Positive Birth News

birth stories, news and articles to encourage and inspire

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Positive Birth Story – Beacon of Light

The following editorial and story are take from Birth Journeys – positive birth stories to encourage and inspire. This is a series of excerpts from Natasha’s story of her journey through antenatal and postnatal depression and many other challenges. This story is found in the “Special Births” section of the Birth Journeys book. The introduction below is provided to allow readers to make an informed choice before they read this story (and any story in Birth Journeys). I am particularly grateful to Natasha for sharing her story so openly with us, as I believe it is very important for women to see that others face incredible challenges in pregnancy and they are not alone.

This powerful story follows Natasha’s journey through antenatal and postnatal depression, her husband’s alcoholism, her marriage breakdown, severe placenta praevia, pelvic instability and her physical and emotional violation by a health professional. Natasha is faced with so many challenges that they seem insurmountable. It is hard to imagine how there can be any positives.

Amidst all these troubles, Natasha decides that her second birth will be different. She wants to have a positive, powerful, intervention-free birth this time. She wants to feel present for the birth of her baby and to give her baby a safe and healthy entrance into the world. Birth is something Natasha feels she has some control over.

Natasha chooses one-to-one care with a trusted friend who is also a midwife. This relationship is so important in bringing Natasha through the challenges and helping her to achieve the birth she wants. Her faith in God gives Natasha the strength and hope that she will make it through.

In the end, Natasha has the positive and intervention-free birth she dreamt of, hoped for and planned for. This empowering experience is a beacon of light and a memory to hold onto in an otherwise dark and incredibly difficult time of Natasha’s life.

Positive Birth Story – Beacon of Light
The story of my second son’s birth is both positive and heartbreaking. It is intertwined with my journey through antenatal and postnatal depression and the breakdown of my marriage. The three are so woven together that it is impossible to tell one without telling the others.

We were living on a station in the desert area of Western Australia. The station was run as a tourism business doing cultural awareness training for mining companies, as well as running camps for schools and youth groups. I had wanted to fall pregnant for a few months, but it hadn’t happened. We decided that the timing wasn’t right and stopped trying. We were having huge problems with our marriage.

I had been feeling quite nauseous for a week or so and my period was overdue, but I had put it down to the emotions and stress of our marital problems. One morning, while my husband was in the shower, I wondered if maybe it was due to pregnancy.

I did the test, and when the two blue lines appeared, I began to cry. My husband had threatened to leave for the hundredth time the night before, and I had given him a last chance to make up his mind. Now I found myself pregnant. Needless to say, it wasn’t such a happy moment.

I opened the shower curtain and passed the test through to my husband. He was unresponsive. To this day I have no idea what was going through his head. Despite the circumstances leading up to the pregnancy, he decided to stay. His uncle stated it quite clearly when he said, “You can’t leave now. You are having another baby.”


Placenta Praevia
After my 19 week checkup and scan my midwife rang to say that my scan showed a low lying placenta. I would need to come back into town the next week for a checkup with the local obstetrician.

I was so nervous. I looked up ‘low lying placenta’ and read all this horrible stuff about placenta praevia that left me feeling very distressed. When we went back for our checkup, the obstetrician (who had a very bad bedside manner and left me in tears!) did an internal scan. He said that my placenta was smack bang over the top of my cervix.

Even if it moved, it would never move enough for a vaginal birth. He told me it was classed as grade 4 placenta praevia. He said that from 26 weeks onwards, I wouldn’t be allowed to be more than five minutes from the hospital as I could haemorrhage at any time. He also told me that I would be having a caesarean. All of a sudden, my dream of a natural birth was snatched from me. I went home and cried.

The next couple of months were spent researching as much as I could about placenta praevia to see if there was anyway I could have input into the caesarean birth. I hoped I could opt to be awake rather than under a general anaesthetic. Unfortunately, due to the severity of the placenta praevia, this was unlikely to happen.

I went back to the obstetrician at 26 weeks for another checkup. He did the examination and said, “Well, this is impossible, but the placenta is nowhere in sight.”

To this day, I can’t explain it. It was a miracle! I have the print outs from both scans: one showing nothing but placenta, one showing nothing but baby’s head. A scan at 36 weeks showed that my placenta was at the top and front of my uterus. Again, impossible.

I was stoked! My plans for a natural birth were back on track. I rang my midwife and asked if I could get the notes from my previous birth. This was one of the best things I could have done in planning for my second birth.

I went over the notes with her, and now I understood the chain of events leading to my first birth. I had gone into hospital too early. I was only 3cm dilated when we arrived. I had been having contractions all night, but they weren’t very strong or close together. The midwife could have sent me home, but I think she recognised how tired and emotional I was after being up all night, and she admitted me instead.

My labour was labelled as a ‘failure to progress’ and the midwife ruptured my membranes. This led to intense contractions, one on top of the other, without any further dilation. The pain was greater than I could bear, so I had pethidine. I was so heavily drugged that I felt like I wasn’t there for the birth. Even now, there are some things I can’t remember.

Now I was able to go over the things I wanted to avoid this time around. I didn’t want to have my waters broken, I didn’t want any drugs offered and I wanted to stay at home for as long as possible. My midwife was completely onboard, and I was confident that any decisions she made would be in line with what I wanted. I trusted that intervention would only happen if it was truly necessary.

I had no fears about the birth. I was surrounded by stories of family who had birthed naturally, and I knew that with the right support, I would be able to have a natural birth this time. My body would do what it needed to. I know that things don’t always go according to plan with birthing, but to me the actual birth seemed to be the one thing that was within my control.

Antenatal Depression

The rest of my pregnancy was a blur of emotions. Between my failing marriage and depression, it was one of the hardest times of my life. My husband would often leave me out on the station alone for the weekend with our first son and no car while he went into town to drink. At first I loved the isolation, although looking back now, I would say this was the beginning of my antenatal depression.

I felt like I should be the happy, glowing pregnant mother, but I was far from it. I spent many nights crying, wondering how I would be able to look after my newborn baby when I could hardly look after myself. I felt nothing but impending doom. I was fearful, worried and scared that I wouldn’t be able to cope. I didn’t want to think about the baby inside of me. It was as if I tried to block it from my mind. There was no bonding with the baby, not in the beginning and not in the end.

When I was finally diagnosed with antenatal depression, I was relieved. Up to that point, I had been feeling foolish. How could I have postnatal depression when I hadn’t even had my baby yet? I hadn’t heard of antenatal depression before.

I was referred to counselling for antenatal depression and it helped immensely. My midwife made regular home visits (in the capacity of friend more than midwife), and I got extra support from my parents and my best friend.


After the Birth

We stayed in the birthing room for around two hours before I finally had a shower and moved to the maternity room. This quiet time together was very important. Later, my parents came up to the hospital with our other son. He took to his brother straight away. He was calling him “My bebe” and didn’t want anyone else to hold him.

Even though much of my pregnancy and my baby’s first year of life has been lost in a blur of depression, I can clearly remember those first few happy hours. There were times during my pregnancy when I had felt so bleak and in the blackest hole. Reading my bible, praying, or attending church were completely out of the picture. Often I would just cry out, “God, help me!” and that would be enough to get me through the day. I held onto the faith that God would bring me through this. I truly believe that it was God’s strength that upheld me throughout my pregnancy.

We called our baby Hezekiah. It means ‘The Lord is my strength’.

I felt so proud after Hezekiah’s birth. I had been supported in my decisions for the birth and had managed to give birth without pain relief or intervention. I was completely present throughout the birth and not wiped out with drugs. I learnt that I could trust myself, my body and my ability to birth a baby.

I felt that even if the rest of my life was falling apart, I could share my birth story with others and be proud of it. My birth was the most positive birth I could ever have wished for, with a beautiful baby boy as a result. How could I not be proud of myself? During my dark moments, I clung to this like a person overboard clinging to a life buoy.

Read the rest of Natasha’s story in Birth Journeys.

Read other positive stories.

Read more about antenatal depression on the Positive Birth News blog here.

For information and support in Australia:

PANDA: http://www.panda.org.au/practical-information/about-postnatal-depression/27-antenatal-depression

Beyond Blue: http://www.beyondblue.org.au

Black Dog Institute: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/depression/inpregnancypostnatal/babyblues.cfm

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Depression and Pregnancy

Pregnancy is usually a time of great joy, mixed with feelings of uncertainty and perhaps fear at the great unknowns of birth and motherhood ahead. Some women face an additional challenge during pregnancy as they struggle with antenatal depression. While postnatal depression is well known and screened for in post birth check ups, antenatal depression remains unheard of and often goes undiagnosed. In Birth Journeys Natasha shared her challenging journey to a positive birth including her diagnosis with antenatal depression. Read some sections from Natasha’s powerful story “Beacon of Light”

Laura Chapman shares a special guest post on depression in pregnancy

Removing Fear of Childbirth May Reduce Depression

When you are fearful of childbirth, it affects your experience of delivery. However, recent research also shows that this fear increases your risk of postnatal depression. The study from Finland, which involved more than 500,000 women and published in the journal BMJ Open, found that women who had not previously experienced depressed mood were most likely to suffer from depression in the weeks after delivery if they feared childbirth. However, the anxiety surrounding delivery may contribute to the low mood experienced by some of us during pregnancy as well.

Understanding antenatal depression

While you probably know about postnatal depression, you may not realise that similar feelings can occur during pregnancy; you may think that any change to the way you feel is simply down to the pregnancy hormones and the other changes occurring to your body. However, a report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2012 showed that 3.7% of mothers experienced depressive symptoms for the first time while pregnant and other studies have shown that as many as a fifth of us may be affected by mood disorders during pregnancy. So you are far from alone if you suffer from low mood before the birth of your baby. A lot of factors contribute to antenatal depression, but worrying about childbirth and how you will manage afterwards are likely to make matters worse. Hearing about positive birth experiences will help you to feel more at ease, but if you think you might be depressed, it’s best to see your doctor.

Getting help

By asking you a range of questions about your feelings, your doctor can quickly assess whether you have depression and with this diagnosis they can discuss the treatments available. If you are worried about taking antidepressants, some are known to be safe during pregnancy, but a number of effective drug-free treatments are available if you have mild depression. For instance, exercise is known to do wonders for your mood and talking therapies are beneficial for many women too. If you have an interest in complementary therapies, you might like to try acupuncture, which studies show is both suitable and effective for treating depressive symptoms during pregnancy. Receiving treatment for antenatal depression, whichever treatment you choose, will help you to have a healthy pregnancy, keeping you and your baby safe.

Read Laura’s Guide to Living with Depression During Pregnancy at Psych Guides:

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What You Really Need to Know About Labour – and where you’ll find it

Positive Birth News

When we are uncertain or facing something new, we often turn to guide books and people that tell us what to do, lists of tips, books that tell us what to expect and make everything seem black and white, straightforward and under control – predictable. A predictable birth would be nice, wouldn’t it!

But how far will this knowledge really go in preparing you for your own unique labour and birth? Not far enough!

When I was preparing for my first birth I focused on learning about pregnancy and labour from experts, guide books and the hospital antenatal class. I wanted to be well prepared and give my baby the best beginning possible. I read some birth stories (in Ina May’s clasic book Spiritual Midwifery but they were a little too alternative and hippy for me at the time. Never having experienced labour I found it very hard to imagine…

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Guest Post: Paid Menstrual Leave?

Wow! Amazing progress Russia! Certainly agree with the author though – the conceptualisation of menstruation that this is based on is not empowering and doesn’t reflect a deeper understanding of what menstruation can be.

Such a revolutionary change this would be and such change it would demand in the way women are treated and the way women feel and are understood. But only when it comes from women because women have changed the way they see menstruation and see themselves. Currently most women might think this was either unneeded or would result in more workplace discrimination and more making fun of women.

Can’t see any of this happening under our govt in Aust for many many many moons! But I don’t think we are yet ready.

So I choose to try to plan my own months around my needs and we teach our sons about these needs from a young age with an attitude of respect and acceptance.

Talk Birth

Paid Menstrual Leave – it’s time!  

by DeAnna L’am. Reprinted with permission.

A Russian lawmaker has asked parliament to give women two days paid leave a month when they menstruate… Mikhail Degtyaryov, a member of the nationalist LDPR party, wrote on his website “During that period (of menstruation), most women experience psychological and physiological discomfort. The pain for the fair sex is often so intense that it is necessary to call an ambulance”… Scientists and gynecologists look on difficult menstruation not only as a medical, but also a social problem…” ~ Standard Digital, August 2013

Fascinating! Lets look at how good things are turned on their heads, yet again, to result (unsurprisingly) in women’s dis-empowerment.

Indeed, a paid monthly Menstrual Leave would be an honoring, empowering option for women worldwide. Yet proposing it for all the wrong reasons diminishes us, and our cyclicity, to “

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Breastfeeding in Pregnancy, Labour and Beyond

This is an information piece in published in Birth Journeys,  by Leonie MacDonald

Often mothers who become pregnant wonder whether they can continue to breastfeed their baby or toddler throughout pregnancy. In most cases, it is perfectly safe and even beneficial.

During pregnancy, your milk supply may remain unchanged, diminish, or change to colostrum, especially towards the end of pregnancy. Colostrum is the first milk a newborn baby drinks. It is a clear yellowish liquid, very rich in vitamins and antibodies. It will do no harm to your breastfeeding child, although it may have a laxative effect and they may dislike the saltier flavour. Your supply of colostrum will not be used up by breastfeeding during pregnancy.

Your baby or toddler may wish to continue breastfeeding for comfort regardless of your milk supply. There are also immunological benefits of breastfeeding that continue even if your breastfeeder is not feeding very often or receiving much milk.

You may, however, experience sore nipples ranging from tolerable to very painful. Limiting the length of feeds or spacing feeds out can make this pain more manageable for some mothers. Heat or cool packs held to the breast before feeding can reduce the discomfort. Heat packs can also encourage the flow of milk. Sometimes the pain is only present at the start of the feed and then disappears.

Breastfeeding during labour is also possible and safe. Stimulating the nipples (through breastfeeding or through manual stimulation) can increase oxytocin and strengthen your contractions. It can be used to move your labour along in a natural way.

Some mothers will decide to tandem feed after birth. This means breastfeeding a baby and their sibling. The two do not have to be at the breast at the same time – any combination can work.

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VBAC – the Cinderella Birth 2

Suggestions for an Empowering Birth after Caesarean

The greatest challenges women face in achieving a VBAC are the emotional legacy of the previous birth and an absence of support and options for a safe, mother-baby centred VBAC. And it seems as though the closer women get to their baby’s birth month, the less support there is, almost as though previously supportive doctors, midwives and people are pulling the rug out from underneath them out of fear. Women are told they may have a trial of labour to VBAC, but only if they can jump through all the hoops. In The VBAC Dilemma DVD (Part 4 of More Business of Being Born), they call VBAC a ‘cindarella birth’ – finish the birth before the magic runs out at midnight!

A woman who wishes to have a VBAC has to become a researcher, an advocate, a communicator and negotiator. She needs to become comfortable with the safety of a VBAC and educated about the potential risks. And she often has to dig deeper and work harder than the first time mother to prepare emotionally and mentally for a vaginal birth, because now she has the legacy of her caesarean birth to come to terms with. While these challenges are enormous, they also are an invitation and opportunity to be transformed and empowered through the journey of birth after caesarean.

  • Understand the reasons for your caesarean birth and evaluate whether these are likely to be repeated and whether any factors are within your sphere of influence. If they are, then address each of these in your birth preparation. Include your chosen doctor or midwife in this discussion.
  • Choose doctors and midwives who support your choice to have a VBAC and who make you feel safe, respected and strong. If you find that your VBAC-friendly doctor is putting pressure on you or undermining your confidence, you have the right to change doctors, and it may be worth while doing so.

    Finding the right health professional to support your VBAC is like finding a fairy godmother – but be aware of conditions and limitations. Will the magic run out at midnight?

  • Choose a place of birth where you feel safe and will be safe. 11% of Australian women choosing a VBAC will choose to have a homebirth and a high percentage of these women will have a successful vaginal birth at home. Some of these women are choosing homebirth because they felt they had no other option. They were unable to negotiate the care and environment they needed for a successful VBAC in hospital or a birth centre and have accepted the risks of VBAC at home.
  • If you are having a hospital birth, find out what the policies are for VBAC and decide how these will impact on your ability to birth vaginally. Don’t ‘go with the flow’ in maternity care decisions without knowing that the flow is going to carry you towards the vaginal birth you are seeking. Think about conditions such as an IV on arrival in case you need surgery, a 12 hour time limit for labour, fluids only and no food in labour and continuous external foetal monitoring. These conditions are there to protect you from an undetected uterine rupture and to make emergency caesarean surgery quicker. They also come from a place of fear – fear of complications and fear of legal consequences.
  • On the other hand, women and researchers are in agreement that many of these conditions actually make it harder for women to birth vaginally and may end up contributing to a repeat caesarean. It may be helpful and important for you to meet with hospital staff and negotiate the care you want. Avoid, if possible, anything that increases the likelihood of a caesarean or a failure to progress.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people – a doula, an independent midwife, birth educators, a community of women online or in real life.

Your chances of having a vaginal birth are higher than those of a first time mother! The greatest threat to your VBAC is the impact of fear and being labelled ‘high risk’.

VBAC Journey – an opportunity to learn, grow and heal

We can reach a new perception of birth and feel confident, empowered and excited if we are open and willing to consider different possibilities. A crucial first step is knowing that your feelings about your past birth and future births are valid, no matter what they are.

Seek and read positive stories that speak to you and your experiences. Your feelings about birth may begin to change and then you will begin to consider how you can have a positive birth. If you decide that a repeat caesarean is the best path for you and your baby, you are in a far more powerful position to plan your baby’s positive and welcoming caesarean birth.

Consider the perspective that your previous caesarean birth gives you an opportunity to learn, grow, heal and transform yourself. Women who have had one or more births of any kind now have a wonderful source of information about themselves. The way they feel about birth and what they need for their next birth is held within their own birth story. Reflect, debrief, cry, rage, rant, talk, write and seek healing and lessons in your births. This self-knowledge will go a long way in empowering you for your next birth and for motherhood too.

“My VBAC was the most amazing, fabulous and triumphant thing I’ve ever done! I loved it! And I would do it all again.” Jo’s VBAC story in Birth Journeys 


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VBAC – the Cinderella Birth

Emotions, opinions and fears run high when it comes to birth. If we are frightened of birth in the first place, then the thought of a VBAC going wrong is terrifying. Women’s VBAC stories show that health professionals often focus on uterine rupture, damage to the baby or mother, and the risk of death. No wonder health professionals are often discouraging of VBAC! Their fears and concerns may come through in the way they present information, the way they speak about VBAC and a woman’s birth history.

Women’s fears however are even more complex. Many women have had their confidence and belief in their ability to birth shaken by the experience of labour followed by an emergency caesarean. Many women report feelings of failure and having let their baby down. They may fear another vaginal birth ending in an emergency, they may fear another frightening or dehumanising caesarean birth, and they may fear feeling like they have failed again.

The risks of VBAC include separation of the uterine scar before or during labour and a higher risk of infant mortality compared to a caesarean birth. Professor of Midwifery, Hannah Dahlen, explains that the chance of infant death from a uterine rupture is 1 in 10, 000 babies and this is equal to the chance of a death of a baby in a first pregnancy.[2]

The risk of infant mortality in a VBAC is also equal to the chance of a perinatal death due to mid-trimester amniocentesis, or the risk of an infant death due to sudden infant death syndrome explains Catherine Spong in her review of the latest studies on VBAC risk[3]. Other rare complications like cord prolapse or shoulder dystocia are more likely in any labour than a uterine rupture occurring during a VBAC explains Midwife and academic Rachel Reed in Birth Journeys. Yet women are frightened and discouraged out of VBACs for levels of risk that are acceptable to most people in other circumstances.

Meanwhile the risks of caesareans have been downplayed. Immediate risks of a caesarean include heavy bleeding or haemorrhage for the mother, infection in the wound and blood clots. We are only just beginning to see some of the long-term risks to mothers of repeat caesareans. With each caesarean the risks of the placental abnormalities like placenta accreta and placenta previa increase, the risks of uterine rupture increase, and the risk of internal damage to mother or baby during the surgery increase. Adhesions to the scar tissue, chronic pain, future ectopic pregnancy and hysterectomy become more likely. Risks of maternal death increase. [2]

We know little about the long term impact of caesarean birth on the health of a baby. We know that babies born by caesarean are more likely to have respiratory problems, and now studies are finding an increased risk of asthma, allergies and type 1 diabetes. [2]

Each woman needs to be aware of her unique circumstances and explore her own risks for a vaginal birth and a caesarean birth. The length of time between pregnancies, reasons for the first caesarean, and many other individual factors are relevant – but also important is a woman’s emotional wellbeing and her reasons for desiring a VBAC. It is helpful to distinguish between fears and risks. While you (or a doctor) might be very frightened of a negative outcome from a birth, the likelihood of it happening to you remains slim – but still possible. This doesn’t mean your fears are invalid or the risks are unimportant, but it does mean you have the power to do something about your fears. You have the power (and the right) to prepare yourself for the most positive birth after caesarean on your terms.

VBAC for most women after one or two caesareans

Current research supports VBAC in hospital as a safe and reasonable option for most women after one or two caesareans. This research is starting to filter into obstetric guidelines for birth after caesarean around the world. However there is still a considerable gap between guidelines and what some women are experiencing at this time. Many women still share that they are limited in their options, refused a VBAC, unable to find a supportive doctor, or unable to negotiate their care plan to give them the best chance of a successful VBAC.

I hope we will see an increase in VBAC opportunities, VBAC support and VBAC rates. We also need to see a reduction in avoidable first caesareans so that 30+% of women will not have to face the choice of VBAC or another caesarean.

Read Part 2 of VBAC – the Cinderella Birth

[2] From Professor Hannah Dahlen’s presentation on VBAC at the Maternity Coalition’s Empowering Birth Stories, May 1013.

 [3] CY Spong, In PLoS Med. 2012;9(3):e1001191. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001191. Epub 2012 Mar 13.