So this is my rant of the week. Apparently Miranda Kerr stated she was proud to have had a drug-free birth to give her baby the best possible start in life.

How. Dare. She. Can you believe her audacity?

Or at least, some mothers seem to think it’s totally outrageous and unbelievable for her to make such a statement about her labour. Some mothers think she is criticising mothers who didn’t have drug free births. Some mothers apparently think it’s OK to choose drugs, but not to notchoose drugs. 

The most appalling comment I saw was from an Australian mother on an online forum, who stated ‘Perhaps Miranda Kerr should stick to what she knows, and limit her opinions to modelling’. 

Uh… excuse me?

So, being a model qualifies her to have an opinion on modelling… but being a mother doesn’t qualify her to have an opinion on mothering?

I don’t know if this was the result of ‘tall-poppy syndrome’, stupidity (OK, my favourite explanation for just about anything), or just insecurity. 

I support a mother’s right to choose her birth, and all too often in Western countries in particular, mothers are not sufficiently informed or involved in their own labour to exercise real choice. Often what is needed most is empowerment, and this kind of reaction from women is undermining our own efforts to empower our births. 

I wanted a drug-free birth. I didn’t get it, due to factors outside my control. I was induced (also not my choice) and my labour assessed as three times worse than the usual labour. I had overlapping contractions – that means no break between contractions, and I wasn’t even in what the medical profession considers ‘established labour’.  9 hours of incredible effort and unrelenting pain achieved pretty much nothing. 

I asked for pethidine (a mistake on my part, but by that point I wasn’t thinking clearly), fell asleep, and while I was asleep, they cranked the drip inducing my labour, which meant I pretty much woke screaming. I then asked for an epidural – which I didn’t get, because no anaesthetist was available. In the end, I had an emergency c-section with spinal block. I was so exhausted and drugged up when my baby was born I barely even noticed when my husband left to have her weighed. 

Is that the birthing experience I wanted? No. Was it the start in life I wanted for my baby? No. Is there any shame for me in it? No – because I knew what I wanted, what was best for all involved, and I tried. The things that happened were simply the natural result of the way my labour progressed. 

Miranda Kerr chose a drug-free birth for the same reasons I wanted one – she was just lucky enough to get it. I don’t think there is any criticism of women who don’t have drug-free births in stating the reasons you chose to have a drug-free birth. The point is choice. Women need to be empowered to make informed choices, as far as their labour permits (emergencies, of course, deprive us all of choices). 

And to make a choice, one needs to be informed

So to all the women vigorously defending their right to have births with drugs – yes, you have that right, but there is some information you should know when you make that choice. This is not to say drugs may not be an appropriate choice for you (as they unfortunately ended up being for me) but the choice needs to be made in the context of all the relevant information. 

So here are the valid reasons Miranda Kerr chose to have a drug-free birth:
  • Breast-feeding may be affected by the use of drugs during labour – here is an article that talks about the limited studies available in this area, and the difficulties in interpreting data. More research is needed.
  • The use of drugs during labour can prolong the labour and have other adverse effects on the mother – this article lists them, and it’s a significantly long list 
  • There are no long-term studies into the effects of drugs on babies, but animal studies don’t show promising results. I always find it astounding that we use drugs when we don’t know what they do to us or our children! Even recent studies on the effects of newborns are unreliable because they compare epidural babies with opiate babies. Uh, hello, shouldn’t we be comparing babies from drug labours with babies from non-drug labours, not two different kinds of drugs? You can read more here 
  • The fact is there is no maternally administered drug that has been proven safe for the foetus. WTH?? Read more here
  • The cascade of intervention – the more interventions you have, the more likely you are to need more. So having an epidural increase the risk of a forceps or vacuum delivery (greater risk for the baby), episiotomy (long-term bladder control problems for mother) and c-section (greater risk for mother and baby). More information here.
diagramI had ALL seven of the outcomes listed on the first three levels as resulting from induction.
So, I’ve used drugs. I didn’t want to, but it was just the way my labour went, and I used them knowing the above because I felt I had little other choice. An induction is, itself, an intervention which starts the cascade of intervention, and mine cascaded badly. I knew that, but I didn’t choose the induction. It was the reason I didn’t want an induction. But that choice was taken from me. 

But I support women who want drug-free births, because they have good reason to want them. And to women who want to shout them down, belittle them, and grind them under the heel of their collective boot – I say, do your research. Find out why they want drug-free births. Then think about if maybe you do, too.