Birth can be a beautiful, amazing experience as we help our babies into the world – it is an emotional and physical experience that demands you ride the contractions and respond to your body’s requests to enable your baby to be born.
Labour and birth is raw and you can be laid bare and vulnerable and in need of support, information and reassurance to make you feel safe, strong and capable. As such, giving birth is such a unique experience and it can leave some women feeling anything from disappointment or dissatisfaction to feeling traumatised.
– expectations –
As an antenatal teacher, my aim is to equip expectant parents with a better understanding of what labour and birth can be like – what you can do to aid labour, what you can do to work with your contractions, to manage your energy and to be able to stay calm and head off any feelings of panic.
Birth can be different from your expectations – the pain can be more intense, labour can be longer and more exhausting, you can feel more vulnerable than you imagined. Labour is also so subjective – a positive labour for one woman could be difficult for another. So if you are surrounded by the horror stories of labour, please remember that you and your labour are unique.
Most women need ongoing support throughout labour and birth – from a birth partner and a midwife and the presence of a birth doula can be really beneficial as well. Women in labour need to feel safe, listened to and reassured – this will help you to feel calm and strong and able to keep going and to make any decisions.
– human touch –
When women are left feeling traumatised by the birth of their baby – it is not necessarily the event, but the emotions that have been created that stay with them.
After the birth of my third baby, I needed to go to theatre to have my placenta removed. It was straightforward but I was on my own, away from my husband and my new baby, I felt vulnerable. Nobody spoke to me and I felt like a piece of meat, no body reassured me and it did cross my mind that I might die. I remember sobbing on that operating table but no one came to see if I was ok.
The human touch makes all the difference – some connection, some time, sympathy and understanding and it is often when this is missing, that women feel vulnerable, scared, without control and traumatised.
It can be very beneficial to talk about the birth of your baby – to make sense of what happened, to attempt to make your peace with it, to focus on the positives and, if appropriate, to make plans for a future birth.
What can help?
Attend some good antenatal classes – arm yourself with some good knowledge and the skills to stay calm and comfortable in labour.
Ask for information and reassurance when you need it
Hire a birth doula – she can provide ongoing support throughout your labour – from the early contractions through to the first hours with your baby. A doula can be an additional birth partner so you are not left on your own
Research where to have your baby – at home or in a birthing centre could provide you with more options and one to one care
If you have previously experienced a difficult birth and you are expecting another baby, it can help to talk it through, so you can prepare well for giving birth again.
If you are left feeling traumatised, which can also involve flashbacks, therapy can also be beneficial.
Further support can also be available from the Birth Trauma Association
Please don’t suffer in silence, sometimes just talking it through can ease the burden and make you feel less alone.