On International Women’s Day 2018, I feel called to put one wish for pregnant women.
I occasionally receive messages or questions from women who are almost ready to give birth.
By the dates calculated for them, they are well into the period called ‘term’, i.e. 37-42 weeks and the thing is, they are really nervous about giving birth.
Not just a little bit nervous, but really nervous.
I think to myself, how has society allowed this to happen?
How have these women been left until this point?
Women frequently get to the stage where they almost giving birth and yet they know so little about birth.
If the care of mothers was deemed more important, surely she would have been nurtured throughout her pregnancy.
In pregnancy, she’d have learnt:
- breathing techniques to manage the sensations
- how her body works and how the environment she chooses to birth will impact upon the birth process itself
- about the importance of being surrounded by people who understand her wishes and utterly believe in her to make the right decisions for her and her family
- the questions she needs to asks to make sure all decisions are informed
- she has a choice in where to give birth and why she might exercise her right to choose
- the importance of being in an environment which is conducive to the birth process
Women often gain their knowledge about birth from entertainment programmes on TV.
Birth is often dramatised to be a medical emergency and fear is a part of it.
And yet, if you were to type ‘positive birth’, or ‘home water birth’, or ‘hypnobirth’ into You Tube there a whole raft of videos which show women choosing to give birth in a different way.
A positive birth can look different to different people. What is a positive birth to one woman may not be to another.
There can be positive caesarian births, positive births in hospital, in a birth centre or at home.
Even long births may be incredibly positive transformative experiences.
It is absolutely key that women need to feel comfortable with their caregivers; midwives or doctors.
They need to trust their opinion, feel comfortable to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’, feel listened to and heard.
Birthing women need to feel as though their opinion counts.
Trust usually develops best when women have got to know their caregivers over time.
Many women are choosing to give birth ‘undisturbed’ or as undisturbed as possible.
Because the more distractions we have when we give birth, the harder it is and the more painful it is.
Grantly Dick Read
In 1911, a British Obstetrician working in London called Grantly Dick Read, witnessed a woman giving birth in a squalid, waterlogged bedroom in Whitechapel, a dishevelled part of London at the time.
This woman was giving birth in what he deemed to be a ‘primitive’ way.
The middle women he was accustomed to seeing give birth in the hospital accepted the pain relieving medication, chloroform he dished out to relieve the pain without question but this woman did not accept the medication he offered.
And yet, she appeared to give birth in a much easier way that any woman he’d seen birth before.
She was birthing under her own steam.
She was able to move into the positions she felt most comfortable in.
She was not strapped down on a bed being monitored unable to move.
Her natural pain relieving hormones endorphins, said to be 200 times stronger than morphine, were flooding her body
making the sensations manageable.
She had no fear of birth. In fact, she didn’t even know birth was supposed to hurt!
This wonderful video created by photographer and birth activist Natalie Lennard depicts that famous Whitechapel scene.
This experience led Grantly Dick Read to devote his study to the relationship of fear and pain in childbirth.
The book he later published ‘Childbirth Without Fear’ became one of the most influential books ever written on natural childbirth.
In an age where obstetrics has overrun natural childbirth, the sentiment in the book is every bit as fresh as when it was written.
“Because fear creates tension and that creates pain.
When we learn to relax, we can manage the strain.”
Extract from the poem “It’s Not Because” by Kati Edwards and Ben Mellor
A Safe Environment
An environment conducive to the birth process is one where mum must feel safe.
For some women this is home. For some it is hospital.
Wherever it is, it should be warm and dark.
Darkness increases the production of melatonin and this hormone helps us relax.
The key to a natural birth is being able to relax deeply.
This is not just mum’s responsibility.
It is the responsibility of her caregivers to help her relax and provide a relaxing environment.
I believe for anyone planning a natural birth even if they are deemed ‘high risk’ and choosing to give birth in an obstetric led labour ward in a hospital, a homely environment rather than a clinical environment should be standard.
You may want to consider becoming involved with your local Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) which seeks to gain the opinion of service users and demand that clinical environments for birthing be made as homely as possible.
Oxtytocin is the hormone that makes birth happen.
It’s a powerful hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain.
Oxytocin has an effect on pro-social behaviours and facilitates trust and attachment between individuals.
It is often referred to as the ‘love hormone.’
Oxytocin is produced when we fall in love and is also released from the pituitary gland during orgasm.
In fact, Michel Odent, the well known French Obstetrician says, “Sex and birth are one event separated by time.”
Put simply, it is the same hormone that makes birth happen as makes sex feel great.
Creating A Romantic Space
If you wanted to create a romantic space in the bedroom what would you do?
Put on some relaxing music?
Have candles set at strategic points around the room to allow the energy to flow?
Keep the space private?
You’re unlikely to have strangers walking in.
Why Not Choose To Give Birth In A Romantic Space Too?
It’s exactly the same kind of environment that makes birth happen.
And yet, when we think about birth we often think of it as a medical event.
Bright lights in a clinical space, surrounded by technology and machines that go beep.
And my ONE Wish for Pregnant Women?
We rarely know the midwife who will be tending to us during the birth.
And for most people, we feel most comfortable in amongst people we know and trust.
With my first baby, I’d seen 9 midwives throughout my pregnancy and no-one midwife more than twice!
I was so scared that I didn’t know who would be with me when I was giving birth.
There was one midwife out of all of those midwives I’d seen that I adored.
There were others I felt less comfortable with and I knew this would impact upon the birth.
I prayed everyday the good one would come!
And when she came though my door at 9AM whilst I was in labour, I burst into tears!
I was so happy!
All that pent up emotion. I often wonder had it not have been her, would I still have had a really positive first birth experience.
We know that continuity of carer, i.e. having the same midwife, is the number ONE thing that improves outcomes.
It is a system of care recommended in the National Maternity Care: Better Births initiative. and there are an army of people working to ensure that the Better Births Initiative gets rolled out across the UK.
Knowing your midwife and building up that trust over time allows the midwife to get to know you.
You are less likely to give birth via c-section, your length of labour is likely to be shorter, your baby is less likely to have an instrumental delivery, i.e. be born with the use of forceps or ventouse and you are more likely to be satisfied with your birth experience.
Having a doula with you whilst you give birth yields similar improvements in outcome. You can find a Doula UK doula in your area by popping in your postcode at this link.
So my one wish is that ALL women have the opportunity to experience continuity of carer.
Thank you for reading.
PS I have TWO spaces for private KGHypnobirthing clients just become available. On my course, you will learn everything you need to know to help stack the odds in your favour for a really positive birth experience. No pendulums, no vagina whispering. Just really useful techniques and information to give you the best possible birth experience. Please contact me for more information or to reserve your place.