Birth Matters. How we birth affects our entrance to motherhood, our mental and emotional health, how we connect with our loved ones including baby and how we feel about ourselves. Birth also marks the start of a time of enormous transition, when a woman becomes a mother (perhaps again) and maybe going from paid employment to being a full time mum, juggling new social circles such as mothers groups as well as important relationships with partners or existing children.
So if birth matters for so many reasons for so many women, then knowing how and being prepared to birth well must be so important. Before we delve into the how to prepare to birth in Perth, let’s start with a few interesting statistics about birthing in Western Australia that I think illustrates why it’s so important for women to have information available. (Statistics are from Western Australia’s Mothers and Babies 2013)
98.3% of births were in hospital, 1% were in a family birthing centre and 0.6% were at home.
50% of women went into spontaneous labour (in 1986 it was 63%)
36% of those went on to have labour augmented (use of drugs to progress labour)
Of those 55% had spontaneous vaginal delivery, 28% had assisted vaginal delivery and 16% had a caesarean
29.3% of women had labour induced
20.7% of women didn’t experience labour (caesarean)
The rate at which hospitals used induction varied between 19% and 39%
94.3% of women who had no augmentation gave birth in less than 12 hours
Women having a caesarean tripled from 1980 – 2013
There are no statistics I can find that report on women who experience a traumatic birth. Some sites believe the incidence is as high as 35% of all women. The WA Department of Health report that around 2-3% of women develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to their birthing experience.
What does this tell us? The statistics paint a picture of birth in Perth as a medical event that will more likely than not have some intervention involved. It tells us there are a lot of women out there who are recovering not only from the act of birthing but from surgical, chemical or instrumental intervention or often a combination of several of these. One thing that the stats don’t tell us are the outcomes following the birthing experience that impact on a woman’s health such as pelvic health problems, chronic pain, difficulty breastfeeding, scar tissue, wound healing as well as emotional and mental ill health caused by traumatic birth.
Physically – good nutrition, regular movement, good alignment, strength, flexibility, good pelvic health
Mentally – managing current mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, addressing risk factors for mental health problems
Emotionally – reducing stress, addressing any previous trauma (including previous birth trauma), staying connected in your community
Spiritually – knowing and living within your core values, understanding your own personal spiritual journey through pregnancy, birthing and motherhood
2. Be informed
Understanding your local Perth culture that you are birthing into (get hospital statistics and ask women who have birthed there)
Knowing your caregivers values and beliefs and their methods of supporting your birthing experience
Understanding your rights, your choices and making decisions that are best for you
Seeking out a wide variety of opinions, advice, resources, evidence based information and the wise input of women you respect
If you are wanting a vaginal birth know the process of birth, what happens, how your body and baby work together in birthing
If you are wanting a caesarean, know the process, understand what happens and where you can have your say
3. Know what you want
Know your beliefs on labour and birth – write them down, what do you like, what would you like to change? Where do these beliefs come from? Are they supported by evidence?
Know what your strengths and challenges are (i.e. your attributes that may work for and against you when birthing), use your strengths and work on your challenges
Know what your dream labour and/or birth looks like – write it down, discuss it with your birth partner or trusted supporters
Combine your dream labour and/or birth with the knowledge of what you want and don’t want to happen and write a birth plan or preference. Share it with your caregivers
4. Build your supportive network
Choose caregivers whose values align with yours, who will support your dream birth plan, who you trust to listen and respect you even if your birth takes unexpected twists and turns (this may include doctors, midwives, doula’s, counsellors, physiotherapists, chiropractors and occupational therapists that understand women’s health in the perinatal period)
Choose to surround yourself with supportive friends and family, people who won’t judge your choices or create fear around them
Build a strong network of people who are prepared to provide practical help to you once baby is born as well as those who can support your wellbeing in early motherhood (this may include friends, family, like-minded mother’s groups as well as professionals such as those mentioned above.)
Birthing well (whether you birth vaginally or via caesarean) is more than just getting “a healthy baby”, it is emerging from the experience feeling empowered, respected, nurtured and confident in moving forward into motherhood. Being a mum is the toughest job in the world, so we need to set ourselves up (and access our supports to assist us to set ourselves up) for the best possible start.