But one intervention typically leads to another -- a cascade effect -- and before you know it you may experience pain that is harder to cope with, your contractions may become less effective, and the stress you feel elevates your adrenaline levels which suppresses the production of natural oxytocin, a hormone that actually helps you cope with labor. And your baby experiences the stress, too. All of these factors contribute to the skyrocketing C-section rate we're seeing today
But if you labor within an environment in which birth is treated as a natural and healthy process rather than a medical crisis (though at times, of course, such crises do arise) your body is allowed to do what it is meant to do. And both you and your baby will benefit.
If you're afraid of giving birth, or if you are putting all of your trust into your health care provider, remember that you have a say in what happens to you. Consider reading about different ways of approaching birth. Where you give birth (in a hospital, birth center, or at home) and with whom you give birth (an obstetrician, a family physician, a nurse-midwife, or a trained home-birth midwife) can have a huge impact on what happens to you during your birth, how you feel about yourself and the experience, and the well-being of your baby. It can also affect your future birth choices as hospital protocol is making it harder and harder for a woman to have a vaginal birth (vbac) after having had a previous C-section.
Remember the words of this mother in Colorado, who, in reflecting about the messages she received growing up, says:
Never did I hear that birthing is empowering, that it takes strength, that a woman's body is beautiful and resilient. Never did I hear anything about breastfeeding, that a woman's ability to produce this incredible liquid is miraculous and should be honored and revered. We can pump iron and build up our muscles, but the strength of our bodies and the unique things a woman's body does aren't acknowledged. But after birthing and nursing two children, she adds,
Birth and breastfeeding have empowered me in ways that no career or educational experience has done. Giving birth taught me that my body has a wisdom all its own and has strength and resilience.
So does yours.
Barbara L. Behrmann, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher, and author of The Breastfeeding Café: Mothers Share the Joys, Secrets & Challenges of Nursing, University of Michigan Press, 2005. She is a frequent speaker around the country and is available for talks, readings, and conducting birthing and breastfeeding writing circles. The mother of two formerly breastfed children, Barbara lives in upstate New York. Visit her website for more information.
Copyright © Barbara L Behrmann. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.