Five months ago when I had RB by elective section I was an outlier, and c-sections were the devil. Natural birth was the holy grail. That natural birth is naturally dangerous and difficult, and historically deathly for many mothers and babies (and still is in the developing world) seemed little known or respected.
In the last few weeks, as the Royal College of Midwives has ended a 12 year long campaign to promote natural birth, everyone seems to be weighing in, mostly agreeing with views that have made me feel on the outside until the last few weeks.
Even comments on the Daily Mail mostly agreed that natural unassisted birth above all else is bullshit. Many women shared their birth realities. Many men expressed fury having watched their women, sometimes children, suffer.
The views and teaching of the NCT, which promotes an unassisted natural birth, are also finally under fire for being wildly biased and unrealistic. (Perhaps unsurprising from what was the Natural Childbirth Trust, a group based on the thoughts of a man who thought women should embrace the pain of labour then stay at home with the children.)
I’m delighted the pregnancy and birthing propaganda is being shown for the bullshit it is, and the argument is finally getting factual, allowing space for medical intervention when wanted or required.
But blame must be shared throughout the medical and birthing industry. For example, the NHS says ‘sometimes‘ women tear their vagina in childbirth. To say it’s occasional is a lie. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) knows 90% of women tear their vagina. That is nearly all times.
Not once, by the NHS or NCT, was I told that 1 in 2 women require medical intervention, 1 in 6 need emergency sections after a failed vaginal effort, or else they or their child may die. I imagine a 1 in 6 risk for a baby with Downs Syndrom would incur heartbreaking conversations (the threshold for more tests is 1 in 270).
No birthing plans include a woman’s right to a section. Like most online sources, RCOG lists pros of vaginal birth vs cons of sections in their advice on elective sections. It’s incredibly hard to find unemotional, unbiased facts about childbirth. I had to do a lot of research.
In 2015 the WHO updated their guidance on c-section rates admitting all women who need a section should have one. This overruled their largely made-up 1985 guidance stating only 10-15% of women should have them.
While I had to prove I knew the risks of a section, no one mentions the risks of vaginal birth, which carries the same level of risk (and long term financial cost) as a section. These vaginal risks are ignored, until women experience them in labour.
Equally, women must share the blame in this denial of birth reality.
Why have otherwise brilliant women – intelligent, creative, inventive and analytical – much smarter than me, been incapable of looking at birth more honestly? Why have they allowed an unaided natural birth to be heralded as woman’s greatest success and contribution? Why have they ignored their great-grandmother’s plights?
Why have they not questioned why 303,000 women globally STILL die from pregnancy and childbirth every year? And why over 5 million, yes million, babies die in or after childbirth, too?
Women may not research the stats. Maternal death, or the threat of it, is commonplace in popular TV period dramas when medicine was less advanced, including, Downton, Victoria, Poldark. In the UK death from childbirth only reduced around the 1920s as medicine advanced.
Why do older women not prepare us better? My mum is proud of her four births with only gas and air. A friend’s mum thinks even gas and air is a failure.
In what other sphere of life do we encourage suffering enormous physical pain when help is readily at hand to make life easier?
And logically, every women having a successful unassisted birth makes no sense.
How could pushing a child out of a hole normally plugged by a tampon not potentially cause physical and emotional carnage?
Who hasn’t taken scientifically invented and unnatural painkillers to ease a natural headache or period pain? How on earth could a warm bath and positive attitude be sufficient in childbirth?
Who hasn’t seen Attenborough? Nature is not kind or delicate but focussed only on the survival of enough.
Women have long been arguing we are as physically and mentally capable as men. Long may our acknowledgement of this childbirth truth continue to prove we really are. Any argument of ours that an unassisted birth is woman’s greatest success and contribution, and should be pursued at all costs, proves otherwise.