Myth: Drugs Used in Birthing Are Harmless to Mother and Infant
Fact: Whether given in pregnancy or birth, whatever drug is given the mother is also given the baby via the placenta that binds them together. A baby's system is not mature enough to metabolize drugs as an adult body can. Drugs reach the baby in higher dosages and settle in the liver and brain. It is often weeks or months before all traces of a drug passes out of a baby's system. Long-term studies show the dramatic increase in all kinds of learning disabilities associated with both complicated delivery and the use of drugs in pregnancy and birth. Yet drugs are routinely used to reduce pain, to start labor, to stop it, or speed it up as well as stop excessive bleeding.
Artificially dulling the sensations of labor alters the mother and baby physiologically, alters the way they relate to each other, and alters the way in which the baby perceives its new world. For example, the baby has an active part to play in its journey down the birth canal, and in positioning itself to be born. The baby's whole body is massaged in this process and its entire nervous system stimulated in preparation for breathing and taking in the sensory information it will encounter on emerging into the world. For the mother, the physical sensations of labor create a shift of consciousness, and hormones flood the body softening the labor pains. Labor creates a set of hormones in both mother and baby preparing them to "fall in love" - to bond with each other. Thus the body's own natural hormonal orchestration works to support mother and baby through their birth and bonding processes. Drugs interfere with, or destroy, nature's exquisitely composed symphony. The issue is not whether or not we should stop all drugs, but that we need to be extremely cautious in their use, using them only when all other alternatives have been exhausted. No drug given to a woman carrying a baby inside her can be considered safe for her baby, no matter what the reason for its use. After birth, the same principle should follow for women who breastfeed.
While in some cases small amounts of a drug can be worth the risk, the most effective and safest support for a birthing woman is the continuous presence and reassurance of another person. For the most part, drugs are simply used to replace human caring and support. They make it possible for administrators to staff maternity units so that nurses can care for several patients at a time, and for physicians to continue with their office hours or nighttime sleep while their patients labor elsewhere. The rate of drug-induced labors increases dramatically on Fridays.
Suzanne Arms, Immaculate Deception II
Diana Korte & Roberta Scaer, A Good Birth, A Safe Birth*