Shame on You: Shaming Moms for Getting Epidurals

     Recently on Mother’s Day, there was a viral survey on Facebook where mothers would post their birth stories. I found this adorable and almost even participated, but was disheartened as the fifth question asked ‘Pain Control.’ How on earth is whether or not a mother received pain relief during labor in the top ten most relevant pieces of one’s birth story? Does this make one less of a mother or woman? Absolutely not. I am quite frankly getting sick of this mentality that mothers should be shamed for making their labor experience more bearable. I see it frequently at work and in my moms’ forums that I participate in. Do you shame someone for taking pain medication for a migraine or broken bone? How has it become acceptable to make mothers feel guilty for this choice?

     Don’t get me wrong, it is quite an accomplishment when a mom can get through labor without any pain control. It is a personal choice and women choose that path for many reasons. It can be a very beautiful experience. We can all do it, if needed. I have worked at a tiny rural hospital and our anesthesiologist was tied up in surgery for several hours and my patient unwittingly delivered “naturally”, though she would not have desired that route if given the option again. I have had several patients arrive on the Labor & Delivery unit and deliver within minutes, unable to receive any kind of relief. If you didn't have access to pain medication and epidurals, you could absolutely do it. But should you be shamed for choosing not to? No. It is ridiculous that in this day and age women should be made to feel guilty for experiencing the most painful experience they will most likely ever go through. Plus when my patients have visitors volunteer that they delivered all their babies naturally while my patient is either experiencing horrible pain or is quite comfortable with their epidural, it makes me want to punch them in the face. 

    So let’s try to change this mentality and support each other regardless of pain management preferences. Better yet, let’s remove it from our “top ten” most relevant piece of our birth stories. It does not make your kid smarter or your love any deeper if you go all natural, but it is quite annoying if it becomes a bragging chip, aiming to shame moms who choose a different route. Then again, maybe we could start making moms who have to have C-Sections feel guilty for receiving anesthesia for their surgery. After all, Kepner did it on Grey’s, and she turned out alright.

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5 Common Labor Misconceptions Debunked

     Being in the nursing field of Labor, Delivery and Postpartum as well as running a business aimed at expectant and new moms, I hear a lot of misconceptions when it comes to pregnancy and labor itself. It's worth clarifying certain things, as we all know knowledge is power.

"I'm Ten Months Pregnant"

     I have even made this common error before. A normal pregnancy is 40 weeks, a month has 4 weeks, ergo: pregnancy is ten months, right? Well, not exactly. While we typically think of a month as 4 weeks for convenience, most months have more like four and a half weeks. Plus, we get the extra credit of two weeks before we even conceive. So basically if you knew you were pregnant the very moment you conceived, you would already be two weeks pregnant. So sorry ladies: pregnancy truly is just nine months.

"I had an emergency C-section"

     I have heard all too commonly, "I pushed for three hours and ended up with an emergency c-section," or something along those lines. Upon further inquiry, well no it wasn't exactly emergency, but just unscheduled. There is a big difference between an emergency c-section, an urgent c-section, and an unscheduled c-section. I don't want to get too technical, but if you are laboring and you are suddenly rushed to the O.R. in an extremely urgent manner, that is an emergency. If labor does not go as planned, you do not progress as you should or if baby is simply not coming down and you decide with the doctor that a c-section is best, that is an unscheduled c-section. I am not diminishing any of these avenues, but women who truly have emergency c-sections can attest to the difference and how terrifying it can be for all parties involved.

"I had to get a c-section because I got an epidural"

     In over three years of being in this field, I have never once had a patient have to get a c-section because they got an epidural. While it can drop a patient's blood pressure which could in turn cause fetal distress, we have easy methods to counteract this if needed. It also does not "stop labor". If one is truly in labor, it may slow things down but studies suggest only by about an hour or so. In fact in my experience, it often speeds things up as it allows the mother to finally relax. 

"Epidurals are bad for the baby"

     I've definitely talked about this before but it is worth mentioning again because I still hear it all the time. Epidurals are not bad for your baby. The medication goes into the mother's epidural space (near the spinal space), not directly into her bloodstream. Conversely, the medications that are given for pain control during labor through the IV do in fact go directly into the mother's bloodstream thus going almost directly to the baby. They are safe but they do have side effects such as respiratory depression at birth. Epidurals do not have that side effect. If you are choosing to go all natural for the sake of your baby, then I would encourage you to avoid pain medication through the IV as that would defeat the whole purpose. 

"The doctor only comes at the last minute"

     I admit, before becoming a nurse, I totally thought this was the case after witnessing my niece and nephew's births. It is true in some cases you may not see the doctor from the time you arrive at the hospital until the baby is crowning and they come in at the last minute to deliver. What you are not seeing is that doctor running from their office in the middle of seeing a full day's worth of patients, possibly having been on call and not having slept the whole night before. So yes, as nurses we might be working our asses off for 12+ hours straight and you see us much more than you see them, but they might be on their 48th hour of being on call, not having seen or had time to speak to their own families.