Maternity Advice: Go Nutso (but don't, really)

First of all, I'm not pregnant. Let's just make that clear.

BUT, here's the deal. Murray and I are trying very hard to work out health insurance. (And I will break the knee caps of anyone who claims that our system isn't incredibly, incredibly broken right now.) By the way things are looking right now, it seems as though we may end up with a high deductible plan that doesn't cover maternity. So basically we'll pay for 100 percent of any future babies to come, unless something goes wrong, at which point, we'll be covered.

So we will need to make some decisions based on money. And the big one we're wondering about right now is natural vs. epidural.

Now I KNOW that even saying that, all of your fingers are starting to itch to press the comment button. BUT PAUSE FOR ONE MOMENT TO READ THIS. I welcome any and all comments. But the only ones that we really, REALLY care about are the ones from women who have done it both ways. I know that there will be people who have strong opinions about this, and I just ask that you be respectful of others who have different opinions. This blog has never once been the site of comment nastiness, for which I thank you, my valued readers, and I would hope that we can maintain that record.

As for myself, I loved my epidural, and if I had proper insurance, I'd more than likely do it that way again. But if I'm going to pay $1000-$2000 out of my pocket (read: out of my babies' mouths) to get an epidural, I might start to think about how much 5-6 hours of pain (I'm just giving average here, although I know it could come faster or slower) is really worth to me. Also, I've heard that the recovery from a natural birth takes less time. First of all, what recovery does that refer to? And, again, for those women who have done it both ways, did you find this to be true? Because I figure if that's true, then maybe it really is worth it to trade greater pain upfront for less pain afterwards (also, I looked like a TOAD when I woke up the next morning--true story) especially if that trade meant that I was spending much less money.

So let's have your opinions! I'm anxious to know! And again, preferential consideration is given to women who have done it both ways.


Jessica said...

So I have done it both ways. And funny that the biggest one was the natural one :) My body does not deal well with pain. I think with out the epi for the other 3 I would have had a c-section. For sure with the last. With the one I went natural, I went into shock after and has hemmorging and some nasty side effects. I think I recovered faster from the other 3. But I have heard other people say the opposite. If it were me I would save to have the epi and then be happy if I didn't need it. Have you tried the aflac stuff. We did that with the last 2 and it was great. If you have little problems getting preg. I would look into that. And since you work you can get an additional supplemental insurance that is the bomb. And it wasn't that much per month I think maybe less that $40 total.

The Holyoaks said...

My SIL did it both ways (first one came too fast to get one). She just had her second WITH an epidural and never wants to do it again without.

I'm just sayin . . .

Let me know how it goes. I've always secretly wished it would happen too fast for me to get one because I'm curious and want to be in that cool club "I've had a baby without an epidural."

Aubrey said...

I have only done it with, but my opinion isn't really about with or without anyway.

In a perfect world (ha!) there are 2 kinds of birthing women: those who have easy births, and those who do not. Call it body type, genetics, or what have you, it seems like most birth stories are either a horror story or not so much a big deal.

Personally, I am the latter. With my baby, I had a relatively short labor (8 hours for a first time mom), pushed for 5 minutes, he was here, life was grand and we left the hospital the next day. Within 2 or 3 days I felt good enough to shop, clean, etc. (TMI, but to lend to the theory, I did not tear at all either.)
Now, knowing that about myself, if I had to make a choice like yours, I would take this into great consideration. According to my first experience, my body handles birth very well. If I HAD to go without an epidural, I think I could handle it somewhat well. Fairly well. Okay. Ish.

Anyway, thats just my really long winded opinion to say listen to your body, your past experience, and your personal knowledge of your own pain tolerance.

(and yes, I acknowledge birth experiences can and will vary greatly with each child from the same mother. But its still my opinion.)

bedelia said...

I kind of did both...
#1- 1.5 wks overdue. water broke. no labor. put on pitocin. no pain meds. 12 hrs in labor. c-section because of wrong presentation.

#2 1 wk overdue. water broke. dr.s didn't believe me. (which can happen if it breaks high.) sent home. labor started. labor at home. obviously water broke. get epi because recommended for VBAC. labor 12 hrs. end up with another c-section.

Basically, I know nothing about recovery for a normal delivery but I did experience the beginnings of labor both ways.

I think it totally depends on what your previous labor was like. Was it smooth sailing? did you have pit? was there any side effects of the epi?

If you have to have pitocin, it really really sucks to be epi-less. It was very difficult to manage the pain compared to when I labored at home without it. Of course, it also depends on your dr/midwife and how much they like to crank that drug up.

But with my first, I didn't really educate myself much on dealing with pain because I had planned on everything going perfect which it didn't.

And for me, being stuck in bed stunk. And with my third delivery, my baby had to go to the NICU afterwards and I couldn't see him until I could walk after the epidural wore off which was way too long. Of course, I was a c-section so mine took a lot longer than it would after a normal delivery when you labor for a long time and it gradually wears off.

And while I couldn't feel the pain of labor with the epi, I was still way uncomfortable and oddly enough my shoulder hurt really bad which they said is normal.

With that said, I did declare after my second that an epidural was an amazing wonderful thing.

So I'd say that's some pretty random stuff but you never know whats gonna happen with pregnancy/labor since everyone is different. so maybe something will be applicable to you.

Emily said...

You won't really, REALLY care about my comment since I have had zero babies. My mom had me and my sister Jessica in hospitals, but she had our [six] younger siblings at home with a midwife. I attended the births of my four youngest siblings. I really hope I can do the same thing when I'm ready to have kids.

Here's the thing: when you have a natural births, the baby does neat things. Like, they have cool reflexes. The baby will even crawl up and start nursing. It's pretty amazing. And mom and baby both release tons of special bonding hormones.

So epidurals are super popular right now (because it seems like a fantastic!!!! idea to have a baby without the pain), but with epidurals, none of that stuff happens. My sister had her baby in November and I just think it kind of sucks that she can't really remember him being born because they had her so drugged up on pain meds. Sad.

Anyway! Basically, my point was this: If you DO decide to have a natural birth, there are a lot of other benefits that are pretty neat. I know that for my mom it was a very empowering, incredible experience.

PLUS, think about all of the things you could buy for $2,000. That's like, having your nails done 200 times. Or, going to a fancy spa and having all of the massages and treatments they offer. Or, like, an ENTIRE Pottery Barn nursery. Or, half of the diapers an average kid will wear.

Kristeee said...

I tried to go natural, but turned into a weeping, whiny mess because they induced me and kept on upping the dose of pitocin, and my body just wouldn't progress. Once I had an epidural I fell asleep (since I had stayed in the hospital the 2 nights previous and had my vitals taken every 3 hours, I was exhausted). When I woke up 2 hours later, I was halfway dilated and another hour nap later I was complete. My body needed the help to relax.

There's a birth center in Orem one of my friends went to and had a fabulous experience. She said it was about 1/3 of the cost of a hospital delivery. I think that would be a neat way to go - they're only a couple miles away from both Orem Community and Timpanogos Hospitals, too, in case anything were to come up during labor. (Obviously if anything looks wrong, they send you to the hospital instead.)

C. said...

I have not done both, but my sis-in-law has and her take on it (briefly) is that going natural makes you feel like a rockstar. Yes, you scream in pain for 18 hours (at least she did), but she felt pretty cool afterward. With her second she had an epi and said it "was a dream" and she meant that in a good way, not a drugged up way. She also recovered better with the epi, but the doctors said that had more to do with the fact that it was her second child. Apparently you just handle things better the second time. She's now pregnant with her third and planning on having an epi again.

Those are my thoughts. Well, my sis-in-laws thoughts.

Lindsay said...

I read your blog occasionally, but I don't think I've ever commented. Now's as good a time as any, I guess, since I fall into that category of "given birth both ways." So here we go.

I'm a girl who loves her an epidural. I had one with my first, and it was fantastic. So of course I wanted one with my second. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, I suppose), the birth of my second went waayyyy faster than with my first. As in, I got to the hospital at 3:30, was sent from triage to a delivery room by 4:30, and pushed a baby out by 5:00. So, even though I begged, the doctor told me I couldn't have one because there just wasn't enough time.

I'll be frank: Giving birth naturally (especially when it wasn't what I'd planned on or for) was awful. I don't care how trendy it is, I never want to do it again. But, that said, I did survive (though not without my share of nightmares wherein I relived the experience over and over during my first night in hospital). The recovery, compared with my first, did go better, at least in the short term. I tore during delivery (and the doctor was able to squirt some sort of numbing liquid in anticipation of pain), and while I felt pretty great while I was in the hospital, I felt like it took longer to recover completely once I was home. But that could have absolutely nothing to with the no epidural bit and more to do with I was caring for a toddler and a newborn at the same time and it's hard to rest well when you're doing that bit. Anyway.

Once the hospital bill was sent my way, I must admit that I loved the fact that we didn't have to pay an anesthesiologist. LOVED it. Enough to maybe consider going natural next time. (Or not. We'll see.)

Because of my tendency towards fast deliveries, I think that the next time I'm pregnant I'll prepare myself better mentally for the likely chance that I won't have time to get an epidural. (Because it's kind of embarrassing to have your doctor tell you things will go better if you focus less on screaming mercilessly and more on pushing.) Going natural is do-able (and more so, if your delivery goes quickly), so if you don't want to pay an anesthesiologist, prepare yourself ahead of time and things will probably be okay. Good luck!

Brinestone said...

I have done it both ways. I'm not sure if you've read [url=]these[/url][url=]two[/url] blog posts of mine that I wrote after giving birth to my second. (The first link is my thoughts on natural vs. epidural; the second is just my birth story.) Beyond that, here are some thoughts:

1. Fear is a big contributor to increased pain while giving birth. If you think you can control your mind enough to minimize fear, you can probably make it through just fine. If not, you'll probably hate natural birth. I read a book on hypnobirthing, and while I didn't actually follow it completely, it did help me see the value in relaxation.

2. My births are short. Both have been about 6.5 hours long. I think if they were much more than an hour or two longer, I probably would not be interested in skipping an epidural next time.

3. A year and a half later, I'm 85% sure I want to give birth naturally next time. The birth center Kristeee mentioned sounds very appealing to me.

4. I don't know if this will scare you or what, but the "transition" phase hurts in largely the same way as an orgasm feels good. That is, it's kind of climactically, overpoweringly too much, but at the same time, you kind of go to a different place during it. And it's not that long, usually. I think transition should last about 15 or 20 minutes, which is about 10 contractions. I was handling everything very well, mostly, up until transition, especially with the help of the jacuzzi.

I'd be happy to chat sometime if you want to. I had a mom friend who had done it both ways who advised me before Duplo was born, which helped me prepare. Email me for my cell number if you do.

Brinestone said...

Gah! Sorry, I often forget and use UBB tags instead of HTML. My links look terrible and I can't edit. Sorry!

Nemesis said...

Disclaimer: Have never had any kind of birth!! I've just been reading a ton of birth stories lately.

(And yes, this is how I pretty much BS my way through life: "I read a lot.")

Anyway, have been reading a lot of birth stories from women who had epidurals during their first birth and then wanted to go natural the second time--mostly using hypnobirthing techniques to manage the pain. They did this either because they didn't like the reactions they had to the drugs the first time around, or because they wanted to avoid a C-section, or even because they wanted to do home-births.

And one thing that kept coming up was that a lot of them had been induced their first pregnancies, so they were gearing up to experience the pitocin-level contractions they remembered and were pleasantly surprised when they went into labor on their own and things were much more manageable. (Plus they'd been practicing for weeks on how to relax and focus in good ways, which probably made a big difference.)

Jordan said...

My mom went both ways. After her epi with me was administered incorrectly and she stopped breathing (be advised that because of what happened at my birth they changed hospital procedure to make sure that can't happen again). She went with a saddle block with my brother that didn't take effect until after she'd given birth. She said the recovery time wasn't noticably shorter with natural.

From what I know of friends who choose to go natural, they say to prepare for the pain and it is easier to deal with. I have considered natural for the next time (whenever that happens) because I'm curious to see if my body will do the weird things it does when I'm in labor if I go without the epidural. My body is uncooperative that way and it scares my husband pretty good. But I did love both my epidurals as much as you did.

Before I forget, it should be noted that we have gone through individual primary and supplemental insurance for maternity and under our plan the anesthesiologist was covered under our primary insurance and was billed separately from the maternity deductable. Maybe yours will do the same thing.

Jenny said...

I think you should decide what kind of a birth you want. Do you want the cheapest birth possible? Do you want a natural delivery? If you want do deliver a baby without drugs you will need to prepare and take classes and practice. You can also refuse a lot of standard procedures while in labor/ at the hospital to lower your bill.

But I think what is more important is you figuring out what you want, because if you decide to wing natural childbirth you aren't going to care about how much the epidural costs. If you want it to be cheap you can do it at home like my friend did.

Recovery is different for each person and each baby. You know how your recovery was with your first baby, and you can assume it will be a little faster if it's natural and then a little faster since it's your second. If you had side effects with the epidural, you obviously won't have them if you do it naturally.

But I mean, no one can just tell you how it will be different for you to recover from natural vs epidural childbirth.

'sposita said...

So, I've gone natural - epidural - natural. We really prepared for the first birth and took Hypnobirthing classes from Mindy Gould (also a certified midwife) in Orem (highly recommended!). I was in labor with my first for over 30 hours. I did not take any drugs, and I'm glad I didn't, but it did hurt! The Hypnobirthing helped me get to a state of relaxation very quickly and as long as nothing else was happening, I managed quite well. My husband was very busy (and exhausted by the end) with helping me stay focused.

My second, I had horrible horrible back labor and wasn't progressing. I hadn't practiced my relaxation and didn't get my husband involved in helping me relax. I ended up having an epidural because I had been in pain for so long - as soon as the back pain was gone and I only had labor pain, I felt it was totally manageable. I also asked that they turn down the dosage because I felt it was too strong (I felt too woozy) but they didn't do it because I had the baby fairly soon after getting the epidural (allowed me to relax enough).

I really wanted to go natural again for my 3rd because I felt so disconnected from my 2nd's birth - like I wasn't fully present, and I really missed that from my 1st's birth. So even though I knew it meant a lot more work for me and a lot more coping with pain, that feeling of being fully there and fully aware for the baby's entrance into the world was important enough that I didn't want to miss out on it again. BUT I wasn't going to beat myself up about needing an epidural again.

3rd birth: I stayed at home for as long as possible (maybe a little too long) and by the time we left for the hospital was sure I wanted an epidural when I got there. On the car ride there (half an hour), I got back into my relaxation groove (my MUSIC was on!) and made it to the hospital, requested drugs and got laughed at because I barely made it to my room before having a baby. I am so glad that it worked out that way - because I got to really really enjoy my baby (my other two had been whisked away at birth for medical reasons) and I could nurse right away and enjoy the moment to the fullest.

Summing up: going natural takes A LOT of preparation and determination. For me, it is worth it. Maybe they gave me too much drugs or my body just doesn't deal with them well, but I didn't enjoy my epidural as much as my natural births - it felt rather flat compared to the exhilaration of the other two. That said, it was hands down A LOT easier of a birth.

Good luck in your decision!

Rebecca said...

I have done it both ways. My first was natural with pitocin. And my second was with an epidural with pitocin. The first was sooo painful I was too afraid to try it again with the second. Looking back on it though I have to say I would definatly do with out the epidural. I hated the feeling of not feeling what was happening. And not being able to move after. I think I felt worse and had a longer recover. With the first I was just tired.

So, my vote goes to natural...even with the pitocin.

KJ said...

I had an epidural with the first, and with my second, I arrived at the hospital at 9cm. I had no idea. I'd been in labor for 5 hours, and it was pretty bad, but I was coping. I walked into the hospital on my own 2 legs. When the Dr. told me I was that close, I wasn't thinking very clearly, what with the tremors and some puking. so I looked at him and said: "drugs?" so he sent the anesth. to give me an interthiecal (sp?) which works fast, but numbs less and doesn't last as long. 20 minutes later I had a baby. I feel like I did everything drug-free except push. I could do it again, and I don't think the pushing is any more painful than the labor. . But keep in mind, it was a pretty fast labor. IF Oliver came fast, you can totally go without the drugs. If you are inclined to 24 hour labors and hours and hours of pushing, get the damn drugs, woman!

Sarah said...

Okay, I know, I know, I have not done it both ways and you have got a lot of opinions people - but I do have a lot of experience in the field.
Here are my tips: 1 - if the Aflac stuff doesn't work for you - pay a little in advance, your bill will be cheaper. I know that I work there, but deliver at an IHC - its cheaper.
Next, take a class if you decide to try unmedicated. (I don't say natural - if it comes out the way it was meant to - its natural). If you aren't prepared, you won't do it.
I think the recovery that is faster for unmedicated is the initial recovery. People have these endorphins from working out and they feel so great afterwords. The 6 week recovery is probably no different.
Just know that if you get induced, the contractions are more intense on pitocin.
If it makes you feel any better: your pushing time will be much less (I can't remember how long you pushed), and on average the length of your labor will be cut in half.

Sarah said...

Oh two more things (sorry):
1 - practice. I know it sounds silly, but you need to practice before the big day. (as far as the unmedicated stuff - whichever process you decide to do)
2 - don't deliver at a birthing center or at home, please. I am begging you. We see too many things go wrong, brought in, and you end up paying for both.

AzĂșcar said...

I had an epidural with my first.

I tried to go unmedicated w/my second and didn't end up there (I had a spinal, not an epidural.)

I never want another epidural if I can help it. I hated how it made me feel, all the side effects (not to mention the expense.)

For what it's worth, I loved having the midwives and they were way cheaper than the OB.

Like Sarah said, if you don't prepare for an unmedicated birth it probably won't stay unmedicated. I had kind of a unique situation (I showed up to the hospital at an 8, and some cool things went down,) but I was nervous that I was facing 2 hours of pushing ahead of me like w/my first medicated birth. If I'd know it was going to be super fast, I probably could have resisted the spinal they gave me.

I thought I could just wing it. Turns out, winging it isn't terribly effective for a natural birth, haha. Next time, I'm going to have an unmedicated birth, with a doula (cheaper than an epidural!) and the midwives, at AF IHC. Preparation is key, and next time I intend to be prepared.

Buscando la Luz said...

A friend sent me a link to this post and urged me to comment. So here I am.

I've given birth 3 times (unmedicated), so maybe my advice means nothing, but I know far too many friends who turned to unmedicated birth after horrible medicalized birth experiences. They tell me, "If I had only known... (fill in the blank)."

In contrast, I know so many women who have consciously chosen to pursue unmedicated births, prepared themselves, and have had life-changing/fabulous experiences and say they will never give birth any other way.

I do think epidurals have a time and place, but I also believe our bodies/births work best when we avoid unnecessary interventions.

I think you might as well save yourself some money and see for yourself what all the "natural birth" fantatics are raving about.

flori said...

Hey, I'm Sorella LeBaron's sister. My first 3 births were with epidurals and I had no problems, physically or morally with that route. I just started wondering if I could do it natural and began to plan on that for my 4th.
I agree with the other comments that you need to PREPARE for that route. But I think I was just surprised by how natural it really was...that my body knew what to do. I'm not a screamy person and was not wailing in pain--rather, I found myself turning completely inward and was pleased to achieve an inner focus unlike anything else I've experienced. It sounds weird, but I visualized the word "OPEN" and spelled it out in my mind over and over, breathed through each letter, etc. A friend of mine told me this trick.She used the word "Peace". Find a magic word for you to help you focus. I felt awesome afterwards. No magic recovery (I did have a 9 lb. baby afterall), but I did feel strong and confident and so proud of myself!

noelle said...

Already lots of good comments (tho it sounds like they hand out pitocin like candy in the US???). I also believe every birth, pregnancy, person, situation are different. I planned to try drug-free and go to epidural as last resort, but in the end had emergency c-section so you just never know. One thing you might want to check into which is apparently very common for pain management in the UK is a TENS machine.
I know many people who have used them and swear by them. Over here you can rent them and bring them to the hospital with you. I'm planning to try it out if I manage to have another baby :)

DP said...

No, I've never given birth...

But just a tip for insurance-related stuff. We used two kinds of supplemental insurance policies, one with Aflac and one with Conseco, and there were no problems. We already had decent insurance, so we ended up making money on the birth. (Which was, of course, offset by the first hundred or so diapers.)

Let me know if you have any questions about that side of things.

FoxyJ said...

If you haven't already, get an insurance agent to help you out with insurance shopping. We have one we could recommend. Ours was a big help this year when we found ourself in the same situation. And I was already pregnant (like you've pointed out, don't try that--it's pretty much impossible). Sadly no one will accept my hubby since he's had skin cancer in the past.

Anyways, I've only had c-sections and so I'm willing to pay my $500 a month premium for maternity insurance that only covers part of the birth. It bites. Big time. As far as medicated vs. unmedicated, I think like people here have pointed out the key is preparation. Now that you've had one baby you should have a general idea of how your body will react. My mom had her first in the hospital and the other four at home with a midwife. According to her, unmedicated was great but needed preparation. And you just have to realize and accept that it will still hurt, even with relaxation techniques. One of her favorite books is Spiritual Midwifery (my husband calls it 'the naked hippie book'--so be warned).

Anonymous said...

i have nothing useful to add, but wanted to say kudos to you for knowing that you're ready and willing to have a second baby asap. i wish i was so decisive. it would certainly cut down on the number of people asking about when we'll be having "the next one."
and good luck - both with finding the insurance and getting that next bun in the oven!

Red said...

So...only had the one baby so my opinion doesn't count. ;) But here's the gist of my experience:

"Natural" wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. I didn't use anything - didn't see a reason to if the doctor didn't think I needed it (not because I'm trying to be trendy). I would absolutely NEVER recommend it to a sissy. But if you're tough and can grit your teeth through things, and everything goes smoothly of course, you'll be fine without an epidural. You have 4 brothers for crying out loud. ;)

Given my experience I would never CHOOSE an epidural or pain medication. ESPECIALLY if I had to pay for it. (Huzzah OHIP)

Ellen said...

My SIL has done it both ways and says she will NEVER give birth unmedicated again. She described her unmedicated birth like this: Imagine someone holding a blowtorch to your "area" and then after you don't think you can take that anymore... feeling like you are going to literally just rip apart. She seriously thought she was going to DIE... said "goodbye" to my brother... and she's a very tough girl. Umm. No thanks. I say it's worth the extra $1-2000. And I totally agree. America's current healthcare system is a total disaster. Good luck!

brinestone said...

Ellen, I would disagree with your sister's description of the pain. It [i]was[/i] intense, but it didn't feel like that. And it was pretty centralized for me in my cervix. And it felt like something that was supposed to be happening, whereas feeling like I was being burned or torn apart definitely would not. If your sister actually thought she was dying, I'm guessing something was more wrong than is usually the case with natural births.

So just because that was her experience doesn't mean everyone feels the same thing in the same way. Perhaps she tore badly? Who knows. My experience very well might not be the norm either, of course.

Ellen said...

Yeah, I'm sure everyone's experience is totally different. My SIL did tear... which probably accounts for the burning and the ripping apart sensations. All I know is that when my SIL was describing her experience to us... my Mom was in total agreeance with all her descriptions (including the thinking she was going to die part). My Mom had 4 kids naturally and 3 kids with an epidural simply because the drugs weren't available with the first 4. She has always said that her last 3 births were so much better. Anyway, everyones experience will definitely be different. I guess that's why it's good to get as much info. as you can and really gauge whether it's worth it. I wish our current healthcare system didn't mean that some people actually have to choose... based on cost... whether its worth it or not. sad.