Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The epidural hater

Remember how just the other day I was describing my non-hypnobirthing labour and delivery? Well on the same day that I wrote that post, a Doctor in England made a statement that said more women should forgo the epidural and instead endure the pain of childbirth. According to him "Some (women) just don't fancy the pain [of childbirth]." And "Pain in labour is a purposeful, useful thing, which has quite a number of benefits, such as preparing a mother for the responsibility of nurturing a newborn baby."

Is that so Mr Walsh? Well, having delivered two babies in the last two years - one with epidural and one without - I whole-heartedly and with complete certainty argue that your point is mindless, archaic crap.

First, Dr Walsh is a man. So, fortunately for him, his comments reside in unsubstantiated theories, since he'll never have to endure the pain of childbirth himself. Which is very convenient for someone rolling off such comments.

Having recently been through a natural birth, Dr Walsh, let me try to describe for you as realistically as possible what it feels like to push a person out of one's body. It might be analogous to, say, pushing a lemon through your penis. Think that might be a tad uncomfortable? That's not the half of it my dear. Before the said lemon is pushed through the impossibly small hole, you will first endure a pain that comes in waves and is so crippling that you will beg to be put out of your misery. And that might go on for oh, a couple of hours. *

Dr Walsh's reasons for persuading women to give up the epidural are: that it might have serious medical risks (practically everyone I know was born with an epidural and are perfectly fine - what's the actual statistic for negative effects?); that it may diminish childbirth as a rite of passage (what about the mother's rights?); and that it may undermine the mother's bond with her child (ask any one of the millions of women who have had an epidural if their bond has been diminished. I think you'll find the answer is no and are you out of your bloody mind?).

The thing that really irks me about this, is not that this doctor is recommending natural alternatives to the epidural - because every woman should be able to decide how she wants to approach childbirth. My problem is that this ignoramus is condemning women for making a choice, which they absolutely have the right to, without ever having experienced childbirth himself to make such a judgment. Are we not living in the twenty first century, where modern medicine has brought us so far ahead of our predecessors with medications that cure us and alleviate the "natural" pain that was once endured because there was no alternative? There are plenty of medical conditions that cause pain and suffering. do we try to brave them all?

I mean, I assume, Dr Walsh, that since you're against women having an epidural during childbirth, that when you go to the dentist for a root canal or filling, that you don't get an anesthetic?

He says "Pain prepares women for the demands of motherhood." Utter crap. The extreme pain of childbirth is hardly an indication of the incredible and yes, sometimes challenging path of motherhood that lies ahead.

He also claims that the use of the epidural would be less prevalent if more women practiced alternate methods such as yoga and hypnotherapy.

Well hello, here I am, a perfect case study for you: I tried those things Dr Walsh. After having had an epidural with my first baby, I attempted the natural approach with my second. And when it came down to it the pain was like nothing I had ever experienced. My memories of my natural birth are in some ways more horrific than the memories of my epidural birth. And for the record, I would not do it again.**

"It appears that women have never been more frightened of the processes". He says. You know what? The only thing that has made me fear childbirth? Not all the horror stories or the movies of women screaming through their deliveries. But the actual experience. My experience. So much so, that if I ever went through it again there is no doubt in my mind I would ask for the epidural. Hell, I'd be on the phone to L&D asking them to get it ready for me.

But in the end, I just think every woman has the right to decide how to have baby without being judged, whether medicated up to her eyeballs or not. And I do wonder how much evidence really exists to qualify Dr Walsh's claim that the epidural has detrimental consequences to the baby?

I'm interested to know your thoughts on this too...

* I have a very low pain threshold - some women do not find the experience as excruciating as I did!

**I just want to state that for some women alternate, natural methods do work well for childbirth. I just didn't happen to be one of them.
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Loukia said...

EXCELLENT EXCELLENT POST! What a complete and utter moron this so-called Doctor is! Give me a break... how stupid of him, seriously.

I especially liked when you said this:

I mean, I assume, Dr Walsh, that since you're against women having an epidural during childbirth, that when you go to the dentist for a root canal or filling, that you don't get an anesthetic?

EXACTLY. My husband actually uses that arguement to people who are 'against' epidurals.

I had my first epidural when I was 8 cm dilated with my first-born son - the pain was not manageble for me at that point. And even though getting the epi was horrible, I was so thankful for it once it went it. I was calm, relaxed, and I was able to enjoy giving birth to my son. It made the experience pain-free, and way more enjoyable!

With my second son, the guy giving me the epidural was horrible, and punctured me 8 times before he got it in, with the help of someone who knew what he was doing! It was terribly painful, but the end result was me, giving birth to my second son, in a calm, happy, pain-free way.

The bond might be dimished if you get an epidural? What the heck is he talking about? Does he even have children? Wow. Thanks for this great post. Now I'm all worked up!

Momma Sunshine said...

As with so many things, I believe in a women's right to choose. We all handle pain differently, our birth experiences are different, and I think that it's a wonderful thing that live in a time when we have so many choices at our disposal.

I do think that many women opt for medication during labour out of fear (that was the case for me during my first birth). I opted for the epidural and then several hours later needed an emergency c-section (for other reasons not connected at all to the epidural).

My second child was born vaginally, a totally unmedicated labour, and I'm so happy that I was able to have that. My labour was quick, and the pain managable (yes, I'm one of the lucky ones). But I personally would NEVER judge a woman who decided to go with pain medication - again, we are all different and need to decide what is best for us as individuals. I would, however, like to see more women educated about the choices available to them.

Great post! :)

Mwa said...

Hear hear!

I've had two kids, both with epidurals. I'm all for choice. This guy is not helping at all.

It's one thing for a woman to respectfully state an opinion, it's another for a man to try and bully women into his.

I kind of like the idea of natural childbirth, and would have liked to do it that way. It didn't happen. Judging me for that? Not helpful.

Very good post.

Karen said...

Thirty three years ago when I had my first baby we women were just beginning to realise that we even had any choices in childbirth. I did go to pre-natal class, thank goodness, but my doctor did not and was kind and caring but pretty old fashioned - what did I know? He never discussed medication of any kind. I was led to believe that the breathing exercises that I was taught would help me cope. Well, they might have but every woman in my hospital that was in labour got demerol to cut the pain - but all it did was make you go to sleep between contractions so that you could not do the breathing exercises. I was alone and had no idea what was happening to me as I was pretty out of it. Then just before I was to deliver I got an epidural - too late, as I just got it and then delivered! I think that women today have much more information and the doctor does not get to decide everything! He or she is not the god that we once thought they were. Women should get as much education about the whole process and then make their own decisions - having said that, it is much easier to make an informed decision the 2nd time around. I guess by Dr. Walsh's thinking, since men have no pain at childbirth they will accept no responsibility for their children's well-being? What a crock!

ModernMom said...

Epidurals for both my nearly 10 pound bundles of joy....I wonder if this Dr would let a Dentist fill a cavitity without the use of freezing? Gee.

Lady Mama said...

Loukia - absolutely, I would opt for the calm, pain-free birth any day of the week (IF I ever did it again). Boggles my mind as to why I'd want to go through that when there's a perfectly good alternative.

Momma Sunshine - that's true, many women do opt for the epi out of fear. For me, I asked for the epi simply because I couldn't bear the pain anymore. I wasn't afraid of the birth going into it, because of all the prep I had done.

"I would, however, like to see more women educated about the choices available to them." - I agree.

Mwa - I'm all for choice too. And yes, a man trying to bully a woman into something he really has no concept of is not the smartest strategy.

Karen - you make a very good point about doctors not being the gods people once thought they were. I'm pretty sure my maternity doctor would have rolled her eyes if I had told her I was doing hypnobirthing (which is why I didn't), but the point it is was my choice to try. Women are much better about educating themselves about their childbirth choices these days.

Modern Mom - 10 lbs? Yeah, the epidural was probably a good thing! Wowza.

A Modern Mother said...

Loved the lemon image. Brilliant!

Maria @BOREDmommy said...

I agree with you - each person should choose how they want to give birth, whether its with or without an epidural. I was in labour for 21 hours with no meds until it moved to back labour in hour 22 - then I happily accepted the epidural. My second was a Csection. So I've had two and have had zero consequences. I think his opinions are idiotic personally. Great Post!
Added you to my blogroll!!

nathalie said...

I totally understand your point of view and respect every woman's choice to decide how she wants to give birth.

This being said, I have created the hypnosis for chidlbirth program called www.hypno-beginning.com and yes I do use my techniques when I go to the dentist and have major restauration and I feel nothing (plus you don't get that droppy mouth feeling afterward).
All my best,
Nathalie Fiset, M.D., C.H.
founder of the www.hypno-beginning.com program