Pain Meds in Labor: Should Dad Really Get A Say?


I believe in the ‘Warrior Mom.’

I believe that we in fact do earn some kind of invisible medal for enduring childbirth.

I believe that no matter how each of us overcame and completed the birthing process, there is indeed a mom solidarity that follows it, a kind of ‘now you know’ club where membership is automatic despite the variation in each individual journey.

I happened to birth naturally. I delivered at St. Mary’s Birthing Center here in Knoxville, and I used a birthing pool, oils, music, meditation and all that cool stuff that holds value for me as a person (you can read my full, positive birth story here if you’re so inclined!).

I also only had a 4 1/2 hour labor. Some would argue that most could endure the pain and stresses of childbirth for that kind of tangible time limit. Each time I was checked I was congratulated with stellar progress and inspired by the finish line in sight. I have no idea how much my birthing choices would have adapted had I found myself in the midst of a 36 hour labor, without obvious progression, fighting back labor or exhaustion. I wouldn’t dare pretend that all my choices would have remained as simple had I been confronted with that kind of challenge. Birth is a marathon, it’s true, but mine was at least a little closer to a 5K than an Ironman Triathlon.


I was fortunate, no, blessed, in that my very first birthing experience went pretty much to the letter how I wanted it to go. Laboring quickly and efficiently I was able to manage the pain with no medical interventions. I was very, very pleased. And so was my husband.

You see, another element to my birthing decision making that has on more than one occasion provoked a raised eyebrow or five, is the fact that my husband made his wishes known to me, prior to the birth, for no pain medications/interventions to be used throughout. Now don’t go thinking he’s a neanderthal who couldn’t care less about my comfort or well being. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I say ‘his wishes’ because that’s just what they were; hopes, not steadfast rules.

Sure his lack of uterus could make his opinion obsolete in my view, should I be so inclined to pigeon-hole him that way. The truth is though, that we BOTH researched the pros and cons of available medical interventions for labor, and we BOTH came to the same conclusion: we wanted to prevent any unnecessary complications that may derive from my want for temporary lessened pain sensation.

We wanted that for my safety and we wanted that for the safety of our then, unborn child. That was our journey, our challenge, and ultimately our decision. Not mine. Ours. So this is the part when I make my stance on this whole pain med deal known. I reserve no judgement for mothers who select the medicated option. I do not think that you value your child’s well being or safety any more or less than I. We’re all joined in our pursuit of protection for our kids. Our suspicion of the medical birthing system in the US is purely personal. Just wanted to get that off my chest.

Women are often heralded (or scoffed at depending on which side of the fence you plonk yourself on) for wanting to go all natural, so I say, why not herald the dads too? It’s true he didn’t have to endure the contractions, the physical exhaustion, or the crowning (oh Lord, the crowning!), but he did stay by my side, fully alert, full engaged with me the whole way through. He did experience the same shock of fear when our son’s heart rate dropped momentarily, and he did whisper the same desperate prayers into my ear that I whispered into his, for the safe delivery of our little love.

He’s in on this too remember. And personally I find myself empowered by a spouse who boldly supports and leads me into the best version of myself that I can fathom. He knows me better than I know myself, my potential included.

I birthed our son naturally, but my husband, well he helped me believe I could do it.


  1. So my curiosity has gotten the best of me and I have to ask only because it’s brought up at one point. Would you have changed your birthing plans had you been in another country? The line about suspisicions of the medical system in the U.S. has my interest piqued.

  2. Ah, yes. I actually would have pursued a birthing experience just like the one I had if I were back in the UK for instance, but I think I got this from opting for a birth center and not a hospital birth here in TN. From a purely personal stand point, back in England the birthing system overall is midwife-led as standard. OB’s and interventions such as medical inductions, pitocin, and c-sections are ONLY available for high risk cases or in emergency situations. By the UK standard also, the midwife way is to focus on encouraging the mother to birth in a way that is comfortable for her obviously, but with an emphasis on ‘you can do this!’, which is an mentality I’m not sure I’ve found everywhere here in the US. Things like certain genetic prenatal tests etc. are also reserved for high risk cases. So my own understanding of the birthing process here in the US really stems from that comparison. I’m not saying it’s better per se (oh, we have our faults too, believe me), but I do get a bit edgy when I’m offered meds at the drop of a hat or certain ‘not necessary yet’ interventions or tests, when back home that would have been a big no no! Hope that answered your question! 🙂

  3. Definitely answered it! Thanks Carly! I’ve never been outside the US so I love learning about other countries and cultures, and that really caught my curiosity. I only know what I’ve been around so that is very interesting to learn about the UK. 🙂 I would be fascinated to read a comparison post should you ever want to write one!

  4. Caitland that is SUCH a good idea! I’ve often thought about delving a little deeper into the pros and cons of each country’s medical system! I kinda wish I had managed to birth myself over there though, so I would have had a first person experience to pull from. Oh well…

  5. Really interesting post. I have in the past been an antenatal teacher here in the UK and even here we “battle” the belief that medicated birth must be the “best” way. We’re trying to stop things going the way of the US but cesarean rates continue to rise. I am not against cesareans at all, I had two myself, but it’s so hard to fight the “fear” of natural birth that so many women continue to have. Sharing positive birth stories like yours is the way to go!

  6. Clara, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! I so hope the UK holds onto it’s midwife mentality – I find such value in that personally. I know when I was pregnant I had plenty of birthing horror stories thrown my way, so when I had the experience I had I sort of vowed to share it along with the ‘I can do it!’ belief I got from it all! Obviously medicine plays a wonderfully important role nowadays, but I agree with you about fear – it’s so easy to come by regarding natural birthing!

  7. This sounds like how every decision in a family should be made. Each forms an informed opinion, you discuss it, you both come to an agreement even if it is a compromise.

    I love that your husband had an option about it! He should! It is his baby too! I love that he Felt like this was important enough to research, formulate and opinion and voice it with you! Go dad!

    • Kaitlin I totally agree with you, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your point of view with us. It’s just that isn’t it, one big family adventure and it’s so nice to have all parties invested and proactive in how that plays out, even if the plans do adapt as you go!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here