Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust says women aren’t always made aware of all the options:
“GP’s and midwives need to let women know that options like birth centres and home births are a safe alternative to hospital for healthy women and babies, and will usually result in fewer interventions. We know many women feel more comfortable and relaxed in a birth centre or at home, and often feel more satisfied with their care.
The health service should focus medical intervention on those few women who will benefit, and offer homely local services for women who have no need of consultant involvement. The National Childbirth Trust is calling on governments and assemblies in the UK to make sure all women have access to a birth centre or community midwifery unit, to give them the choices they want and deserve.”
Vicky Lovine, mum of 4 and author of The Best Friends’ Guide to Pregnancy, feels that the advice of good pals is vital in helping to prepare yourself for birth:
“Labour can be helped not just by your doctor and pregnancy books, but also predominantly by your friends. It was friends, for example, who warned me not to courageously decline my doctor’s offer of medication after delivery, because after my epidural wore off I would be in my hospital bed with nothing more than a paracetamol for comfort. It was through friendship that I gained a compilation of experiences, opinions, concerns, complaints and remedies that helped me to get the births I wanted.”
Dr Miriam Stoppard, pregnancy and childcare guru and author of The New Pregnancy and Birth book, says the 9 months of pregnancy should be a time of decision making and communication:
“You may have strong views about how your birth should be managed, or you may be guided by friends and medical staff who are caring for you. You need to be clear in stating what you want. You have to be aware of your options, being more assertive than you might have been in the past and never accepting anything unless you feel entirely happy about it.
Communication is the key, either to your partner or via your birth plan, or both. Fundamentally, it’s about getting the birth that’s right for you after assessing your own emotional and physical needs.”
Kathryn Fairbrother, a nurse and mum to Ben, 1, says:
“I went to yoga and antenatal classes before the birth and I found these were really helpful. My husband and I decided that if I needed pain relief I should just take it. Funny how no-one tells you it still hurts even after the drugs! But at least I knew I was in control, and the breathing and meditation techniques I’d learned really helped.”
Presenter Davina McCall, gave birth to her daughters Holly and Tilly at home and is keen to raise awareness about the variety of birth choices available to women:
“My home births were wonderful experiences, and I felt that being at home made it easier to have a straightforward birth. I also know that my experience is backed by statistics: choosing a home birth, halves the chance of a woman having a caesarean, and is as safe as a hospital birth for women with low risk pregnancies.
I can’t believe how many women are not told about the benefits of giving birth at home, and therefore don’t consider it as an option. Being able to give birth in my own home at my own pace meant I didn’t need medical pain relief. My midwives supported me brilliantly, and it really helped me to relax and cope with the powerful experience.”
Emma Stanworth, mum to Joe, 2, believes that being open-minded is the best option:
“I think it’s important to be flexible in your outlook. It’s fine to have a birth plan, but if you’re too rigid, chances are you’ll end up disappointed. I, for example, really wanted my birth to be as natural as possible, and I hadn’t even considered the possibility of having a caesarean. After 16 hours of established labour, however, Joe just wouldn’t budge: he was twisted awkwardly and my cervix wasn’t opening enough. The caesarean turned out fine. But I wasn’t prepared for it because I hadn’t looked into it. I’m planning to have a second child in the next year or so and I’ll definitely be more open-minded about the whole thing.”
Mervi Jokinen, a midwife and development advisor at the Royal College of Midwives (www.rcm.org.uk), says getting the birth you want is all about the preparation:
“It is difficult in this society, as women are usually unprepared for the experience when they first fall pregnant. They start to think about their birth plan when they’re only 12 weeks pregnant, when they really should be focusing on their diet and wellbeing throughout the pregnancy. They are given information by everybody and visit their GP, who is not necessarily a specialist.
We encourage that women strike up a relationship with their midwife and spend time thinking about the pregnancy as a whole – not just the birth. As time goes on, then have a chat about birthing options, and ask as many questions as possible to get the right birth for you. One size doesn’t fit all.”