Banalization of Epidurals - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 78 Old 02-02-2005, 09:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I didn't see a post specifically about this; please re-direct me if it is already being discussed somewhere.

I have been doing a lot of reading to educate myself about birth options during my pregnancy, particularly with regard to the (over-)medicalization of what should be normal births. As a result, I've learned about a lot of the negative side effects of receiving an epidural during labour, which is why I'm becoming very concerned about what seems to be a "movement" in mainstream society to banalize epidurals.

First example: a CitiBank commercial in which a woman is about to give birth in a hospital setting, while her husband is concerned about the costs of each procedure - he asks the anesthesiologist, "Is this something I could do?" to which the anesthesiologist responds, condescendingly of course, "The epidural?" There are a bunch of things to do before "resorting" to an epidural - every time I see that commercial, I want to cut up my CitiCard!

Second example: Target store sells first-trimester "fortune tees," one of which says, "An epidural is in my near future." How many women have even made decisions about their labour and delivery in the first trimester?!

Obviously, I can write letters to both companies, but I would like to know whether there are any organizations involved in advocating against routine epidurals that are paying attention to this kind of mainstream epidural acceptance "movement." (Or is pregnancy just making me overly sensitive to this issue?)
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#2 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 12:21 AM
 
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well I don't know about advertising, but there is some movement in the right direction, my local hospital will not do routine epidurals, you can only get one if you need a c section ( and maybe for other extenuating circumstances) but around here if your dr promises you an epidural prenataly they are lying through their teeth
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#3 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 02:25 PM
 
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I know exactly what you mean! There does seem to be this very active "pro-epidural" movement. What I can't figure out is if this a conscious thing or just a product of our incredibly screwed up notions about birth here in the US. Most of my friends just assume they will have an epidural and that I am getting one too- umm...no..here are all the risks- I try to tell them- but they can't even conceive of birthing without being totally numb from the waist down.

It makes me so pissed off to see those teeshirts and all the commercials and such that make birth seem nothing but scary, painful, and something to "get through"- basically portraying women as weak and in need of a rescue.

I wish there were something I could do about it- but the epidural has become part of the collective consciousness here in the US.

That is awesome that routine epidurals aren't given in BC!

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#4 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 02:37 PM
 
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Yes - cut up your citi-card and don't shop at Target!!

And tell them why.

The revolution starts here, mama.
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#5 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 03:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yamilee21
Second example: Target store sells first-trimester "fortune tees," one of which says, "An epidural is in my near future." How many women have even made decisions about their labour and delivery in the first trimester?!
I don't think I could restrain myself from saying something along the lines of "that's really sad" to the mother I saw wearing that shirt. I've never seen (or heard of before) those. Yikes! Okay, I just typed some true feelings then censored myself cuz I don't wish to offend. That's just waaaaaaaaaay over the line for me.

And to answer your questions about how many women have already made those decisions in the first trimester? Most of them! Before that even. I've known very few women who haven't already decided on the epidural before their first pregnancy. Heck - I was one of them (loooooooong before I ever became pregnant and that's not what I chose once I was). I honestly had never known of anyone who'd done otherwise and even those epidural births sounded horrifying at the time. That's a huge reason for this problem IMO - if an epidural birth is so horribly painful, how/why could anyone do it without one???

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#6 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 06:07 PM
 
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I was watching a rerun of that sitcom "step by step" where she wanted to have a nonmedicated birth and her husband and the doc are all basically humoring her, knowing she cant do it. Then she tells the doc she wants to be present whenthe babys born and is told she'll be there, but why be in agony? Then she says she wants to do it naturally and is told it will be natural unless the baby comes out her nose. Then the doc tells her how safe it is for her and the baby and she says ok, then the husband is all relieved because now she'll act normal or whatever (of course, it shows her acting all crazy during each contraction and hurting or threatning her dh).

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#7 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 10:53 PM
 
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I think you're being over sensitive. You shouldn't be judgemental of women who choose pain meds (notice I used the word "choose--" pain meds should never be pushed or forced on a woman). I also doubt those stupid ads (and I've seen that awful bank commercial) will make any woman think she has to have an epidural.

What bothers me most about that ad is that the couple looks very financially comfortable, I'll eat my hat if that imaginary couple didn't have health insurance. It's a stupid premise.
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#8 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 11:29 PM
 
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i don't really think it is over sensative..although i fully see your point.. i can honour a woman's choice and still be upset at the normalization of epidurals..advertizing generally irks me.... in a nation where medical interventions are way higher than recomended, I htink over simplifying something does make it harder for women to make an informed choice...i have no real issue with women choosing an epi for her birth, but I do like to think she is on neautral ground going in to make a choice, and she knows about the risks..
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#9 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 11:47 PM
 
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I disagree, redsonya--I don't think the OP is being overly sensitive.

The issue is not judging individual women making individual choices. It's the culture's portrayal of birth and birthing women.

When is the last time you have seen unmedicated labor portrayed in the mainstream media and popular culture (and by that I mean movies, television, advertisements) as spiritual or sexual? When is the last time you have seen a woman calmly handling her contractions, breathing slowly, looking deep into the eyes of her partner or midwife or friend?

The only time birth is portrayed without medication, it's either 1) a huge emergency/crisis filled with blood and pain and danger (think ER) or, 2) a comedic situation (like a previous poster described--think almost any sitcom.) "Lamaze breathing" and hugely bulged out eyes with lots of hee-hee-whoo-whoo followed by screaming/moaning when the contractions get stronger and hurting the husband and lots of nasty remarks to the husband for getting her into this situation in between contractions, or whenever she can catch a breath. Meanwhile the DH is either being totally freaked out and inept, or making cracks about her with the hospital staff, or being "Mr. Supportive/Involved" which basically looks like him being a football coach.

There is actually a very funny commercial that sort of plays with this genre--there is a closeup of the faces of the husband and wife--she's red faced, sweating, grunting, and breathing hard, and he's yelling at her, "Push, Push!" and she's looking at him with an irritated expression, and then the camera backs up and you see that she is leaning with her back against their car, he is facing the car, and they are trying to push it up a hill because the car is dead because they failed to get the right whatever-is-being-advertised. (I don't remember what the ad is for.)

A advertisement or a sitcom isn't going to convince or force a woman to get an epidural. But the fact is that epidurals have become so routine and common as to be thought of as just an unquestioned part and parcel of the experience of birth for many people, and this is being both reflected and reinforced by the media portrayals of epidurals in birth. This is the same way that until the 70's, labor/birth in popular culture was represented by the woman being in the hospital (unseen of course) and the man in the waiting room along with all the other husbands, pacing nervously/smoking/trying to read a newspaper/pestering the nurse for any news, and then a nurse coming out and saying, "Mr. Jones? It's a girl! Your wife is doing fine." And all the other guys in the room congratulating him and him being all happy and passing out cigars. (Think "I Love Lucy" when Little Ricky came on the scene!)

Isn't popular culture fun?!
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#10 of 78 Old 02-03-2005, 11:48 PM
 
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I wouldn't worry about it.

To be honest I had natural child birth the first time around and my big head boy broke my tailbone - it was a long painful recovery and I had alot of post birth anxiety/depression/fear based on my terrible experience.

I was extremely afraid to have a second baby (five years later, it still hurts too much to ride a bike or do a number of yoga positions) and truthfully I wouldn't have had a second baby if an epidural wasn't available.

I wouldn't waste too much energy getting upset over something that other people might decide is right for them - make your own choices and let others make their own.

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#11 of 78 Old 02-04-2005, 03:46 AM
 
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What bothers me most about that ad is that the couple looks very financially comfortable, I'll eat my hat if that imaginary couple didn't have health insurance. It's a stupid premise.
We are financially comfortable and have health insurance. My insurance doesn't cover anything about pregnancy or birth so I would totally be worried about the cost of things if I were at the hospital.

Back to the OP, go ahead and feel that way. I get way annoyed about things like that too. I probably don't need to be but it is annoying. I wish more women (and men) recognized the absurdity of the culture surrounding birthing in this country. How can stuff like that not be annoying. It is sad but true. Most girls I know have decided on their epidural about the same time they got their positive HPT. It is such the norm. I guess who can blame them, by the time you get to the hospital it is pretty stressful most being told to stay in bed on their back and half those women being augmented by pitocin, heck I'd want an epidural too.
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#12 of 78 Old 02-04-2005, 12:35 PM
 
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I see the present medicalization of childbirth and the rise in epidural PARTLY driven by insurance companies.

To pay malpractice these days, and your staff, and have your bucks too at the end, providers must deliver MORE women in the same amount of time they used to, They would not get a wink of sleep if everyone or almost everyone was not induced and managed and sectioned.

Birth , left to it's own devices takes time. Time that docs and labor wards often don't have. And nowdays, women as well are making the same decisions.

As a HCP, I don't like administering routine elective epidurals to my labor patients, I do not like seeing the laboring moms blood pressure bottoming out, and watching the babes go downhill until mom is going down the ramp to the OR. Happens everyday THEY ARE RELATED. It sucks. Not to mention the non-routine risks of epidural anesthesia.

Too bad innocent women and sweet little babes are the ones who pay the ultimate price for the business. Always at the bottom in this culture.
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#13 of 78 Old 02-04-2005, 01:00 PM
 
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[QUOTE=redsonya]I think you're being over sensitive. You shouldn't be judgemental of women who choose pain meds (notice I used the word "choose--" pain meds should never be pushed or forced on a woman).
QUOTE]

I believe that there are many women who have never explored their birth options. They don't know about the benefits of movement in labor, water to ease pain, support from doulas . . . They are not equipped to make an educated choice, so they choose what their OB's and nurses present as the only option - an epidural.

I am SO thankful to the nurse who taught our Lamaze class that I took when I was expecting my first child. She emphasized natural childbirth, and explained the risks of overmedication. Without her guidance, I probably would have gone along with the "just take the drugs" message.

I have so many friends who have told me they never considered giving birth without an epidural. And they all sound shocked when I explain the risks of epidurals and why I chose to birth without one.
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#14 of 78 Old 02-04-2005, 02:14 PM
 
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[QUOTE=ebethmom]
Quote:
Originally Posted by redsonya
I think you're being over sensitive. You shouldn't be judgemental of women who choose pain meds (notice I used the word "choose--" pain meds should never be pushed or forced on a woman).
QUOTE]

I believe that there are many women who have never explored their birth options. They don't know about the benefits of movement in labor, water to ease pain, support from doulas . . . They are not equipped to make an educated choice, so they choose what their OB's and nurses present as the only option - an epidural.
I think this is the key. Most of the women I know never gave epidural a second thought, it's just what you do when you give birth. Most of them never considered any other option, and were never told they had an option in the matter! How is that informed consent? When you are neither informed nor do you consent? They have epidurals because *everyone* has epidurals (well, except that crazy freak, Stacy, who had her baby at the hippie commune ).
And this way of thinking is everywhere. I have avoided most baby showers since my first was born because I can't bear to hear women talking about their doctors and the hospital, telling of things that makes me want to cry, and they either talk about it as a good thing, or like it's no big deal. What they don't realize is that birth doesn't have to be that way! And they get mad at me when I try to share my point of view. They don't want to hear it. And so the lies are perpetuated...
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#15 of 78 Old 02-04-2005, 02:30 PM
 
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http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html...sin=B00078MLWK

I will never shop Target again and plan on writing the company about this immediately.
I will also send this out to every Mama I know.
How completely apalling that they would consider this is the norm for birth?
What a way to set up a first time mama, too!
This type of #### I refuse to tolerate.
Thanks for posting the info OP.
Any btw- its not your preggy hormones riding you- its your good common natural sense.

Mama to 5 babies. UCer, too!
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#16 of 78 Old 02-04-2005, 06:58 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yamilee21
How many women have even made decisions about their labour and delivery in the first trimester?!
Unfortunately, a LOT of women have decided long before even getting pregnant that they will have an epidural. They have been socialized to believe that pain is always a negative, unnecessary experience, that pain during birth is some sort of ancient torture that modern women should not have to feel, that natural birth is 'hippy" and "hippy" is something to be mocked, and that a birth loaded with interventions is normal and desirable.

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#17 of 78 Old 02-04-2005, 08:29 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by intentfulady

Birth , left to it's own devices takes time. Time that docs and labor wards often don't have. And nowdays, women as well are making the same decisions.
.
I thought that Epidurals actually slowed down the whole process. Anyone has any info on this??

I agree with the fact that many women (most of the women I know actually) feel that giving birth in the 21st century should not hurt at all and opt for epidurals - or worse, a c-section - already when they find out they're pregant.
They think I am a freak for not wanting an epidural. (BTW - I did have an epidural the 3rd time I gave birth - long story - and will NEVER have one again!! )
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#18 of 78 Old 02-04-2005, 08:40 PM
 
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Providers for a variety of reasons;
1) to squeeze in more deliveries
2) to get it over with and go home..........sleep
3) The "time clock" of "safe " delivery.
4) They need the bed.

hurry labor along by Pitocin induction, usually necessitating epidural.

epidurals without artificial stimulation often can slow labor
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#19 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 04:33 AM
 
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epidurals slow labor therefore displaying a "Failure to progress" situation, hence more c-sections. Birth at "gunpoint" moreover "needlepoint"

Mama to 5 babies. UCer, too!
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#20 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 04:38 AM
 
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The epidural is so accepted now that some people don't even consider it a drug. I've asked a few pregnant women IRL if they are planning to have drugs for the birth and they say, "No, just the epidural."
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#21 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 10:22 AM
 
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[QUOTE=ebethmom]
Quote:
Originally Posted by redsonya
I think you're being over sensitive. You shouldn't be judgemental of women who choose pain meds (notice I used the word "choose--" pain meds should never be pushed or forced on a woman).
QUOTE]

I believe that there are many women who have never explored their birth options. They don't know about the benefits of movement in labor, water to ease pain, support from doulas . . . They are not equipped to make an educated choice, so they choose what their OB's and nurses present as the only option - an epidural.
Maybe that is true in a lot of cases, but not always. I researched my choices, planned on a natural childbirth both times, hypnosis for #2. My mom is a midwife, for crying out loud. I know the risks of epidurals. And yet, I had epidurals with both births. I won't go into long details here, but there are a number of stories over on that thread about going back to epidural after a natural birth where women describe their reasons for chosing medicated births. Please don't assume that anyone who has an epidural is doing so because she doesn't know any better or was mislead by her OB.
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#22 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 10:30 AM
 
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The OP asked if there was someone she could write to. I would suggest the following:
a) if YOU are a writer, write this up and submit it to publications like MOTHERING, Midwifery Today, etc.
b) send a letter to the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services ( CIMS) at www.motherfriendly.org
c) circulate the annoyances so that we all get miffed at Target and such ( the grassroots effect, I am all for it...just check my post history!)
d) collaborate with someone who is a writer to get the words out there ( hint hint I am published and freelance....wanna collaborate??? PM me! )
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#23 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 10:33 AM
 
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I just went and reviewed the target shirt There are no reviews yet so lets show them what we think!
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#24 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 11:34 AM
 
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I posted my review they say it takes 5 days to post and it will post if it meet their content..so who knows.
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#25 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 11:48 AM
 
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Ive posted a link in the Activism forum and a review on the site. Plus sent it to everyone I know, some of which are real big activists.

Mama to 5 babies. UCer, too!
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#26 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 12:56 PM
 
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I posted a review too - somehow I doubt they'll display all these activism related reviews though.

Mama to four remarkable kiddos, all born at home.
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#27 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 03:38 PM
 
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I don't think epidurals should be banned, but do I think they should not be the norm? Absolutely!
But, not everyone is up to natural childbirth for various reasons, I would never take away their right to pain meds.

I too get sick though when asking a pregnant woman (friend) "You taking a birth class?" Response: "Nope, I'm getting an epidural"

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#28 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 03:48 PM
 
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Other than for a c-section, is there any medical reason why someone needs an epidural? Since many of us have given birth without one, we all know that it hurts, so it's hard to accept "too much pain" as a reason.
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#29 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 03:52 PM
 
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I am guessing that most of epidurals are requested because of fear or are accepted if you're bullied into getting one.

If you're in a hospital and is going through horrible pain, it is hard to say no to the nurses pushing an epidural on you if you don't have a doula It happened to me last time.

And they also went on to tell me that because I was being induced, the labor was going to be way worse than the first two I had without meds, so I just accepted the offer

NEVER AGAIN!! The side effects of the Epi FOR ME where not worthy it... Luckily my baby did not have any problems that we know of
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#30 of 78 Old 02-05-2005, 04:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greaseball
Other than for a c-section, is there any medical reason why someone needs an epidural? Since many of us have given birth without one, we all know that it hurts, so it's hard to accept "too much pain" as a reason.

Again, I'm going to have to disagree here. There were many women who posted here about the differences in labor between different women. That there are women who experience relatively painless labors, some who have more difficult labors, and others who describe labor as "being drawn and quartered." I have not had this last type of experience, but who I am I to judge another woman for being in "too much pain?" I mean, really, if someone tells me that it hurt too much, I'm totally willing to accept that as an answer. Or "I was afraid." "I was too tired." etc. I will never know what her birth experience was like.

I can understand saying that epidurals are becoming too common, that people are not adequately informed of the risks, that the medical community pushes epidurals on women for numerous reasons. But I dislike reading things like this thread that assumes that women who opt for epidurals are all misinformed or uninformed of the risks, or that they are weak for not being able to handle the pain or fear of their labor. That "we did it naturally so why can't you" attitude can be very patronizing, imo and can really turn people off to listening to what you have to say about birth.
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