When Did Pregnancy Become an Ailment

Sometimes when we question the way a thing has been done, it can sound like we are being judgmental.  Please understand that questioning is not judging, it is merely asking “is this the best way for us” and “are there ramifications for continuing in the usual manner?”  I question the routine use of a hospital for giving birth.  A hospital is a place where ailing people go for a diagnosis and receive treatment (and sometimes also therapy) for that diagnosis.  When did pregnancy become an ailment?  When did something as natural as giving birth become something that requires medical intervention?

As with most medical interventions in the United States, drugs are a major component of the modern birthing treatment.  Epidural anesthesia is provided to women to ease the pain of childbirth.  Be informed that this form of pain relief is derived from cocaine, something we would not want to expose the baby to in utero.  Seventy-five percent of women receive them in this country, and most don’t receive information that it may have harmful effects.  These side effects can include failure of the baby to enter the correct position for birthing, difficulty breastfeeding after birth, and breathing and heart problems in the newborns (among other possible issues, keep reading).  A British study found that women given an epidural were twice as likely to hemorrhage as women who avoided them.  Again, no judgment is intended here, as some births are extremely painful and it is the mother (and child) who need to bear that pain (not by men like me who write about childbirth).

Of major interest to me is that epidural anesthesia interferes with the body’s release of oxytocin, which helps with uterine contractions and is important for promoting infant/mother bonding after birth.  This is a bi-directional event—baby bonding with mother and mother bonding with baby.  Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, is used to induce and augment uterine contractions in our hospitals, but animal studies compellingly show it does not promote infant/mother bonding.  What does this all mean?  Natural childbirth appears to have significant advantages over the usual hospital childbirth in ways we might not have realized, including the emotional health of the mother and child.

We have been scared into thinking that home birthing is dangerous, even though hospital births have only become common in the last two generations.  In studies examining births, home births were found to have equal prenatal mortality as hospital births--except that medical intervention was ten times higher in hospitals (e.g., forceps, IV, cesarean, episiotomy, induction).   Sometimes we need to utilize the strengths of hospitals--for high-risk pregnancies and for complications that can occur even in the best intentioned birthing.  But for those who are considering the healthiest route for the child-to-be, I encourage you to do some fact checking.  And for those who have experienced a drug-laden pregnancy (whether that be because you thought it was the best route or because it was medically necessary), be aware that the behavioral issues you may be experiencing with your child possibly have a root cause in the birthing process.  Child birth is a natural event.  It is not an ailment that should be institutionalized, routinely battered with drugs, and sterile.  Recognize that institutional birth (when not required) is another avenue of human domestication (i.e., a loss of self-reliance and concurrent loss of physical and emotional health).  Rewilding this part of your life may benefit both the mother and the child.  I wish strength and courage to any mother (and father) who is thinking about natural childbirth.