medicated vs. unmedicated childbirth

“Every delivery is different that’s why it’s so great to have options.”

A few weeks ago I shared my WHY behind my unmedicated deliveries. I had so much great conversation behind the scenes after that, but one thing that was resoundingly clear is that many women don’t know what the pros and cons of delivery really are. How can they make an informed decision when the cold, hard, amazing, incredible truth isn’t plain to see?

SO! I surveyed as many women as would oblige me, but they all had one thing in common: ALL had experienced both unmedicated AND medicated deliveries. Each of these responders has done it both ways (including C-Section, because I categorize that as a medicated childbirth, not something else or other.) I felt that was really the only fair way to write this post as I can wax poetic about my deliveries all day, but I only know one way. So as you read these responses please know these are from real live women with real live feelings who have experienced the joy and pain and highs and lows of childbirth and were kind enough to share their thoughts! SO many had the same answers so you won’t see duplicates reflected, just starred if they were said often. Unmedicated vs. Medicated Childbirth

PROS of UNMEDICATED

The overall labor experience was much faster than when medicated. (Nearly 80% of responses said this!)

“I felt like it was a incredible task that everyone is the room had to come together to make it successful. My husband was totally involved in every single moment. I needed him and felt our connection grow through the experience. Even though it was excruciating pain, I felt so free. I could move how I wanted, when I wanted, and felt so much support in doing so. And the moment my son was born it was the most euphoric, perfect, overwhelming feeling in the world. Honestly, heaven on earth. I felt so empowered as a woman.. like I could do anything. I remember looking at my son and just sobbing saying, “we did it.” And how very true that was because WE, him and I, my little baby, conquered birth together. Also… a few minutes later I stood up, walked to the bathroom and peed… also very freeing!”

“I felt like a million bucks the second that baby was out and it was great to be able to immediately take care of myself as needed instead of relying on so much assistance.”

“I loved being able to move right after he was born. Walk, feel, go potty, plus the adrenaline of what I had just done!”

“The connection with my husband. He stayed focused on me for my entire 20 hour labor, helping me every step of the way. It felt like we brought our son into the world together!”

“The experience was the most spiritual of my life. And my husband would never tell me how to deliver but he did say he felt more involved and useful and connected to me and our baby.”

“I loved how quickly I could get up and move around and shower. My body recovered much quicker and my post labor aches and pains were much much lighter than with an epidural.”

“There was sort of an adrenal rush after. Like a birthing high!”

“I wanted to be fully present and I was. I wanted To FEEL everything my body was meant to do and I did. I wanted to be able to listen to my body and respond to what it needed, not what the doctor was telling me to do. Also a huge factor: My recovery was a faction of the time, like a millisecond compared with my medicated births. For example, I may have taken one ibuprofen after my natural birth. (2 medicated, one natural. I wanted all natural but didn’t make it the first two times) Side note: I used a Dr for the first and Midwives for the last two and hat difference was also like night and day.”

*”I felt both times that my recovery was better, I had more energy afterwards and my milk came in faster. I felt more of the joy and relief in the experience. I felt so strong!”

*I feel like a badass.

“I felt so empowered being able to tell when my body was going from early labor-transition-full dilation. It was so incredible feeling so connected to my body in such a primal way. I was completely unaware of anything else going on around me…it was just me, and my baby.”

“Every decision was very educated and informed. Every decision was made by me and my husband. My midwife was always clear on our options and then followed that with different ways to educate us to make our own decisions. I never felt blind. I felt empowered. I felt prepared! My last two (unmedicated) births were truly beautiful! It was so incredible to be in an environment that I felt completely loved, supported and cared for. I finally felt like I had the tools to find myself. To find my courage and my womanhood! It was finally the spiritual experience that I yearned for!!”

“I feel like I had more energy after my unmedicated births or maybe even just more confidence. It was easier to get through nursing and sleepless nights when I reminded myself of the pain and struggle I just survived, not that delivery anyway you do it isn’t amazing but for me the reminder that I just did something so hard made it easier to get through each hard moment after.”

“Bleed less + you are checked less for progress since the physical evidence is all over your face. ;)”

— One of the questions I asked was if their feelings of Euphoria were higher in medicated or unmedicated births. 70% surveyed said feelings were higher in unmedicated and 30% said it was the same across the board. 0% said higher in medicated. —

Unmedicated vs. Medicated ChildbirthPROS of MEDICATED

“I felt much more relaxed. I was able to joke and laugh with the staff… it was a joyful room. I felt like i was able to be much more present with medication.”

“Having the epidural gave me a sense of peace because I didn’t know how to be during the pain and when the baby actually came out.”

“My baby finally arrived! My Dr was willing to give me very low dose of the epidural so I still felt pushing and contractions which was nice. Also I had to have stitches, and I’m glad I was numb for that!!”

“The best thing was after the epidural getting to rest and take a nap / save up energy before pushing.”

“Calm and controlled labor.”

“I was more rested and mindful of the pushing process. The entire room felt calmer during each push that brought me closer to my daughter.”

“Just the chillness of it all. Laying there chatting with your husband about how excited you are about having a baby instead of focusing on working through the pain with your husband doing his best to help. For me the excitement is higher because I’m not in pain, and it allows me to really soak up that brand new baby when they lay him/her on my chest. I know some women describe natural birth as peaceful, but maybe I was too much a whimp. The epidural route definitely felt peaceful to me.”

Less anxiety in spouse or partner.

“I was able to focus more on the joy of birthing another baby and feel more connected to my husband during labor. I also felt more in control of the entire experience simply because I wasn’t focusing entirely on my own body. I felt energized and amazing afterwards instead of just exhausted.”

“Planned C-Section takes all the stress out of planning for childcare, being physically and emotionally ready, feeling more control leading up to delivery where I never felt that way before.”

Unmedicated vs. Medicated ChildbirthCONS of UNMEDICATED

Pain. 100% said this.

“Your spouse or support system dealing with you being in pain.”

“Faster deliveries. It sounds like a Pro, but if you’re not ready for it (or you husband or doula isn’t there yet) it can be so stressful.” Of those surveyed several births went much quicker than anticipated and the stress and anxiety of not being able to mentally prepare to deliver can be overwhelming (Edit: I can vouch for this as it’s happened to me, too!)

“After delivery my body went into almost a shock. I shook so bad that I couldn’t hold my brand new little love. I was wrapped with heat blankets.” (Edit: This happened to me with my first as well. I shook for 30+ minutes but it helped after I ate and got blankets on. Luckily he was getting his bath so I didn’t feel like I couldn’t hold him.)

“Not as joyful or light of an experience. It’s an intensity I’ve never felt until she was delivered.”

Treatment by hospital staff — “Unmedicated in a hospital, there was a feeling of judgment and like I was doing something wrong. That I was hurting my baby by waiting to give her the first bath immediately after birth. Just the lack of support from the people who were supposed to be there to care for me.”

“Transitioning (or dilating through 7 to 10 cm) When you start to say “I can’t do this” I bet 1 million dollars you’re transitioning. All women have different reactions to this intense time but typically the contractions get longer and closer together, you feel like you’re not getting a break or can’t get comfortable.”

“That burning ring of Fire is legit 😂.” (That would be the feeling when your baby’s head crowns.)

Unmedicated vs. Medicated ChildbirthCONS of MEDICATED

Longer delivery or slowed delivery once the epidural was in. (70% of responses)

Slower to progress is attributed to why medicated births have higher rates of C-Section. Cited from this source.

“I didn’t get to experience the process as much… the machine would tell me when I was contracting, my doctor told me when my babies were crowning… I couldn’t tell myself and that sort of takes something away from childbirth.”

“The epidural took multiple attempts for success.”

“Since you can’t feel it, its hard to know what is going on. Like birth is being done or happening to you, not that you’re in charge.”

“Body aches for the week after – mostly in my back. I also don’t love that you can’t get up and showered for a long time after.”

“The pain in your spine AFTER you leave the hospital. I feel pressure in my spine, where the needle was inserted.”

“Things become part of the doctor’s schedule instead of yours” Edit: Lots of responses said they sat fully dilated for long periods of time until the doctor was ready to come in and deliver.

Longer pushing.

“A bad epidural is worse than no epidural.”

Epidural Side Effects: “Too numb” throwing up, headaches, nerve damage, pain, or numbness for days, week, some even had years after delivery.

“I can’t fully empty my bladder for a while after having and epidural.”

“I felt so claustrophobic the moment they hooked me up to all the different machines. I had two bands wrapped around my stomach to monitor each baby’s heartbeat, my IV in my arm, and the epidural hanging from my back. I felt trapped and it made me panic A LOT. I was uncomfortable and couldn’t move the way I wanted to. I also felt like that birth was just a waiting game. No one worked together to make it happen. I laid there. My husband fell asleep. And a nurse came in every couple hours to check me. There wasn’t much emotion until the babies were actually coming out. And when they were born, I felt a moment of disconnect. As much as I hate admitting it, it’s true. It took me a second for my brain to wrap around the fact that the two humans that lived inside me were now outside of my body. And then once my epidural wore off I felt like I got hit by a semi truck. I felt crippled. I couldn’t walk and could barely breathe on my own. The recovery was really hard on me and as dramatic as it sounds, I feel like I can still feel the spot where they put my epidural… granted I have an unbelievable fear of needles!”

“I didn’t feel like I was in control of my body and couldn’t help the labor progress. I felt groggy afterwards and more “numb” to the whole experience. My milk was slower to come in than my unmedicated births.”Medicated vs. Unmedicated

RECOVERY:

To generalize all those surveyed: the immediate effects and recovery were better with unmedicated, although over time the recoveries evened out with the exception of body aches for medicated/epidural. *This is not including C-Section recoveries which were longer and harder, or those who tore or who had episiotomies or those who had body shakes due to shock — which can happen in both medicated and unmedicated deliveries.

Almost all who had PPD post-birth had little to do with the type of delivery and almost all to do with living environment. Not having a support system nearby, living away from family, having multiple children and not able to catch up on sleep, or the temperament of the baby itself.

ADVICE for UNMEDICATED

I’d definitely have more of a plan and understanding of the natural stages of birth. Having had medicated prior, i didn’t really know what I was in for 100%.

Tell your staff as soon as possible that you plan on delivering without medication. Even ask before go in who they’d recommend. Having a supportive staff is crucial.

Finding your center when things progress quickly. How to react and move through things when the timeline is sped up!

Hypnobirthing classes, relaxation tapes, a doula, something extra to help you get through the intense parts.

If you’re at peace with a medicated birth and you stay calm throughout it, things tend to be easier recovering. Doesnt mean it’s easy, but think of adding a hard recovery with unstable emotions vs. a tougher recovery with a positive mindset and emotions. One is definitely easier. And I believe we learn more from being positive and can see what needs to be different for another birth experience to be more positive.

— I hope this helps lay out some of the realities of delivery, things you can expect or prepare for either way. Reading the PRO list for both had me weepy. It is such a beautiful experience and you can see that no matter how you deliver. I hope the CON list doesn’t terrify anyone too much, but merely informs. You can’t always control your situation, but you can be informed and understand your options. I kept these women private, but I want to thank them all for taking the time to submit this survey!! — xo Emily

New Baby Advice : Little Green Notebook

We are so excited to have Jenny from Little Green Notebook here sharing her new baby advice and the most unbelievably amazing birth story we’ve heard to date, just try to read it without your jaw dropping! Jenny is one of the most wise and savvy women we know in this industry (her DIYs and decor style are so great!) and of course her advice for mothers is the same way.SF New Baby : Little Green Notebook
1. What is one thing you would go back to tell your new-mom self?
I would tell my new-mom self to really commit to writing in my journal at least three days a week. All of those mommy moments where you think to yourself, ‘I will remember this face/sentence/moment for the rest of my life! There’s no way I could forget something this cute, right?’ Wrong! You’ll forget like 90% of everything! Write it down. And unless you print them out in a book every year, instagrams don’t really count. 🙂
2. Was there anything surprising or shocking that happened that no one warned you about?
I was hit with a bout of postpartum depression after having my second baby, Claire. After months of slogging through weird sadness and emptiness, my friends and family finally helped me figure out that what was happening was treatable and not permanent. I started taking St. Johns Wart, which helped, and I started writing a blog about my favorite things (mostly interior design stuff), which really helped. And then I remember waking up one day when Claire was about six months old and it was like a switch had flipped and the fog had lifted and I was totally back to my old self. It was completely unreal.
A couple years later, when I was in my last trimester with Evelyn, I remember being so worried that I was going to have postpartum depression again after giving birth. My blog and design business had taken off and my two other girls were still so young – there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room in the schedule.
I don’t pretend to understand the psychology behind postpartum mental states, but for some reason I was fine (better than, even!) after Evie’s birth. I was on top of the world and I remember being so grateful every single day that this time I wasn’t experiencing any of that really hard stuff. Maybe it was her exciting entrance into this world, or maybe it was that
Evie was a super easy and happy baby, or maybe it was just plain and simple good luck? But being healthy and clear-minded was such a huge blessing for me then, and even now. We’ve struggled with infertility for the past few years and I’m coming to grips with the reality that Evie might be my last, even though we’ve hoped for more. I hold onto those beautiful, nothing short of heavenly moments in 2010, when all of my girls were still practically babies and life was simpler, and we could have cuddle parties in my bed until 10:00 am every morning. 🙂 I’m equal parts thrilled about my future as a mother of older children, and devastated at how fast it’s going by. I’m so, so grateful for these angel-girls I have, who are always willing to show up for the long-standing cuddle party date in my bed every Sunday morning. 🙂 How lucky am I?

SF New Baby : Little Green Notebook

3. Do you have a special routine for bedtime?
Each night we have family prayers and then we all pile into one bed for the book(s) du jour. My husband and I love when the girls choose Goodnight, Moon (such a classic) because it pretty much guarantees sleepy-eyes with only one reading! Baby Mine, that heartbreaking song the momma elephant sings to Dumbo, has always been our go-to lullabye. Evie loves it so much and always has.
And keep reading after the jump for Jenny’s birth story for her daughter Evie, born on Christmas Eve! You will NOT believe this story, it’s so incredible. Continue reading New Baby Advice : Little Green Notebook

SF New Baby Advice : Sometimes Sweet

Welcome to New Baby week here on Small Fry! We’ve been working tirelessly to put together a killer week that both supports, informs and spoils any mama or mama-to-be that reads this blog. We hope that the stories encompass the myriad of ways that we as women find ourselves as mothers. Each story more special and unique and important as the next. It’s the great connector and something that instantly bonds those who have experienced it.

Each day we’ll start the morning off with a favorite blogger’s birth story, a memory of when they had a new baby, and a few words of advice.

Then the spoiling will happen. (Follow along via #SFNewBaby and don’t miss today’s giveaway here!) But, first, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Welcome, Dani Hampton, mother of two, and writer for Sometimes Sweet.

SF New Baby : Sometimes Sweet

1. What is one thing you would go back to tell your new-mom self?

I think the biggest thing would be to just relax. With this second baby I feel so much more laid back about things, and it’s not like I didn’t enjoy my time with baby Henry, but it was a lot different because I recall being worried a lot. With Charlie I’m much more go with the flow and in turn I’m able to relax more and just take it all in.SF New Baby : Sometimes Sweet

2. Was there anything surprising or shocking that happened that no one warned you about?

I think the biggest thing would be just how quickly time actually goes by. I remember when I got pregant with Henry people would always tell how time flies as a parent, and I would smile to myself thinking how silly that sounded- time is just time. But really, it does go so much faster. I suddenly have a 3-year old…and even crazier, a 6-month old. I swear I was just pregnant yesterday!

3. Do you have a lullaby you sing, a bedtime story, a special routine, that you’ve done with your kid(s) since they were a baby?

I’m the queen of making of silly little songs and diddies to go with every occasion, so yes, we have quite a few. I would say my most favorite song though is “Good Morning To You,” a special song my Mom would sing to my sister and me every morning, that I now sing to my own children. It’s so sweet and makes me so happy to see the way the boys’ faces light up when they hear it.

SF New Baby : Sometimes Sweet

The second time doing anything is always a little easier in a way, or at least when you’re talking about a c-section. The first time for me, with Henry, was an emergency surgery, something that was so far from any plan I had in my head, anything we’d even considered, that a lot of my experience was scary, at least in the beginning. But the thing about childbirth, no matter how you do it, is that you get this amazing prize at the end, and it makes anything you go through to get there insignificant. But this time, the second time around, there was no emergency. There were no two days of natural labor. There were no vitals dropping and being hurriedly wheeled in the operating room and getting a spinal between contractions. There was no crying, no shaking, no being terrified that something really, really bad was happening. There was none of that. Continue reading SF New Baby Advice : Sometimes Sweet