I think some of you will remember the post I wrote a while ago, in response to an anaesthesiologist praising epidurals. Well, last week I stumbled across another article by the same doctor, titled "There is a Limit to Suffering" (translation mine), coupled with a prominent picture of a great big needle which is meant to be stuck in the laboring woman's spine. Reading his column got me ticking so I just had to sit down and pass on to you ladies some tidbits of the medical wisdom he so generously shares, along with my comments.
The first claim that made me raise my eyebrows is that the natural birth process is accompanied by pain which is "usually unbearable". I think this is at odds with the undeniable fact that we were biologically made the endure the pain of labor, and in fact have endured it for many generations - right until sedation and later epidurals came into the picture and we were somehow convinced we "can't" do without them.
The doctor states that "in the past, labor pains were thought to be necessary to develop the strong bond between mother and child", but does not dig any deeper into this hypothesis - perhaps because, if he did, he would have to tell us that natural labor contractions are caused by the release of oxytocin, which is also known as the "love hormone", and plays an important role in releasing milk during lactation. Thus, it makes perfect sense when we hear about the upsurge of love and euphoria reported by many mothers who have had natural birth, and also experienced on a lesser scale during breastfeeding. This doesn't mean that mothers who had had C-sections, or adoptive mothers, or mothers who can't nurse for some reason, do not love their children. But consider that the practice of keeping newborn babies in a nursery away from their mother is also a relatively new one, just like practice of chemical pain relief during labor. I see here a link which cannot be so easily dismissed.
Fortunately, I may add, many hospitals around the world now recognize the value of early attachment between mother and child and promote babies staying with their mothers immediately after birth. This makes so much sense. A mother doesn't need to have her baby taken away from her so she can "rest". Instead, she needs everything to be done so that the only thing which remains for her to do is lean back and snuggle her newborn.
He writes, "the process of birth is safer and easier [with an epidural]". Here I am utterly baffled. The pain might be gone, of course (though not always, as many women have complained about epidurals poorly administered and working only partially, while depriving them of the ability to efficiently move around and relieve pain in other ways). However, I fail to see how it is that epidural makes the birth process safer. On the contrary, it is widely known that having an epidural raises the risk for prolonged labor, fetal distress and C-sections.
He also claims that epidural anaesthesia "does not influence the progress of birth in any way, and does not harm the baby's health". Now this is just a blatant lie, which can be counteracted by countless medical as well as anecdotal evidence. Epidural, as a rule, makes contractions slower and the whole birth progress less effective, thus often making it necessary to administer pitocin, which together all too often snowballs into emergency C-section. "Well, at least you have a healthy baby in your arms", the mother is consoled. And in the aftermath of birth, who has the time or energy to dig deeper and see whether the surgery could have been, perhaps, avoided? Often, the mother thinks about it again only when she becomes pregnant once more and suddenly discovers that she has become "high risk", and is many times pressured to have a repeat C-section, which is much riskier than the first time around.
The author of the article is an anaesthesiologist and an ICU director, which is perhaps why he lacks sufficient knowledge about normal physiological processes - or if he doesn't, it means he is deliberately deceiving his patients, which is just vile. I am all for the freedom of women to choose epidurals if they so wish, but I believe the choice should be truly informed.