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Drugs During Labor and Birth


Epidural Epidemic - Drugs in Labor: Are They Really Necessary. . . or Even Safe?
By Joanne Dozer and Shannon Baruth
Issue 95, July/August 1999

The use of epidurals is so common today that many perinatal professionals are calling the 1990s the age of the epidural epidemic. Believed by many in the medical profession to be safe and effective, the epidural seems now to be regarded as a veritable panacea for dealing with the pain of childbirth.

It is true that most women experience pain during the course of labor. This pain can be intense and very real, even for those who have prepared for it. But pain is only one of many possible sensations and experiences that characterize the experience of giving birth. Barbara Katz Rothman, a sociologist who studies birth in America, writes that in the medical management of childbirth, the experience of the mother is viewed by physicians as pain: pain experienced and pain to be avoided.1 Having experienced childbirth ourselves, we have great compassion for women in painful labors. However, we also feel a responsibility to mothers and their babies to explore issues concerning the use of epidural anesthesia in labor issues that are seldom discussed prenatally.  For the full article...

Induced and Seduced: The Dangers of Cytotec
By Ina May Gaskin
Issue 107, July/August 2001

Early in her second pregnancy, Gretchen Brown (a pseudonym) decided to get care from an obstetrician. After all, she was 35, it had been 16 years since her last child was born, and an obstetrician seemed like the safest possible choice. The one she chose worked with nurse- midwives, but it was he who saw her at each of her prenatal visits. Still, Gretchen was taken aback by the way he reintroduced himself at every visit, a clear sign that he didn't remember her from one time to the next. "I felt like one of the cattle being herded in and out," she later told her sister. Despite these misgivings, Gretchen fully expected that her obstetrician would be present for the birth of her baby and never considered looking for a different doctor or going to a midwife. She felt healthy during her pregnancy; any complaints she had seemed relatively minor.

Gretchen's water bag broke at midnight on February 27, 2000, two days before her due date, and a mixture of amniotic fluid and blood gushed out. Although not in labor, she packed her bag, and her husband, Gary, drove her to the hospital. The maternity nurse who examined her did not seem concerned about the bleeding; she gave Gretchen a sleeping pill and kept her supplied with pads to soak up the blood that was still flowing during the night.

The next morning, with Gretchen still not in labor, the nurse-midwife on duty suggested that labor should be stimulated with a drug called Cytotec. Unaware that Cytotec is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for labor induction, Gretchen agreed to the plan.  For the full article...


Let the Baby Decide: The Case against Inducing Labor
By Nancy Griffin
Issue 105, March/April 2001

It was a sunny Friday afternoon, and Tracy was three days past the due date for her first baby. After finishing up the tenth call of the day from well-meaning but anxious friends and relatives, she headed out the door for her weekly checkup with her obstetrician. "If you don't go into labor by your next appointment, we may have to induce you," her doctor had advised. Tracy wondered if the slight menstrual-like cramps she'd had the past few days meant that something was happening at last.

At the doctor's office, a vaginal examination revealed that Tracy was 2 centimeters dilated, her cervix 80 percent effaced, with the baby at minus one station. According to an ultrasound scan, her amniotic fluid levels seemed borderline low, and because she was having mild contractions, the doctor suggested that she "go on over to the hospital and have a baby today!"

Excited, Tracy called her husband at work. He rushed to meet her at the hospital, where she was admitted and hooked up to an IV. Eight hours later, with no further progress, Tracy received an epidural, and labor was induced by the intravenous administration of the commonly used drug Pitocin. A few hours later, her bag of waters was broken artificially; 36 hours later, Tracy was recovering from a C-section after delivering a healthy, 7-pound baby girl. Why did Tracy have to undergo a C-section? What, if anything, had gone wrong?

For full article...

Pitocin FAQ: Purpose, Problems, Alternatives, Contraindications, Pain, When it Helps, Active Management of Labor, After Birth, Resources

Fruit of the Womb
Michelle Pier
P.O. Box 2844 Hagatna, GU 96932
(671) 472-1284