When it comes to birth there seems to be some confusion over who is in charge of the process. Is it the Mother or the Midwives and Hospital Staff?
Every time this debate arises it is met with blank expressions and shrugging of shoulders. Surely the hospital staff should be in charge because they know what is going on and will only do what is in the best interests of Mother and child?
A majority of people would like to think so, but let’s face it, from the moment you walk through those labour ward doors your clock starts ticking. In that moment what should be a perfectly normal part of every day life turns into a race against time. Suddenly labour and birth has it’s time limits and if your baby and body fail to fit within the parameters set by the ‘professionals’ then measures will be taken to aid in the safe birth of the baby. Giving the impression that Mother and child are no longer deemed capable to provide safe passage, why is this?
For the majority of us we attend a hospital for help, because something is wrong and we need an expert to tell us what it is and fix it so we feel better. With birth, many people have the same view, attending hospital to get professional help and ‘drugs’ to make them feel better. Why do many treat having a baby the same way; as if there is something wrong with them? They are not ill and certainly do not need fixing! So why are we so dependent on meddling in what is just another natural bodily function?
For many women a ‘natural’ birth would be not having pain relief other than gas and air. While this would give women a great sense of achievement, there are actually many other things that Mothers sign up to while in labour that aren’t necessarily in the benefit of the natural labouring process. For example, internal examinations are not necessary to tell dilation, using one of many other options, the position of the woman’s bump could provide enough information to which stage the labour is at. It’s hard to comprehend why examinations are widely used given that a woman could go from 2cm to 6cm and back to 2cm at any point given the circumstances at the time. There are no limits to how long each centimetre should take and therefore it is difficult to see a benefit in having this ‘routine’ procedure. In fact it could have the opposite effect, making the woman uncomfortable which could possibly slow the process down if her body reacts to the unnatural intrusion.
Every minute without progress leads closer to more internal examinations, induction drips, baby monitoring, mother monitoring, drugs and in a lot of cases the mother having to remain stagnant on a hospital bed so the Midwives can monitor their progress.
Everything natural about the process is removed until we are left with a situation that must be controlled. Moving further and further away from the natural beauty that is birth.
It is also frustrating that many mothers are not warned of the consequences of having such ‘routine’ procedures; in many cases, intervention leads to intervention. Every time we interrupt a woman in labour, we are potentially setting her progress back, this could lead to her feeling more uncomfortable and out of control. The ‘professionals’ are potentially slowing down her body’s ability to birth, thus requiring more interventions to get her back on track. That’s not to say an internal examination will lead to an epidural, c-section or otherwise; but it increases the likelihood.
When something has to be done, is the Mother being told or asked?
It seems that many women are not aware that in the UK there are laws to protect women so they can make choices regarding their birth experience (for more info see this article). This means that it is not the Hospital ‘letting you have your baby without intervention’, it is the Mother who gives permission. Permission to carry out examinations, monitor mum and baby; permission to oversee her birth and administer care when she so asks or agrees to it. Unfortunately this is not common practice and for the most part it is completely the opposite.
Many women are not aware that they can and should be in charge of what is going on. Midwives and birth partners are simply there to facilitate it. I have met some wonderful midwives who understand and encourage women to experience childbirth the way every woman deserves to. I was fortunate to have such a midwife present at the birth of my child and to her I am grateful of the support and respect of my choices throughout my pregnancy, my birth and after.
However, there are midwives who either do not care or do not understand how their actions can have a detrimental effect on the mothers ability to birth and bond with her child after birth. It is true that you do not get a medal for going ‘Au Naturel’, but having the opinion that it is of no benefit/gain to a woman and baby, is ignorant at best.
For the most part though, I feel that many midwives have their hands tied by ‘the system’; they are given a set of parameters in which they have to assess the progress of the birth and provide the ‘necessary’ care to ensure every mothers stays somewhere within them. So concerned of the blame culture we have nowadays we seem to have lost the ability to be subjective and see the bigger picture.
Instead of disabling women with time limits, unneeded interventions and blinding them with unnecessary rhetoric that is for the most part neither useful nor helpful to a birthing mother. We should be empowering women, better educating them, encouraging and enabling them to take charge of their birth; trust their instincts and provide them with safe secure surroundings, in which to experience what should be the biggest achievement she has ever made.
For info on birthing rights or queries regarding them in the UK try here http://www.birthrights.org.uk/ or here http://www.aims.org.uk