Monday, September 1, 2008

Medicated birth vs. Unmedicated birth (my thoughts only)

I know that before I start this post I should give three qualifying statements to open:

1. These are my opinions only. My goal in this post is just to talk through my experience and process it for myself. You are just reading in on my thoughts. I am not trying to persuade anyone.
2. I did not have a "natural" birth in the true sense of the word. I was induced and delivered unmedicated. There is a huge difference and I can elaborate on that later.
3. As I have stated before, I loved my two medicated births (in the sense of being medicated) and had no "issues" with an epidural. But I also chose to do this birth unmedicated.

With that said I guess the easiest way for me to break down the "pro's and con's" of each is to just do a simple list. And since every woman's body and each woman's pregnancy is so different, none of these pro's and con's can be "the rule."

Medicated: Pro's:
You don't feel much (if your epidural works). Main reason to get it, right? ;-P
You can adjust the amount of medicine released based on what you are comfortable with.
You are able to "relax" or sleep during your labor right up until its time to push.

Medicated Con's:
-If you get too much med's you can't move at all and this doesn't help when it's time to push.
-The epidural is known to slow things down a bit. So your labor can last longer even though you can't feel it.
-If your epidural doesn't work, and you were counting on it working and then you have to go unmedicated, you will not be happy and then have a disdain for unmedicated. But that is only bc you aren't prepared mentally, physically or emotionally to go unmedicated.
-(for me) the recovery time was slower with an epidural. After delivery I was lethargic and took a while before I could "get a grip" and not look like I was drugged.
-the baby can also have a harder time nursing after a medicated birth.
Before I start the pro's and con's of an unmedicated birth I need to explain the difference between an unmedicated birth and an unmedicated natural birth. Natural means you go on your own. You are waiting for your body to kick into gear when the baby and your body are ready (i.e labor begins). My birth, unmedicated, was not natural in that sense. I was induced (because of a medical reason) and therefore some of the experience on my pro's and con's list I would not have had with a truly natural birth. Pitocin changes everything when it comes to labor.

Unmedicated Pro's:
-I was more involved in my plans for delivery. I was part of the process rather than just being brought in and told what to do. I was being asked what my desires were. That was awesome to know that I was in charge of my delivery.
-Even with pitocin contractions (stronger and less breaks) I enjoyed feeling what was going on with my body and making adjustments according to what felt better.
-I truly bonded with my husband (he was my coach) in a way that I had not bonded with him in our other two births. I needed him more. He was my support. I was depending on him in a way I had never done before. We did it as a team. I also feel this about all those in the room with us (although more so with my husband). I truly feel like I could not have done it without the group effort. We were all apart of the process.
-I recovered quicker while at the hospital. I was able to go to the bathroom an hour after delivery. thats a big deal. I had the ability to move.
-I was exhausted from the delivery but only because of all the work that I did, not because I was lethargic from the drugs.
-I had a huge sense of accomplishment when I saw my body do something that I never thought was capable. There was, is, a huge sense of pride in that. But it came as a surprise bc that isn't what I was looking for.. I wasn't trying to be superwoman. I just wanted to experience it without meds.. but I ended up seeing how awesome it felt to "climb that mountain."

Unmedicated con's:
-(with pitocin) the strength of the contractions continued even after the baby was out. With natural, this would not have been the case. This made me less interested in holding Eva since I still needed to focus through the contractions until the placenta was out.
-(with pitocin) the contractions are stronger with less breaks.. it took me a while to get used to that. But this also meant that labor was very quick. I went from 6 to 10 cm's in an hour and it was a lot of work and of course painful. But very quick.
-(with a face presentation) the pushing was very difficult. Her head was coming out wrong and I knew it (bc of no epidural). However, I believe that had she come out normally the pushing would have been the best part and a breeze. Because, even with a face presentation, once you get to where you know you need to push, the contractions are easier bc its your source of relief when you push with them. You are finally able to work with the uterus. For me, though, every time I was pushing her head was like "pushing a brick wall" that was my perineum. Not the case in a typical presentation.
Overall I am so glad that I had the unmedicated birth. I really think it showed me some things about myself that I wasn't aware of. Things that translate into other areas of my life and that are worth evaluating. I need to qualify that with the fact that one is not right or wrong. But I think it's similar to the process of growing in maturity: if something could benefit you, whether or not you think that trait is necessary, it couldn't hurt to do it anyway. Let me explain.

A truly natural birth teaches patience and full surrender. You are not in charge. You are waiting on your body to tell you when it's time to deliver. Being three, or even five, centimeters dilated does not mean your body is ready. Going into labor means your body is ready. The patience it takes to do that is hard to attain to. It's hot. You're huge. Your body seems to be getting more and more tired everyday. Your have other little ones to chase and bottom line you may be just tired of being pregnant. All of those are normal feelings. I had them with all three of my pregnancies. However, to go natural means that you aren't surrendering to your feelings. You are waiting for God to grow that baby as He designed your body to do. Obviously if there is a medical issue that requires getting them early, He also designed that they could survive outside of the womb by a certain number of weeks gestation but there is a risk there you have to be willing to take. you have to admit that "convenience inductions" are astronomically high these days. Being induced because you are miserable is, I believe, keeping people from experiencing true surrender and walking in true patience. Now you may be someone who induced out of convenience and say with a hearty "Amen, and I'd do it again." And I am not saying you are wrong for doing it.. that's for you and your man to decide. However, I would say it's worth a look into how that would effect other areas in your life: physically, emotionally, spiritually as it relates to full surrender and walking in patience.

I had to ask myself during that weekend of trying all the wives tales to get the labor "going" trying to avoid pitocin that I knew was coming at 38 weeks if she didn't come out before, would I be willing to wait if induction wasn't in the picture? If I had normal blood sugar levels, no insulin and everything was like a typical, non-risk pregnancy, would I be patient enough to wait it out until 40-42 weeks until my body said it was time? That was a hard thing for me to process. If God designed my body in such a way that I would have that baby eventually (although it doesn't feel like it) why am I trying to be the orchestrator of timing. Anyway, Im sure you get my point.. enough of that one.

The other thing I learned (more, common sense) was that I can disagree with the good M.D. It's amazing to me, as I went through this process, how many woman do whatever they are told with no questions or dialogue with their doctors. If the the m.d says it.. it's good as gold. You have a right to your opinion and no one knows your body better than you do. And I am not talking about being disrespectful here. But rather being knowledgeable about what's going on with you and your body and knowing what would work best for you or saying that you are uncomfortable with something or would like to try something different. I know there are some that are non-confrontational and would never think to question what a doctor says, but there is dialogue that is not confrontation. Yes, doctors have way more training than we do, but still, they are not you. And you can disagree with them. Example: I self diagnosed my diabetes with the last two babies. When they "told" me I "needed" to come in (with Eva) for the blood glucose test I told them "no thank you." It wasn't my doctor who recommended it. And he was so surprised that I said I was going to pass and just monitor it with my glucometer at home. Now why was he so shocked? I believe it was because I wasn't doing it by the system or protocol. But my reasons were legit. If you know someone is borderline diabetic, how is pumping that much sugar into their system a good idea when a glucometer will tell you the same thing after eating a normal meal? Now my husband disagreed with me and said I needed to take the test. So I did. I got an astronomically high number and felt terrible for two days. He then apologized and his exact words were: "I should have listened to you. You know your body better than anyone and I don't want you to ever take that test again." The same rule applies to pediatricians too. End point.

Lastly, I learned that YOU CAN DO IT!!! You can do an unmedicated birth and an unmedicated natural birth. If you couldn't then God would have designed your body differently. Yes there is pain. That was given to us as part of the Fall of Adam but that doesn't mean that your can't actually deliver that way. You may doubt what you are capable of it, but believe me you can do it. HOWEVER, you have to be prepared. I don't know how many times I was told "oh so and so went without an epidural and hated it." And then I would ask, "were they planning on an unmedicated birth?" and every single time they were not. it was a case of not getting the epidural in time or it not working at all. Friends, that is not the same thing. I can't imagine how much more it would hurt to labor or birth unmedicated when you are not mentally prepared for it. So on that note, when you are prepared for it and have a method for dealing with the pain, then I guarantee it will not be something you hate. You very well could decide to just do the meds the next time, but I doubt you would hate it. I feel like I can say that since I had a delivery that lands most women on the cutting table. Its just not normal to deliver a baby face up, face first.

So for all of you out there that may be considering a natural/unmedicated birth let me tell you three things:
-lack of knowledge leads to fear. What you aren't well versed in will cause you to fear. Meaning, if you don't know what to do to get through the labor then you will fear the labor. And then think you can't do it. So learning and research are the key!
-Second, ONE CONTRACTION at a time. That's how you get through it. In the moment. You take one at a time. Regroup and do it again. before you know it.. it's time to push your baby out.
-I was most nervous about pushing the baby.. will i be able to handle the pain of her coming out, etc. And it was not near as bad as I thought..and thats with the face up, face first thing. ;-P

Well i think that's about it.. if I forgot something I'll let you know. So tell me what you think..


Anonymous said...

Holy Cow! That was a long post! But very well thought-out and written. I think you laid it all out there perfectly, and I'd have to say I agree with you. I cannot reiterate enough how incredibly impressed and proud of you I am for going through that. I know you weren't trying to be superwoman, but you are my hero! You (and Christina) have truly inspired me to look deeper into the world of natural/unmedicated births. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about what you learned through your experience. You made some really good points. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle said...

I chose not to have an epidural with my first child. I changed my mind but it was too late ;) but I ended up loving it. I especially loved what you said about bonding with your husband because after I thought I was going to die and Nick was the only person there I TOTALLY fell in love with him all over again. I had my second child with an epidural and loved it too but I wouldn't trade in that first experience. I just love labor in general though. Meds or no meds. I'm a freak. Also, on a side note...Did you feel like you delivered an octopus? I'm not kidding I was about to pass out and then thought, "what in the world am I delivering?" I had to sit up and look! LOL. Sorry. Told you I was a freak.

-C said...

Have you heard me saying, "yes", "yep", "right on" ... the whole time I was reading your post? I never had pitocin so it was interesting to hear your comments re: that. You sound like a woman who had a chosen unmedicated natural birth. ;) I agree with so much of what you wrote.

I really believe you're on to something about patience and full surrender. Much of this week and last felt like labor to me ... as we had to prepare, watch and wait for Gustav not knowing the outcome. I didn't need to breathe through anything but the character built caused me to handle it (esp. in front of my kids) one day at a time with common sense and no panic. Mind you ... after K, there's reason to panic.

And, I think the awe that husbands have for their wives after going thru that together is a BIG perk. ;)

Natalie said...

Wow, and I thought it was only me dealing with the patience and full surrender stuff. I have to say I truly understand what it is to WAIT on the LORD. Not that it was enjoyable in the least. I got/get very angry, overwhelmed, depressed, tired, emotional and just down right nuts. But I usually come through that about 2 days before the baby arrives and the peace that I get from that full surrender of waiting and waiting and waiting is unreal.
It's the closest I've been to heaven.
Now on the the unmed vs. med. I have an unusual opinion that most people disagree with.
I had my first 3 at home. I cannot stand hospitals or doctors. Maybe I just don't want to be bossed around when it comes to certain parts of my body, I dunno.
With #4 though, things were different. I was going through a hard time emotionally(severe panic attacks, etc...) and a friend was due 2 weeks before me.
So she went into labor, wanted to "go natural" and because of the pit settled for an epidural.
When I talked to her on the phone that morning during the pit and no epi, she was a WRECK. By the time I got to the hospital she was 10 cm and ready to push and had gotten the epi 2 hours before. She was calm and collected, not at all the person I had talked to earlier that morning on the phone.
For some reason this struck me. I wanted pain relief dangit!
It's not fair!
So after being in labor for 3 days and finally getting to 9 cm at home, I decided I was NOT pushing that baby out without the pain relief.
So off we went.
I loved me some epiduralness.
But I noticed that after the wonderful effects of the epi wore off I became depressed rather quickly. I just wanted to be home in my bed. Not propped in the hospital with the nurses wanting to suck my blood(okay so they wanted to draw blood, but I said no. They weren't happy).
So I think for me it wasn't epi or no epi, it was home or hospital and I have to say I'm happy to be at home.
The good LORD willing, I will have many more sweet baby's in my big ole bed at home.
I guess the epi has it's place.
I just don't really want it again unless I need it.
And that's me.

Missy said...

Child birth is an amazing adventure no matter what way you choose, and I'm very glad that everything turned out well for you!
It's a surreal feeling to have a life inside you one minute and to be holding it the next.

Hope you are resting when the baby rests. ;)

Abbey said...

Congratulations again on your baby girl. I hope everyone is feeling healthy and well.

rrutsky said...

I'm seeking an ob/gyn in Birmingham, AL who will work with me on natural childbirth. Can you share who your dr. was?

Rachel Garcia, CD(DONA) said...

rrtusky.. sure thing.. its Dr. Nathan Ross of OBGYN South.

rrutsky said...

Did you feel like your doctor was supportive of natural childbirth and work with you, or not?

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