Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth: A must-read for all pregnant women

I have a few mom friends that I would always go to to ask questions about birth, breastfeeding, diapers -you name it. I loved their advice because not only are they experienced moms, but many of them are also thorough researchers too. I may not have a child with me but I have been through labor and delivery!

A few weeks ago I spent about an hour on the phone with a mom-to-be and the other day I spent almost the entire time at a BYU volleyball game with another mom-to-be just talking about birth stuff. I loved it. I love that now I'm one of those moms that has researched it and been there and done it. I love that I can share resources, thoughts, and experiences with my friends and moms-to-be.

I recently posted about my thoughts on Hypnobabies and what role it played in my birth. However, I think if there was just one thing that I could attribute to for having a positive birth experience (birth meaning the actually labor and delivery not the fact that our son had died just before) would be how my point of view changed after reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. 

The Hypnobabies focuses on not having negative thoughts or fear about birth, but I don't think it gave me enough facts to ease my mind - just told me to focus on the positive. Well I was still afraid. I was afraid I was going to have a really long labor and that I was going to get exhausted from laboring so long and that it was going to be painful! I think I was hopeful that I could do it, but wasn't sure it was something I could do.

Unfortunately in our world we're not told that we can do it. Every movie portrays a pregnant woman as a crazy, screaming woman. Our friends and our family members tell us that they couldn't have done it without an epidural or c-section. So why wouldn't we think that birth was extremely painful and impossible to do with out an epidural?

Before I continue let me just say, I never went into preparing for birth thinking I'm going to have a natural birth and I'm not going to use any medication for pain. I simply started doing research and once I learned more about the natural process of birth I learned that my body was capable to do this! And I think that is the message that we don't get from media or very many others around us.

Parts of the book that stick out in my mind which make some pretty good points about the perception of  pain are the following (do not read the first paragraph if you will be offended by the frank mention of sexual intercourse or feminine hygiene products):

"How is it possible that the same physical act [labor and birth] can be experienced in ways so completely different [both painful and painless]? To answer [this question], it may help to try thinking of labor and birth from a different angle than the usual one. Let's consider another act that involved the same female reproductive organs as labor does--the sex act. Sexual intercourse may be extremely painful or ecstatically pleasurable, depending upon the skill and sensitivity of the sexual partner and the willingness of the female involved. The size of the object inside her vagina actually has less to do with the physical sensations she experiences during the act than do the factors just mentioned. The same can be said of the sensations experienced upon the insertion of a tampon. To begin with, tampons are smaller than penises of adult men. Yet the same size tampon may be inserted in a painful or painless fashion, depending on whether the woman had too much coffee that morning, how cold it is, or the speed with which she tries to insert it. A lot depends upon how ready she is for the experience. Looked at from this perspective, it should be somewhat less surprising that there is such a wide variation in the way different women describe the sensations of labor and birth." (Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, 150)

"When avoidance of pain becomes the major emphasis of childbirth care, the paradoxical effect is that more women have to deal with pain after their babies are born. Frequent use of epidural anesthesia drives up the rates of cesarean section and vacuum-extractor and forceps births. Epidurals cause long-term backache in approximately one woman in every five. ... Intravenous lines are painful as long as they are in place and for a couple of days after they are removed. ... Women who have cesarean operations must have a catheter inserted in their urethra before the surgery is performed. This hollow tube will be kept in place for at least twenty-four hours. While the catheter is in place, many women experience a constant urge to urinate. Of course, since they are constantly "peeing," there is no way to satisfy this urge.  Cesareans usually involve the placement of a surgical drain sewed in the part of the wound most likely to efficiently drain away blood and lymph from the abdominal cavity. Women find the removal of this drain on the third day painful, particularly when they haven't been given pain medication an hour or so before the procedure. ... Postsurgery soreness can interfere with a woman's ease in handling her newborn baby. Each of the procedures and conditions I have mentioned above involves pain after birth." (Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, 165)

Reading these portions of the book helped me realize pain was in a big part based on readiness for it and my perception of it. I also realized that if I did endure the "pains of labor" without other interventions I would be able to save myself a lot of the potential pains that could occur. And now, after being though labor and delivery, I would say that I did not consider it to be a painful experience and I did it with only taking  one 200mg Ibuprofen a couple days later to help with uterine cramping. This book honestly gave me the perspective change, tools, and education to be able to do that.

Finally, as always, my ending advice is the same -research it all for yourself and do what's right for you and each particular pregnancy!

PS I just found this inserted into the middle of my post (trevor is hot, and I don't proofread). I love my husband! And I do proofread. Caught ya!


  1. Ha! I love he post script. :D Excellent post. For me I can't say exactly the same thing. I did find labor painful, but not the kind of pain that makes me feel like yelling. I am not a silent laborer by any means, but my noise is more effort noise than anything else. Labor and delivery is hard work! I have felt convinced for some time that really anyone can do childbirth without an epidural, but it does all depend on their attitude, expectations, and preparation.

    1. I would definitely describe it as intense - and perhaps that is pain, but I agree, for me it was different than other "yelling" pain. Although it sure made the lady in the room next to me yell and scream like she was in serious pain! I endorse effort noises for sure, but I don't think that's what she was experiencing!

  2. I'll have to add this to my ever growing larger list of books to read. Thanks!

  3. This was an awesome and enlightening post, though, I did most of my second birth without an epidural, and I found it very painful. Most of it was the intensity of contractions on the different muscles in my body, rather than the actual birthing experience. That was mostly just pressure, but then again - perhaps I hadn't prepped as effectively as you. Maybe I just need to prepare in a different way.

    As for epidurals, I found out a lot of good things about them in my research, which is one reason I opted for one. The after-birth pains I experienced were less this time than last, so there may be something to the lessening of after-birth pain without an epidural, but the only thing that was inordinately painful for me after the first birth were stitches.

    And thanks for the disclaimer at the end: I wouldn't say that giving birth is the most painful experience I've ever endured, but I tend to experience pain more than is normal in relation to the feminine side of things. I guess everyone is different.