More and more are encouraging women to live the experience of natural childbirth in an attempt to put an end to the excess of interventionism that births have suffered in recent years. We speak of respected, natural or humanized births. In some way, we assume that one of the fundamental premises to enjoying this type of birth is not to resort to epidural anesthesia. However, a delivery without an epidural is not a guarantee of a respected or natural birth, nor is the opposite true as long as certain conditions are met.
Delivery without an epidural could be an option for all pregnant women, but today it still is not. Many hospitals and clinics still do not have the facilities or the qualified personnel to attend to this type of birth in the best possible way.
Suffer to suffer
Before getting into the matter, it is convenient to dismantle a myth. It is unnecessary to be a heroine, nor to have an uncontrolled desire for masochism to choose to give birth without an epidural. Giving birth without anaesthesia does not have to be a way of positioning yourself with any current parenting style. Moreover, it doesn’t have to be a decision made in advance. We can wait to see how the delivery progresses to decide whether or not we are going to have an epidural without the need to turn it into a stigma.
A few weeks after bringing my fifth daughter into the world is something that I do not consider. My last two births, without an epidural, were great, and I will give birth in a hospital where they make it very easy for you, but I won’t marry anyone. We’ll see how events unfold.
The sectors that most strongly defend so-called natural births often tell us that deliveries without an epidural are not painful—some promise painless and even orgasmic births, almost extrasensory experiences that will give us unprecedented pleasure.
On one thing, I agree that giving birth without an epidural is an experience of an intensity that is hardly comparable to anything we have experienced. The satisfaction and euphoria that invade us when holding our baby are unparalleled. But to hurt, what is said to break, hurts. Quite to say the least. Which does not mean that it does not compensate, by far.
The key to success
We were told some time ago that most pregnant women who initially did not want an epidural end up asking for it during childbirth. Curiously, in countries like Germany, where the medicalization of births is much lower, the opposite happens; many of us who were clear that we wanted an epidural ended up giving birth without anesthesia.
For a straightforward reason, for a birth to take place naturally and without anesthesia, the most important thing is where and with whom you give birth. Non-intervened labor needs other facilities and assistance than an intervened birth. The experience of health professionals in this type of delivery is essential to help the woman during childbirth.
To give birth without an epidural, the first thing you need is freedom of movement, a wireless monitor, and particular gadgets such as balls, trellises, ropes, and birthing chairs that allow us to find the correct posture. The one that our body chooses for us and in which everything hurts a fifth. A foal has no place in birth without an epidural since that position is probably the most painful.
In my first birth without an epidural, I was pacing the room when a monstrous contraction made my knees buckle, and I stayed there, kneeling on the floor. The midwife, far from trying to get me up, put me to bed or modify my irrational behavior in any way, reassured me; she told me to do what my body asked me to do and prepared everything so that the girl could be born right there. The gynaecologist sat on the floor next to me as if this was the most normal thing in the world, and my daughter was born in the blink of an eye. I was dressed and with the slippers on.
This type of flexibility and support is essential. A contraction can hurt a lot or be perfectly bearable depending on the position in which we are and the support we receive to live our labor as our body asks us and not according to the protocol of the hospital in question.
Delivery without an epidural could be an option for all pregnant women as long as the hospitals and clinics where we give birth are prepared and willing to assist us as these deliveries require. In addition, although, in the end, we choose to resort to epidural anesthesia for whatever reason, there is no reason to give up having a respected delivery. If the dose is not too high, the woman can still move freely, give birth in the position that is most comfortable for her, and feel the contractions, although with less intensity.