Positive Birth News

birth stories, news and articles to encourage and inspire

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Get Passionate About Your Baby’s Birth

Get passionate

We often do not realise, until it is too late, until after at least one birth, that birth matters and how we feel matters too.

We often do not see until it is too late that if we want a positive birth, a welcoming birth for our baby, and a positive beginning to motherhood, then we need to become passionate about this and take ownership. As parents we need to take responsibility, make choices and advocate for our children – and this starts before birth.

Sadly, the average or ‘normal’ birth experience in Australia is not a positive one. Of the hundreds of women who have told me their stories, many women have a disappointing or traumatic story to tell of their first birth in hospital. Mothers do not always feel safe, comforted and nurtured during labour. They do not always feel respected, understood or in control. They do not always feel strong, confident or happy after birth. For many women, birth is a complicated, risky and frightening experience, and they feel inadequately supported.

The experience of birth often comes as a shock. It may leave a woman feeling exposed and vulnerable, uninformed and unimportant. Women may feel they are failing if their labour does not progress according to expectations. Women may feel frightened and anxious as their labour and birth seem to spin out of control.

Mixed with pride and joy at the birth of their baby, women may feel a little disappointed after their first birth. Some feel betrayed and violated. One in three mothers are traumatised, some experiencing postnatal depression and post traumatic stress[1].

Too many women feel disempowered, bullied or let down when they come out the other end of their first birth (One would be too many but women’s stories sugest it is much more common than that). I don’t know how the dads feel watching their wife or partner go through this trauma but I’m pretty sure they feel hurt and powerless too. They may feel they failed because they couldn’t protect their love from this ordeal.

Some women come away believing they have failed. And some women come through angry and wanting to fight. They know somewhere inside that something was wrong. And it wasn’t them, it wasn’t their baby. It was the way their birth was managed and most importantly the way they felt during birth. Most women move on as best they can because we have been taught ‘That’s just the way birth is’.

But this is not true. Birth can be a safe and natural, powerful and awe-inspiring, beautiful and incredibly positive experience. Of course there are no guarantees. The only things that can be controlled are the environment we place ourselves in, the people we allow to care for us, and the way we approach birth. No matter what happens in labour, there should always be time and space for the little things that will make birth positive – a respectful approach, a loving word or touch, recognition that every birth is sacred, special and a once in a lifetime experience. Every woman deserves to have a positive birth.

Having a positive birth is not always easy, but it is worth striving for. If you agree that your birth experience matters for you and your baby then you need to get passionate about it. If you wish to feel supported and safe, respected and valued, strong and beautiful as you labour and bring your baby into the world, then you will need to work to achieve this.

It is not easy to stay positive about birth when you are surrounded by frightened people and frightening stories. It is not easy when you are told that you are insignificant and that birth does not work. It is challenging to hold on to your hopes and dreams when you are met with dismissal, resistance, or even derision.

  • Find a community of supportive people who share your positive view of birth and mothering so that you do not feel isolated and alone.
  • Find the carers and the place of birth that share your views on birth and will be able to support you and meet your needs. Make the choices and build the foundation you need for a positive birth.
  • Be an active participant in your maternity care. Don’t just sit back and go with the flow without first checking where the current is going!
  • Insist that you are treated with respect and dignity and be aware of how you communicate with others to set an expectation of mutual respect. Remember that you get more flies with honey than vinegar. There is a really wonderful read about this approach and how to get what you want without getting everyone else off side at Give Birth with Confidence. (And it works! I’ve used it when advocating for my child in an operating theatre full of medical staff!)
  • Reflect on the beliefs you hold about what birth is like and your own ability to give birth. Consider where they have come from and how they serve you.
  • Allow the beautiful images and words contained in the stories to seep into your mind, and use them to help you create and hold on to a positive view of labour and birth. The Birth Journeys book is a collection of positive and uplifting stories sharing the many different paths taken to a positive birth. I selected these stories with input from over 60 mothers, midwives, doulas and educators to offer positive, inspiring and believable stories that will help you feel positive, confidence and  excited about birth!
  • Listen to your inner self and also to your trusted carers.
  • Be open to new ideas and different perspectives on what makes a positive birth. Be strong but don’t be wilful.
  • Know that birth does work and that a positive birth, even an amazing birth, is a possibility for you.

[1] Effectiveness of a Counseling Intervention After A Traumatic Childbirth: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Birth, 2005 Mar;32(1):11–19, Gamble J, Creedy D, Moyle W, Webster J, McAllister M, and Dickson, P.


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Book Review of Birth Journeys – by Kylie Sheffield, published in Birth Matters, Journal of Maternity Coalition

“When I was pregnant with my first child, my lovely wise mum told me to be careful what I read and loaned me her treasured copy of Frederick Leboyer’s Birth Without Violence. Three babies (and four years on Birth Matters) later, the list of books I loan and recommend to pregnant friends and loved ones is extremely short. Leonie MacDonald’s Birth Journeys has just joined it.” ~ Kylie Sheffield, previous editor of Birth Matters.

Maternity Coalition Review of Birth Journeys
Maternity Coalition is a National, Not-for-profit organisation working towards better choices, care practices and access to Maternity Care in Australia, as well as education and advocacy for consumers. Find out more or join a group near you when you visit the Maternity Coalition website.

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Beyond Birth: Where Will Our Baby Sleep?

When I was pregnant with my first son, my husband and I read our way through a pile of books on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. As we eagerly discussed all our new ideas, my husband shared one that floored me.

He wanted to ditch the beautiful, adorable, and rather expensive convertible timber cot we had just bought after a great deal of deliberation…and have our baby sleep in our bed! Did I mention how beautiful that cot was? It was our one big baby purchase. I loved it so. When we set it up in the ‘nursery’ it seemed to say “This is real. We’re having a baby!!”

My husband gave me plenty of reasons for co-sleeping or bedsharing and they all sounded remarkably sensible. He told me how co-sleeping regulates baby’s temperature, heart beat and breathing, promotes breastfeeding, and provides our baby with the reassurance and comfort he is used to.

But I was terrified of putting my baby at risk. A baby seemed so fragile. Surely, our baby would be safer in a cot on his own? We would start with the cot and maybe when our baby was a bit bigger he might sleep next to me.

Our newborn had his own ideas. He preferred to sleep in my arms and preferably chest-to-chest on top of me with his head just below my lips. I didn’t mind – I loved smelling his fuzzy, soft, fresh baby hair. I kept putting him down in the cot once he was asleep but when he was about four months old, he moved into our bed and slept next to me each night from the beginning. He didn’t go back into the cot until we converted it to a toddler bed when he was older.

During this time, I did my own reading about co-sleeping so I could make sure we were using the safest arrangement possible. I learnt from Dr James McKenna that it was best to put the bed on the floor. So out to the shed went our bedframe. We put away the feather filled doona and used blankets and sheets only. Now we had the peace of mind knowing that our baby wouldn’t roll out and hurt himself and he wouldn’t overheat. I slept with one small pillow long ways, under my head and not near my baby. I was very careful with where the bedding was placed and checked for any gaps around the mattress frequently. Our bedroom may have looked odd to other adults but it worked well for us.

When it came to our second baby, I didn’t think twice about bedsharing. I knew the benefits and was confident I knew how to keep my baby safe. I also knew that there were no significant difficulties in transitioning a child out of the bed and my older son was now sleeping happily in his own bed and own room most nights.

Many families will have a baby or toddler in their bed at some stage. Occasional and unplanned bedsharing seems more likely to be risky, as parents may not be aware of safety recommendations or may not be able to set up a safe sleep environment. For example, parents end up bedsharing with their baby in a hotel room or at a relative’s house when baby is unsettled away from home. Or an intoxicated or exhausted parent accidently falls asleep with baby in the bed and sleeps too heavily to be aware of where the baby is. Smokers should not bedshare and either should obese parents according to research into safe co sleeping. Occasional and unplanned bedsharing seems more likely to place a baby at risk of suffocation or an injury than planned and carefully considered bed sharing.

Now researchers from Murdoch University are asking health organisations to rethink their statements about the risks associated with bedsharing.

Associate Professor Catherine Fetherston said a critical risk factor was unsuitable environments, which could involve too much soft bedding, sleeping with siblings or pets and sofa-sleeping.

“Often when researchers look at bedsharing, they include sofa-sharing or armchair-sharing, which have been shown to be very dangerous, with a number of associated deaths,” she said. “In fact, when you remove deaths associated with sofa-sharing from the analysis, the rate of bedsharing deaths is lower than the rate found in babies sleeping by themselves in cots.”

She added that more could be done by agencies to highlight breastfeeding’s role in protecting against SIDS, saying breastfed babies who bedshared benefited physiologically, with more stable temperatures and heart rhythms, better oxygen saturation and fewer pauses in breathing. “While we accept the need for preventative strategies to reduce sleep-related infant deaths, we believe health agencies should shift from absolute messages discouraging bedsharing to messages that address known risk factors.”

We need to focus on knowing what the safest bedsharing looks like and avoiding sleeping with our babies when the conditions are not ideal.

Links for further reading:




*Now I have read the reports in the media recently about the study from Auckland that concluded there was a significant increase in SIDS amongst cosleeping infants under 3 months. haven’t read the actual paper to see what information they used to reach the conclusion. I think parents are still going to co sleep, either intentionally or out of fatigue and desperation when nothing else seems to work, so we need to realise this and educate and support parents about the safest options for sleep and what alternatives might work for them if they are not going to bed share and bed share safely. Personally I would still prefer to have my babies within arms reach than in that beautiful cot across the room or in a separate nursery.