Congratulations on your pregnancy! How do you feel? Do you feel nervous or excited? Or maybe a bit of both?

 

Now that a little human is growing inside of you, it’s time to decide how to get it out. Well, we should use the word decide loosely.

Childbirth is difficult to control, and can be unpredictable at times.

 

There are things that you can do to increase your chances of having a certain experience, but the hard truth is that nothing can provide you with a guarantee. 

 

That’s the scary thing about childbirth. You don’t get to decide how it goes.

Don’t lose hope though. Even though there are no insurance policies you can buy to guarantee a perfect birth, there are some major steps you can take to ensure that you have a positive birth experience.

 

 

 

 

What Are Your Options for Childbirth?

As it currently sits, there are 3 ways to get a baby from one side of this world to the other.

  1. Vaginal birth without medication
  2. Vaginal birth with medication, typically an epidural
  3. Cesarean

 

So, in as much as you can control the outcome of your childbirth experience, how do you choose what is best for you and your baby?

You need to consider all of your options and determine what feels best for you.

Option 1: Vaginal Birth Without Medication

Many natural birth advocates insist that this is the best way to birth a baby; the way nature intended, naturally and without drugs.

While many women describe their unmedicated birth as empowering, it is worth noting that most of these births are their second, or possibly third.

A woman’s first labor is typically the most difficult, as her body has to open up in ways that it has never done before.

It is helpful to keep this in mind as you read birth stories and weigh your options.

That being said, unmedicated childbirth can be phenomenal and has some unique benefits, some of which are impossible to experience with the use of an epidural or a cesarean.

Benefits of a drug free vaginal birth

  • Freedom of movement during all stages of labor

  • Decreased risk vaginal of tearing compared to vaginal birth with an epidural

  • Mother is typically mobile shortly after birth

  • Baby is often more alert, which is helpful for the breastfeeding relationship, and encourages bonding

  • Vaginal bacteria is good for baby’s gut flora

  • Contractions help to expel fluid from the baby’s lungs, increasing the likelihood that mother and baby will get skin-to-skin time immediately after birth

  • When labor and delivery go well, many mothers report feeling incredibly empowered

Disadvantages of a drug free vaginal birth

  • Painful- especially for the first labor. Subsequent labors are typically less painful.

  • Risk of tearing. Could be as little as first degree, or as bad as 4th degree (cervix and anus become one).

  • Fetal positional risks which can lead to baby being lodged in the birth canal or asphyxiation.

  • Risk of PTSD for mother

  • High risk of urinary incontinence after birth; typically lasts years

  • Risk of uterine prolapse

  • Birth injuries to mother or baby can hinder bonding

  • When labor and delivery do not go well, many mothers report feeling devastated and disempowered

 

 

Option 2: Vaginal Birth With Epidural

Many women wish to give birth vaginally, but are uncertain if they can handle the pain, or if they even want to try.

There’s no shame in knowing your limits.

Feeling all of the sensations that go along with pushing a human out of your vagina isn’t for everybody.

While some women report that the lack of an epidural makes them feel more in-tuned with their body and their baby, others report fear, anxiety, and a sense of hopelessness during labor.

For these women, an epidural can be extremely beneficial.

Benefits of an epidural

  • Increased comfort with the birthing process

  • High levels of satisfaction when the epidural works correctly

  • Vaginal bacteria is good for baby’s gut flora

  • Contractions help to expel fluid from the baby’s lungs, increasing the likelihood that mother and baby will get skin-to-skin time immediately after birth

  • When labor and delivery go well, many mothers report feeling incredibly empowered

  • Quicker ability to transfer to emergency cesarean if the need arises (this literally saved my sister-in-law’s life).

 

Disadvantages of an epidural

  • Epidural can slow down contractions, increasing the length of labor

  • No freedom of movement after epidural has been administered

  • Baby is more likely to be drowsy after birth, which can get the breastfeeding relationship off to a difficult start. This typically isn’t a problem though.

  • Increased chance of tearing, as you can not feel your perineum while pushing

  • If the epidural wears off, the shock of sudden labor pains can be incredibly difficult to handle

  • Possible side effects for mother such as nausea, vomiting, drop in blood pressure, and headaches.

 

  • Risk of PTSD for mother if the epidural wears off or is not administered correctly.

  • Fetal positional risks which can lead to baby being lodged in the birth canal or asphyxiation.

  • High risk of urinary incontinence after birth; typically lasts years

  • Risk of uterine prolapse

  • Birth injuries to mother or baby can hinder bonding

  • When labor and delivery do not go well, many mothers report feeling devastated and disempowered

 

 

 

 

Option 3: Cesarean

One of the important factors to consider regarding cesareans is that planned cesareans and emergency cesareans are very different.

 

A planned cesarean takes place before the onset of labor.

It may take place because of risk factors faced by either the mother or baby, breech position, previous cesareans, or simply because that’s how the mother wants to give birth to her baby.

Planned cesareans are generally considered very safe.

 

An emergency cesarean takes place after the onset of labor; typically after the mother has been in labor for an extended period of time and she or the baby are facing unexpected complications.

 

Emergency cesareans carry the highest risks because of the sudden complications that the doctor is now dealing with (ex: uterine rupture, baby lodged in the birth canal, cord wrapped too tightly around neck, etc).

Because of these complications, emergency cesareans carry the highest mortality rate.

 

That being said, an emergency cesarean isn’t something that is planned, and right now you are trying to make a plan, so we will discuss the benefits and disadvantages of a planned cesarean

 

Benefits of a planned cesarean

  • Ability to plan baby’s arrival can help with maternity leave, paternity leave, and other assistance from friends and family

  • Highest level of control for the mother

  • Greatly reduces the risk of PTSD

  • Reduces anxiety leading up to and during the birth (if the mother is afraid of labor)

  • Non-traumatic birth increases chances of bonding

  • Reduced risk of incontinence

  • No risk of uterine prolapse

  • No risk of vaginal tearing or weakness

  • No risk of baby getting lodged in the birth canal or suffering from asphyxiation

  • No risk of undergoing an emergency cesarean, which carries significant risks

  • High rates of maternal satisfaction rates when the cesarean is planned

 

Disadvantages of a planned cesarean

  • Baby doesn’t get vaginal bacteria which is helpful for developing gut flora

  • Likely that baby will need time in the NICU for fluid in their lungs, which means there is a decreased chance of skin-to-skin time immediately after birth.

  • Mom just underwent a major abdominal surgery, so expect a longer recovery time than after a vaginal birth. A 3-4 night’s stay in the hospital is standard, but it could be up to a week if complications arise.

  • Breastfeeding can be difficult and uncomfortable with cesarean wound (fortunately there are some great resources to help you overcome the hump)

  • Some women report feeling disconnected from the birthing process (some women recommend the use of a mirror so that they can see the delivery)

  • Increased risk of complications with subsequent pregnancies because of uterine scar tissue, though most mothers go on to have healthy, full term pregnancies.

  • Risk of wound infection for mother

  • Increased risk of blood loss for mother

Your Body, Your Choice

 

Giving birth, no matter how you do it, can be a very scary, vulnerable experience. It’s important that you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each type of birth, and choose an option that you feel comfortable with.

 

Remember, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. No one is going to be passing out medals afterward.

 

This is your birth, your body, and your choice. Nobody else has the right to judge you, because nobody else is going to walk in your shoes.

They don’t have to deal with the third degree tear or the stitches from a major abdominal surgery.

Maybe they’ve popped out a kid or two, but every birth is different. Your experience might be nothing like theirs.

 

Babies are born in each of these ways every day, and there is little to no long term difference in their outcomes.

But what we do know is that the health and happiness of the mother has a significant impact on babies. You need to make the right choice for yourself.

 

If your heart is set on an unmedicated birth, get your partner on board and find a care provider that will give you every opportunity.

The more you trust your care provider, the more you will trust that they are giving you correct information as you navigate labor together, even if it goes sideways.

 

If you don’t want to push a kid out of your vagina, that is completely understandable, and you shouldn’t be ashamed.

Look around for a care provider that will support you and honor your wishes.

It’s hard to find a doctor that will perform an elective cesarean without a medical reason, but it’s worth driving a long distance to find if that is what you need.

Your mental and emotional health depends on it, which will in turn affect your baby and the bond you will soon share.

That should be reason enough.

 

At the end of the day, it is your body and your choice. Be bold. Be fearless. And never let anyone tell you that you’re making the wrong choice.

Be sure to check out:

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