birth options

Archived User

birth options

I have a few questions, and please allow me to give my background.  I am the eldest of 3 girls, and my mother had all of us without feeling she was in a lot of pain.  The middle girl had her only child naturally but only because she was told it was too late to get any drugs when she asked for them.  My other sister had 2 emergency c-sections.  I had my first child almost 5 years ago.  I was leaking amniotic fluid (and had been walking around 3-4 cm dilated for a week), so I was admitted to the hospital and given a pitocin drip.  I don't know how normal an experience this is, but I went from feeling absolutely no pain (for about 5 hours) to feeling like I was being crushed in a trash compactor without any middle ground and no breaks from the pain.  Because I believed this was to be my one and only child, I did ask for an epidural because I just could not handle the abrupt transition.  Although I appreciated the subsequent painless part of the birth (felt I was able to focus better on what was happening), I did not enjoy the recovery, especially the headaches I would get even weeks afterward if I hit the epidural spot on my back.
I am happy to say I am having another child (with a different and more supportive husband) due in January.  I know each person (even sisters) and each pregnancy/birth are different, but I was wondering about seeing about trying to go as long as I can without intervention.  I assume it was not normal to go from 0 to 10 on the pain scale so quickly.  If so, what is a more "normal" experience--especially without pitocin?  And, I hope this does not sound silly, but I will be 41 when I deliver.  Does that make a difference at all?

Henci Goer

RE: birth options
(in response to Archived User)

To begin with, you are correct that I.V. oxytocin (trade names: Pitocin and Syntocinon) induced contractions are not normal. They are more painful than contractions stimulated by oxytocin that your body produces naturally. They tend to peak faster than natural contractions, which makes them harder to ride. Pitocin contractions can also become too long, too strong, and too close together, which adds not only to your pain, but increases the likelihood that the baby cannot tolerate them. These differences from normal contractions are not surprising for a couple of reasons: For one, in most hospitals, clinicians use Pitocin dosage regimens with doses much higher than those produced naturally in the body and increase the dose much too fast for the current dose to have shown its full effect. For another, your body produces oxytocin in the pituitary gland, which is located deep within your brain. Oxytocin does more than stimulate contractions. Oxytocin is also known as the "hormone of love" as it is produced during lovemaking. Oxytocin circulating within the brain produces feelings of well-being and euphoria, but oxytocin cannot cross from the bloodstream into the brain, which means I.V. oxytocin does not have the compensating effects.

As for this birth, of course you can do things differently, but while having a more supportive spouse is a great start, you will want to learn about what practices and policies best promote a healthy birth for you and your baby. As you suspect, for healthy women, that will be care that supports the unfolding of the natural process. I recommend beginning your education with  Lamaze's Healthy Birth Videos and getting a copy of The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence. Once you know what kind of care you want, find a midwife or doctor and a birth setting where you can get that kind of care--and trust me, it is infinitely better to switch than fight. To help you do that, I suggest downloading "Having a Baby? Ten Questions to Ask" from the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services website. My book The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, also has sections on how to choose a care provider and place of birth as well as what care the research establishes as safe and effective. You can also see if the Birth Survey has information about care providers and hospitals in your area.

Your question about age isn't silly, and no, I don't think your age is a disadvantage, especially since you have given birth before. It is like riding a bicycle. Your body remembers.

I wish you all the best as you embark on this great adventure.One of the better kept secrets is that birth can be fantastic, amazing, ecstatic and can change how you think of yourself forever, and contrary to what some might think, a "good birth" is a "safe birth." Sadly, though, conventional obstetric management rarely allows that kind of experience.

Let us know how things go for you.

-- Henci

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