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Celebrity birth plans and being mom enough for a “natural” delivery

Reports that Mila Kunis, the actress, plans on a “natural” delivery are all over the Internet. As a celebrity  she is clearly a medical expert and somehow it is relevant to hear how an actress with no financial concerns, doesn’t need to work on her feet until she goes into labor, has a BMI of 19 (ok that’s a guess), and who has never delivered before is planning to have her baby. Mila Kunis obviously represents the average American woman’s pregnancy experience.

But the distaste of asking celebrities their medical opinions and prying into intimate details of their personal lives aside, this is an opportunity to discuss the implications of what Ms. Kunis said.

For starters, the term “natural” as it applies to delivering a baby would be unassisted by anyone with any training, without electricity, and without medications to stem hemorrhage or treat infection from obstructed labor. In Africa, where most women have “natural” deliveries there is a 1 in 40 chance of dying during pregnancy and childbirth.

But it wasn’t this misuse of “natural” that got me peeved, it was this specific comment about not planning on an epidural…

I’m crazy. I mean, I did this to myself—I might as well do it right

Having an epidural or needing pain medications isn’t doing it wrong. Asking for all the help that modern medicine has to offer isn’t wrong, it’s a choice. There is no prize for pain and it certainly doesn’t make you a better person if you sweat it out for 24 hours or more without help from pharmaceuticals. I despise the idea that if you need, or God forbid desire, analgesia during your labor and delivery that somehow you just aren’t mom enough.

I don’t think Ms. Kunis meant to be judgmental and she was asked this information she didn’t volunteer it or send out press releases. However, I think it is a great example of a cultural bias that the only good delivery is unmedicated. I specifically blame the press because they ask about it, report it, and perpetuate it. Making women feel bad about their choices is a time-honored way to sell copy. If it were not no magazine cover would ever be photoshopped and Cosmo would have been out of business years ago.

Epidurals are not a great evil that looms over innocent mothers-to-be waiting to drag them down a path of certain destruction. An epidural is a safe, effective way for a woman to have pain relief during her pregnancy and delivery should she choose that option.

If you want an unmedicated delivery, have one. If you want an epidural, have one. Neither can be right because neither is wrong.

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Discussion

9 thoughts on “Celebrity birth plans and being mom enough for a “natural” delivery

  1. I know, I rolled my eyes at her comments too (which I thought were especially infuriating coming from someone who hasn’t experienced childbirth previously). Thanks for articulating my frustration!

    Posted by erocha1150 | May 12, 2014, 10:21 am
  2. I can’t wait till she starts telling us about how much better “natural” immunity is too.

    Posted by Liisa | May 12, 2014, 7:59 pm
  3. Exactly, no cash or prizes!
    If these same moms forgo aspirin for headaches and skip novacaine at the dentist, etc. bully for them.

    Posted by mk | May 13, 2014, 1:32 pm
  4. thank you so much for this post. I hope you know the impact a post like this can have on people you don’t necessarily know or treat. I have been told by so many people that I am “weak” if I choose pain relief and when you’re young and you’ve never had a baby before and you hear everyone’s ‘horror stories’ negative reinforcements like these start to take their toll. Thank you for empowering mums to make decisions based on what’s right for them.

    Posted by amelia | May 18, 2014, 5:20 pm
  5. I understand peoples frustrations when people judge delivery choices but thats exactly what this article is doing to Mila. I don’t think she meant anything at all by her comments, and maybe she feels the pressure just the same as everyone else and probably more because she is a celebrity. If she had said ‘I’m gonna have all the pain relief available blah blah’ she would have been judged for that too. Alot of people say they want a ‘natural birth’, in western society no one applies the african meaning to it which is a bit extreme. Her comment of ‘doing it right’ is more likely a flip of the tounge and probable more a reflection of the same social pressures and feelings of inadequacy that are placed on others are being placed on her. Think people just need to chill and ladies all should stop ‘birth bashing’ each other. Its her life, body and baby and she can do whatever she likes exactly like everyone else can do what they want and just be happy with their own experience and decision.

    Posted by Bernie | May 19, 2014, 5:39 am
  6. Wow. I cannot believe how you have attacked Mila like this!!

    This is ridiculous.

    If she doesn’t want to use drugs, she shouldn’t be subjected to your criticism. YOU should know that it IS safer for the baby and mother not to have an epidural in most instances.

    I’m planning on having a drug free birth as well… guess what? I don’t consider myself a hero, I consider myself a woman undergoing a NATURAL event. Doctor Jen, you are there incase someone like me ends up a patient because of unforeseen complications.

    I will ruffle your feathers and say there is a BETTER way – and that is an intervention free way when intervention is not needed. Did you read between the lines there? I’m pro all the interventions in the world – when it’s needed.

    If you think that having a baby drugged up on morphine is the same as a baby who isn’t, you need to take a step back and realise that everything is not all equal.

    Can’t believe this this article, makes me so so so mad.

    As for the thought that there’s no trophy – WHAT THE FRICK?!? I thought there was? I thought people would write to me an awe. I thought I could put it on my resume. NOT! NOT! NOT! Just like woman than plans on having pain medication are respected for their wishes, I think those that plan not to deserve the same treatment.

    This is absolutely the most snobby piece of crap I read on the internet lately. Congradulations. Want a medal?

    Posted by Kim | May 19, 2014, 10:25 pm
    • I wonder if you read the post? If you did you would know that:

      A) I didn’t attack anyone. In fact, I specifically mentioned that Mila Kunis was asked these questions by a prying press. Given it became a news item it was a launching point for a discussion.

      B) An epidural does not result in a “baby drugged up on morphine.” At all. Ever. In fact that is the point of an epidural, to provide pain relief for a mother that is completely safe for her baby. Again, read the post.

      And I’d like to add the following:

      c) You are actually the “snob” because you claim (despite medical evidence to the contrary) that your way is “BETTER.” There is no better way, there are simply choices.

      D) Your attempt at sarcasm isn’t very good. It’s more vitriol than humor.

      Posted by Dr. Jen Gunter | May 21, 2014, 7:58 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Why is the “natural” birth movement so afraid of epidurals? | Dr. Jen Gunter - May 14, 2014

  2. Pingback: Links 5/16/14 | Mike the Mad Biologist - May 16, 2014

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