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Why are women with partners more likely to opt for drugs in labor?

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 

Recently I learned, from a yet-unpublished study, that women that had their spouse present during birth were much more likely to choose pharmacological methods of pain relief.

 

I pose these two questions to you, empowered birthing women:

1) Why is there such a correlation?

2) What can we women do to better prepare our partners?

 

My theory is that birth partners, no matter how prepared, break down when seeing the woman they love in labor.  Maybe they recommend drugs when the time comes.  Maybe they just don't discourage it.  Maybe they stand around, paralyzed, unable to help.

 

And as far as what we can do to help... I have no idea.


What do you think?

post #2 of 62

Hm.

 

Maybe singles are more likely to be independent thinkers?

Maybe socio-economics comes into play?

 

I don't know.  My single sister chose an epidural, and my dh has never encouraged me to go against my birth plans.

post #3 of 62

I have no idea.. My DH knew that I didn't want any drugs and he was not to suggest them. It was hard for him to see me in pain, but he never once suggested medication...

post #4 of 62

I guess it depends what you mean by "help".

 

I worry that the reason that single women don't get pharmacological pain relief isn't because they don't feel the need.  I have heard plenty of stories of doctors and nurses who treat single mothers less well than they treat married ones, whose attitude towards a single woman in intense pain is "That'll teach you!"

 

By comparison, not only are doctors and nurses more likely to react approvingly to a married woman's request for pain relief, but that partner is more likely to stand up and demand that his wife be treated well and kindly.  If that's the reason why married women are getting more anesthesia, then better preparation for married women's birth partners is completely beside the point.

post #5 of 62
Well, when I was unmarried and single, they practically forced anesthesia on me. I had to beat them off of me to keep from having an epidural with #1. With #2 they won that game. With #3 I was not married but my partner was involved and he knew I did NOT want anything. They gave me 1/2 dose of nubain but then he managed to keep the epidural away. I think it's like what was said above about seeing the women they love in pain. But my dh also knew I would kill him if he let me get an epidural. lol.gif
post #6 of 62

Interesting.  I'd like to see the study.

 

I think it could be socio-economic.

 

I think it also could have to do with the way single moms are treated by some.  Especially oung single moms.  I'm not sure there's quite such a sympathy/end-the-pain response when it's a young single mom giving birth, vs. a mom who's done everything in "the right order". 

 

Of course, statistics only mean so much.  My single sister had an epidural (and then a section).  Meanwhile, dh has been by my side for all three births and the most I've had is stadol, and that was only in the first birth.  If anything, my husband is my strongest and most consistent advocate and encourager for natural births. 

post #7 of 62

I've heard a theory that the woman is reading the face of the partner and seeing any worry, whatever, there and women are more likely to be, sort of, trying to make others happy (despite being the one in labor)... so it's sort of a theory of people pleasing - you don't want other people to seem uncomfortable with your pain, so you accept drugs, I guess?

post #8 of 62

I wonder if the whole "you'll hate him in labor/'why did you do this to me?!'"  Thing is at play as well?

 

I agree with what all has already been said but I can see one cause being that the married person with her spouse there is going to have heard the jokes about how you'll think he is evil an so forth during labor/birth and is more reminded of it with him standing there and therefor thinks labor is harder/hurts more simply because they already have it in their head that they are supposed to be 'mad' at him right now.  More negative stories screwing with women psychologically.

 

I've heard the 'punishment' stories though (there is a really awful one on myobsaidwhat.com from a teen mom) and socio economic issues make perfect sense.

 

All I know is, I am 100% not likely to get anything unless there is an absolute need for it no matter what haha.  My husband couldn't be at the last birth (deployed, on the phone... poor guy) but he will be at the next one (he is getting out!) so hopefully he learns right quick to just trust me and not want me to 'take something for the pain.'  I know he won't like to see me in labor haha.

post #9 of 62

My husband told me last night that he "knows" I could have delivered my most recent baby more quickly if I would have opted for an epidural because he has been talking with "people" who say it "calms" women and allows labor to progress. OK, so that does happen sometimes, but epidurals also slow/stall labor more often than that, and I didn't want one for many reasons. That's why I hired a doula. I knew DH wouldn't like seeing me labor unmedicated. I think many partners can't stand to see women in pain, and if they are men, they can't exactly relate.

post #10 of 62

Women with lame partners, maybe. My dh was Bradley trained and was an amazing amount of support and comfort to me. Not once did anyone in the room suggest anything to me. I had gloriously intervention free, drug free births.

 

post #11 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Juvysen View Post

I've heard a theory that the woman is reading the face of the partner and seeing any worry, whatever, there and women are more likely to be, sort of, trying to make others happy (despite being the one in labor)... so it's sort of a theory of people pleasing - you don't want other people to seem uncomfortable with your pain, so you accept drugs, I guess?


I think this is a good explanation. I know that I got an epidural with number 3 because we were desperately trying to get someone to come to the hospital to pick up our kids (it was the middle of the night and pre-term, so my mother was not listening for our call) and every time I had a contraction my dd (2 yo) started crying and it made the contraction hurt worse. We were feeding off each others stress and pain. I can see something similar happening with a partner.
post #12 of 62

In my thinking...

 

I'm a woman/mom. I take care of everyone...its my instinct. When I can't mother hen something I feel out of control. In a birthing situation... I'll focus in on my worried husband (this was the first two times...now mine's a pro lol) and want to make him feel better when I should be focusing inward. The pain relief from an epi or some stadol can give the ability to focus in his direction to make him "better."

 

Now that I no longer put myself at the hospital to birth, (my last two have been born at home...my first was hospital w/ epi) I don't have the option for pain relief from drugs. And I've actually found I'll stay AWAY from my husband/kids until the very end because they take my focus. I want to comfort them and take care of them, when I need to focus on me.

post #13 of 62
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies, ladies!

 

It looks like there are two different, but compatible theories:

 

1) Single women are treated more poorly in the birth environment.  I will have to see how much this has been documented, but this is not surprising and a very likely explanation.

 

2) Women (and mothers) aim to please those around them, and to shield them from the discomfort of seeing them in distress.

 

Oddly enough, there were no other correlations between having other support people (mothers, sisters, friends, doula) and whether women chose drugs in birth.

post #14 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by fireHC11 View Post

Thanks for the replies, ladies!

 

It looks like there are two different, but compatible theories:

 

1) Single women are treated more poorly in the birth environment.  I will have to see how much this has been documented, but this is not surprising and a very likely explanation.

 

2) Women (and mothers) aim to please those around them, and to shield them from the discomfort of seeing them in distress.

 

Oddly enough, there were no other correlations between having other support people (mothers, sisters, friends, doula) and whether women chose drugs in birth.


maybe because other support is likely to have gone through birth themselves?

post #15 of 62

 Oddly enough, there were no other correlations between having other support people (mothers, sisters, friends, doula) and whether women chose drugs in birth.


I remember reading in a different study that women in labor report approximately the same amount of pain after having an epidural as they do when they have a doula attending them.  I guess the theory is that having consistent, trained female care & companionship during labor can reduce the experience of pain.  (Which is great, 'cause doulas are a lot cheaper than anesthesiologists, and no yucky side effects either!!!)
 

post #16 of 62

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fireHC11 View Post

My theory is that birth partners, no matter how prepared, break down when seeing the woman they love in labor. 


This is what I first thought. I mean, *I* would have a hard time watching a loved one suffering. I really would!

 

The other thing is that men tend to be not as well read about birth. They probably haven't put as much time & thought into it, so they might not really truly grasp the implications of that massive step down the path of a medicalized birth, so they might not be as dedicated to avoiding epi. After all, pretty much everyone gets one, right? shake.gif

 

This is one case where I was at an advantage having a DH who is a bit insensitive sometimes, ha! & even given that he can be insensitive & unsympathetic, he still was a little 'freaked out' when I was in transition & screaming. He wasn't about to suggest drugs, but he did feel a bit powerless & overwhelmed (I didn't want him to touch me, so there was really nothing he could do to help.)

 

I think often men want to "fix" a problem - they have trouble just empathizing & offering emotional support without "ACTING" to "fix" what is wrong.

post #17 of 62

Dr. Michel (sp?) Odent would say it's because laboring women have a harder time getting into the groove and a functional labor and can-do mindset if men are around. Except he'd say that in French and more professionally. For some that might actually be true, I do tend to feel more self confident with DH's support from afar than right there with me.

post #18 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post

Women with lame partners, maybe. My dh was Bradley trained and was an amazing amount of support and comfort to me. Not once did anyone in the room suggest anything to me. I had gloriously intervention free, drug free births.

 



 I find this offensive.  My DH is not lame because his desire to support my wish was at war with his desire to fix my pain.



Quote:
Originally Posted by fireHC11 View Post

Recently I learned, from a yet-unpublished study, that women that had their spouse present during birth were much more likely to choose pharmacological methods of pain relief.

 

I pose these two questions to you, empowered birthing women:

1) Why is there such a correlation?

2) What can we women do to better prepare our partners?

 

My theory is that birth partners, no matter how prepared, break down when seeing the woman they love in labor.  Maybe they recommend drugs when the time comes.  Maybe they just don't discourage it.  Maybe they stand around, paralyzed, unable to help.

 

And as far as what we can do to help... I have no idea.


What do you think?


I have given birth 3 times, first as a single mom, no epidural, second married, with an epidural and third, married, no epidural.  I didn't want the epidural with #2, but I caved after being asked just once.  He never pressed, only asked.  When I was pg with #3, we discussed it at length.  And your theory is EXACTLY what he told me.  It's one thing to "know" that the woman you love is going to be in a lot of pain, it's another to be in that moment experiencing it.  He never recommended it, never pushed it, he only asked once.  He just felt really helpless, like nothing he was doing to support me was working (it was, but it can be hard to tell, you know.)  With the third, I knew I didn't want an epidural, and we had a lot of conversations about it.  And in the end, he didn't ask.  I almost caved anyway, but ran out of time.


 

post #19 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post

Women with lame partners, maybe. My dh was Bradley trained and was an amazing amount of support and comfort to me. Not once did anyone in the room suggest anything to me. I had gloriously intervention free, drug free births.

 



I think 'lame' is not necessarily the appropriate term. You aren't a lame partner just because you haven't taken Bradley. It is normal to want to take pain away from someone you love.

post #20 of 62
Didn't the study put foward a possible explanation?

It could be that women with partners are more confident that their wishes will be followed and so they are more likely to ask for pain medication than un-partnered women. It could also just be that is how it was for that particular cohort of women, and that it wouldn't play out that way in the greater population.
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