Nov 13, 2010

Mistakes in Labor: Part 1

Since these will be long, I am going to break them into sections. This part will cover: Irregular Contractions, Pitocin, and Pain Relief.

I have always felt birth should be natural, but it seems like no matter how good my intentions were in the past it seemed that my desire for a hands off birth were out of reach. I hope by sharing some of my mistakes with you, I can help others who may be misguided or unaware.

Not everyone has regular contractions! It seems the books all tell you that the hallmark between real labor vs. false labor is regularity of contractions, but I am here to tell you, that is NOT the rule and there ARE exceptions.
Why this is important to know: Often times caregivers may suggest a drug called Pitocin (more about that later) to regulate contractions, but do your research, sometimes irregular contractions ARE making a difference and moving labor along.

Anecdotal evidence: I have had three deliveries, two in the hospital augmented by Pitocin, one at home without any intervention. In all three labors my contractions were irregular, even after Pitocin was maxed out in the first two pregnancies, despite being told it would regulate them and was necessary to "pick things up", it only did the later, they still stayed irregular. And guess what, I still managed to give birth all three times!

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If you are told Pitocin won't make your contractions any more intense, or more difficult to get through... they lie! Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin, the hormone your body naturally creates to stimulate contractions. The decision to use Pitocin is not one to take lightly. I am not saying it is evil, or does not have a place in obstetrics, but it can have some serious consequences.
Why this is important to know: Some of the risks of Pitocin are:
* fetal distress
* more likely to request pain medication like an epidural
* cesarean section
* uterine rupture
Not only does Pitocin cause contractions to be harder to manage, they can also start a domino effect of interventions leading to a cesarean section, or cause unnecessary stress on the mom and baby.

Anecdotal evidence: Watch any birth show on TV and you will see story after story where Pitocin is introduced. Baby's heart rate starts dropping and mom is rushed off to the O.R., or, the mom is given Pitocin, the pain is too much for mom to handle and she gets an Epidural and then has complications from the Epidural.

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Myth: An Epidural is the only way to make labor comfortable. Epidural anesthesia is the most common method of pain relief in labor. However, sometimes there are serious (and some not so serious) side effects. The most serious being maternal or fetal death, but the more common complaints by women are the inability to move freely, being tied to the monitors, not being allowed to get up to use the restroom, itching, a drop in blood pressure, headaches, nausea and vomiting, shivering or shaking, backache, uneven/incomplete/nonexistent pain relief, feelings of regret. Epidurals can also cause the baby to have changes to their heart tones, cause a poor sucking reflux and lethargy, and leads to a higher rate of cesarean sections.
Why this is important to know: Epidurals have become so routine in hospitals now days, that some women do not know there are alternatives for pain relief, or that they may have regrets later. Several childbirth classes, such as Hypnobabies, Hypnobirthing, Bradley, etc, have very high success rates in helping a mom cope with normal, un-augmented labor. Other methods may be walking, changing position, rocking in a rocking chair, bouncing on a birthing ball, massage, hip compresses, laboring in a hot bath tub or shower, visualization, reassurance, etc.

Anecdotal evidence: I mentioned I had two Epidural deliveries, and one without an Epidural. Between Hypnobabies, a birth pool, my Doula and support, my natural labor was FAR more enjoyable than my medicated deliveries, without any side effects.
Also, did you know that Epidurals can interfere with bonding? In labor, our body produces beta-endorphins to help us cope with the sensations of birth and make the changes easier on our bodies. These beta endorphins cause an amazing surge of euphoria unlike anything I can explain. The feeling is amazing and creates a bonding experience like no other. Not only was my daughter more alert after my natural birth, but afterward *I* was more alert and my husband and I bonded so well with our newest family member.

Stay tuned for Part Two.

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