When birth is as natural as possible, when the mother is allowed to labor freely without interference from anyone, her labor will go more quickly and safely.
When human beings intervene in the birth process, they introduce elements which the body does not know how to deal with. Drugs and medical procedures are obstacles to safe birth because they introduce variables into the birthing equation which are not part of your genetically encoded birth instructions. Your body responds pathologically to drugs in your system, or being confined to a bed and not being allowed to eat or drink. When your body is sending you signals and you ignore them, or you can’t feel them because you have been given drugs or are too afraid to understand what your body is telling you, complications and further intervention are almost inevitable.
Any drug given to you during labor will reach the baby within a few minutes of administration. Keep in mind that even though the dosage may be right for you, because the baby shares your blood system, the baby receives the same dosage as you do. I’m sure you have looked at children’s pain relief or cold medications. On the package they always tell you how much to administer according to the child’s age and body weight. When pain medication is administered to you, the mother, the dosage is administered according to your needs, not the baby’s. They have to give you enough to numb the pain; you are getting an adult dosage which is much too much for a baby. If that baby was out of the womb, and a doctor administered that dosage of pain medication directly to your baby, he would be cited for malpractice. Because your baby is smaller than you, and the amount of medication in his system is too much, it takes longer for it to leave his system than it does you. Babies of epidural mothers have more respiratory distress than other babies. After the baby is born, if will often sleep more than normal and be lethargic. Often these babies have no interest in breastfeeding for quite some time after birth. They do not experience the calm, alert state that naturally born babies experience. This quiet alert state is important to maximize postpartum bonding of mother and infant.
When your labor is induced or augmented with Pitocin, your contractions speed up and seem to occur back to back without a resting period in between. This can cause the uterus to become exhausted and unable to contract effectively. You may get dilated to a certain point and then make no further progress. At that point a cesarean section becomes necessary. Pitocin also increases the risk of uterine rupture because the contractions are much more intense. Women often start out with Pitocin and the contractions become so painful that they cannot cope without pain medication. So there are two drugs in your system instead of one.
Most hospitals require continuous electronic fetal monitoring. This procedure includes strapping an ultrasound device to your belly to monitor the contractions, your heart rate, and the baby’s heart rate. When you have this device attached, you must stay in bed. When you have epidural anesthesia you must also stay in bed. Lying in bed increases the length of labor, increases the pain of contractions, and reduces your ability to cope with contractions. You MUST be able to change positions as your body tells you to.
Lying in bed often produces changes in the fetal heart beat. Sometimes these changes represent true fetal distress, and sometimes they are interpreted as such when no danger exists. Either way, if the mother was allowed to get out of bed and move around, these heartbeat irregularities often return to normal. Sometimes the irregularities are simply the result of the normal birth process and are not distressful at all. Onlookers have no idea which is the case, so they always intervene. Studies of electronic fetal monitoring have found that results are not always interpreted correctly, and that although the results may actually indicate fetal distress, other tests performed on mother and infant do not always concur that distress exists. Where electronic fetal monitoring is used, there is always a rise in forceps deliveries and cesarean sections. Electronic fetal monitoring has not been shown to significantly improve the outcome for mother and baby, but it does increase the amount of intervention.
In the hospital, you are often given a diagnosis of “failure to progress” if you do not dilate at least one centimeter per hour. This diagnosis is based upon research done many years ago by a doctor named Friedman. He kept records of many, many births, and averaged the length and progress of these labors. He came up with what is now called “Friedman’s Curve.” The average progression is one centimeter per hour. If you don’t progress at least this fast, you will probably be given Pitocin. If you still aren't progressing with Pitocin, you will be “offered” a cesarean section. Offered is a funny way to put it, since you will be told there is no other option.
How would you feel if you were told that the average woman is 5'4" and that because you were 5'7" you were abnormal? That is essentially what is being said to those who don’t progress at least one centimeter per hour. No one seems to realize that Friedman’s one centimeter per hour is an AVERAGE. Averages are made up of highs, middles, and lows added together. Some women progress in a steady manner, but many if not most labors progress in spurts. You may make steady progress for a while, then have a resting period, and then pick up again. Your labor is also affected by your emotional state, which is why distractions in the labor room must be avoided at all costs. Many times, a change in the emotional climate is all that is needed to jumpstart labor again.
Your body knows exactly how to give birth. All you must do is remove the obstacles so that your body can do what it knows how to do. Allowing the woman to control her own birth insures that things are going just they way they are supposed to go. Your body will not do something to sabotage your birth, unless obstacles make it impossible. Focus on learning how to remove every obstacle possible. That is Unhindered Living.
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