Home From Home - Normalising Birth
A while ago I was invited to give a short talk to around 40 midwives from the Haywards Heath Princess Royal Hospital and also from the Royal Sussex in Brighton. They were keen to hear about what it is we are teaching our pregnant mamas-to-be and learn about the benefits of yoga breathing and why it can be so helpful for women in labour.
I was delighted to be asked and so enjoyed being there amongst such a lovely group of women who are all experienced and passionate about birth - my perfect day out!
I could have talked about the importance of the breath for hours, but unfortunately I only had 15mins, so I gave a very high level description of the breathing we do for contractions and in between and explained some of the key benefits - such as reducing pain, keeping the mind focused and quiet, staying present and calm, keeping oxygen focused on the uterus where it is needed. Essentially explaining how our deep belly 'Birth Breathing' activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This acts like a switch to promote relaxation and calm and thus gives the positive benefit of increasing oxytocin - the hormone we need to encourage contractions and labour along.
The effect of this breathing simultaneously turns off the sympathetic nervous system which only activates when we are frightened, stressed or anxious, producing adrenalin, (oxytocin's antagonist) and as such is not conducive or helpful for a smooth “normal” birth. Normal here is referring to vaginal births with no (or as least as possible) intervention.
There were several other fascinating talks and I loved them all, but what struck me most, that I was so keen to write about was the talk on where we choose to birth our babies.
The latest NICE Guidelines states that all babies who are planned to be born in hospital have a much higher increased rate of interventions occurring and in actual fact midwifery led care, either at home or in a midwife led unit is the safest place for women to give birth. FULL STOP!
This is from the latest statistics that have been collated and built upon those in the Birth Place Study proceeded in 2011 which looked at 65,000 low risk at birth women.
To put it in another way, the research showed out of 1000 low risk women who planned a home birth, of which around 30% had to transfer in to hospital, only 7% of that 1000 ended up having a caesarian section. Compare that too another 1000 low risk women who choose a hospital birth, a staggering 37% had a caesarian section. The results also showed for women having their babies in midwife led units, the results were the same as at home.
It also concluded that it was even safer for women who were having their 2nd or 3rd or 4th babies to have them at home. Often these births are much quicker anyway and women are arriving at hospital and literally having their babies within 20 or 30 minutes. It does make you questions whether they could have just stayed at home.
The advantages of giving birth at home include (from the NHS website)
• being in familiar surroundings where you may feel more relaxed and able to cope
• you don't have to interrupt your labour to go into hospital
• you will not need to leave your other children, if you have any
• you will not have to be separated from your partner after the birth
• you are more likely to be looked after by a midwife you have got to know during your pregnancy
• you are less likely to have intervention such as forceps or ventouse than women giving birth in hospital
Midwives do carry all the equipment they need to support birth at home and Brighton still remains the highest home birth rate in the country - a rate that has been increasing again this year month on month. But as the incidences of intervention and emergency caesarians have increased across the UK and internationally, we (as birth professionals and women approaching birth) all need to look at the safest place to give birth and to support and facilitate that in whichever way is needed.
There is the saying that the best place for a woman to give birth is where she feels safest, but actually the research is showing at home is the safest place for someone who is recognised as low risk.
The My Pregnancy Matters website also has lots of interesting information on this too, as well as the NHS website. Check it out and give your thinking on this as much time and research as you can. Ultimately, midwives and me (and other birth professionals) all want women to be able to make informed decisions and to do this you need the facts.
This research and these statistics present pretty interesting facts and I hope you discuss your birth options with your midwife early on so you can do your reading and make your decisions for you and your family. Think about the kind of birth you would rather have and go from there to create you Birth Wish List.