An article by Jenni Murray in this week’s Daily Mail has really struck a chord with me. She writes about the NHS’s proposed move to encourage women not to choose a Caesarean or even an epidural, as it is too costly. In fairness, she is clear she does not approve but then asks the following questions:
“Why can many women today not envisage giving birth without drugs or even surgery? Have we, with painkillers and surgical techniques, turned a natural function for which the female form is perfectly designed into a terrifying medical procedure? Have we sapped the confidence of women to do it their own way and persuaded them, wrongly, that the doctor always knows best?”
Well actually yes, it is true that many women today feel unable to contemplate giving birth without pain relief. Childbirth is a terrifying concept for far too many and we only have to consider how much negativity we are surrounded by to discover why that is so. How many pregnant women are subjected to the blow-by-blow accounts of their friend’s long, complicated labours, recently referred to by one of my NCT clients as “war-stories”? What are we regularly subjected to on television and in other media?
In a comparison of attitudes to birth involving women from the USA which has a very high rate of medical intervention and women from the Netherlands where home birth is still relatively the norm, it is clear which group had a significantly lower perception of labour as very painful and frightening. I am sure I don’t need to spell it out for you. The more medical “help” available, the greater the expectation that it must be REALLY bad.
And finally, yes we HAVE sapped so many women’s confidence in their bodies’ innate ability to give birth. Listening, acknowledging fears and concerns and then educating women in any number of ways that may be helpful for them are what will build their confidence. Through the evidence-based approach (i.e. client-led discussion interspersed with physical skills) that I use in my NCT classes or the more direct methods using hypnosis that I teach in my Natal Hypnotherapy workshops, I find that women feel more empowered as a result.
I acknowledge that the sharing of positive birth stories is in fact what we need to see more, but Jenni, please don’t use your own experiences as a lesson to us all, as preaching rarely works when it comes to giving birth.