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>Birth choices – birth is more than an industry

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I spent the day at a consultation for our local midwife led birth unit today and was incredibly struck by the huge divide between how health care professionals view birth experiences and how women live with those birth experiences.

Because for those in the ‘industry’ birth is a process that they deal with every day but for the women its not a process, its a life changing experience in their lives.  And it can be positive but it can be a long way from positive.

What saddens me is that not positive seems to be normal now – that women expect to have little choices about where they will birth their baby, expect to go into a hospital and expect a medicalised birth (because its ‘safer’ for them and their baby), expect to be told they need monitoring or an intervention ‘to safeguard the baby’, expect that they will not have a midwife with them throughout their labour and that their partner will end up being a proxy for a midwife (and who may REALLY not want to be there but ends up having to decide when to call in an overstretched midwife or to nearly end up delivering a baby)

And wherever you go in the Mummy world there are stories of embarrassment, discomfort, distress, being treated like a commodity rather than a person.

This has to stop.

Because women deserve better and we need to remember that a giving women a positive birth experience is fundamental to their lives not just as mothers but also as women – birth isn’t just a few hours in a hospital, its a fundamentally life changing experience.  And until we realise that, we will risk failing women.

Photo credit: Stephanie Belton

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5 comments to >Birth choices – birth is more than an industry

  • Karin @ Cafe Bebe

    >I must say, Hannah, I had a pretty traumatic labour & delivery which ended in an emergency c-section and a thoroughly miserable hospital stay afterward. It is sad…I would have loved to have had a positive experience but fear that any future birth experiences that I might have will be just as horrible. In fact, as I had a c-section the first time, I really feel like just going for the elective c-section to eliminate some of the horror.
    A very interesting topic Mrs…you should be an advocate…or a MIDWIFE! ;) Would you be mine??
    :) Karin

  • Emily O

    >Very well said. I think we're torn between two extremes: the natural birth exponents who are anti-epidural, etc and the medical professionals you mention here. What we need is something in between where women feel empowered to choose the birth they want but not feel they've failed if it doesn't go to plan. I don't know about you, but many people have told me I'm 'brave' for having a homebirth. I don't think it was brave at all and I think it's a shame there's so much fear about childbirth. My first birth was difficult so what we ideally need is an empowering non-medical environment with supportive midwives present at all times and medical assistance nearby if it's needed. In our dreams maybe!

  • Notes to self plus two and the need for red shoes

    >I seem to be being pushed down the "birthing centre" route not the labour ward. A birthing centre being like a home birth just in a hospital. I even caught the midwife trying to hid the fact that this would mean no options for pain relief.

    Angered by the midwife-knows best assumption, I think I'd quite like a standard hospital birth?

    I must write a blog post about this.

    AS for the experience vs. process – damn right!

  • planb

    >I was very lucky and had two good (but very different experiences – although no midwife in the room, which maybe helped!) and maybe I wouldn't be saying this if I had had bad experiences but I think there are two things that the modern birth industry and the images of birth we are presented with have made us forget:

    1. There's no such thing as a birth "choice". Your body will or will not do what it does or does not. We are used to the idea that we can choose all the time, but some things are outside our control. I agree with Emily – women need to feel like they have a choice but more importantly they need to feel that they haven't "failed".

    2. Giving birth *is* difficult and painful and scary. I was lucky in that I did have positive experiences but let's not forget that for our grandmothers the very idea that birth could be anything other than a terrifying ordeal would have been a ludicrous suggestion. The medicalisation of birth has brought its own problems but it has also saved millions of lives that would otherwise have been lost. Maybe we should lower our expectations and realise that any birth that results in a healthy mum and a healthy baby is a success and should be celebrated.

  • cartside

    >Maybe the better term is birth preferences, rather than birth choices. I struggled for a full year to come to terms with my daughter's birth not going the way I had wanted. It really put a shadow over that first year. Yet the hospital staff (I considered home birth but for logistical reasons where I lived at the time my choice was the hospital) supported my birth plan for the main part of labour. I do think they did the best to enable me to have the birth I wanted and still it didn't happen and I felt disempowered because of it. It's a difficult topic because yes, things sometimes go different and medical intervention is needed. And even someone like me who had considered all the options, had a very clear plan and attitude may end up with a birth experience very different to what they'd hoped for. So while I would encourage every woman to be empowered enough to have clear preferences for labour and birth, it would also be good to be aware that expectations may not always be met, not because of the medical staff but because giving birth does have risks.

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