There has been much media attention recently focused on birth and the questions around it. Where pregnant women in Australia have the option to choose to give birth, levels of intervention, the impacts of these interventions and the quality of care we can expect from the different practitioners we are relying on to support us in birthing our babies are hot topics right now. From headline articles in mainstream women’s magazine ‘Marie Claire’ to the popular television show ‘A Current Affair’, birth is being debated keenly. Certainly many pregnant women face difficulties in wading through the information (which is often conflicting) available on birth choices and feel overwhelmed in navigating through various opinions and suggestions. As a pregnant women deciding where to birth we are influenced by the ‘experts’ which might range from a study we have read on line to something our obstetrician, family doctor or midwife mentioned in passing. We are also rightly influenced by our partner’s preferences and ideas (which may differ enormously from our own) by our cultural and religious background and perhaps not unsurprisingly by our own mothers.
You may have heard about recent legislation being debated in parliament, which will make home birth illegal in this country if it goes through. Certainly birth choices are becoming more and more limited as well as more and more medicalised and in my opinion choice is important. Home birth may not be for everyone but shouldn’t the option be there for those who want it? When it comes to birth I am pro-choice and feel saddened that the government here is backing women into a corner where the birthing options often boil down to hospital labour ward or hospital labour ward.
Australia is a huge country in terms of geography and although most of the population lives in urban areas, many women who are more isolated and living in remote locations will not have any choices around where they give birth. Unless you live in one of the major cities and happen to be savvy enough to get your name on a wait list early (in some places at the time of conception!) you might not get a place in a birthing centre even if one exists locally. You also may not have choices around whom your doctors or midwives are, especially if you are not willing or able to pay for this privilege. Although I would add here that in my experience an ‘expensive’ birth is not necessarily a better birth and through choice I personally birthed my first son entirely through the Medicare system and had a joyful totally natural experience that was supported by incredible staff.
My intention here is not to share with you the birthing options in Australia at this time, a little research on line and discussion with your doctor or midwife will very quickly clarify this for you. My intention rather is to offer some suggestions for tools you might use no matter where you birth (hospital, birth centre, at home) or how you birth (natural birth, epidural, cesarean) which will help you to receive your baby joyfully into the world.
Be mentally prepared, as far as possible have a clear and open mind. Remember that to a degree you are going to create your birthing experience through your state of mind. You may wish to spend some time before you are due thinking about a simple ritual you would like to do when pre-labour begins. An ideal ritual will be something that centres you and leaves you feeling clear and light. It could be as simple as having a shower or warm bath, or lighting some incense and saying a short prayer. When you and your partner realise you are truly in pre-labour it is easy to go into a mild panic and start flapping about, organising last minute logistics and generally raising your blood pressure! Try to avoid this as far as possible. A gentle pre-planned ritual is a good way of calming yourself and your partner.