Medicated vs. Unmedicated Births: What You Need to Know
PC: Stacey PetersonBefore we begin, I'd like to get some things out of the way.
- There is no single birth plan the works for everyone. Birth is a very personal and taxing process, so we should avoid trying to tell someone else how they should do it.
- My first labor did not go as planned, but it was still meaningful. Things often don't go as planned. I planned for a natural birth but ended up being induced, going through a medicated labor, and having a C-section at the last minute. But that's okay. I'm still as much of a mom! Weird, right?
- I believe childbirth can be and is wonderful. No matter how your baby comes into this world, it's special because--hello--they are being born! Medicated or unmedicated, you are finally meeting that little person you've been nurturing for 9 months, and that's pretty darn special.
Medicated BirthsIf you plan on giving birth in a hospital, you should learn about the available medications--even if you are planning an unmedicated birth. Medicated birth simply means that you'll be using pain medications to dull or eliminate the pain of childbirth. It can also refer to any medications administered to induce labor.
Pain-related medications used in childbirth include:
- analgesics (drugs that reduce pain)
- anesthetics (drugs that produce a loss of sensation).
Unmedicated BirthsSometimes referred to as "natural" birth, unmedicated birth is just what it sounds like: without medication. This means that the birthing mother does not use analgesics, tranquilizers, or anesthesia during the course of her labor and delivery. For some, this choice may be a matter of proving personal strength. For others, it's the preferred method to ensure that their baby is not exposed to any drugs (whether through the placenta or via breastfeeding) during the birthing process. There is some dissent as to whether or not inductions (or medically started births) count as "unmedicated." In my humble opinion, the nomenclature or terms shouldn't matter. What matters is your preference and feeling good about your birth plan. In reality, a lot of it has to do with choice. You can choose whether or not to get pain medication, but you can't decide when your baby comes. If your baby just isn't coming on its own, an induction might be something that's necessary, but not your preference.
Women who prefer to have an unmedicated and/or natural birthing process may use non-pharmacological forms of pain management including:
- touch and massage
- patterned breathing
- birthing balls
- hypnosis or mental focus