Have a home birth!
by Sophie Fletcher
But apart from my birth I had never seen it play out until I became a doula where I really began to observe the difference between a home birth and a hospital birth. In my class I always support mums to birth where they wish, making a home birth or a hospital birth as familiar and comfortable as possible at an unconscious and conscious level. I’ve never been openly pro home birth or pro hospital birth, because I think that the parents should make an informed choice based on what is right and wrong for them. In fact, even I thought a home birth was a bit ‘out there’ before I trained in hypnosis for birth and discovered this whole new/old world of birth.
Now after hearing so many stories recently of women having a normal labour only to be told “his head just wouldn’t come down” or “I was so exhausted, I hadn’t eaten in hours, they said I was too tired”, “they said it was too long even though I was fine and he was fine” “my contractions slowed down so they put me on a drip” “come into the hospital so we can check that your waters have broken, then they induced me”.
The amount of women I have heard say they went into hospital, had a perfectly fine labour and are told at the last minute they can’t do it ending up with a forceps or ventouse seems to be escalating. In the US sections have risen from 5% to an average of nearly 40% in 30 years. What is this about? Maternal death according to Ina May Gaskin is increasing after unnecessary interventions. Assisted births average at around 12% in the UK, increasing to 21% for first time mums. What is going on? Are the Doctors saying that 20% of us can’t birth our babies without help? Of course we can. But we need time, patience, self-belief and inner strength. Not doubt and fear.
These women are fine, their babies are fine, why are the doctors intervening and traumatizing these women unnecessarily? The women that I hear from, are women who have read the books and done the classes about normal birth. They’ve learned that if everything is fine and baby is fine, do nothing. These women are excited, prepared, ready and confident in their ability to birth. Yet they are being filled with fear and the message they can’t do it, quite literally at the final push. I’m sure that if they had had a home birth things might have been very different. Call be cynical, but it feels as if they have a better chance or a normal birth at a home birth.
During my last birth, there was an exchange between the consultant and a midwife in another room, she had the door slightly ajar, not letting the consultant in, and she said to him “leave her alone, the CTG was normal, she doesn’t consent” “the consultant trying to force the door, said “I just want to make them aware of what I think”. This midwife shut the door in his face. Another midwife may have let him in; he may have scared the mum who may have consented to unnecessary interventions. As it was I heard the lusty cries of a healthy newborn a couple of hours later.
I always knew that a father or birthing partner’s role was hard, just how hard it’s become I didn’t realize. Any deviation from what the hospital consider the norm (hospital policies do vary, which tells you something in itself) and the pressure becomes intense, often it seems these parents are told things that are just not true, information is withheld on risks of interventions, or risks associated with a parents choice to do nothing exaggerated, based on the clinicians own distorted view of birth.
These women are not given the time they need, many doctors do not seem to trust that women can birth normally (one consultant said to me, “first time mums find it very difficult, they very often have to have help, birth isn’t a normal event”). This approach tends to reverse at a home birth in the care of midwives who are experienced in normal birth.
If a woman is exhausted, honey in hot water can help her at the last moment, not telling her she’s too tired to do it while preparing the forceps or ventouse. If she’s told she’s got ketones in her urine and she hasn’t got the energy, read Odent’s work that says high levels of ketones are normal in birth and show that women during labour do have higher ketones as their smooth muscles in their uterus are working rather than skeletal muscles and that these muscles can more easily process fatty acids as fuel.
Of course I’m not going to advise you, you can make your own choices about wether a home birth is right for you. But if I were birthing again this is how I would do it
- Have a home birth, I wouldn’t go near the hospital unless I had to.
- If my waters broke before labour started I would take my temperature, and monitor baby’s movement knowing labour would almost certainly start within 48 hours.
- I’d eat if I were hungry or before active labour started.
- I would do anything to avoid a CTG monitor, choosing instead to have regular listening in with a Doppler.
- I wouldn’t have any vaginal examinations, certainly if I sensed I were further along, I wouldn’t want to be on a timer for second stage.
- I would choose the position I wanted to be in at any point.
- If I were told that they were concerned about something, I would ask “is this something you are concerned might happen or is happening”. Lots of intervention is prophylactic (preventative) based on a midwife or doctors own interpretation of what could happen.
- I would allow time.
But this is hard to do when you are told that your baby is at risk because you have been in second stage too long, or the baby’s heart is showing some decelerations, (some decelerations are normal, other’s aren’t – do you know the difference?), you may be at risk of infection, or your labour has slowed down. I knew of a mum recently who was scanned at 42 weeks and told she was having a huge baby (over 11lbs), they wanted to give her a caesarean and gave her a detailed and traumatising description of a shoulder dystocia reducing her to tears – this mum went on to have a very fast normal labour with no intervention at all and a 9.10lb baby 1 day later.
So what to do? Err on the side of normality. Read ‘Birth Matters’ by Ina May Gaskin, “Heart in the Womb” by Amali Lokugamage, “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering” by Sarah J Buckley, particularly be aware in Ina May’s book of the birth stories – women that are tired that have been having a long labour, but are supported by strong women to find those reserves within them, without a doctor twitching in the room. Perhaps even consider a home birth as an option and ask your community midwife about home birth.
Having a home birth in the hands of experienced midwives, preferably a few independents that I know and love would be my choice, with no doubt and no fear, but lots of laughter, strength and self-belief.