Over the past week the term ‘normal birth’ has been hotly debated in the media – ever since the British press reported on the end of the decade-long campaign for ‘normal births’ by the UK Royal College of Midwives. If you’ve been following along in NSW you would have read a number of articles that are traumatising, outright incorrect and essentially further perpetuate women’s fear of childbirth.
Over the past 15 years of birth work I have observed the level of fear in my couples and it is ever increasing – so much so that I would now call it a collective phobia. And this is all to do, I believe, with the bias of negativity and fear in our press and the more accessible information we have via screens and technology. The human brain receives and encodes negativity 5 times faster and more readily that it does positivity – in order to protect the mammal during ancient times as a hunter/gatherer. We need to remember when we turn on the news or read the paper or get that blog alert that we are not living in a village anymore, rather a stratosphere of propaganda and sensationalism. Fear sells and so does drama, and it keeps you buying more and pushes us into an overwhelming sense of STUCK.
We need to do our own mental health checks and bring discernment to the content we are being fed and we need to speak up about it to protect others being exposed. There will never be an increase in normal births if we allow ourselves to be fed en masse an overwhelming negative outlook. And that is why the NSW Health ‘Towards Normal Birth’ policy should stay because we all contribute to restoring what many experts know to be true – approximately 80-90% of women can give birth vaginally.
So here is my response after the latest media onslaught….
This battle between caesarean versus ‘normal’ births, and midwives versus obstetricians is only creating further separation and judgement when what we need to acknowledge and celebrate is the high level of safety and choices we have here in Australia for birth.
Every single birth is unique, and unfortunately there are risks regardless of whether your baby is a caesarean or vaginal delivery. What’s missing for many Australian women is high quality antenatal education, with women either receiving very little or contradictory information.
In order to engage in the decision-making around their birth, women need to be equipped with evidence-based information that empowers them to make safe, informed choices. They must have alongside this the knowledge, tools, and partner involvement to be able to work through labour to the best of their ability, as well as work with their caregivers, whether that be an obstetrician or a midwife.
Women are intelligent and we know that birth doesn’t always work out the way we want it to, but morbidity and mortality rates are incredibly low here in Australia. This is because midwives and obstetricians work together, alongside doulas, birth educators and of course couples – who all have an important role to play in the protection and safety of mums and babies.
We definitely do not want to go down the treacherous path like the USA – that now ranks lowest of all the developing countries with its current and escalating rate of maternal mortality – as a result of a divided workplace which lacks respect and choice.
‘Normal’ simply refers to a vaginal delivery, with or without an epidural (or other forms of assistance). I choose the term assistance over intervention because with birth education comes an understanding of when there is a need for assistance – therefore women are more likely to feel empowered rather than experience a sense of personal failure.
And why should there be any failure AT ALL associated with childbirth? Every woman is always birthing to the best of her ability, ALWAYS. (As written in the opening paragraph of the She Births® course book). The failure is only arising from a lack of quality birth education and a lack of support. Women suffer from so much fear and misinformation – all of which is creating a too-much-too-soon over medicalised management conveyer belt experiences, and this leads to a sense of failure.
The high maternal satisfaction rate of She Births® couples is 98%, and the majority of our mums, over 80% experience a ‘normal’ vaginal birth. This is because She Births® couples are well educated and far more prepared for every birth scenario with principles, intention and tools. We will not entertain negativity by giving out lists of all the potential risks of a vaginal birth and a caesarean birth. This is available to those who would like it but it is not at all helpful for building the confidence in preparation for delivery. Our families are empowered to demand individualised care, moment by moment, amidst the complexities of birth and to engage in decision making within the busy protocol-driven hospital systems as they need.
It is through high quality, evidence-based and holistic birth education that women and their partners will have a positive birth experience. The She Births® childbirth education program underwent randomised controlled trials with results published in the British Medical Journal (July 2016). She Births® is the only course in the world that has been scientifically verified.
- 65% reduction in epidural
- 44% reduction in caesarean rates
- 50% reduction in medical augmentation of labour
- 55% reduction in resuscitation of babies
- 12% reduction in perineal trauma
- Shorter labour by 32 minutes
For further information about the research visit the She Births® Research Page
Did you birth your baby by caesarean? We are developing a more comprehensive information package for women who may travel the caesarean birth path.
We deeply value your experience and would love to hear from you so that we can best support women who may end up with an unexpected caesarean. If you are willing to share your experience with us please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your responses to the below:
- What was most helpful in preparing for your caesarean?
- What do you wish you had known?
- Which She Births® skills did you use within your caesarean birth and how did they make the experience better for you?
- What would be your number 1 tip for other women having a caesarean?
Love and gratitude,
P.S. We have only 15 tickets left to our inaugural She Births® Show on Friday 8 September.
Photo by Bree Downes.