I know, this isn’t your favorite dinner table topic and you probably wouldn’t bring it up on a first date or while meeting with prospective in-laws for the first time, but there comes a time in a woman’s life when she seriously considers, or at least thinks about having a baby. Even if you’re one of those independent, never-going-to-settle-down, Carrie-Bradshaw-for-life types, you will get to that point where everyone around you is having babies, which means you’ll be attending your fair share of baby showers and toddler birthday parties.
For now, I’m grateful to be in the wedding phase, where everyone around me is getting engaged or married, so my biggest concern is finding the right dress to wear to the next rehearsal dinner, bridal shower or bachelorette party. But the topic of childbirth came up the other night when my roommate and I were sitting around chatting, and she began to list the pros and cons of various childbirth options. There were many.
Aside from her immense fear of gaining weight, she doesn’t want to use a surrogate because the idea of someone else carrying her child strikes her as strange. Fair enough.
But she doesn’t want to do a C-section because she’s afraid of scarring and having her abdomen muscles cut. And she certainly doesn’t want to do the natural method because she’s terrified of the pain and stretching. Are there even any options left? While my childbearing days are not in the near future, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to do some reading and see exactly what options are out there. While I love the idea of popping a sleeping pill and instructing the doctor to wake me up when it’s all over, I know it’s not going to be that easy. But hey, a woman can dream, can’t she?
Natural Childbirth – This is the most common and safest form of childbirth. Natural childbirth involves pushing the baby through the birth canal without the assistance of any medications. It sounds exhausting, tedious and unpleasant, but keep in mind that women have been doing this since the very beginning of time (and our ancestors had to do it without any of the drugs or other advanced medical assistance that we have now). There are also many natural childbirth programs and classes that will help prepare you to give birth by teaching proper breathing techniques, body positioning and so forth.
Medicated Childbirth – Many women can’t stand the idea of a painful childbirth. In fact, that’s what scares most of us away from the idea of having multiple babies. Heck, if giving birth was completely pain-free, I’d probably be willing to have an extra kid or two (forget the fact that kids cost a small fortune to raise nowadays). Medicated childbirth incorporates the use of medication to help dull or eliminate the pains associated with labor and delivery. There are numerous methods of pain relief available to choose from, including an epidural, which is medication that is delivered through a catheter inserted into the epidural space just outside the membrane surrounding the spine.
The epidural is the most commonly used method of pain relief and delivers continuous relief to the lower part of your body while you are consciously giving birth. It helps to decrease sensation but doesn’t get rid of all feeling. However, sometimes those having an epidural find that they are in labor longer due to the weakened bearing-down reflex, which makes it harder to push the baby out. This method may also require the use of vacuum extraction or forceps delivery, which can cause minor bruising and lacerations but are generally safe. If an epidural renders you unable to push (or other complications arise, as is the possible case with any birth), you will likely end up getting a C-section.
Cesarean Section – Also known as the C-section, this method of birth has increased more than 40 percent in the past 10 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. I happen to be a child who was born via C-section due to the fact that I was too large of a baby for my mother to give birth to naturally. A C-section is a surgical procedure that involves making an incision (or several incisions) through the abdomen and uterus to deliver the baby. These days women often request the procedure, although there are numerous instances in which a women may have to give birth through C-section, and those include when the baby is not in the head-down position, is too large to pass through the pelvis, or nis in some form of distress. In most cases, the cesarean delivery is not determined until labor has begun.
Water Birth – This method occurs in water and is said to offer perineal support for the birthing mother, decreasing the risk of tearing and reducing the use of episiotomy (an incision in the vaginal wall to prevent trauma as the baby passes through the canal) . Women who follow this birth procedure method end up giving birth in a tub of warm water. The premise behind this tactic is that since the baby has spent the past nine months in the amniotic fluid sac, birthing it into a similar environment is more gentle on the baby and less stressful on the mother.
Hypno-Birthing – This is a more New-Age method that I had never heard but, to be honest, it sounds pretty pleasant. This method involves teaching the expectant mother non-pharmacological strategies such as relaxation, meditation , visualization and even hypnosis, allowing the body to give birth without restriction, resulting in a pain-free and comfortable birth procedure. Celebrities such as Jessica Alba and Tiffany-Amber Thiessen have brought more attention to this procedure, which focuses on the idea that nature intended for women to give birth easily but it’s our fears that incite the physical pain that we experience during labor and childbirth.
According to Marie Mongan, a hypnotherapist and hypno-anesthesiologist, when our body is in fight-or-flight mode it is virtually impossible to be relaxed. By replacing that fear with relaxation, the oxytocin chemicals come into play along with endorphins that relax the muscles and create a sense of comfort. But don’t think that you won’t experience pain at all – this method simply teaches you how to endure it.
Surrogate – A couple of my girlfriends have joked about using this method because they want to maintain their figures (no, seriously). To summarize: a surrogate is a substitute pregnancy where someone else carries and gives birth to your baby for you. Couples typically turn to this method when the woman is unable to produce a child herself, or has suffered multiple miscarriages. With surrogacy, the mother-to-be’s eggs are fertilized with sperm from the man, and that embryo is placed in the uterus of a gestational surrogate who carries the baby until birth. The surrogate has no genetic ties to the child, but simply acts as a carrier. There are agencies that specialize in placing gestational surrogate mothers with couples who hope to have a child, although this can be an expensive and time-consuming procedure but a wonderful second option for a couple that has no other alternative.