Google+ Authentic Parenting: Secret Oppression: Epidurals (rerun)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Secret Oppression: Epidurals (rerun)

Some feminists advocate that pain in labour and birth is a thing of the dark ages and should be avoided at all cost. These voices claim it is completely backward for a woman to want anything but a painfree birth.

I beg to differ.

First, feminism is all about choice, not about one group of women oppressing another group, because that would be really backward. But this choice should be an informed one, and not one bestowed upon women through societal indoctrination.

Secondly, and now we are hitting the core: Epidurals were invented by men to numb pains they did not and will not ever understand, for they can never experience anything than comes close to it (No, the australian guy having his abdominal muscles electrically stimulated does not count and does not come anywhere near the experience a women has in childbirth). Frankly, epidurals are just another way to have women take it lying down and shutting them up in the process.

Feminism should be all about embracing femininity. Reclaiming birth would be a huge step for feminism. Childbirth is probably the most prominent, important, empowering, life-altering, transcending aspect of femininity.

Why then would we have anything or anyone meddle with that experience. Why would we allow ourselves to be drugged and manhandled? Why would we be numb to the most amazing sensations of life? An informed women should not willingly have this taken away from her, and with it all the beauty and the love and the high of the hormones that come with it.

So my dear fellow feminist, instead of going for the oppressive illusion of painfree birth, inform and prepare yourself and shed the victorian / highly mediatised view of fear and pain and terror in childbirth. You and you alone are in control of your emotions at the time of birth, so let fear and pain not be part of them.

Not convinced, consider this:
Having sex can hurt a little, there can be some unwanted friction before the vulva is sufficiently lubrified. If one is fearfull, like for for instance when it is her first time, it can be even more uncomfortable. Would you therefor trade the pleasantness and the orgasm for a quick shot that would make it all pain- (and therefor also pleasure-)free? I think not.
Childbirth is quite similar, except all these feelings are magnified. There is a bit more pain, which I'd rather call discomfort, but there's also the burst of love and pleasure that's larger than life. Don't let anyone steal that away from you. Don't be tricked into believing it's in your own advantage.

No matter how you turn it, an epidural is - in most cases - an unnescessary medical intervention. And one leads to another...


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10 comments:

  1. Wow! What a fantastic post! As a woman who is expecting her third child in August, you've really opened my eyes to the issues surrounding epidurals. Thank you.

    I will definitely be thinking long and hard about my next steps going forward.

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  2. I love your take on epidurals from a feminist perspective. I definitely don't want anyone making me lie down and shut up! (Nor did I during my labor with Kieran)
    ~Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

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  3. Please don't forget or ignore the fact that there are valid reasons for getting an epidural. I was in labor so long that I was falling asleep between contractions, but unable to get any real rest because of the strength and intensity of those contractions. So my husband, midwife, doula and I discussed our situation and decided an epidural was the way to go. It allowed me to get some much needed rest. I was not scared of the pain, I labored well and long and was proud of myself, but at that point I needed the epidural. I realize it is an overused medical procedure, but there is a time and a place when it is needed.

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  4. Sassyshell, that's why I said 'in most cases' at the end of the post. I understand that there are situations where an epidural might be preferable, it is indeed not desired to have a mother passing out while giving birth. But in that case we are talking about an informed decision based on necessity, not a quick, 'oh I just want to get it over with without the pain and hassle'.
    I hope that clears the air

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  5. Why then would we have anything or anyone meddle with that experience. Why would we allow ourselves to be drugged and manhandled? Why would we be numb to the most amazing sensations of life? An informed women should not willingly have this taken away from her, and with it all the beauty and the love and the high of the hormones that come with it.

    I think I can safely say that your experience with childbirth and mine bear absolutely no resemblance.

    Regardless, I think this paragraph really gives lie to your argument about choice. It seems to frame epidurals as a choice but one that's so negative that it's only applicable in a handful of situations.

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  6. mamapoekie, would just like to say that this post is incredible and I LOVE it! You've articulated exactly how I feel about epidurals. :) Great job.

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  7. The idea of rejecting anesthetics during labour was also invented by men -- Bradley, Lamaze, Grantley Dick Read...Kind of invalidates your whole argument. Not to mention the fact that historically, most women didn't have a choice. But once they did, they advocated pretty strongly in favour of pain relief, including Queen Victoria and the ladies of the National Twilight Sleep Association. Someone is pretty ignorant of history, methinks...

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  8. Statement of something one observes is not quite what I would call an 'invention'
    and even with the coming of pain relief women had no choice as to take it.
    And one can all too well understand advocating for pain relief if you are made to birth in a supine position without the freedom to move... Now who would make women do this.?? Tataa!! Male doctors

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