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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Birth IS All About Love

A positive birth is all about how a woman feels during her labour or birth. Whether women describe their birth as empowering, positive, spiritual or sacred – they are talking about how they felt in mind, body and spirit. Feelings are shaped by how they perceived birth as well as how they were supported and treated by those around them.

I admit it. Before experiencing birth at all, I thought women who spoke of birth like this must be absolutely crazy! I couldn’t reconcile what I thought must be the most painful and dangerous ordeal imaginable with these descriptions of joy, ecstasy, empowerment and strength.

Even once I began to understand that labour was manageable and a natural birth was possible, I didn’t understand how birth could be anything but hard work. I went into my first birth determined to get through. It felt like a battle.

One of the missing pieces of the puzzle for me was the connection between the biology of labour and the experience of labour. Labour is all about letting go, not fighting. My dogged determination was actually in conflict with the process and the progress of my labour. Mentally and emotionally holding on like this tells the body “I am not safe. My baby is not safe.”

When women feel anxious, the hormone that drives contractions is interrupted by fight or flight hormones. Labour may slow or stall and medical intervention may be introduced to move things along. Women need to feel safe, private and loved to support the work of the hormones that create labour.

The hormones released during labour also provide pain relief and enhance a mother’s feelings of joy and bonding with her baby. These hormones are most effective when women feel safe enough to let go of inhibitions, fears and rational thoughts and enter into a deeply relaxed state of consciousness. The combination of birth hormones and joy at the birth of her baby produces intense feelings of strength, love, pride and euphoria for the woman. Birth can be a powerful experience that causes women to exclaim joyfully “I want to do that again!”

So feeling loved, safe and private enough to let go is not just a ‘nice idea’ for labouring mothers. It is a biological imperative – it is nature’s plan.

You can learn more about the hormonal blueprint for birth from Sarah Buckley’s excellent free ebook on her website: www.sarahbuckley.com

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A Positive Birth is Sensible not Selfish

Mention that you are looking forward to birth and you are quite likely to encounter negative comments, criticism, discouraging stories or jokes. Many people react with strong emotions to the desire for a positive birth experience or a positive attitude towards birth, but why is this negative view of birth the norm in our society? And why are the responses so vehement?

Unfortunately, many men and women have experienced a frightening or complicated birth first or secondhand. Their experiences and anecdotes are taken as proof that birth doesn’t work and a safe and uncomplicated birth is unlikely. Each story becomes part of our cultural script about birth; teaching us to be worried and scared, teaching us to believe giving birth is an unpleasant but necessarily evil to be endured on the path to having a baby.

People who are frightened of birth are more likely to have frightening experiences of birth. Fear or anxiety can interfere with the progress of labour, and this can result in a need for medical assistance and a more complicated and risky birth.

Our emotions colour our perceptions. So a frightened person perceives and experiences a dangerous and risky event, while the health professionals present may see it as “normal” or “everyday” and not requiring any special care or additional emotional support. As long as there are mothers and fathers who are frightened of birth, and who are inadequately supported and cared for during labour and birth, there will be discouraging and negative stories to tell. Negative and frightening birth stories continue, in part, because as a society we have so much fear and so little confidence and belief in our bodies and the ability to give birth.

It is not surprising that the majority views birth as unimportant and unpleasant at best, and like a horror movie at worst. When people say “all that matters is a healthy baby”, they may still be coming to terms with a stressful, traumatic or disappointing birth experience of their own or someone close to them. In this context, hearing that a woman’s feelings and experience matter may be quite challenging and hard to accept. Within our negative birth culture, it could seem naive or even self-centred to care about anything other than making it through.

A woman’s yearning for a positive birth is too often equated with wishes for music, candles, dolphins and other things intended to make women appear frivolous, ludicrous and out of touch with reality. The word “experience” is trivialised too – an experience is understood to be something extra and unnecessary that women want for their own benefit and at the cost of their baby’s wellbeing. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

This surface level interpretation distracts and prevents people from understanding what women mean by a positive birth and what women need to emerge from birth feeling healthy and whole.

From bringing together the Birth Journeys book and reflecting on the experiences of many women, I learnt that a positive birth isn’t about achieving a perfect or ideal birth. It is not about being inflexible and stubbornly sticking to a birth plan no matter what happens. It is not about having a particular type of birth or only one kind of birth either. It is not only for women who choose to have their baby at home or in a birth centre. A positive birth doesn’t mean having a natural birth, a drug-free birth or a pain-free birth either! Each of these is possible and may be the perfect path for you and your baby’s birth. Each of these may be incredibly empowering and transformative, but these are not the key to a positive birth.

While each woman will have her own unique birth wishes based on her self-knowledge, her understanding of the birth process and her circumstances; a woman who wants a positive birth has one deeper underlying wish. She is not at all crazy, hippy or selfish although she may be called all of these.

A positive birth comes down to the mother’s feelings during the birth of her baby, and her feelings are strongly linked to the way she is cared for and supported.

So what kind of care does she need and want? Respect. Dignity. Compassion. Love.

Above all else, she needs to be treated with humanity.

A woman who feels loved, respected and well supported is most likely to have a straightforward and uncomplicated birth with a healthy baby (because of the interaction of hormones that drive labour when a woman feels safe and secure). She is likely to avoid unnecessary medical assistance that may complicate her labour and introduce new risks. She will also be better equipped to cope with an unexpected outcome or complicated birth because of the wonderful care and support she has received and will continue to receive after birth. Her wellbeing is protected and may even be enhanced by a positive birth. Women are likely to emerge from a positive birth as healthy, whole and empowered mothers – what a wonderful foundation to a lifetime of motherhood.

If we had a supportive culture of birth, built on respectful and loving care for all women giving birth, whether they experience labour or have a caesarean birth, then there would be no need for this discussion. We might not need to work so hard for a positive birth and we would not run up against so much resistance. Clearly, we have quite some way to go before this is achieved.

As you prepare for your positive birth, be strong in the knowledge that there is no selfishness in placing a high priority on your feelings and wellbeing in pregnancy and birth. It is sensible, not selfish for you to desire, seek and insist on a positive birth experience!