Childbirth in the Modern Age

business-of-being-born_thumbDisclaimer: My friends and I are not necessarily typical college students.  One night during my sophomore year, about seven or eight girls gathered in the common room of one of our suites to watch a movie.  It wasn’t a rom com or a drama, it was a documentary called The Business of Being Born.  This documentary discussed the procedures that go into a typical hospital childbirth as well as showcased a number of natural and home births.  This was a movie night unlike any other.

For women (especially those who have not given birth) there is something completely horrifying, beautiful, and exciting about the idea of giving birth.  There is no forgetting of the fact that giving birth to a small human is no small task and that it is without a doubt very painful, yet this only adds to the interest and terror of it.

Throughout human history, childbirth has always been a dangerous and often deadly experience.  Without modern medicine, not only was it extremely painful but it was extremely dangerous for both the mother and child.  Following the birth, the mother and child were also especially prone to disease and infection.  In the era of modern medicine, however, childbirth has become much less painful and survival rates for both the mother and child have risen significantly.  Queen Victoria is known to have been under the effects of chloroform during the birth of two of her children so as to ease the pain.  Since then, the idea of “painless” births has spread and become common.

Yet, many people are going back to natural births, free of drugs and the like.  There are many different views on these natural births; some consider it to be a phase, some consider it dangerous and irresponsible, some consider it more natural and empowering, and other simply consider it as an unnecessarily subjecting yourself to more pain that necessary.  What are the positive benefits of natural childbirth?

  • Without the drugs in both the mother’s system and the child’s system, both mother and child will not be as groggy during and following the birth.  Some would argue that because they are not as groggy, it was be much easier to begin to breast feed following the birth.
  • While it has proven to be dangerous in the past because of a number of factors, the female body was built so that it could give birth and survive.  Many women who have had natural childbirths have stated that this form of birth was very empowering and made them feel more in tune with their body and the strength that it bares.
  • It is possible to have a natural childbirth in the hospital just in case anything goes wrong.
  • During labor, it is possible to walk around and move into different positions that may help speed up labor that would be impossible if one was using an epidural.
  • It is all on your own time.  The Business of Being Born addressed all of the different ways in which the medicine that is used in hospitals during childbirth speeds up or slows down the process and how often you are on one drug that speeds it up and another that slows it down, making it all rather unproductive.  There are certainly different situations in which childbirth needs to be induced but not in every situation is it necessary.
  • The drugs used during childbirth combat many of the bodies natural and good functions during childbirth such as the release of different hormones that are meant to bond the mother and child as well as help her to give birth.

Ultimately, many women say that the female body was made to be able to give birth and today’s medicine should serve as an aid in case of trouble but should not prevent the body from doing what it would naturally do.  Certainly there are still dangers in all forms of childbirth and none has proven to be extremely superior to the other but there is certainly something to be investigated when it comes to giving birth.

As someone who has never given birth, I feel as though I am unable to really understand or draw conclusions on this topic, however, it is one that I am very interested in.  Are natural births unnecessary when the option for a less painful birth is possible?  What are the effects of the drugs used during childbirth on both the mother and the child?  As long as both the mother and child are safe and healthy following the birth, do any of these factors really matter anyways?


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