rupture. If a uterine rupture happens, a woman can bleed extensively, lose her baby and risk her own life. Yet, complications from the routine use of Pitocin, or other induction drugs, are often not discussed with the expecting parents and they do not get informed consent to make decisions. Then, once contractions begin, the pain is so great that most laboring moms wish they were not strapped to the bed experiencing labor.

The medically managed birth team expects you to deliver in a “reasonable” time frame, and you are on their clock instead of Mother Nature’s. When things fail to progress, you end up on the surgical table for an emergency C-section.

When you compare the rates of surgical births in this country now to when our moms had babies, the statistics are alarming. We are not seeing more birth complications, but we are actually creating them by allowing medically managed births.

When I was pregnant, I started with a practice that always did episiotomies because I was told “every woman needs one.” I switched to a practice that was, and still is, a big baby mill of an OB group with midwives. They rotated three midwives, prompting expecting moms like me to meet all three. I was assured that my birth plan would be honored, but when unplanned things occurred they ditched my birth plan for their own selfish plan. One midwife ruptured my membranes on a routine vaginal exam at week 36. She then stated I had to deliver the baby within 12 hours, forcing us to push an immature baby out of the world on Pitocin. Instead of staying by my side, the midwife went home to shower and eat dinner— leaving me with strangers at the hospital. I refused the epidural, but when the contractions got bad I caved in for the Stadiol, which made me feel defeated and sick for an hour, and quite honestly did not work. However, I did push my baby out within an hour— all five pounds of him. Our son latched on right away and I felt he was a blessing. As he was not ready to enter the world, he was left with poor lung quality and pediatric asthma and a right brain disorder known as Semantic Pragmatic disorder. He is now in a preschool for the disabled.

Several years have passed, and I now teach the joys of natural childbirth. My students create a birth plan that covers variations, complications, informed consent, the use of a doula, the role of the coach, eating and drinking in labor for strength and extensive attachment parenting skills.

As many new parents go back to work quickly, I try to ensure they get the breastfeeding support they need. I run my class like a college course— students have homework, see DVDs of graphic birthing images, learn postpartum care and meet other couples with similar interests.

Surgery has its place, and a few students do end up having C-sections. My theory: Avoid C-sections when you don’t need one and free up the surgical room for women who are having true obstetrical emergencies.

Don’t give your birth away. Find a supportive birth team, ask how many of the team’s births are delivered naturally, not just vaginally, and take a Bradley Method course by selecting a teacher at www.bradleybirth.com.