I chose to start labor pain medication-free, with the intention of going without interventions unless necessary, but willing to accept whatever was needed to make sure our baby girl arrived safely. Some may wonder why anyone in their right mind would choose an "unmedicated" birth. I'll just say, it wasn't really much of a decision. I didn't sit, conflicted, wondering about how I wanted to labor. I am just a person who prefers not to take pain medication, and think I have a normal-to-high pain tolerance.
If I really think about it, I can come up with reasons, listed below, but they all boil down to this:
I didn't want to add anything to my body that might adversely affect the labor and delivery process.
- I wanted to be able to stand/walk/use the lower half of my body immediately after delivery.
- I didn't want anything to potentially impede my first experience nursing my baby (there are debates about how narcotics or other pain medications pass the placenta boundary and affect the baby's ability to nurse immediately after birth).
- I have asthma and low blood pressure and have read research papers linking epidurals to drops in blood pressure. I didn't want to risk passing out or increase my likelihood for needing oxygen during delivery.
- I've had experiences with numbing agents (e.g. during tooth extraction) that didn't work completely, and so didn't want to pin any hopes on a pain-free (reduced?) delivery when there was a reasonable chance they might fail.
Even with all of those thoughts, I kept my mind open and willing to accept pain assistance if everything got too much to handle, or labor-inducing meds if progression stalled, or IV fluids if I got dehydrated, or a Cesarian birth if our little lady required it.
I'll tell you now that I am not super-woman, but am an advocate of birth-your-way (in a safe-for-mom-and-baby environment with medical professionals). In my case that meant that I did labor and deliver medication-free (and even IV-free, just sipping cold water and crunching ice chips). I was also very happy to be able to nurse and shower right after delivering. Stay tuned for the next episode, where I'll go into the gory details of labor/delivery.