There seems to have been quite a backlash, as her comment can seem judgmental towards those women who choose to have them. As the Telegraph comments:
"...there is no evidence that epidurals have a detrimental effect on the baby and they have a valid role in reducing birth trauma and foetal distress"
Many mothers experience anxiety around birth, particularly if it’s their first child. There can be so much pressure, from various directions, to give birth naturally without pain relief, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Women can find themselves feeling guilty and like they’re already making ‘selfish’ choices; in other words, they can receive the message that they’re a bad mother before they’ve even had their baby!
Uncertainty is difficult. From a psychological point of view, one of the things people find most difficult in life is uncertainty, and with birth there is so much that remains uncertain. As we all know, you can spend hours writing your birth plan but it’s more luck than planning if it goes the way you want. That’s because there are so many variables you can’t control and things can change very quickly while you’re in labour. Not to mention the fact that you have no real idea about how your life will change after your baby is born - if you’re a first time mother, for example - or what you might have to deal with (e.g. autism, behaviour problems, medical problems or other things that every mother dreads).
Take a moment to pause and ground yourself. Take a moment to reflect on what really feels right for you and why among all the opinions, pressure and potential judgment flying around. Otherwise you might end up doing something you feel pressured into during birth, rather than doing what you genuinely feel is right for you and your baby. That can lead to birth being traumatic, distressing and more anxiety-provoking than it needs to be, followed by feelings of anger at feeling compromised and guilt about not doing what you thought was best, whether things go the way you intended or not. Beginning your time as a mum feeling like that is not what anyone wants!
The wellbeing of mum and baby are linked. Although foetal wellbeing is obviously paramount, YOU are there too, and your wellbeing is inextricably interlinked with that of your baby, both before and after birth. Remember, anxiety manifests physically (e.g. via tension or migraines) as well as emotionally. The truth is that there IS no right or wrong answer and every birth is unique. Therefore, what’s right for you and your baby is also unique. If you can navigate the minefield of opinions on birth and decide whether to have an epidural based on what you feel is right for you, you are more likely to feel safer, calmer and more physically relaxed during birth.
Remain flexible in your expectations, and be aware that things may not go according to your plan. If things do go differently than you expected, don’t give yourself a hard time. You can’t control what happens and nothing can change that fact. Any decisions you and your partner make during birth are often made under incredible stress and time pressure and you will make the best choices you can.
So remember - first and foremost, by taking care of yourself, you will also be taking care of your baby.
Read more about introducing solids and other ways to support your child with their eating in our latest evidence-based book Worry-free Weaning.
Dr Anna Walton is a chartered counselling psychologist and Felicity Bertin is a registered paediatric osteopath. They work together supporting families with children who have fussy eating habits.