Women giving birth need:
- freedom of movement (read Active Birth by Janet Balaskas)
- hydrotherapy (using water for pain relief, women should have the freedom to move in and out of tubs and birthing pools and have hand-held shower heads to direct on their belly and lower back),
- a strong labor support team (that can give massage, aromatherapy, words of strength and encouragement when times are tough, place hot and cold packs on mom, help you on the birthing ball etc. etc. etc.).
- to feel safe and comfortable during labor (which might mean no medical students at your birth, laboring in your favorite pajamas, keeping the lights off, laboring and birthing in the privacy of your own home etc. etc.)
I believe the reason the epidural rate is so high is that most moms are missing one or all of the above methods that contribute to women staying on top of the pain of labor. In the Listening to Mother's Survey1 while close to 50% of the moms used breathing techniques and position change to relieve pain only a small percentage of moms (only between 4 and 7%!) used a birth ball, immersion in a tub or pool, hot or cold compresses, shower, music or aromatherapy. I can't imagine giving birth without having my choice of music filing the room or the use of hydrotherapy. I am sure there are exceptions to the rule but I dare to argue that the majority of moms who advocate "getting the drugs," have not had a strong labor support team providing a variety of techniques to help them cope with the pain of labor. As a result, many moms have a negative labor experience and are only too happy to get the drugs. Trust me, I've been there. When I got the epidural before my cesarean with Khady I was EXTREMELY grateful. My epidural arrived after hours of forced pushing without any drugs while lying on my back hooked up to the monitor with the doctor coming in and out exclaiming "that baby isn't coming out." I had had enough!
During the second birth experience, between the labor pool, my gospel music, the hands of my supportive doulas and husband, the back massage, the compassionate eyes of my midwife, pain medication was the furthest thought from my mind. Moms, you can do it! Labor can be TOUGH but with a good support team, it is manageable, and there are delicious parts of labor and after the birth where you are soaring high, feeling amazingly strong and invincible, as if you just might have super powers. Many moms change their entire view of themselves as a woman based on a single empowering birth. Look at the face of the mom in this group of photos. Sometimes a picture says it all. Please visit Women in Charge for some empowering birth stories and photos and make sure you have the freedom to use the above pain-relief methods if needed during your labor and birth.
11 Eugene R. Declerq et. al. "Listening to Mothers II, Report of the Second National U.S. Survey of Women's Childbearing Experiences." Childbirth Connection, October 2006. http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ClickedLink=205&ck=10068&area=2.