Are pregnancy experts on drugs?
By Tracey Spicer
The Daily Telegraph
July 14, 2009 12:01am
I'VE always considered excruciating pain to be incredibly bonding.
Like the time my sister jumped off the seesaw and I fell to the ground, breaking my arm.
At that moment I felt an overwhelming love for my own flesh and blood.
I guess that's the way thousands of new mothers feel after going through the agonising pain of childbirth at the hands of Dr Denis Walsh.
The associate professor of midwifery at Nottingham University in England says women should endure the childbirth pain because "anaesthetic drugs undermine the mother's bond with her baby".
He goes on to say that the pain is a "rite of passage" which "prepares women for the demands of motherhood".
I'm sure I'm not the only woman who wants to give the doctor a taste of his own medicine.
Now, as a general rule, I love men.
I love the funny little hairs that poke out of their ears when they get older. I love the way they take out the garbage and fix broken toys. I love their witty ripostes over beers in the pub.
But men should never - ever - opine on the pain of childbirth.
Even if they are doctors.
Excessive pain during childbirth can predispose women to post-natal depression, which actually inhibits bonding with the baby.
Most women want to have a natural birth. Once labour begins, though, things tend to go awry.
Take the case of my sister, Suzanne, who almost died giving birth to her first child, Ronan.
Suzie said "no" to drugs, suffering excruciating pain to bring her precious son into the world.
It turns out she tried too hard.
She lost litres of blood in the process.
Emergency surgery saved Suzie's life but she was unable to bond with her son because of this traumatic experience.
Severe post-natal depression followed, re-emerging after the birth of her second child just over a year later.
A little bit of pain relief could have made a whole lot of difference.
The number of mums getting an epidural has doubled in the past two decades, mainly because women are waiting longer to start their families.
Older mothers can suffer more complications.
I was 26 weeks pregnant with my first child when I began bleeding profusely because of complete placenta praevia.
Before the advent of the C-section, this condition routinely killed both mother and baby. I had no choice but to have an "elective" caesarean.
This didn't stop one (male) sonographer from saying, "So, taking the easy way out, are we?"
By the time I was pregnant with my second child, I wanted to know what "real" childbirth was like.
So, I started a course with renowned physiotherapist and author of Birth Skills, JuJu Sundin.
Her techniques are terrific - everything from shaking a box of Tic Tacs to squeezing rubber balls to release adrenaline-associated with the pain.
(In one remote tribe in Papua New Guinea, a woman is allowed to squeeze her husband's testicles each time she feels a contraction - just so he knows what it's like. I think it's an excellent idea.)
The scene in the birthing suite was a sight to behold - hubby watching the State of Origin while I did yoga moves accompanied by classical music and the gentle waft of lavender aromatherapy oil.
After six hours of downward dogs (and a convincing win to the Maroons) I was only 1cm dilated.
This is a common problem among geriatric mothers (over the age of 30).
Feeling old and tired, I uttered those words which echo through maternity wards around the western world: GIVE ME THE DRUGS.
They did, and our bouncing baby girl was born minutes later.
There's an easier way to promote bonding between mother and child.
Oxytocin - the pain-reducing hormone released during labour - is also pumped out during breastfeeding.
While I couldn't give birth to my kids naturally, I battled a dozen bouts of mastitis to breastfeed them for eight months, stroking their faces, gazing into their eyes, and falling ever more deeply in love with them.
Sadly, some women are unable to breastfeed. But studies show that playing, reading, laughing and chatting with bub is just as effective at creating that all-important bond.
The comments by Dr Walsh stigmatise women who, for whatever reason, can't give birth naturally.
Every woman is different. Every baby is different. Every birth is different.
The sooner we accept these differences, the better it will be for mother and baby.