I’ve so far experienced two total labors and deliveries. For both, I had a strong desire to go the all-natural route. For both, I knew I wanted to birth my babies in a hospital setting.
This admittedly opened me up to facing multiple pressures from doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff to do things their way. As opposed to a home birth with a midwife and doula or a “birth center” setting, birthing in a hospital means allowing birth to be medicalized to some degree.
Well I did my research, I stood my ground, and I, for the most part, anyway, felt like I had control of my own labor and birth and didn’t give in to anything just because someone else decided it was a good idea or would be best for me or – and this is a big one – it fit better with their schedule.
Nonetheless, the subtle bullying was a reality, to be sure.
Now I’m not advising that you approach labor as if you’re going into a fight – that would not be a good idea. But I am saying that I did end up needing to stand my ground – just as I read that I would in many books by natural childbirth experts.
To better prepare or to commiserate, here are 15 ways women were cruelly abused and forced into decisions during labor and delivery.
15 Spread ’Em
Here’s the thing. What good does a vaginal exam really do you when you’re actually in labor?
You know that you are having true contractions and therefore are in labor. If you can move and talk through them, you know you’ve probably still got a ways to go. If you can’t, you know the birth might be happening sooner rather than later.
Having a vaginal exam while in labor is no big deal – at some points – for some women. But the truth is, if a mama is laboring well, coping successfully with the pain of contractions, and things seem to be progressing quite normally, it can do more harm than good to have a nurse or doctor make her lie down so they can guestimate how many centimeters dilated she is.
First of all, she may be disappointed that she’s already been through so much pain and is not yet further along. And secondly, it might really interrupt her flow and distract from her positive vibes.
14 Progress By Any Means
So, the pace at which a labor progresses will differ from woman to woman and even of course from pregnancy to pregnancy. For a doctor or nurse to make the decision that things aren’t progressing “fast enough” can be pretty frustrating for some women, women who probably could have used other, more natural tactics to get their labors going again if they’ve slowed or stalled.
A nurse or doctor may be somewhat quick to strongly suggest administering Pitocin, the synthetic form of oxytocin, to try to get contractions to strengthen if they seem to have weakened or to start again if labor has stalled.
Once this drug is given, many women report contractions being more painful and difficult to cope through.
To avoid being bullied, experts suggest requesting 30 more minutes or so to see if things get started again on their own. Having some time alone, releasing emotion, changing position, and more may really help.
13 Pushing At Convenient Angles
This one happened to me, in a way. I’d read extensively to prepare for an all-natural childbirth. I knew that following my own instincts and trying positions because they felt right to me – not because someone else told me to get into them – would be extremely important for my success at achieving a drug-free labor sans medical intervention.
While I was indeed able to achieve this, I found it impossible not to submit to at least some of the very forceful demands of nurses once I was actually in the labor and delivery room.
And the main one that they were incredibly insistent on (and even rude about, to be truthful) was which position I could push in.
From my reading, I was somewhat prepared, but I still found this to be a very suggestible and vulnerable time for me during which I had to somewhat give in to what they said. I wanted to be on hands and knees.
But nurses and doctors of course favor you being in positions in which they have a clear view of progress and easy access to see and receive the baby.
12 Heading Straight To The Hospital
Especially if an all-natural birth (generally considered to be a birth free of pain-relieving and other medical interventions) is the goal, it’s often considered by childbirth experts to be a great idea to stay at home as long as is reasonably possible.
It’s common for first-time moms to head on in too soon, only to be told that they won’t be admitted because the cervix is not yet dilated enough to meet hospital protocol.
And on the other hand, a hospital or doctor’s office may advise you to go in at a very specific time based on the timing / interval of contractions or if your water has broken.
Women who experience the bag of waters rupturing without contractions starting often face intense pressure for labor to “get started” or else they’ll be induced within X number of hours.
I’ve even read of natural childbirth experts suggesting that you not exactly lie to avoid being bullied into induction, but that you maybe just don’t look at the clock and therefore avoid putting the pressure of time on yourself from the outset if your waters do break. That way, it’s harder for your healthcare team to bully you into something you don’t want to do.
11 A Stifling Setting
Looking at the big picture, many women may feel bullied in one way or another into actually giving birth in a hospital.
First of all, there’s the insurance company, which will most likely only cover part of the fees charged if those fees are billed by an in-network, conventional hospital. The financial pressure can be very real.
But then there’s also the reaction a gal may get when she brings up an interest in a less medical birth experience. Doctors may express concern about myriad what-ifs, such as health complications for the birthing mother, health problems for the baby, and the need for an emergency C-section.
To address the financial problem, some midwives will agree to work within a mother’s budget, so why not ask / look around?
And many mothers successfully birth at home or in birth centers without any dangerous complications arising – and if problems do come up, the professionals they’ve hired either handle them or transfer them to a nearby hospital.
10 Girl Interrupted
This happened to me at the tail-end of delivery, while still in the labor and delivery room, with just one (impatient) nurse remaining eager to get things cleaned up, wheel me out, and move onto the next one.
I was successfully breastfeeding my newborn baby right there in the delivery room. This doesn’t always happen! It can be tricky to get a just-born baby to latch on and feed successfully, and when it happens, it plays the incredibly important role of helping a mother’s milk to come in so that the baby will eat, regain lost weight in the early weeks, survive, and thrive.
I could not believe this nurse tried to bully me into pulling my newborn off of my breast so that I would stick more closely to her schedule.
She told me to take her off so we could go to the next step, the baby being examined again in the nursery. I told her I’d like to finish if it was okay, since she was eating so well.
The nurse looked flustered and made up a lie about how it didn’t even really matter that she was suckling right now or some B.S. and how the nurses in the nursery were waiting and it wasn’t up to her. I was ready to refuse, but her blabbering interrupted us and my baby came off anyway. Sigh.
9 It’s All Relative
Not all of the external pressure on expectant moms is coming from doctors and nurses. Many women know quite strongly that the pressure from family members to be included on the big day can be quite great.
Yep, the bullying, in this case, might come from your sister, mother, father-in-law, cousin, or you name it.
If someone has a preconceived notion of how your labor will go stuck in their head, it may be really hard for them to shake it – especially in certain family situations and for family members with certain personalities.
The truth is, it’s YOUR day, and it’s not really up to then, now, is it?
It can be hard when those close to you try to make you feel bad for making the choice that feels best for you. You know what you’ll be comfortable with better than anybody else, though. You do NOT want to end up with someone in the room who you don’t really want there, as has surely happened before.
8 Crowded House
Childbirth experts sometimes note that women in labor, especially during certain stages, can seem very susceptible to suggestion. This can go really, really well or, quite frankly, not so great for the laboring mama in question.
The goal, presumably, is for her to have a positive birth experience – to be able to look back on the day mostly with feelings of happiness, which tend to come, if you ask many a mom, from having a feeling of control.
Even if you set out with a strong opinion of who you want in the room with you and who you don’t during labor and delivery, if a nurse or doctor asks nonchalantly if a resident or additional nurse can come in like it’s no big deal, women might find it hard to stand up for themselves and say, “Nope. Get out.” It’s easy to feel like we should do what’s expected of us or what the doctor or nurse says to avoid being rude.
7 Fickle Freedom
Picture this. A mom really has her labor groove going. She’s found the rhythm, positioning, breathing, and help from her partner that allow her to get through the pain of contractions, maintain a positive enough attitude to persevere, and generally keep on keepin’ on.
She’s right in the middle of coping quite nicely, when a nurse comes in and tells her she needs to be hooked up to an external heart rate monitor or be subjected to some other exam or test that will confine her to a sedentary position on the hospital bed.
There goes her happy groove!
If a nurse comes in and tells you to do something, it can be almost impossible to say no. That’s why childbirth experts sometimes recommend saying no in so many words, such as, “We’d like to wait a while to do that.” You might also question if there’s some alternative, such as a cordless monitor that will allow you to stay mobile.
6 Urgent My Arse
You know it’s the real deal. You’ve waiting through the early contractions, and now they’ve been quite intense for quite some time. Your instincts tell you that if you want to have your baby in a hospital, it’s time to head in.
There’s nervousness, excitement, and intense coping on your way there. It’s really happening.
You rush in, hurry to the labor and delivery floor… and then you wait.
Women are often taken to a triage room where a nurse asks them many tedious questions (which they already provided the answers to when they preregistered…) and treats them like what’s happening is no big deal.
A nurse may think she’s seen it all and that if a woman isn’t struggling immensely or howling at the moon, there’s no real urgency to get her admitted.
More than once, such a nurse has casually left the room to go do something else only to be called back in by a woman or her doula just in time to catch a baby.
5 Wardrobe Woes
What you’re wearing might not sound like that big of a deal, and some women don’t even have time to consider it when the big day arrives and labor begins, but let’s consider here for a minute how much our clothing can dictate our mood, our attitude, and how others perceive us and treat us.
Once you arrive and are admitted, a nurse will probably tell you to go in the bathroom and put on a hospital gown like she’s the teacher and you’re the grade school student.
Here’s one problem with that. If you’re laboring well and coping well, it can really interrupt you to try to support yourself in a tiny bathroom, undress on your own, and figure out how to get into a hospital gown.
The shift to wearing a gown can also make women feel more like a sick patient and less like their confident and comfortable selves.
4 Take The Pain Away
Sometimes – a lot of the time, perhaps – bullying can be something quite subtle. It’s just the right words said to someone who’s in just a vulnerable enough state that she’ll take them as gospel.
This is why when a doctor or nurse brings up the idea of a laboring woman getting an epidural, whether to cope more easily with the process or to get some rest during a long labor, it can feel to the mom-to-be like she’s being totally pressured into receiving one. It’s like, if the professionals think I need one, then I guess I do!
That’s why if women really want an all-natural birth, many experts recommend that they are very, very intentional about it.
3 Preventing Plops
Nurses tend to be really, really against letting women labor on the toilet, especially if they are in or near to the pushing stage.
You may find the toilet quite convenient, what with all the, um, voiding you are doing during labor (possibly including some diarrhea at the onset and at other times). You may enjoy that you can pee whenever you please, knowing that having an empty bladder can make for a nicely progressing labor. You also may enjoy the way your body is trained to sort of open up and relax the muscles down there when you’re seated on a porcelain throne.
If a nurse tries to bully you into moving elsewhere, you don’t budge, and she threatens, “You don’t want your baby to be born into the toilet do you??” some experts recommend calmly answering (or better yet, having your partner answer for you), “No, I just want to push here for a while.”
2 Putting Monitoring Over Mom
We covered earlier the absolute awfulness of being bullied into remaining stationary for some exam or monitoring when you were up until that point laboring quite well. Well sometimes it’s not even about having to stay still all of the sudden or not – it’s about the monitoring or examining or testing that they claim they must urgently do just totally interrupting your flow.
Often a nurse popping into the room to “check” on a laboring woman can really mess with a gal’s labor vibe. And why is that such a big deal?
Well many experts will tell you that when a laboring female feels safe and comfortable, her labor may tend to progress well and she’ll have greater success coping and getting through it. Feeling like a watched pot, on the other hand, can slow or even stall progress.
1 The Time Is Now
Some women are in fact strongly urged to make a decision that they really don’t want to make right at the end of their pregnancies. And it’s not usually presented as a decision, necessarily.
It’s more like, “If you reach week X and you haven’t gone into labor, I’m going to induce you.”
A membrane sweep may be performed to see if that kick-starts the process. Induction through the use of Pitocin, the synthetic form of oxytocin, may be ordered by the obstetrician.
A doctor has very real concerns about a woman going too far past her due date without the baby being born. The placenta can begin to degrade, meaning possible dangers to the unborn baby. Plus, the baby can become very large, making a vaginal birth impossible.
But a gal might have her own concerns, such as that due dates aren’t always the most accurate things – just guesses of about when the pregnancy will have reached full term.
Pitocin may make contractions more painful than natural ones would be, and one medical intervention can sometimes have a way of leading to more.
Sources: Natural Hospital Birth (Cynthia Gabriel, 2011)
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