Why You May Trust Yourself More than Your Midwife or Doctor
Doctors and midwives can make mistakes and put you or your baby at risk. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to solely rely on others during birth. Whenever I talk to people about unassisted childbirth, many of them immediately think that it’s risky. Of course, giving birth at home without medical attendants isn’t the cultural norm. But what strikes me as odd is the fact that nobody realizes that hiring a midwife or doctor doesn’t negate all risks associated with giving birth, either. After all, no one is infallible, not even a doctor or a midwife. Additionally, doctors and midwives can’t prevent or treat every problem that might occur. Finally, medical professionals often create new problems by interfering with birth. But whether you decide to give birth unassisted or not, the bottom line is that knowledge is power.
Midwives and doctors generally have intensive knowledge about the process of childbirth. Depending on their education and continuing education requirements, they have probably been studying pregnancy and childbirth for years. The more natural births they have observed, the more likely it is that they will know what to do (if anything). But while some medical knowledge comes in handy, it might make them more prone to view birth as riskier than it actually is. And while I don’t want to be simplistic, it seems to me that you don’t need to study mountains of textbooks in order to give birth to your baby.
I encourage you to do your research and look up some basic information, for example, how to do a newborn exam and when you should seek medical assistance. But beyond that, knowledge alone won’t allow you to focus on your instincts. After all, your body knows what it needs to do in order to give birth to your baby.
The Voice of Experience
I’m not arguing that an experienced midwife or doctor can help you have a great natural birth experience. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find medical providers who trust birth and allow your body to do its job. It’s more common that they interfere with the process, whether it’s by inducing labor, checking your cervix, telling you when to push, or using forceps. If you want to have a medical provider at your birth, you really have to do your research. In many cases, medical professional do more harm than good because they try to make things happen instead of letting labor progress on its own.
Listen to Your Instincts
Your primal instincts may be more useful than medical knowledge and experience combined when it comes to giving birth. Every labor and birth is just slightly different. While doctors and midwives can come up with standards, such as telling you it’s time to push when you have dilated to 10 cm, these standards are often counterproductive. For example, pushing too early or too much can increase your risk of tearing.
On the other hand, listening to your instincts may encourage you to move to a different position in order to help your baby descend. Listening to your instincts may allow you to rest if your labor stalls. Listening to your instincts will also ensure that you drink and eat enough. But if you’re paying attention to your caregiver, then you’re probably not tuning in to what your body is telling you.
You Can’t Have It All
It’s difficult to follow your instincts if there are medical professionals present. The relationship between a laboring woman and doctor or midwife is usually not very deep. You may automatically look for guidance because you assume that the midwife or doctor knows what they’re doing. However, paying attention to what someone else is doing doesn’t really allow you to listen to your body. For some women, the presence of a partner can be similarly distracting. But a medical professional you don’t know very well is definitely going to have this effect, even if you give birth in the comfort of your own home. We also want to please other people even while we give birth, for example, by not moaning or screaming when we feel like it. It’s really important to feel completely at ease with yourself during labor and birth.
I know that I chose to give birth unassisted because I don’t think a doctor with a medical degree can help me give birth naturally and comfortably. He or she would be compelled to intervene (at the very least, induce my pregnancy before I go past 43 weeks). But birth doesn’t have to be managed by a medical professional. It just happens on its own.