Empower the Laboring Woman

The US has roughly a 30% Caesarean rate.  (I’m writing this because people think I might have a big baby and will need a C-section.  You don’t know if you suffer from CPD until you being pushing.  Also, most women can birth the child inside them, regardless of the baby’s weight.)  This is a ridiculously high number.  There are many TV shows populating American media in which a woman in labor lays on a stretcher (on her back which we know to be the worst, most painful position as it compresses nerve endings, blood flow, and lung function) screaming in pain.  I’ve had some women tell me how it was the worst pain they’ve ever experienced.

Then I ask, most of the time to myself rather than the “pained” woman out of courtesy or respect, what classes they took which might have taught them about pain management in labor.  When I probe a little, I find these women didn’t have any education and merely trusted their doctors.  They didn’t research birth, labor, postpartum.  Too often, especially in our society, we don’t research.  We trust “experts”.  This is a problem.

Hospitals offer childcare classes which instruct parents how to care for a newborn.  Doesn’t it make sense to learn about labor and how to cope through that?  However, very few women know about childbirth classes and if they do, many think it unnecessary because they have an OB that knows how to help in an emergency.  If only more individuals in the US understood that the frequent interventions implemented by well-intentioned but uninformed health professionals can lead to a greater emergency than without interventions.

Pitocin makes labor worse.  Epidurals can slow labor.  If you observe babies without any drugs given to the mother during labor compared with mothers who had drugs in labor, the mothers administered drugs will have babies that are less active and observant.  These spaced out babies will take longer to latch during nursing which makes mothers and nurses think formula supplementation is necessary.

Now I’m not saying a woman who has a caesarean or formula-feeds is a bad mother.  She might actually be the best mother around.  However, I think education is important.  We shouldn’t make a major surgical decision without being informed.  Also, a vaginal birth releases a mix of hormones into the mother that often leaves her feeling elated.  A woman just pushed another human being out of her body.  Trust me, that woman feels, and rightly should, empowered.

We need to reorient our thinking here in the States and other first-world countries.  Third-world countries got something right—empowering women in birth.  Women have given birth to babies for centuries, long before modern medicine came to the “rescue” of laboring women (or more appropriately, detriment of birth and in turn, humanity).

May we seek to empower women, especially mothers, by educating them about the benefits of vaginal birth and breastfeeding.  Pray that the business of birth will stop being about funding corporate formula companies or paying absurd doctor fees for a process meant to occur naturally within the support of friends, family, and perhaps a well-trained midwife.

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