No Thanks Dr Lisa- I Like Old Fashioned Vaginal Birth

It was brought to my attention that there was spot on the show "The Doctors" recently concerning the two modes of delivery.  It was hosted by Jillian Michael's and "Dr" Lisa Masterson. 

The segment is actually titled "Which is worse, C-section or Vaginal birth?"  And you can watch it by clicking here.
First-  I will ignore the fact that the segment is a discussion between Jillian (yes I wish I had her body) and an OB who publicly has mocked women who birth naturally.

Then, let's ignore the fact that the segment is titled "which is worse" as though childbirth must either be horrid or...well, horrid.  Either way you will have lots of chopping on your abdomen or lots of tearing in your nether regions.   And as Lisa points out, you have to "poop" down there. (Poop, yuck!  Bodily functions are so disgusting!)

Also, we should ignore the cringing women in the audience as Lisa rips a foot long piece of fabric to demonstrate what happens when that baby who "has to come out someway" claws its way out of your vagina.  The description of a full fourth degree tear, from the vagina all the way through the rectum is enough to convince Jillian that her decision to never bear children was a wise one indeed.  Sheesh, I already have children and it scared me.

We might as well also ignore the fact that a fourth degree tear (from vagina through the rectum) is pretty rare.  And lets not talk about the fact that frequent obstetric practices like supine delivery, forceps and vacuum extraction, purple pushing, episiotomy and a numb mother most likely contribute to the likelihood of such a terrible tear.  Actually, I have talked to home birth midwives who have caught a thousand babies or more and have NEVER seen a fourth degree tear.  Makes you wonder why they happen so much in hospitals, doesn't it?  But even there, the chance of a third or fourth degree tear is very low, probably about 4%. 

While we are at it we might as well ignore the props given to the epidural, which as Lisa points out, even if you manage to get through labor without, you will sure wish you had it for when they stitch up the gigantic anal fissure.  She shows a nice syringe full of Lidocane, but points out how horrifying it would be to have that needle injected into your bum.  Of course a much larger needle pumping medication into your dura would be FAR more pleasant. 

Yes, I could talk about all those things, but what I really want to focus on is how Dr Lisa refers to vaginal birth through the entire segment as the "old fashioned way."  I got the distinct impression that Lisa was saying "old fashioned" but what she meant was backwards, stupid, silly, and how animals do it.  Surely "modern" women and modern technology have found a better way than the old fashioned vaginal birth.  TV is better than radio, cars are better than bikes, antibiotics are better than death and the c-section is better than vaginal birth!  

She is right about one thing- vaginal birth is old fashioned.  It is how women have birthed babies for centuries.  It is how I birthed my babies and if nature, natural selection, or God are any indication, it is how women SHOULD birth their babies.

I am not trying to be offensive.  Are c-sections sometimes necessary?  Of course they are.  And when necessary they are miracle of modern medicine for the mother and baby that needed them.  Have they improved in safety and comfort in the last twenty years?  For sure, and thank goodness.  Can you have a positive c-section with a quick recovery?  Most definitely.

But the fact that something "new" exists does not mean it is better than the old fashioned way of doing things.  Yes, vaginal birth must sometimes need be replaced with the c-section, but only when there is a NEED.

Is there recovery involved in a vaginal birth?  Well, of course there is.  I have had four children.  Does it slow me down for a few weeks?  It does, and I believe that is for a reason.  The newborn baby needs constant care, love, attention, and food.  I could numb myself with medication post partum or get up and start back to normal life to prove something to the world, but nature seems to be sending a strong message to new mothers.  That message is this:
"Take some time to take care of yourself and your very dependent child.  Rest.  Eat.  Relax." 
When we talk about birth we are not talking about an infection in your leg.  A few hundred years ago a bad infection in an extremity would have to be amputated to prevent death.  (The old fashioned way: some whisky and a rusty saw.)  Now medications and sanitation can often ensure the healing of that infection.  (The newfangled technology/science way.)  This same logic does not apply to birth.  C-section (newer) does not automatically trump vagina (old fashioned) just because it is new.

The cesarean is a wonderful invention with a lifesaving purpose.  It is not however an improvement on the female body.  It is not better than the vagina.  It is correlated with more maternal deaths.  It is correlated with more infant deaths.  It requires a very invasive procedure.  It often requires longer recovery and sometimes resultant complications.  (Just an aside- if your doctor has so much distaste for the female body that s/he jokes about surgery being better, you may want to run like hell.  Same goes for a doctor who has only seen incredibly traumatic vaginal birth- he might have something to do with his track record.)

Women of the world-  you have more than two choices when it comes to childbirth.  Dr Lisa would have you believe that your options are these:

1) The modern and relatively safe cesarean section.
2) The old fashioned, private ripping, vaginal birth. 

But there is another way.

3)  Really old fashioned, drug free, triumphant, natural birth.  Pushing when you feel your bodies need to push.  Positioning yourself and your baby as your body moves you.  Feeling that ring of fire so that you back off at the end.  Receiving that cocktail of amazing birthing hormones at the birth of your baby.  Joy at the work you have done when it is over. 

Add in the modern advances that are awesome: sanitation, anti hemorrhage drugs, and skilled help when you need it and you have got a winning combination. 

Ladies- I know what I would choose, your choice is up to you.  I also choose a long time ago that for public safety and my own heart I would no longer watch episodes of "The Doctors."  This started when I saw their horrid presentation on vaccines, but I digress.

I am not ashamed to admit that I like my old fashioned vaginal births very much.  Thanks anyway.

(Yes I realize that there is a fourth option, the joyous epidural.  Please don't send me hate mail.  I am into natural birth.)


Ilise Newman said…
I agree with almost everything you said!

I think the one divide still comes in here:

C-sections, while over-done, can be good for more than just 'need'. For some women, c-sections might be a better option than a vaginal birth, but it still might not be a technical 'need'. (Unless you were more flexible with that word than I thought.)
roadrunner201 said…
Well, I definitely think Dr. Lisa is an idiot. Most things she says just disgust me. BUT, I thought I read an interview with Jillian Michaels where she talked about suffering from infertility?
Sabine Lavine said…
You had me right up to the very end. I agree that it's wrong to make it sound like all c-sections are great, and all vaginal births are bad, but it's also wrong to make it sound like all natural birth is wonderous and amazing, while tacking on the epidural option parenthetically and sarcastically at the end.

Seems to me a true educator would present all of the options as factually as possible. Obviously, anyone who follows your blog knows you advocate for natural birth, but surely you understand how vital it is for women to get a well-rounded picture of ALL options.

As for your comments about The Doctors, I couldn't agree more and I'd love to see you send a letter to the producers saying what you said here. It can't hurt, and you never know, if enough of us send them mail expressing how unhappy we are with their presentation, it could be the impetus for change. Hey, it could happen! ;-)
Christine said…
She was very successful in horrifying every woman in that audience. She presented the worse case scenario with NO numbers for a vaginal birth and clearly discredited the HUGE section rate in this country. SO since both options look like crap in the way she presented it I am going to choose fictional option #3, the stork. She really should have mentioned that during this segment because it would have fit right in and I think people would have taken her serious. The only thing she did right was talk about a 40 week pregnant woman and not like a 37 week pregnant woman.
Anonymous said…
I was one of the 4% who ended up with a 4th degree tear. Why?

1. Told by family members I'd never be able to handle the pain of childbirth, that "They'd have to knock me out." Which, I believed.

2. Told by my own family physician as a teenager that my pelvis was too small to birth vaginally.

3. Got the epidural because, well, "they" said I wouldn't be able to handle the pain.

4. Pushed for 4 hours with an occiput posterior baby that no one knew was OP because I couldn't tell them what I was feeling (i.e. tell-tale back labour) because I had an epidural.

5. Baby was "stuck" so OB came in with vacuum.

6. Vacuum didn't work so out came the forceps.

7. Forceps required an episiotomy.

8. Episiotomy extended into 4th degree tear.

My baby had a birth injury. I was in terrible pain. My baby never nursed because of the pain she was in and our challenges with her birth. Bonding was difficult and I ended up with significant postpartum depression.

Know what my answer was to all of this when I became pregnant with my second child?

A natural vaginal birth with an awesome doula! Yeah, put up roadblocks and I'll knock them down. Give me my OLD FASHIONED NATURAL BIRTH!! I loved feeling every sensation!
Anonymous said…
My birth stories are here if you would like to read them. <3
Unknown said…
What I am really irritated with is that no one is thinking about the neurological and developmental implications of C-sectioned babies. It is one thing to have a C-section if it is for an emergency, but the truth is, when a baby gets to squeeze itself down the vaginal canal, it gets its first strong imprinting into its sensory nervous system, as well as all the good 'mama germs' that sets up the foundation for a strong immune system. This does not happen to the extent it needs to from a biological/innately programmed perspective. There should NEVER be a choice to have an elective C-section. I think it is morally and ethically wrong. Save them for emergencies.
Sarah O. said…
I would love to send Dr. Lisa a message and give her a piece of my mind! She's a disgrace! The only thing she accomplished with her fear tactics was to take the power away from women and make them feel as if their bodies are not adequate to handle something so beneath them as natural birth. She gives "too posh to push" a whole new meaning! Ugh! I'm about to push out my 4th natural baby in a few weeks. What does she have to say about that?!?
Anonymous said…
I won't go watch at the link.It'll just make me angry.

I've had a c-section. I've had an epidural once. I've had natural,vaginal births (VBACs,thankyou). By far, my best births were the Good Ol' Fashioned Vaginal with absolutely no drugs. I'm a very small individual and thankfully, birthed large babies without tearing at all.No vagina ripping here! However, my c-section scar is a hideous reminder (belly button down to pelvic bone) of a very bad,bad birthing experience.
Mama Birth said…
Thanks for the comments ladies-

I don't think I ever said that all c-sections are bad or all vaginal births are awesome. But I don't think I need to present a well rounded picture. The supportive stuff out there in favor of medicated birth is enormous. I won't support that.

And I added it on at the end half as a joke- because every time I say something, somebody gets offended. Yes- some people have good epidurals. But when I talk to women, many many medicated mothers have either A) a bad experience or B) a kind of "meh" experience. It wasn't bad- but it wasn't what it could have been.

I want people to know what birth can be- it can be incredible, and the women of the world deserve to know it.
Aerin-sol said…
I have never understood why it has to be a battle royale between the old and the new. There are benefits brought to the birth room by modern medicine, and there are benefits inherent in our birth physiology that are still relevant.

Individualized care means offering options. It means using the right tools at the right time. Dr. Lisa's scare tactics push people away from their options by giving them the impression that birth is fraught with danger in all cases - and homogenizing everyone's birth experiences removes the option of individualized care.
nikalee said…
I've "liked" alot of your posts, but with most there is a disclaimer in my mind, "I agree with all of it, except for..."

You've written a few that I thought were almost purely opinion, leaving significant, and in some cases what I perceive to be irresponsible, gaps. (I generally don't leave comments on those, because, you know, if you don't have something nice to say...)

This is the first time I can remember where I can say, "yes! 100%. That sums up my feelings on it as well as I ever could have." For once I'm not the one with the "except for." I totally get your parenthesized epidural comment.

Thanks and well done.
Megan said…
I have had a vaginal delivery (with the 4th degree tear) and a c-section. Hands down the c-section was amazing!
My sons shoulders got stuck. Than I was of the 1% that didn't heal and had to get re-sewn up at 2 months. So..when it came to having my baby girl long before she was due my doctor and I decided on a c-section(she ended up being breech anyway). Mind you when I delivered my son my doctor was out of town and I got the stand in...pretty sure she didn't sew me up right. Anyway had my c-section, 2 months ago and it was the best thing ever! Breastfeeding is going great.
After my 1st experience you could not pay me to have a vaginal birth! You just can't judge people until you are in their shoes and you have given birth.
I guess the bottom line is this: no natural birth (if people even know what natural birth even is anymore, and sometimes the lines are blurred) is ALWAYS amazing. No cesarean is ALWAYS tough. But when people stop saying, "You don't get a medal for giving birth without pain medication!" I'll stop second-guessing their nonchalance over surgical birth.

C-sections are a big deal, and I can't stand how people don't seem to get that. Neither can we make a blanket statement that epidurals are always great - it seems like the voices of those saying, "My epidural was fantastic and I wouldn't do childbirth without it!" are drowning out the "My epidural totally sucked and made me feel miserable" group. It seems like those who want everyone to think they're so fantastic and wonderful and always necessary want to tell everyone to just ignore that small minority of people over there who had very bad experiences. And I wonder, really, if we'll ever know how many women died in childbirth from complications of an epidural? Rare, yes, but not impossible. Just a thought.

The way they're handed out like candy these days makes me gag. But you shouldn't be denied one if you want one. The way people act like they carry no risk whatsoever makes me want to gag as well, because I truly think more women would be able to cope with the pain if only they were allowed to and knew how, instead of being told to lie down and be strapped to the bed for the duration. Dr. Lisa's rant (which I can only imagine, having seen her crap on TV before) sounds like an Ad Council poster for promoting cesareans. She probably has no idea what normal childbirth is like because she has probably never seen one.
Mama Birth said…
You know- you may find this hard to believe, but I know several women, some very good friends, who have either had a c-section and then a natural birth with third or fourth degree tearing or had a fourth degree tear and then considered a scheduled c-section.

I have talked to women who have had pain "down there" for months on end. Women who have not been able to control their bowels for months. Holy cow- never would I blame a woman who had to go through that for scheduling her next c-section.

For real, real life- no judging here. It makes me sad- but I can 100% see how that (healing from a really bad tear) could be as bad or maybe even worse of a recovery than a c-section.

I totally get that a vaginal birth can be incredibly traumatic to heal from physically.

On a case by case basis I GET IT-

But when it comes to obstetrics at LARGE- I would like to see more support of NORMAL NATURAL BIRTH rather than more access to the c-section.

Women should be allowed and supported to birth in a way that helps prevent those kind of birth injuries.
Audriel said…
I agree that it is wrong to shepard uneducated women towards the idea that surgery is the best way to extricate a child form your body.

I would like to say that Ms Michaels has been misquoted about her 'want' to not have a natural birth. In a subsequent interview to clarify the erroneous quote, she mentions previous history with PCOS and that her plans to adopt are to ensure she doesn't harm herself or bring a child into the world to die from complications [etc].
I'm not saying she was right to be on the episode which ultimately painted a one-sided horror-show view. I like the show in general but I don't make it my life's guide. I hope any woman who was terrified by the information was sensible enough to turn to a search engine which would yield arguments supporting and discrediting what she had seen.
Unknown said…
Shes an effing idiot. That's about all I have to say about her. Sorry.
mandyface said…
Very interesting post, I am definitely in need of information like this as I plane to start having kids in a year or two. Birthing scares me a bit but I want to replace that fear with knowledge. I was a csection baby bc my cord was strangling me and I turned out pretty tops I think ;) as did my mom, but the more I hear about natural childbirth from moms who have done it, the more I feel like it's the right choice, if you can. Thanks again for the thoughtful post!
Sharyn said…
I've only seen a couple episodes of The Drs, and every time she claims to be "on the liberal side" of obstetrics I become very uneasy about obstetrics at large. I know they have a medical consulting team on the show, not to mention a legal team -- and all of them seem to think her comments are completely medically accurate and don't mislead women.

We should be very, very cautious.
tiedyewitch said…
My father is a urologist, a surgeon, and he told me that OBGYN was his least favorite rotation during his medical training. He HATED being there, as did many doctors. The reason is: birth is really the only procedure that happens in a hospital that is not necessarily controlled by doctors. Ideally, it happens on its own, following a complicated dance between the baby and the mother, involving lots of unseen, unchartable nuances. They don't like that in the medical world. AT ALL. They want to be in control, they want to know that things will happen in a neat, predictable procession. But reality is different. Real, unmedicated, natural birth is not something that fits into the medical model. Hence the complications. They start messing with women as soon as they come in, by hooking them up to fetal monitors, limiting their movement and computerizing their contractions. They may rupture the waters to help stimulate labor. If the woman doesn't progress fast enough after that, here comes the pitocin, which completely takes over and is hard to get on top of. And so on, a seemingly endless parade of more and more invasive procedures that end in a ripped episiotomy instead of a gently stretched, well oiled perineum, or worse: a C- section.
I don't blame the doctors as much as I blame the whole medical system that medicalizes childbirth in the first place. The Doctors are just doing what they are trained to do. But, to quote my midwife, Birth is not an emergency, it's an emergence, see? She also said that the baby wasn't conceived in a bright, noisy, sterile environment full of strangers, why would I want it to be born in one?
One last thought: We all, ALL of us living on this planet, come from a long, long, long line of successful vaginal birthers. Indeed, at this particular time in space, there are no better women poised for excellent natural childbirth than we. Blessed Be!
Claire said…
I really really love the way she keeps saying "little" incision. No big deal, it's just across the width of your belly.

Carry on.


Thank you for this!
blah blog said…
Baby #1 - new modern birth complete with all the bells and whistles ending in c-section. Result, massive infection, fatty skin flap, long time healing, inability to bond with my son for MONTHS, hard time nursing....

Baby #2 - VBAC in hospital au natural but on my back and controlled and dose of pitocin to get placenta out and stitches, arms all up in there to check no placenta left behind. Result less time healing, easier bond, emotional trauma.
Baby #3- HBAC with a supportive loving HANDS OFF midwife. Pure perfection. Went by my body, pushed leaning into my husband, felt everything and felt amazing after the birth. Short healing period, minimal tear, no stitches and lots of hugs. Yeah I'll stick with old fashioned.
CQ said…
I saw the episode about waterbirth recently - finally but the bullet and suffered through it because I wanted to hear what Barbara Harper had to say - and it's a bit ridiculous, the lengths that Dr. Lisa will go to in order to tear down her "opponent" (and that's exactly how she treated Barbara, which us so rude and inappropriate). In the c-section episode, the prop was ripping fabric - in the waterbirth episode, it was a fish tank full of rust-colored water and a ln infant doll sunk to the bottom.

I get that visual aids can be helpful when educating. But really, when your message is so skewed it's no longer true education, but rather, support for your non-evidence-based opinion - that's manipulation of the low-down, dirty tricks and deceit variety.
Maria said…
I saw the promo for this episode and when they asked the question, "Which was worse?" if was quickly followed with, "The answer may surprise you!" I knew it was going nowhere fast! My OB was trying to push a c/s on me and when I adamantly told her that I wouldn't need one (mostly just wishful and positive thinking), her response was, "There is a reason that half of babies are born by c-section these days." I wish I had the nerve to tell her that it was because of doctors like her that wanted babies born on Tuesday or Thursdays between the hours of 5pm and 10 pm that there were so many c/s. A natural and/or vaginal birth is all about patience and letting the baby decide what time they should be born. Doctors can be a little too much on the control freak end. Not all doctors, mind you! Just some! Great post!
Sara said…
I'm impressed that you made it through the whole episode! No way I could do that; I can't even make it through "I Didn't know I was pregnant" without yelling at the TV, then changing the channel...

C-sections do save lives. But, it doesn't change the fact that it is more dangerous for mom and baby, and is not the way the birth process is designed. I'm going to say this because I think you'll understand- I think that the rising c-section rate is absolutely Satanic in nature. As his influence becomes stronger, the rate will continue to rise because he wants mothers and babies to suffer. C-sections are only necessary because our bodies are imperfect. They will not be necessary after Satan's influence is removed, and humans are brought back to perfection as the Creator originally designed.
Unfortunately, I think that the c-section rate and disregard for women's bodies will only rise until that time.
joella said…
I watched the episode about home birth and was pissed and I have stopped watching also. I have had four children at home with midwives and I am disgusted about this. BUT we all know that medical doctors are medical doctors they have been trained to medicate, and do what will keep them from getting sued, and what is easiest for them. Natural childbirth isn't easier for them, they can cut a baby out in 5 minutes if needed..