Well, I am not going to be apologetic around this one, or beat around the bush: I fricking hate the whole ‘all it counts is a healthy mum and baby’ palaver when talking about labour and birth.
As I read it (for the umpteenth time) in a magazine for pregnant and new mums yesterday, I felt the blood boil inside my veins and the urge to write this blog.
First thing first: The sentence ‘When it comes to your labour, it doesn’t matter what will happen because all it counts is a healthy baby and healthy mum’ is absolute bullsh1t!
Yes, you read that right. The biggest pile of rubbish, and for someone like me who makes a living in the birth industry, it is almost like listening to nails scratching on a blackboard as the soundtrack to my life.
So why am I dead against this saying? Because I believe we feed this line to our lovely pregnant women (and especially first-time mums) as an excuse for the poor treatment they receive, and that is NOT right!
Whilst it is true that the aim for a labouring woman is a healthy, snuggly and squidgy babba, labour is one of those occasions in life where the journey is as important as the end destination.
Ask any woman who has ever experienced a traumatic birth how they feel after the ‘healthy’ baby has arrived. Some feel depressed, some develop post traumatic stress disorder. Some are left so shell shocked their milk doesn’t come in and they have no choice whether to breastfeed or bottle feed. Other mums experience detachment and struggle to bond with their babies, and in some severe cases, mums are genuinely terrified of ever giving birth again.
What should be the happiest time becomes a time of sadness and clouded over by negative feelings.
Yes, all of the above women may look ‘healthy’ from the outside, but what about their mental health? Being healthy is more than just being physically in one piece and breathing.
Acknowledging that a traumatic birth can and will affect women afterwards is extremely important, and the first step in changing people’s attitude and ultimately getting the medical providers to recognise this as important.
We are all aware of how stretched the NHS currently is, with midwives not able to care for women in the way they would love to, having to filling mountain of paperwork as well as looking after an entire ward full of labouring women. But what about the cost of the additional counselling, or extra midwife time spent having to talk people down when they’re pregnant with a second child and terrified because of the trauma they experienced the first time round?
Wouldn’t it be better to get it ‘right’ from the start?
Aren’t first time mums worthy of a positive birth experience?
A positive birth experience isn’t some unrealistic hippy goal. It’s really a birth experience that doesn’t involve long term physical or psychological injury or assault/imposition of procedures by medical staff. The episiotomy performed with no consent, the sweep that hadn’t been requested by the mum, the long cascade of intervention that wasn’t properly explained beforehand: it is easy to see that all of these things can affect a woman’s birth experience and her journey into motherhood.
What is the antidote to that, how can we help women?
Whilst it is important that primary care givers give help/support and advice, the most important weapon for an expectant mum is her knowledge: it is time to empower women to be actively involved in the decision making during their labour so that they feel in control of the situation rather than helpless and fearful.
I strongly believe that women – no matter what route their birth journey takes on the day they go into labour – can come away from the experience feeling empowered and positive as long as they have been able to make choices themselves based on solid information rather than feeling rail-roaded. We need to invest more in good quality ante-natal education – rather than focusing just on what the perfect hospital bag looks like, we need to teach women the physiology of birth so that they and their birth partners know exactly which questions to ask and what choices they can take on their babies birthday.
Of course things do sometimes (rarely) go wrong and we are extremely grateful for the life saving medical help, but preparing with an open mind and a flexible approach should help women get a better experience even in non-routine circumstances.
Ultimately there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ birth, but isn’t it time to give labouring women and their babies the show of respect and support that we all know they need and deserve?
Hypnobirthing can help you to regain control of your fears on labour and birth, focus on having a positive birth experience and made you excited about the birth of your baby.
I offer group classes and private courses in London, for more info visit http://www.hipmamahypnobirthing.com/hypnobirthing-courses/