Although this latest blog offering may appear to be directed at midwives, this is a reminder of the normality of birth for all women to read and absorb…
Most women would prefer to give birth ‘normally’ and for most this is undoubtedly the safest way ensuring optimal outcome for both mother and baby.
So what is normal birth? Well, its defined in different ways but is generally birth that is achieved when a woman spontaneously goes into labour and births without any medical assistance at all. But I sometimes sit and wonder if we really know what normal is anymore. The modern birth appears to have become so micro managed, arranged, augmented, and timed, that many of us (women and midwives) seem to have forgotten its very nature.
Being 'with woman' in achieving a normal birth and normalising the process of birth for all regardless of the type of labour and birth experienced, is paramount to the care we offer as midwives. For this to happen we need to be able to not only have knowledge of the normality of birth but also be able to offer a care experience that is supportive and comfortable. A woman must feel secure and be trusting of her caregiver. Our support is paramount as her experience of birth will remain with this woman for the rest of her life.
The recent statistic for the rate of normal birth Nationally suggest that around 45% of women birth normally. The majority of these women are having their second or subsequent baby. Midwives need to do more to bring back the normality of birth to offer support to women encouraging them to believe in the amazing ability of their own body to birth with little or no intervention. The vast majority of women should be able to birth normally as only a minority need help due to a medical condition or an issue with their physical body or skeleton. Those who are unable to birth without assistance then need our support to normalise their experiences making them comfortable and as stress free as possible.
A little ‘shout out’ to home birth: Giving birth is generally safe for women with healthy uncomplicated pregnancies. Giving birth at home significantly reduces the need for medical intervention even in first time mums-to-be. It also significantly increases the likelihood of having a normal birth. Statistics reveal that 88% of women planning a home birth will achieve a normal birth versus only 66% who choose a hospital setting (Place of birth Study, 2011). Great evidence!
So putting this all together how do we support normality? What I do know is that when we free ourselves to truly support women and their decisions, establish relationships of trust, learn and teach everything we can about the natural physiological process, take care to ensure that the antenatal period runs smoothly, pay attention (by our physical presence) to situations before they become complications or emergencies, and relearn to use our hands and voices to calm, massage, encourage, offer guidance; we may start to remember that birth itself is a normal physiological event. Once these skills are relearned we need to embrace the normality of birth, take away the lingering fear, fear has no place here, then offer our support and encouragement towards bringing birth back to women.
We need to let women know that their bodies have the innate ability to birth. Essentially every first time healthy mum has the ability to birth, they just don’t know it yet! Given knowledge, freedom to make decisions throughout her care, the option to move and change positions in her labour as she wishes, all with the support, wisdom and encouragement of a midwife who she trusts; a woman will have the birth experience that is right for her and her baby and this is more likely to be a ‘Normal Birth’.
Its over to you midwives to stretch out a hand and walk the journey alongside the women you care for supporting your birthing women to be confident in their decisions.
All women need reminding just how beautiful birth can be…