One of my blog posts that gets the most hits and is a consistently searched for topic is one that I wrote called “how do I know I’m really in labor?” I revised it recently for participation in a blog carnival at Science and Sensibility about letting labor begin on its own. Let Labor Begin on Its Own is the first of Lamaze’s Six Healthy Birth Practices. Why is letting labor begin on its own so important? Well, the onset of labor is a complex biological system that has its own wisdom–when a woman’s body is pushed into labor on someone else’s timetable rather than her own, the whole biochemical “dance” of labor and birth is impacted. What may seem like a harmless “jump start,” actually has a cascading effect on the rest of the birth (and has an impact on the baby as well). A significant impact is that induced labors are often much more painful than spontaneous labors. If a woman is planning an unmedicated birth, the increased intensity of artificial induced contractions coupled with the lack of the biologically trigged endorphin release that helps birthing women naturally cope with pain, often leads directly into a request for medications. The woman is then sometimes left feeling like she “failed” in her “natural birth” plans and that she “wimped out” and “just couldn’t handle it.” However, she was dealing with something much different than a “natural” labor and so it makes sense that a “natural” birth then didn’t happen. Of course, the cascade of other interventions that accompany an induction, such as an IV and continuous monitoring also severely restrict a woman’s mobility (which also has a dramatic impact on her ability to cope).
I am saddened when I hear women blaming themselves for “not being able to handle it” (or, conversely being angry at “natural birth zealots” for misleading them…), when they were actually just missing significant pieces of their “pain coping pie” as well as dealing with a (probably) more difficult labor. We need to remember to look at the overall healthy birth climate of the birth setting and the use of the six healthy birth practices, rather than at personal “failure.”
There are a lot of excellent links on letting labor begin on its own in the rest of the blog carnival!