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The Bullsh*t around ‘Healthy Baby and Healthy Mum’

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/

About SAllen

6 thoughts on “The Bullsh*t around ‘Healthy Baby and Healthy Mum’

  1. I do wholeheartedly agree with you. Where I can see positive in this phrase being used is when a mum feels down about her birth experience or inadequate in some way in comparison to an alternative birth experience – I can see how this phrase can be used to focus on the positive and what ultimately matters so as to not feel inadequate or a failure which in itself can cause mental health issues. However this is trying to fix something which in most cases may not needed to have been broken in the first place. Hope you understand what I am trying to say! There is also such a fixation on the birth when pregnant and with my first I remember realising afterwards what a small event it was in comparison to the enormity of looking after a newborn and being a parent. Maybe this phrase has evolved from that understanding?

    1. Hi Anonymous, interesting perspective, I do agree sometimes it can come from a ‘good’ place, I see what you mean.
      Birth in my opinion, is the start of a new you as a person, but get it right and you are off to a good start. Unfortunately some mums have a rocky road ahead of them due to traumatic births (which could have been avoided) and this is something we should aim to massively reduce!

  2. I understand above what above poster said. With my second birth I had a 30+ hour labor, an epidural that I originally didn’t want, but changed my mind on in labor, and pitocin after being stuck at 8 cm for 6 hours. We both were fine, and the delivery itself went well, and I can honestly say I don’t think of it much. However, after my first, which was incredibly traumatic, thoughts of the birth consumed me. Those were the words people used to “comfort” me. All I heard was all that matters is that your both healthy, so your feelings about it DON’T matter. It only made me feel invalidated, especially because I felt my ob caused everything that happened. I’ve changed the phrase in my head to, the most important thing is we’re both healthy, because that is true, but it leaves space for other things, like the experience, to also be important.

    1. Exactly that Bethany and thank you for sharing your experience, I hope by opening up you have felt that weight is off your chest now.
      x

  3. I also feel passionately that a healthy baby and mother is NOT ALL that matters… Unless by saying ‘healthy mother’ you mean healthy physically, mentally and emotionally, and that only comes from a mother having a positive birth experience… One in which she was well informed, all decisions were her own and not taken from under her, where she felt respected and listened to, and no matter what actual route her birthing took, that she can look back on her birth with joy in her heart knowing that she had the right birth for her and her baby on the day with the situations with which she was presented. Life throws us a curve ball sometimes so I’m not talking about ‘the perfect birth’ (what is that anyway, it’s so subjective), we are very lucky to have the medical staff to support us with their incredible knowledge and skills when they are needed, but please let that be only when they are absolutely NEEDED. In my view there is way too much intervention these days which with alarming regularity leads to negative birth experiences.

    I feel so passionately about this subject that I chose to call my business Birth Matters MK, because the birth experience absolutely DOES matter, don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Of primary importance is a healthy baby and mother of course… But BIRTH MATTERS!!!

    All around the country there are birth workers such as myself who see the results of both sides of this coin, we see the lasting results of birth trauma and we also see the lasting empowerment and euphoria that a positive birth brings. Either way, a woman often takes this with her to her grave. At 61 I remember, (gratefully with joy), the 2 beautiful births of my children, my dream is that ALL women have the knowledge, confidence and support to achieve the birth that is right for them and their baby on the day, whatever route that takes.

    I’m not alone in this dream… when I was looking to set up a group in my local town (Milton Keynes), for women to come together and discuss ways to achieve a positive birth, I came across ‘The Positive Birth Movement’ which has been set up by another woman with that same dream. Milli Hill’s dream has now grown into an international, in fact worldwide, movement full of birth workers giving their own time and money to get the concept out there to all mothers that ‘BIRTH MATTERS’. I implore every pregnant woman to seek out one of these groups, (which are always free to attend) and start taking back birth as something you can influence in a positive way…. But make no mistake, you will never control birth… Birth cannot be controlled, only influenced by preparation and knowledge.

    Happy birthing to every mum 2 be xXx

    1. Linda, thank you very much for your comment. I love your passion 🙂 And yes, the Positive Birth Movement is a great resource! I often share their articles/ quotes from they remain FB page.
      Milton Keynes women are lucky to have you x

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