Avoiding Unnecessary Drama in the Delivery Room

Having a baby can be one of the best days of a woman’s life. It can also be one of the hardest. It’s not called “labor” without good reason. There are many ways to prepare for childbirth and many offer the prospect of decreased pain and a better experience. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about new methods of childbirth preparation that hold significant promise for a relaxing and tolerable birth. It sounds so perfect. Yet many of my obstetrical colleagues seem unexcited when we discuss prepared childbirth. So I did a little probing to see what could possibly be so bad about a prepared patient with well controlled pain. Here's what I found.

What does medical intervention do for childbirth?

Many babies have been delivered safely through the years with little or no medical intervention. The problem, of course, is that when things go wrong, they go terribly wrong very quickly. In this situation, quick medical intervention can be the difference between a happy, healthy baby with a well mother and a dead or severely affected baby with a dead or severely affected mother. So the medical community feels strongly about the ability to rapidly intervene if necessary. 

Does childbirth preparation prevent medical intervention?

Childbirth preparation simply teaches a woman what to expect in labor and methods to relax through labor so that childbirth may be a positive happy experience. There is nothing about childbirth preparation like Lamaze, the Bradley Method, or Hypnobirthing that should prevent necessary medical care. 

So what’s the debate?

What I found from colleagues was a litany of complaints about how the interpretation of some methods of preparation interfered with necessary medical interventions and put the patient and their baby at risk. The problem arises when the patient and the medical staff disagree about how much or what type of medical intervention is necessary. Expectations of childbirth differ wildly from patient to patient and provider to provider.

What can be done to ease the tension and ensure a pleasant birth for all involved?

As a delivering mother, it is extremely important that your expectations are discussed and agreed upon well prior to labor. Make sure that the place that you are planning to deliver also agrees with your expectations. You may have to change providers to meet your needs or you may choose to alter some of your expectations depending on what you decide is most important. Most importantly, if something changes, be sure to be flexible with realistic expectations. The experience should never override the primary purpose of having a healthy baby with a healthy mom!     

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