Do you think women have a "right" to a painfree childbirth? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'd just love to hear what MDC mamas think of this.
My reaction is no, it's not a "right." but just mulling it over in my head and thought it'd be great to hear what other mamas think ...


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#2 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:04 PM
 
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Sure, why not? It's America and it's legal and available. Pretty much to me that defines having a "right" to something... .

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#3 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:13 PM
 
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i think one has the 'right', but just because one has the 'right' does not make it right. i think so many go in blind and have no clue the risks and there ARE risks to it. i think if more people knew the true and real risks with a painfree, rushed or 'planned' birth they may think twice.

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#4 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree with you that it's legal and available and women can do it if they want to, and that it should be legal, of course, etc. But in my mind that doesn't mean that it's a "right" and that's what I'm getting at here.

How do I word this better? Is it a fundamental right that women have childbirth without pain? Maybe I'm getting too philosophical here.

let's try it a different way. the natural order of things is that childbirth can be rather painful, depending on the woman. That's what I'm getting at---is it a "right" of women that this pain be taken away?

For example, women have a right to live free from domestic abuse/violence. That is a right of every human being (to be free from abuse). Do you see where I'm going with this? sorry, maybe i'm not making sense. here's another question that builds on this: do women have a right to an elective cesarean?

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#5 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:22 PM
 
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I believe that rights, in their truest sense, are not things that others must provide for us. They are just things we can freely chose to do or not to do - speak our minds, worship as we choose, own a gun to protect ourselves, live without fear of the government invading our homes without cause. Sometimes these rights must be protected, but never provided.

I think the concept of rights gets really sketchy when we start saying that we have a right to something that someone else has to provide us.
In some cases, such as a right to a trial by jury, I consider this a right to live without people accusing you unjustly and having to prove that you did commit a crime rather than you having to prove your innocence, IYKWIM.

So, no, I don't believe anyone has a right to a pain free birth.
I'm not even sure such a thing is a possibility for many women - even with tools ranging from epidurals to hypno techniques for labor and birth, I think at least some women would not be able to avoid all pain.
I do think that we should have a right to choose any medical care we receive from all available options that we can afford. I don't think that we as a society should feel obligated to provide all options for indigent medical care. I think perfectly adequate OB care does not include a lot of things that have come to be the norm and which most women have come to expect, but I don't think that means everyone has a right to those thing at taxpayer expense.
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#6 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:24 PM
 
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What about if you rephrased it as "women have a fundamental right to give birth as they see fit"?

For decades, medicated birth were the norm and it took a lot of advocacy for some women to normalize the idea of not using them. If you think that someone should have the right to chose a non-medicated birth, why shouldn't they also have the right to choose a medicated one?

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#7 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:27 PM
 
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i think i understand where you are going with this... but i want a home birth and i dont want anyone to be able to take that from me. there are rules a mile long to do a home birth. so if someone wants the right to have a pain free birth so i can have my right to a home birth, so be it...

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#8 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:29 PM
 
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This was an old feminist argument--that because men ddn't have to undergo such a painful experience to have a child, why should women? That led to the "twilight sleep" kinds of births, wherein teh woman would actually have a traumatic experience but because she was blacked out during it, she had no real memory. Kind of like the date rape drug, IMHO.

Because it's a normal physiologcal process, I guess it's nice to have ways to manage how it feels, though I wish most of those ways weren't so potentially dangerous. It's not like surgery, where anesthesia is a necessity, especially if the procedure's particularly invasive. I dunno...I felt that giving birth was a hugely spiritual transformative experience, and while I'm glad that laboring in water was available to me, I wouldn't have wanted any sorts of numbing agents involved because that would have altered the experience in such a way that I find undesirable.

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#9 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:43 PM
 
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I honestly can't even begin to figure out where I stand on this one. I, personally, wanted the right to not be painfree, because I'd rather be in pain than numb. (Since I ended up with all c-sections, I obviously didn't get my wish.) I find numbness horrifying and freaky. Pain is different. I liked the pain with ds1, not because I'm even remotely masochistic, but because I could feel it prompting me to move around and shift positions and such. Numbness doesn't tell me the things I need to know. Pain-free birth is just so horrifying to me that I can't wrap my head around anyone claiming it as a right, yk?

I think women should be allowed pain management if they want it - but they should definitely be getting proper information about possible risks.

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#10 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 04:50 PM
 
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Interesting Q.
Someone posted here ages ago that the paperwork at her hospital said, "You have a right to a pain-free birth."

I think what they meant to write was, "You have a right to pain-relieving medication."

"Pain-free"? No. That is simply impossible! They won't admit you into the hospital as a patient in labor until you are having ctrx, so those first few ctrx may be painful. So, it's not realistic to expect to never feel any pain!

However, I DO believe women have a right to pain-relieving medication if they want it.
I also remember reading here that some hospital had a policy of no epidurals for vaginal birth. (I find it hard to believe this was in the USA, but i can't remember.) That, IMO, is wrong. It should be a service that's available if women want it. Not that all hospitals must have 24/7 anesthesia available, but just, if docs are there, it shouldn't be a hospital's call that epidurals are only for c-sections!

(I'm not addressing the issue of who pays for the medical care! that is rather hairy. But I'm saying, it is within the realm of choices women should be able to make for themselves.)

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Originally Posted by Storm Bride View Post
I think women should be allowed pain management if they want it - but they should definitely be getting proper information about possible risks.
That sums up my view well. I also think they should be provided non-pharmacological pain relief first as a matter of course!
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#11 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 05:06 PM
 
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Considering this is MDC, my knee-jerk reaction is "Of course, that's why my first choice is unassisted childbirth, either solo or with dh, and hypnosis." Then, it occurs to me that the rest of the world is not MDC, and pain-free birth means something completely different. Let me guess the question isn't about the right to orgasmic birth?

Hmmm, I think it must be time to get back to knitting my own wool diaper covers and soaking some grains...
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#12 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 05:19 PM
 
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What about if you rephrased it as "women have a fundamental right to give birth as they see fit"?
Exactly. We were planning a natural (ideally water) birth at a birthing center. We went to all the classes. We saw the films. Yes: even that animated wonder of a film entitled The Moose and the Epidural. We read books. We were going to have a natural birth! Yessssir ... even through those last few annoying tests she had to take to make sure the placenta position was ok and the blood sugar was in check and the infections were in check and all that ...

Then the contractions started. On a Wednesday.

Prodromal labor ... but there ain't nothing "false" about contractions every 7-15 minutes for FIVE DAYS (total sleep during this time: about none). So by Sunday we were given this choice: 1) a shot of morphine and go home, try to sleep and hope she wakes up in active labor or 2) xfer to the hospital and get an epidural

We went for option 2. While it would have been nice to have our ideal birth plan realized it just didn't happen that way for us. My partner was a real hero and got our son out still vaginally and with very little time to spare before they would have done a no-questions-asked emergency C (his vitals were dropping FAST) I am very proud of my partner and even though we didn't get the water birth we had planned, under the circumstances I think the epidural was the right decision. We have no regrets. It was a welcome and much needed relief -- for both of us -- at the time. It let the rest of the labor progress as it should have and we now have a perfectly healthy baby.

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Originally Posted by lach View Post
What about if you rephrased it as "women have a fundamental right to give birth as they see fit"?

For decades, medicated birth were the norm and it took a lot of advocacy for some women to normalize the idea of not using them. If you think that someone should have the right to chose a non-medicated birth, why shouldn't they also have the right to choose a medicated one?
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#14 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 05:30 PM
 
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Sure, they can have the "right" to it if it's a right they want, but they also deserve to hear accurately what responsibilities come with that "right" - obey the staff, do as you're told, accept the possibility of trauma to you and the baby and so on...
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#15 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 05:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by witchygrrl View Post
This was an old feminist argument--that because men ddn't have to undergo such a painful experience to have a child, why should women? That led to the "twilight sleep" kinds of births,
This is what it reminded me of, too. Historically women were told they had to have painful births (some women were even burned at the stake for asking for pain relief during birth..it went against the word of God), and then the pendulum swung in the absolute opposite direction...complete avoidance of pain. I don't think that it's reasonable to insist or expect the majority of women to have pain-free births. Birth is an intense physical experience, and that can include pain.

Personally, I'd trade some pain for being able to be physically and mentally able during and after birth.

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#16 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 06:25 PM
 
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Obviously women do not have the fundamental, god-given right to medication during birth, since most of the women in the world don't have the option.

In the US? Sure. I wish there was more information given about the risks, but I believe that women have the absolute right to birth however they want, everything from UC to elective C.

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#17 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 06:29 PM
 
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Sure, they can have the "right" to it if it's a right they want, but they also deserve to hear accurately what responsibilities come with that "right" - obey the staff, do as you're told, accept the possibility of trauma to you and the baby and so on...
I really do not think that women should be told that they have to trade obedience for pain management, and this trade has NOT been my experience. I don't think this trade should be anyone's experience.

When I was in labor with DS, the epidural allowed me to be very present and articulate while it was working, and I was able to refuse pitocin, and discuss episiotomy and surgical vs. instrumental delivery with the delivering OB. My wishes were heard and respected whenever possible. When my wishes had to be disregarded, I was told why. The doctors involved in DD's birth (which was an emergency section involving very few choices at all) also did their best to hear, understand, and accommodate me whenever possible.

I don't think that we can usefully advocate for women or for birth choice while buying into the notion that some choices demand the abandonment of all autonomy and agency, or while denigrating those women who choose anesthesia.
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#18 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 06:29 PM
 
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i think one has the 'right', but just because one has the 'right' does not make it right. i think so many go in blind and have no clue the risks and there ARE risks to it. i think if more people knew the true and real risks with a painfree, rushed or 'planned' birth they may think twice.

 
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#19 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 06:32 PM
 
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#20 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 06:36 PM
 
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Since this seems like a edgy question, I'll weigh in too.

No right to pain-free birth (is that even possible?), but yes a right to pain-relieving medication when requested. I'm of the camp that basic medical care should be a right in a civilized society, and I consider a low level of pain relief at the option of the patient to be part of basic medical care.

However, I do not think women has a "right" to the birth they want. If a woman, pregnant with one baby and without any medical indications for a surgical birth requests a c/s, I think that woman should have to pay for it, or at least pay the additional cost. If a woman wants a water birth, and there aren't facilities available, she's going to have to swing that herself.

To me, if something is a right, it has to be either free or freely available to every member of our society.

So, urgent medical care, including pain management if requested = right, care above and beyond what's medically required = something you have to make your own provisions for (ie, pay for it out of pocket).

Health insurance could be so much cheaper if we all weren't paying for epidurals and c/s that weren't requested or needed!

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#21 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 06:49 PM
 
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I really do not think that women should be told that they have to trade obedience for pain management, and this trade has NOT been my experience. I don't think this trade should be anyone's experience.

When I was in labor with DS, the epidural allowed me to be very present and articulate while it was working, and I was able to refuse pitocin, and discuss episiotomy and surgical vs. instrumental delivery with the delivering OB. My wishes were heard and respected whenever possible. When my wishes had to be disregarded, I was told why. The doctors involved in DD's birth (which was an emergency section involving very few choices at all) also did their best to hear, understand, and accommodate me whenever possible.

I don't think that we can usefully advocate for women or for birth choice while buying into the notion that some choices demand the abandonment of all autonomy and agency, or while denigrating those women who choose anesthesia.
Epidural anaesthesia increases the chance you will need an instrumental delivery and perineal trauma, so in a very very REAL sense, women are accepting responsibilities when they exercise their "right" to a pain free birth, and one of them is to accept they may not have a particularly pain free beginning as a mother.

As for autonomy - you are numb and cannot move from the sternum down. How will you move? How will you make choices if you are NOT supported by your doctors and midwives? How will you refuse the augmentation if you only find out about it after your new "saline" is put up and your contractions suddenly become very painful? How will you decline consent for the episiotomy which is done without your knowledge? How will you insist you be with your baby when you are still numb and someone who could walk has already taken it to the nursery?

I am glad that you were supported, but many many women are not, and the majority of those who weren't do not even realise the way they are being treated is unnecessarily unkind/unhelpful/dangerous.

As i write this i am watching One Born Every Minute, broadcast in the UK, channel 4, tuesdays at 9pm. I have just seen a woman screaming and screaming as she is given a vaginal examination where the midwife inserted most of her hand into the vagina to see if the very posterior cervix was dilated enough to break the waters through (it was not). The baby in this case was perfectly fine and happy and the mother was barely contracting, it was by no means an emergency. This might not have been your experience of "care" but here it is clearly so normal they feel it can be televised to the nation without anyone raising serious questions about professional sexual assault.

If we are to advocate for women we first need to accept the very serious flaws with the way those women are treated in the current system.
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#22 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 06:54 PM
 
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Women have the basic right to make the best choices for themselves among the options available. I think every woman has the right to draw a line for herself on what pain is manageable and what pain crosses the line into trauma.

Every woman has the right to draw that line for herself and to do what she deems most prudent to manage the pain. Epidurals can absolutely be the best option when your choices are trauma or surgical level anesthesia. And an individual woman's life circumstances may be such that *any* amount of pain is an unreasonable burden for her to bear, one which will cause trauma.

Do I think that there are sociological factors that make women think they are significantly less strong and capable than they actually are? Absolutely. But it's not remotely my place to judge another woman's capability, although I can be her friend and encourage her to see herself as strong and capable of handling difficult circumstances if she feels such a sacrifice is worthwhile.

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#23 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 07:02 PM
 
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Just to update since it further illustrates my point, the screaming mother with the whole hand inside her was being induced for GD at 38 weeks. After 4 days of induction and multiple painful VE's she had a c-section for failure to progress. Her baby did not look even 7lbs.
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#24 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 07:40 PM
 
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But it's not remotely my place to judge another woman's capability, although I can be her friend and encourage her to see herself as strong and capable of handling difficult circumstances if she feels such a sacrifice is worthwhile.
I judge *all* women capable of birthing without anaesthesia. Of course individual medical circumstances arise, and in a modern society, a woman and her doctor are able to make choices that were not available before modern medicine. Some mothers' and babies' lives are saved by modern medicine while others are lost because of it. For some women, an epidural can be a very wise medical decision.
Anaesthethics are only recently available. For millennia, women birthed without them. If pain meds were not available, would we really question whether we were capable of enduring the pain of childbirth?
How can we say we have a right to something that has been unavailable to humans for most of our history?

No, it's not my job to judge individual women for their choices. They are clearly free (or should be) to make their own decisions just as doctors and midwives should be free to provide whatever services for which there are economic demands. If women want elective c-sections and epidurals the moment they arrive at the hospital in labor and there are people willing to provide those women with those services for an agreed upon price, then how could I have an issue with them?


But a right? Nope.
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#25 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 07:43 PM
 
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no. but i do believe that if it is available, and she is actually aware of the risks, and especially if her birth has turned "medical" (i.e. pit) then she should be allowed to choose pain meds(or hypnosis, or someone for massage/counter pressure, etc.)

with this also comes the RIGHT to not be scared into believing that birth is a terribly painful experience, and the RIGHT to informed consent, and as a pp mentioned, the RIGHT to not be assaulted.

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#26 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 07:47 PM
 
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"Right" is probably not the most useful term, but I do believe that all women in the US should have the option of pain medication if they request it. Honestly, natural birth advocates do their cause no favors by basically trying to guilt women or scare them into refusing pain medication. I saw "The Business of Being Born." While it made a number of interesting points and some very good ones, I saw the message basically being that you need to put up with the pain or bad things will happen to you. I didn't find that an effective argument.
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#27 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 08:02 PM
 
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I do not believe that anyone has a fundamental "right" to health care services. That said, I do strongly believe that it is in a society's best interests to provide a certain level of care to all its members (particularly a society as rich in resources as ours), and that those services should include pain management for laboring women at their request. I absolutely cannot stand hearing stories about uninsured or undocumented women being denied pain relief, or proposals that they should be denied pain relief because it's not a "necessity" - these stories always seem to have a sadistic edge to them that's more about punishing certain groups of women and not at all about the conservation of resources or ensuring the best health outcomes.
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#28 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 08:14 PM
 
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Originally Posted by possum View Post
I judge *all* women capable of birthing without anaesthesia. Of course individual medical circumstances arise, and in a modern society, a woman and her doctor are able to make choices that were not available before modern medicine. Some mothers' and babies' lives are saved by modern medicine while others are lost because of it. For some women, an epidural can be a very wise medical decision.
Anaesthethics are only recently available. For millennia, women birthed without them. If pain meds were not available, would we really question whether we were capable of enduring the pain of childbirth?
How can we say we have a right to something that has been unavailable to humans for most of our history?

No, it's not my job to judge individual women for their choices. They are clearly free (or should be) to make their own decisions just as doctors and midwives should be free to provide whatever services for which there are economic demands. If women want elective c-sections and epidurals the moment they arrive at the hospital in labor and there are people willing to provide those women with those services for an agreed upon price, then how could I have an issue with them?


But a right? Nope.
I think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying. Can every woman *survive* childbirth pain without anesthesia? Obviously. That doesn't mean she can just "suck up" the pain without there being unnecessary trauma done to her. There is a tremendous amount of variability between an orgasmic birth and one that results in PTSD due to traumatic amounts of pain and suffering. The decision of how much pain is too much is something that needs to be left up to the woman. Someone else may be able to tolerate what I don't find tolerable, and I may be able to tolerate what another woman would find intolerable.

I'm not arguing about free market forces here. I'm saying that it's such a widely variable, personal decision that doesn't fall into the category "has a right to" very easily. The question is framed oddly. Women have a right to choose between options that are available for them based on their own judgment of their situation, not because of some overarching entitlement to a pain free birth or because of some lofty moral ideal where Real Women and Real Moms Don't Have Epidurals.

Catholic wife in love.gifwith my husband, mom to superhero.gifx5,  babygirl.gifx2, angel1.gifx6. Birther of babes, baker of bread, and connoisseur of human folly. WINNER OF THE SILVER BIRTH STOOL, APRIL 2010 DDC! Happily hospital birthing with my BFF, Epidural Man.
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#29 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 08:22 PM
 
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because of some lofty moral ideal where Real Women and Real Moms Don't Have Epidurals.
Big WORD to this. It's a really annoying attitude that some have.
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#30 of 162 Old 03-02-2010, 08:35 PM
 
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Big WORD to this. It's a really annoying attitude that some have.
I find it annoying, and I have drug free and largely pain free home births! There has to be a happy medium here. In my dream world, every woman would know that she could handle normal labor on her own power, that her giving birth wasn't dependent on her having the nice doctors give her medicine because otherwise she'll somehow implode and disappear forever. But she'd also know that if things were abnormally painful that she was able to choose pain relief to avoid unnecessary trauma to herself.

Not for anything, but technically in the absence of medical problems, all fertile women are capable of having a baby every roughly 18-36 months from menarche to menopause. That's another thing that women did for thousands of years, and they largely just sucked it up. Do women have a right to birth control? To the knowledge of their fertility to avoid or achieve pregnancy? Epidurals are largely chosen for convenience and comfort within the realm of what individual women judge is best in their own lives. Avoiding pregnancy through any means (NFP, FAM, condoms, IUDs, pills, etc) is also largely a choice made with an eye towards convenience and comfort within what women judge is best in their particular situations.

Catholic wife in love.gifwith my husband, mom to superhero.gifx5,  babygirl.gifx2, angel1.gifx6. Birther of babes, baker of bread, and connoisseur of human folly. WINNER OF THE SILVER BIRTH STOOL, APRIL 2010 DDC! Happily hospital birthing with my BFF, Epidural Man.
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