Post-apocalyptic childbirth

By | October 17, 2011

Last week, we talked about post-apocalyptic pregnancy. This week, we move on to labor and delivery.

Again, the caveat: I am not a medical professional, midwife, or a doula. I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who’s given birth to two children.

Ready? Here we go!

Labor

Congratulations! You’ve gotten through the nine (ten) months of pregnancy! By now, your back is constantly sore, you have cankles, you can’t see your feet, and you spend 23.5 hours a day in the bathroom/outhouse because Junior’s favorite hobby is playing football with your bladder. And then…you get these horrible (and horrifying) cramps that make you think your insides are being ripped apart by a hungry T-Rex with extra-sharp claws and teeth.

You know what this means, right? Yep, labor. And that means your baby is about to arrive. It’s time to prepare for the delivery, because Junior could make his or her appearance in five minutes. Or he/she could wait thirty-six hours. I don’t know; it’s hard to tell. But it’s best to be prepared.

You may be wondering how you should prepare yourself for this. The answer: pain relief. With my oldest daughter, I spent half of my 21 hours of labor without an epidural. Then I was rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section, where my epidural REVERSED ITSELF (no idea how). Also, that scalpel? It hurts. My point is, I used to have a really low pain tolerance. Now, I can withstand pain that would make my pre-children self faint. (Also, I can now scream loud enough to wake the dead. Did I mention that scalpel hurts?)

So my tip to you is to stock up on any and all pain relievers you can get during your pregnancy. Since it’s doubtful the epidural will survive the apocalypse (I doubt we’ll have a plethora of anesthesiologists wandering around our dusty wasteland), your best bet is probably herbal medicine. Find out which herbs are good pain relievers, but won’t kill you or the baby. Because, you know, that would kinda defeat the purpose.

Delivery

Now, we move on to the meaty part of this whole labor and delivery exercise. I don’t think I need to point out that the tiny human you’ve had on the inside of you for the past nine (ten) months now has to somehow get to the outside of you.

That pain you had during labor? Yeah, it gets worse. Your insides have been ripped apart by that hungry T-Rex, and they’re now being sucked out of you through your naughty bits by a thorny, pointy metal hook. Yay!

Obviously, pain relief is still important during this stage. The stronger the better. Heck, if you can numb yourself from the neck down, more power to you (that’s what I did, hehehe).

I should, however, point out that you will be delivering your baby in the post apocalypse. Hospitals will be rare. OB/GYNs will be even rarer (they may even be extinct). So who’s going to deliver your baby? I don’t suggest having your spouse do it. (Remember in movies where someone tells the husband to go boil some water and get clean towels? The towels are necessary. The boiled water is necessary, too, because it’s a way to get the flailing, freaked-out husband out of the room.)

In a world where OB/GYNs and fancy hospitals don’t exist, you’ll be relying on a midwife, a doula, or if you’re lucky, a nurse or nurse-practitioner. But I’m thinking a midwife or a doula. Or maybe the girl who lives in the tent next door.

This means that if something were to go wrong during delivery, you do not have the luxury of having a hospital operating room as a safety net.

Got that? Some women will die in childbirth. Women did in the past, before modern medicine. Women still do today if they don’t have access to a hospital and something goes wrong. Try to make yourself as mentally prepared as possible—having a baby will once again become a risk. You might die. You might not. It’s all a gamble.

Post-delivery period

Assuming everything goes well during labor and delivery, you now have your bouncing screaming bundle of joy. Or perhaps you don’t. And in the post apocalypse, I’m sorry to say that there won’t be many neo-natal ICUs around, either (if any at all). I’m well aware of the importance of NICUs, since my oldest daughter spent two days in one after she was born.

Unfortunately, that’s yet another luxury we likely won’t have in the post apocalypse. Something else to prepare yourself for: infant mortality rates will jump. They may even skyrocket. Your baby may make it past infancy. Or they may not. Only time will tell.

Of course, all of this will change as soon as civilization rebuilds itself. But to rebuild, we’ll need people. Which means that women will need to have babies—before hospitals and the medical profession can make a comeback. Are you up for it?

Next week: Post-apocalyptic new parenthood

9 thoughts on “Post-apocalyptic childbirth

  1. E m

    This is the worst article on birth. Have you done any research about homebirths in general? While yes, in an apocalypse it may be a bit different but many things still apply.

    Giving birth natural isn’t horrific.

    Reply
    1. anninyn

      We’re not talking about home childbirth today, which, as long as you have the correct support networks is fine. We are specifically talking about home childbirth in a dirty, diseased environment with no professional care if things go wrong. Things can – and do – go wrong during childbirth, and the only reason so many women in the west survive it is because of the superior standard of medical care. Thousands, if not millions of women around the world die through having babies in similar surroundings. Bleeding to death because there is no-one qualified to suture a tear inside me sounds pretty horrific to me.

      As Char is a mother of two, I suspect she researched all her options thoroughly at the time.

      Also, expecting anything other than an over-dramatic warning over possible disasters from a website that once talked about what would happen if badgers became sentient isn’t the best of plans. We don’t talk about what might go right around here – we talk about what might go wrong, and how horribly it might do it. A quick browse of our other articles is all the evidence you need.

      Reply
    2. char Post author

      Wow, I use part of my day to do some work and I end up late to the party.

      Okay, first of all:

      Also, expecting anything other than an over-dramatic warning over possible disasters from a website that once talked about what would happen if badgers became sentient isn’t the best of plans.

      This. No really, this.

      Second of all, yes, as a matter of fact, I did research homebirth. Of course, it was before my oldest daughter was born, but I researched homebirths, water births, hospital births, doulas, midwives, etc. etc. I was a gung-ho soon to be mom (at the time), so you bet your boots I researched it all.

      I’ve delivered two children, one by emergency C-section and one by VBAC. Both of those deliveries, while ending well (I do have two healthy and beautiful children, after all), also included very serious complications. One of those complications was so serious it almost resulted in my death, and ended with me lying on a gurney being rushed by a medical team from one end of the hospital to the other (ER-style, but minus George Clooney) so I wouldn’t, you know, die.

      Bleeding to death because there is no-one qualified to suture a tear inside me sounds pretty horrific to me.

      Oh yes, I can assure you it is horrific. Because bleeding to death? Yeah, that very nearly happened to me.

      I’m not saying having a homebirth in general is a bad thing. But I have experienced the horrific side of childbirth, so I know from personal experience just how bad and dramatic it can be. And if I hadn’t had the help of a modern hospital with modern equipment and well trained doctors (and the generous donation of nearly two dozen blood donors), I would not be here to have this conversation with you. That is not being over the top or over-dramatic. That is simply fact.

      Also, as an aside, donate some blood. You never know when you’re the one who’s going to need it.

      Reply
    3. Lola

      Childbirth is horrific, no matter how it’s done. Before midwidery was a thing and humanity was beginning (beginning) to band together into larger groups, women died or fell into comas, no if ands or buts. In fact, without women dying by the dozen or being knocked out cold for a couple of weeks, the likelihood is civilization would ever have risen.

      Reply
  2. Echo

    Absolutely.. I completely understand birth CAN be a scary thing. However, when women are left to birth naturally often most often many of the scary things about birth are removed. Many of the emergencies are caused by over medicalized birth. I’m absolutely not saying that’s the case in your birth, because I have no idea why you had to have an emergency c section…but many times it is true. Homebirth, in it’s present state, is very safe, as safe as hospital birth. While I think in a post apocalyptic world it wouldn’t be as safe, I feel like the article sort of ignored that women have been doing this forever and we are made for it. As far as pain medication, I’m guessing it would go to far better use being given to people who need it, who fall and break their leg, get sliced open, etc.. not for a natural process… ?

    Another thing that caught me off guard, was the assumption that a nurse would be a better choice than a midwife. I have a feeling that women will band together, learn all they can about childbirth and the midwife, if available would be a far better ally than a nurse. Yes, nurses are awesome, but a midwife would probably have more benefit..

    Anyway, sorry for the original message, I was cranky today. I should have been kinder. :)

    Reply
    1. char Post author

      I knew–I knew–the “hospitals cause complications” argument would come up. Personally, I disagree. Now, before anybody jumps down my throat and tries to choke me with that gross pinkish dangly thing, I do think that sometimes side effects from pain medication, etc. can cause complications. I’m friends with both doctors and pharmacists, so I know (on good authority) that it does happen. However, I don’t think that hospitals, doctors, and the medical profession in general are the cause of many of the complications that arise during labor and delivery.

      You say:

      when women are left to birth naturally often most often many of the scary things about birth are removed

      While this may be true for SOME women, this is not true for ALL women. Trauma comes in many different shapes and sizes, and what’s not traumatic to you may be traumatic to someone else. We don’t all find the same things scary.

      You also say:

      I feel like the article sort of ignored that women have been doing this forever and we are made for it

      Of course women have been doing this forever. Women have also been dying from it forever, too. Maybe not in the West, but in some parts of the world, women still die from childbirth every day.

      As for medication, you said:

      As far as pain medication, I’m guessing it would go to far better use being given to people who need it, who fall and break their leg, get sliced open, etc.. not for a natural process… ?

      Even natural processes can hurt. “Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “pain-free.” And if you’ve had kids, was your delivery smooth and seamless? If it wasn’t, it probably hurt like a mother, and it hurt like a mother for a hell of a long time. I’d have to say that women giving birth DO need pain relief, and if they want it, they should have it. Labor and delivery is not the time to martyr yourself, because quite frankly nobody cares if you did it drug-free. People only care if the baby and you are fine at the end of it. I sliced my thumb open once, nearly to the bone. Of course the pain isn’t the same, but the reference point of “on the scale of 1 to 10, where’s your pain?” both childbirth and slicing through my thumb rated about 20. Pain is pain. But if you can deliver drug-free, more power to you.

      Finally, you said:

      Another thing that caught me off guard, was the assumption that a nurse would be a better choice than a midwife. I have a feeling that women will band together, learn all they can about childbirth and the midwife, if available would be a far better ally than a nurse. Yes, nurses are awesome, but a midwife would probably have more benefit..

      Why would a midwife be better than a nurse? A nurse has medical training, which is important if something were to go wrong. Is it for the support? For the “naturalness” of a midwife delivery? And maybe I’m just a cynic, but I don’t necessarily think that women will band together and support each other and learn about childbirth and midwifery. I think there’s a very, very high possibility it’ll be every man (or woman) for him/herself. At least in the very early days. Later on? Yeah, maybe the sense of community will return. Or maybe not.

      About homebirths, you said:

      Homebirth, in it’s present state, is very safe, as safe as hospital birth.

      Sure it is. Until something goes wrong. And then it’s not. Seriously though, I do agree that homebirth is perfectly safe and a lot more comfortable if everything goes the way it should during delivery. The problem is that things don’t always go the way they should.

      And for the record, I had an emergency C-section because my daughter was breach and they couldn’t turn her, and they tried (oh, how they tried…oh, the PAIN while they tried). Her heart rate had increased to dangerous levels and she needed to get out of my uterus ASAP, but she was good and stuck. And I wasn’t doing that well, either. With my second daughter, I had a life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage.

      You said women are made for childbirth. We are, but apparently my body didn’t get the memo.

      Reply
      1. anninyn

        My mum’s a genealogist, and you would be SHOCKED to discover the amount of death certificates for young women that read ‘death in childbirth’. Some families the man had three wives, two of whom died within three years of each other, sometimes taking their kid along with them.

        Travelling around an old graveyard can really bring home the realities of life before modern medecine too – whole families dead within three years of each other, you look up the date and it corresponds with a cholera outbreak.

        Reply
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