Birth Choices Prevent Birth Injuries (part 2 of 2)

Many of the birth risks involved with labor occur because human interference works against a natural process, such as forcing women to lie paralyzed on their backs during labor.  Estimates suggest that between 90-95% of all births require no medical intervention.

Birth Hormones, Nature’s Pharmacy Prevents Labor Complications

Birth injuries can be the direct result of a doctor intervening in a woman’s body and the process of birth. Under normal conditions, a mother in labor releases a number of hormones, including:

  • oxytocin (sensation of love, regulates contractions)
  • endorphins (produce a “runner’s high,” natural pain-killers)
  • adrenalin & norepinephrine (associated with the “fight or flight” reflex, excitement)
  • prolactin (peaceful sensations of contentment, stimulates lactation)

    (More about birth hormones and preventing birth injuries in this Birth Injury Newsletter.)

Unfortunately, the “pain relief” paradigm of induction and epidurals found in many hospitals reduces the effectiveness of these hormones by trying to artificially stimulate birth, which can lead to mother or infant injury.

Birth Injuries Caused by “Painless” Labor

Birth pain for some hospital doctors is seen as an abnormal part of birth. The problem with “treating” pain chemically (such as with epidural anesthesia) is that doing so reduces those hormones (see previous) the body releases to both deal with the pain of birth and to prevent traumatic birth injuries.

Epidural anesthesia (“epidural” for short) greatly reduces the pain a mother feels during birth. It also reduces most other sensations as well, often stopping the normal chemical response to birth.

Epidural Anesthesia Numbs Birth

An epidural anesthesia reduces much more than pain. The epidural can cause a mother to not feel her torso and legs during birth. This reduction of pain also reduces the hormones needed for strong contractions. When this happens, another drug is administered, the artificial version of the body’s natural oxytocin called Pitocin. These weaker contractions can also lead to the necessity of forceps during birth.2

The epidural is also the reason hospitals prevent a mother from eating (she might choke on her food) or walking around during birth. Many mothers have said that the epidural makes them feel absent or distant during the birth of their infant. Epidurals can affect the child, having the newborn refuse to nurse and harder to resuscitate.

Beyond these dangers and discomforts, epidurals carry the possibility of sepsis, nerve damage, and paralysis or death. More commonly, epidurals cause splitting headaches and increase the odds of a cesarean section.

Cesarean Sections, Serious Surgery

Cesarean sections (c-sections) are serious, invasive surgery that birth doctors too often promote, like epidurals, as risk-free. In fact, the 1.2 million c-sections performed every year (making it the most performed surgery in the U.S.) are series surgeries.

Cesarean sections are indicated in cases of breech presentation, genital herpes, or cephalo-pelvic disproportion (CPD), a condition where mother’s pelvis is too small for vaginal birth. Cesareans are also often preformed when they are not needed, furthering hospital doctor’s factory approach to birth and leading to birth injury. Sadly, c-sections are sometimes delayed when they really are needed.

The U.S. cesarean section rate has increased from 5% in 1970 to 30.2% in 2006 (three times the world average) with a 79% increase in the 1990s of no-risk cesareans. A quarter of low-risk, first time mothers receive cesareans, 50% higher than recommended by the CDC.3

C-Section Birth Injury Risks

Many mothers write (and unfortunately many doctors ignore) birth plans stating they do not want a c-section. Infant mortality increases nearly three times for no-risk (“patient choice”) cesarean delivered babies than those born vaginally. The risk for the mother is three to four times that for vaginal birth.

A cesarean section impairs a mother's future reproductive capacity as it has a high correlation with hysterectomies. Additionally, caesareans increase stillborn births and make vaginal birth more difficult. (Read more about vaginal births after c-section in this Slate article or here in our vaginal births after caesarean, or “VBAC” newsletter.)

Healthy Options for a Birth That’s Injury-Free

Birth only happens once for each child. Expectant mothers can help insure the safety and healthy future of their child and themselves by researching the facts and writing a birth plan.

Additionally, understanding the process of a natural birth and employing a doula can help a mother better prepare for birth and for her wishes being honored during delivery.


Lawyers for Change
The more you know, the less likely are your chance of birth injuries like cerebral palsy or uterine tears. These newsletters are a free, informational service of the Consumer Justice Group. If you or your child has suffered a birth injury, contact us by filling out our Contact Form. We have attorneys across the country experienced in winning cases against negligent hospitals and insurance companies.

2) Dozer, Joanne and Shannon Baruth. 1999. Epidural Epidemic. Mothering. Article details the increased risk for birth injuries from epidurals. Back to the top
3) Kennare, Robyn, Graeme Tucker, Adrian Heard, and Annabelle Chan. 2007. Risks of Adverse Outcomes in the Next Birth After a First Cesarean Delivery. Obstetrics & Gynecology. Study calculates the risks of having a cesarean section versus vaginal first birth on the outcomes of a second birth. Authors find: “Cesarean delivery is associated with increased risks for adverse obstetric and perinatal outcomes in the subsequent birth.” Click to read these cesarean risks. Back to the top


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