Letter from a midwife... don't be afraid to give birth

Dear mums,

Don’t be afraid to give birth – have a happy birth day!

As a midwife I meet with many mothers and fathers to be who are afraid of giving birth. Many say that as it is their first baby they don’t know what to expect nor do they know what their options are. This alone makes them feel out of their depth and that they have little say in what happens to them.

The reality is we all have our first baby, and none of us really know what to expect or how we will manage. The great news is that most of us do manage – and some of us come back for more.

(I have four children !!!)

What I have noticed more and more over the years is that as we are exposed to escalating information via social media, internet and other media sources, the women have a lot of information, but it makes little sense to them.

This becomes overwhelming and quite debilitating. They cannot fathom what is fact and what is opinion.

So the sensible thing is not to do too much reading in the beginning. Wait a while and just focus on keeping well and growing your baby.

There are many choices available in the UK from birthing at home, water birthing in hospital or having an elective caesarean section. There are birthing units, NHS hospitals and the Portland Maternity Hospital providing both Consultant and Midwifery Led Care.

A most common statement is when the mum to be or her partner confesses to a “low pain threshold”. Many of you will never have felt pain and so your imagining may be worse than the reality. It is important to know that when you are in labour you have amazing hormones that are pain relief. You can boost your endorphins by using a TENS machine early in labour. You can use practises like hypnobirthing to modify the anxiety and lower the pain experience. Many know about the availability of epidurals, and although these are not a magic wand, for most of us who use them at an appropriate stage in labour they can provide good pain relief.

So if you are reading this you might be thinking “aaaah there is too much choice” and you start the cycle of fear and anxiety and before you know it you are afraid to give birth. What I have found helps is, rather than trying to make sense of all the options, simply focus on the reality that you are having a baby, going to become a mother and at some stage you will give birth. Then seek out a trusted professional to guide you.

In the early weeks it is important to have your antenatal care including scans and screening done. You have time to then decide where you will birth your baby. A little later in the pregnancy attend reputable childbirth education sessions where the options for birth will be discussed. By then you will have lovely pregnancy hormones to help you focus on your choices. You will also know how the pregnancy is progressing and if you need to follow a particular path or another.

A couple of interesting pieces of research show that for women it is not as much as the type of birth they have, whether they have an epidural or not, but the presence of a midwife to care for them and if they felt involved in their choices. Also at a conference recently where this issue of fear of birth was discussed, we were reminded that having a tour of your hospital is a great way to allay fear.

Birth is one of the most beautiful experiences you will ever go through, and probably the hardest – unless you run marathons or walk to the South Pole. Focus on the prize, a wee baby in your arms, find a safe place for you to birth, and take your time with your choices.

As a midwife it is the most rewarding feeling seeing a mum with her new baby, knowing she has navigated her way through all the birth and is now a happy mother.