Positive Childbirth Preparation in Uncertain Times

Oct 25, 2022

After a recent pregnancy coaching session I was forced to reflect that the latest media storm brandishing maternity failures has created much more harm than good for pregnant women. During pregnancy, women and their partners are desperately striving to avoid additional stressors, whilst preparing for their childbirth experience in a calm and positive way.

Important as it is to highlight the issue, (especially the bigger cultural picture that is identified in the Kirkup report, Read now ) when women read that hospitals are not safe, but also going to midwifery led units is crazy, what is a woman left to do?  Hopefully this report will lead to substantial wider support for our shameful maternity departments up and down the country. And new families are hoping for this too.

Women are left with little control and increased fear

Why is this so important?

This is not only creating problems for families preparing for their births, but also for the maternity units trying to find magical ways to improve against the odds. Women are left with little control and increased fear. These are both factors known, from decades of research, to worsen a woman’s perception of her experience, regardless of how her labour progresses.

Looking after women as a midwife is such an amazing privilege, nothing beats being part of the special journey into parenthood and present at the start of a new life. Over many years I have witnessed and encouraged the voice of couples sharing the heartfelt meaning behind their birth stories. I have seen the transition into parenthood also bringing a transformation of these women and their partners, that this unique life event creates. For the most part women find birthing their children the most enriching experience of their lives.

How bad can this get?

Let me also reassure you that midwives up and down the country are striving to provide the best care for you, they are sometimes working against the odds, but they started this role because of a deep caring attitude and a strength of heart to go the extra mile. We do support deliveries outside of hospital (subject to localised staffing levels) in the UK following the landmark Birthplace study in 2012. It was the first of its kind to quantify the safety of community births within the UK (1), and carries updated recognition from a Cochrane review, (2) In addition the Better Births report of 2016 and on-going reviews by NHS England are working towards improving care (3). (Read now)

The benefits of a positive childbirth experience are felt widely, – improved breastfeeding, bonding, and faster recovery with fewer cases of depression arising. It is part of human nature for the birth experience to be felt as wonderful and as such hormones respond as intended and support the job of mothering and parenting in the early days and weeks to protect and nurture the newborn. The value of a positive birth experience is even recognised and supported by the World Health Organisation(4).  (Read now)

So what can be done NOW?

Working towards a positive experience can be a complicated process, notwithstanding the additional challenges that arise as mentioned here, stress and pressures appear in pregnancy like never before.  Health concerns, financial worries, workplace issues and maternity cover challenges, not to mention the massive stigma that still exists surrounding mental health in pregnancy. And then, there’s the stigma and fear surrounding taking medications to improve symptoms. Before I finish that little rant, there’s one more thing to mention: The identity issue! Becoming a parent is the biggest identity change that will happen in most people’s lives and yet its only really greeted with “aren’t you lucky!” It’s a minefield! And it’s tough. Hence women are struggling more and more and yet getting less and less support.

Becoming a parent is the biggest identity change that will happen in most people’s lives 

Three top tips to get started.

Having had some time to reflect and research with my own MSc thesis exploring the positive childbirth experience, I have found that there are three things that serve women well to enhance in preparation for a positive childbirth experience.

  1. Self-efficacy: A feeling that you have the power, that your body is equipped to cope, to excel and to recover, and then to finish with more than you started with.
  2. Self-esteemThinking well of yourself, sticking up for yourself, being your best friend and reminding yourself how great you are.
  3. Positive moodFinding a strength to help yourself out of the low moments, working with daily strategies to move towards a positive mindset, whilst acknowledging difficulties.

These three things will support women to re-gain the power in their experience, the power over their body and their mind to promote and enhance the capabilities to birth.  There may or may not be a need for some physical and medical assistance during the birth process to maintain safety, but these powerful tools can help the acceptance and mutual working of body and being with current day technologies to support our safety and that of the baby.

Making it personal.

My professional journey has led me to now offer support to these families, outside of the NHS, on my own terms, for their benefit using positive psychology and midwifery.  Flourish Your Mind in Pregnancy has the aim of creating personalised programmes to support these women and their families. They will discover their own special journey and build skills that will empower the whole family and last a lifetime. With focused, personalised support, families can develop a solid programme of psychological preparation for pregnancy and childbirth that will equip them with the tools to navigate the challenges that arise. Prior to and alongside their current preparation programmes women must start to address the bigger issues surrounding their mental health and their psychological skills that will support them and the developing baby both now and in the years to come. Contact me for more information.

References

  1. Brocklehurst P, Hardy P, Hollowell J, Linsell L, Macfarlane A, McCourt C, et al. Perinatal and maternal outcomes by planned place of birth for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies: The Birthplace in England national prospective cohort study. BMJ (Online). 2012 Jan 21;343(7840).
  2. Alfirevic Z, Devane D, Gyte GML, Cuthbert A. Continuous cardiotocography (CTG) as a form of electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) for fetal assessment during labour. Vol. 2017, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd; 2017.
  3. NHS England. BETTER BIRTHS Improving outcomes of maternity services in England A Five Year Forward View for maternity care NATIONAL MATERNITY REVIEW [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2022 Apr 29]. Available from: https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/national-maternity-review-report.pdf
  4. World Health Organization. WHO recommendations. Intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience. [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2022 Oct 25]. Available from: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/260178/9789241550215-eng.pdf

 

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