I went into my first labor like a warrior to battle, out to defeat the evil enterprises of medicine that would try to make me take drugs, have repeated interventions and cause my birth to be stressful instead of relaxed, medical instead of natural and healthy.
Turns out I was actually pleasantly surprised that my battle plan – I mean, my birth plan, all 2+ pages of it – was met with more, “We pretty much already do that,” or “Of course we’d allow that,” than, “No way, Jose, my way or the highway!” I think that in the last few decades OB health has come around a long way, swinging the pendulum back from the “tie ’em down, drag ’em out” sort of philosophy that many hospitals used for deliveries in the 1950s or so.
A Few Exceptions
There are still some interventions that are fairly standard practice during the birthing process that we avoided as much as possible. It’s good to have choices. It’s good to have docs and pediatricians who will listen to you and have a two-sided conversation. But you have to know going in how to enter that conversation and what things that seem mandatory might actually be optional, or at least up for discussion.
This is the third in a five-part series. Catch up here:
- 5 Standards we Refuse in the Womb
- Alternatives to the Orange Glucose Drink for Gestational Diabetes Screening
- Natural Parenting During the First Week
- Keep Baby Safe and Healthy with 5 Simple Natural Parenting Goals
Here are five more conversations to have with your doctor or midwife after you become an informed health consumer.
Weekly Pregnancy Updates
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Genevieve & the Mama Natural Team with input from a registered nurse & student midwife have developed week to week pregnancy updates like you’ve never been able to find before.
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1. Avoid antibiotics during labor, when possible
The Strep B thing stressed me out since pregnancy number one. I learned that antibiotics gave baby a rough start and increased the likelihood of yeast infections, which can make breastfeeding very, very challenging. I was nervous and hoped and prayed I was Strep B negative.
No such luck.
I had antibiotics in an IV with my first, and then because I didn’t get the full regimen of both doses, my son had to have a shot of it after birth. I ate my yogurt and took acidophilus capsules to build our healthy gut flora back up — I now know that yogurt is a tiny group of foot soldiers and I was lucky I won the battle without a bit heavier probiotics like the ones we take regularly nowadays. I did feel fortunate to avoid a yeast infection (nursing was hard enough with my jaundiced, sleepy baby and his stressed out mommy).
Now I wonder if his eczema and the fact that autoimmune disease runs in our family is affected by that first experience.
With only 39 minutes in the hospital before birthing my daughter, I didn’t have time for the antibiotics. After a heart to heart with our pediatrician, a sensible woman whom I just love, we decided that the low percentage chance that the bacteria passed to the baby multiplied by the minuscule chance that it would make her sick wasn’t worth the risk. We would give antibiotics at the first sign of a fever, but for starters, we declined. All was well.
And number three? Ha. He was born in the ER and they were trying to start an IV after he was already nestled on my chest. That didn’t happen!
We knew he hadn’t been exposed to my vaginal bacteria for very long, and we were willing to stay in the hospital 48 hours for close observation, so we made the same decision with him as with our daughter. This is not a decision to be taken lightly, because the small percentage chance that the baby would contract GBS could result in a harrowing hospital stay or even death for the child.
I’ve since learned from our midwife that there’s also a “late-onset” GBS that may not show up until a week after birth. I’m Strep B positive yet again, and we’ll skip the antibiotics, but I feel both glad and a little unsettled that I have this new information – unsettled because WHY was I never told this before?
2. Avoid all pain relief drugs for natural childbirth
We took Bradley Birth classes and saw videos of babies after birth with drugs and after natural births. Great propaganda, maybe, but I was taken in. The natural birth babies were so much more alert and active, and I wanted to be wholly present for my newborn. It became a goal for me, like some people aim to complete a triathlon, to accomplish a fully natural birth.
I would rather embrace the pain of labor, which is completely over the second the baby is born, than wonder what consequences my choices for artificial drugs might have.
3. Artificial labor induction
Even before I was super crunchy and naturally-minded, I didn’t like the idea of putting drugs in my system, whether it was Tylenol for a rare headache or especially major knock-out drugs when a little baby was also depending on me. (Learn more about what’s in children’s Tylenol and the risks.)
So I looked for classes to help me get what I already was pretty darn sure I wanted, a natural birth. We learned so much from our Bradley Method course and I’m really glad it was available. I felt informed and ready for anything and dedicated to striving for a natural birth. I just had a perseverant attitude about it and never doubted I would fail.
Plus, pitocin-induced labor is usually twice as painful – no, thank you! I learned about natural means of inducing labor including walking, breast stimulation, and simply helping labor along through warm baths and appropriate relaxation in my quest to avoid Pitocin and breaking the bag of waters during labor.
4. Vitamin K shot for newborns
We declined this one as well with baby no. 1 even before I was very crunchy.
The shot includes pain, of course, plus risk of artificial preservatives. Its purpose is to increase blood clotting to help avoid a rare condition of bleeding on the brain. We weren’t in a high risk group (those who used alcohol or epilepsy drugs during pregnancy), so we simply opted out. If I felt the K was necessary, I’d probably go with an oral dose. (source)
UPDATE: Learned more, made a different choice with baby no. 4…might make a different one yet had I to do it over again. Read about it here.
5. Decline the eye ointment for newborns
Infants are given antibiotic eye drops (sometimes, but not as much anymore, containing silver nitrate) directly on their eyes immediately after birth, for one reason: to prevent the spread of gonorrhea or chlamydia to the baby.
With zero partners translating to zero risk of either of these diseases, I was adamant about avoiding that one. As with many of these decisions, “Nothing unnecessary” quickly became my mantra.
Nothing Unnecessary For Labor and Delivery
I’ve learned it’s worth asking the questions:
- Is this procedure necessary?
- What are the risks of not doing it?
- What are the risks of the intervention?
- Do I really feel I need it?
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