to wonder, where the move towards 'epidurals are wimping out' ideas come from?

(215 Posts)
Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 21:30:57

I very strongly believe that every woman should be encouraged and supported to have the birth that they want, whatever they want to do.

But I've noticed over the past few years - anecdotally, on places like MN - that there is this background belief from some women that other women who have an epidural are somehow 'giving up' or 'not woman enough to cope' or 'not embracing a natural pain'.

Now I really don't care how people give birth, as long as they've been supported by their healthcare professionals to achieve what they want, because all that matters is that the mum and baby are both well. I understand the cascade of intervention that an epidural may bring, and that a pain relief free vaginal birth is probably, on the balance of things, better for both the mum and the baby as long as everything is going well.

But I can't help but wonder how or where the natural birth push has morphed into some people being so anti-epidural for other women, into the sort of judgement that someone women seem to embrace at the moment?

NiceTabard Fri 23-Aug-13 22:45:40

Also what gets my goat is that difference in risk between CS / VB is couched.

CS they talk about all the surgical risks in great detail, possibility of infection blah blah ad infinitum.

VB NO risks talked about. I know people who have had tears of varying degrees, loss of sexual function, infection. On MN people who have incontinence, wounds that refuse to heal, there is a wrecked bits thread I think? All sorts of really severe consequences. Some of them will be due to forceps and so on but still. None ever mentioned in these classes. ALL possible risks of CS mentioned.

Why?

Lazyjaney Fri 23-Aug-13 22:46:18

NCT

True Dat

NiceTabard Fri 23-Aug-13 22:50:48

YY punishment to women in bible.

These ideas get into the psyche of nations over centuries. Childbirth is supposed to be painful, it is natural. It is something that women are built for, it is natural, it is extremely painful. That is just how it is. If women get pain relief then that somehow goes against the natural order, the way things should be. Not sure. You'd have to ask my mum grin but I think there may be something in it even if it sounds ridiculous at first glance and is hard to explain somehow.

Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 22:52:50

I also might be very wrong here, but aren't women not built for it - as in, as a species, our pelvis is too narrow and we're still waiting for it it to catch up with the size of babies heads?

Snazzyenjoyingsummer Fri 23-Aug-13 22:54:07

Thurlow I think you've hit on one of the problems with the pronouncements that are made. It seems likely to me that the link (which I've never seen a proper reference for) between epidurals and other interventions might well be because women are encouraged to do without epidurals for as long as possible, therefore if/when they do get an epidural, in many cases things have gone on for such a time that other interventions are brought into play.

It's been said before, but in other circumstances, there is no way a person would be encouraged to do without pain relief when in severe pain because it would be somehow 'better'. I don't see anyone advocating doing without pain relief after surgery, or when a bone has been broken, for instance. And while those are injuries and a birth is not, they are similar in that eventually the pain will subside, so why not just 'cope'? hmm

Zoe Williams is very good on this. I think she wrote in Bring It On, Baby that it's often mentioned that epidurals lengthen labour but that what doesn't get said it that it only lengthens labour by, on average, something like 37 minutes. And, of course, it's 37 pain-free minutes.

Have to say though that I have not seen any of these 'embrace the pain' threads on here.

NiceTabard Fri 23-Aug-13 23:01:11

Thurlow that's my understanding as well, that humans did a payoff from an evolution POV - walking upright gives us narrower pelvises and we gestate our children relatively longer and have big heads to accommodate our large brains so even more probs getting them out. This historically resulted in a higher death rate for people giving birth but evolution didn't worry about that as long as there were enough live young to keep the population going.

What I don't understand is why we haven't evolved - if the women with small pelvises etc died or couldn't have more kids - why we haven't evolved to do it easier. Maybe it's not been enough time or something.

Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 23:01:23

With hindsight, my pain level during labour was at an 8/10. Horrible but bearable. Probably like a lot of women. If I had found out several hours in that I was already 8cm dilated, I would have probably carried on with G&A. But 8/10 for 30 hours with no food and no sleep is pretty unbearable.

I strongly believe that length of time a woman has been having painful contractions that are affecting her ability to get some rest etc needs to be supported as much, and is probably in as much need of an epidural if she wants one.

Though I can admit I am biased, as by the time I was 4cm the mw's on my particular ward had ignore me saying that it had been going on a long time, I as struggling to eat and drink, when I finally got some monitoring I was tachycardic from dehydration.

NiceTabard Fri 23-Aug-13 23:02:54

I turned the dial up to 11 grin

<wonders who will get it>

Thurlow Fri 23-Aug-13 23:03:29

I got it grin

treaclesoda Fri 23-Aug-13 23:04:25

Thurlow, as a slight aside, your comment on us not being perfectly designed has another biblical aspect, in that I have heard it quoted by evangelicals as proof that evolution does not exist, because if it did, we'd have bypassed God's design for birth by now.

NiceTabard Fri 23-Aug-13 23:05:22

Honestly I was a total mess. I have had a lot of surgery and stuff in my life due to a condition that was often painful (joints would dislocate) and the situation after my induction was literally unbearable, I was making plans as to how to render myself unconscious if no-one else was prepared to do so. I found myself literally unable to cope and I have had a lot of pain before.

It really fucked me up a bit actually.

I had a ELCS with DD2 and it was lovely.

treaclesoda Fri 23-Aug-13 23:05:32

well, not bypassed, just that it would have evolved into something much less traumatic

NiceTabard Fri 23-Aug-13 23:08:10

treacle that would mean that God still chooses to punish all the women of the earth, in the most severe way, in perpetuity, for something that one woman did thousands of years ago (they believe about 8000 years I think since creation?).

If I were in their shoes, that would make me wonder whether I really wanted to worship that god, rather than spend my time getting concerned with other people's beliefs.

NiceTabard Fri 23-Aug-13 23:08:33

Interesting point, for sure.

By the time I had an epidural I had been in labour for 45 hours and don't see how I could have gone on without one. I was both physically and mentally exhausted. It certainly wasn't the easy option. DS was in the wrong position so after 45 hours of contractions I was still only 4cm. When they told me I was finally 10cm and ready to push I almost wept with joy.

TarkaTheOtter Fri 23-Aug-13 23:24:54

My situation was slightly different as I only had a four hour active labour. It was an induction at 38weeks and I was virtually strapped to the bed because of IVs in each hand. My body responded very "well" to the syntocin but it was absolute agony and, not only would I have given up having a baby, but would have rather died than not have the epidural. As it happened I have birth very quickly afterwards so maybe I could have held out. But why should I have when there was an option to take away that pain even if it only made a difference for 30mins or so.

LittleBearPad Fri 23-Aug-13 23:51:12

NCT and their sodding cascade of intervention

Our teacher was definitely anti-epidural but did spend most of our weekend class being disappointed with us all for not having home births.

My waters went at 38 weeks, had to be induced and eventually had an epidural as dd was back to back. Monitoring was a nightmare and so I let the epidural wear off as they were concerned about DD's heartbeat and I wanted to feel the contractions to see if they matched her heartbeat dropping. Epidural top up didn't work so ended up with spinal and ventouse. If anyone was to tell me I wimped out I think I'd have to shout a lot. The spinal anaesthetic was amazing I went from being in the worst pain of my life to happily chattering to all and sundry in the operating theatre about what my hospital number was (I was keen to be helpful!)

StElmo Sat 24-Aug-13 00:01:05

I honestly couldn't give a flying fuck how other people give birth. I also dislike being regaled of people's tales of labour/childbirth. The options are laid out, it's up to the parents what they do and who they do it with and where.

NiceTabard Sat 24-Aug-13 00:07:45

StElmo the options aren't laid out, that is kind of the entire point of the thread!

Pachacuti Sat 24-Aug-13 00:17:38

My NCT class was very balanced on epidural - in fact I'd say that overall we'd mostly gone in feeling very anti-epidural and anti-pethidine, and the course teacher did a great job of putting across a "Mmm, yes, but it's probably not a good idea to be too rigid in your plans because you don't know what your circumstances are going to be or how you're going to feel, so it's a good idea to learn about them as one of the options available..." argument. And she had had both her children at home (a fact we had to almost forcibly drag out of her at our last session - she really didn't push her own experience at all).

quesadilla Sat 24-Aug-13 00:19:15

I have never and will never understand the way women fetishise not having pain relief. I think most if this stuff about there being risks associated with it and about mobile births being easier are basically machismo from midwives and a weird puritanical competitive streak among mothers.

I also think there something quite primitively anti feminist about it. When was the last time you heard a bunch if blokes high fiving each other for having a gall bladder operation without pain relief?

quesadilla Sat 24-Aug-13 00:20:37

Bunch of blokes

LittleBearPad Sat 24-Aug-13 00:24:16

StElmo this possibly wasn't th best thread for you to open then was it...

brdgrl Sat 24-Aug-13 00:54:07

I think it is sad that those of us who chose epidurals still feel we have to 'justify' it through the details of our difficult labours, IYSWIM.

Even the approach of "well, plan for a home birth/water birth/no pain relief, but be aware that it may not be possible" - while obviously a good start and totally necessary - seems to me to still contain an uncomfortable subtext...like saying "well, plan for your beautiful perfect garden wedding, but be aware that it might rain and you'll have to move inside which obviously would be a terrible shame and not nearly as good - but hey the important thing is that you'll be married, eh?

I ended up not having any difficulty getting the epidural, because of the circumstances of my labour - but I chose one as part of my birth plan long before I knew how it was going to go.

quietitude Sat 24-Aug-13 01:10:05

I heard all the views that epidurals slow down labour and increase the chance of interventions.

There is a counter-view that being relaxed and calm will speed up labour... and nothing is more relaxing than being pain-free after an epidural.

Took me 18 hours to get to 5cms. Had an epidural. Took just another 2 hours to get to 10cm, and DD was born.

I live in the US so no one made me feel bad for having an epidural. The attitude was 'when would you like it?' In contrast, my English midwife friend told me I shouldn't 'need' one.

Um. OK confused

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