The Hackney Doula on Comment is Free: fear, fear everywhere

Not satisfied with jabbering on here at Hackney Doula HQ, I was asked to respond to the last week’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ proposal that, amongst other things, suggested more births should take place outside of a hospital setting and be led by midwives.

You can read my Guardian ‘Comment is Free’ piece here.

Taking a very deep doula breath I waded in to the comments and found, unsurprisingly, that the fear and anger I was talking about were very evident.

That a piece essentially in support of informed choice and better antenatal education and support was received so badly by many makes me feel even more strongly that the UK (and indeed most of the world) isn’t doing its population any favours. The way we educate young people and those trying to conceive or already pregnant about the birth process isn’t working.

Let me be clear: I don’t think homebirth, birth centre or midwife-led birth is right for everyone. I don’t think ‘pain-free’ birth is something to expect, aim for or be smug about. I support women who want to do things in a different way to me (not just in a ‘hey I’ll get behind that’ kind of way, but in a ‘I’m here beside you while we make it happen’ kind of way) and would never belittle the experiences many have had that lead them to be steer away from a midwife-led birth.

Nevertheless I do think it’s time to begin supporting people as they become adults so that they learn about birth in a way that isn’t frightening. So that they are aware of options, know exactly why and how a relaxed, intervention free birth is possible and have a positive relationship with their all-too-often hated bodies.

Most people I work with don’t already know about how their hormones work during labour or what things maximise the release of these and what could hinder it. They aren’t aware of how place of birth and those around them could have a big impact on this or indeed how conitnuous support during labour is proven to decrease intervention rates. This isn’t ‘natural birth speak’ it is scientifically proven and no one tells us about it.

Bookshelves abound with volumes that can tell you the above and the internet is positively groaning with information. But if you don’t know to look for it or are too frightened to research your options you can last your whole life without knowing the most important things about birth. Things that, whether or not you choose to birth at home or on a labour ward, will help you feel at the helm of your birth and could lessen the risk of interventions that many want to avoid for emotional and health/safety reasons.

So, shoot the messenger if you will, but until something changes I’ll be banging on about birth!


5 Responses to “The Hackney Doula on Comment is Free: fear, fear everywhere”
  1. Betherann says:

    Yes yes yes!! It’s so great to see a balanced perspective from a doula!! Unfortunately, my experience with natural birth advocates has been one of confusion and mistrust, but I know that not all natural birth advocates are like that and am so glad to have find your page!

    • Rebecca says:

      Sorry to hear that – it’s such a shame when a powerful message is delivered badly. Glad you’ve found your way here – shout if you need anything!

  2. Loved your brilliant and inspiring article in The Guardian (which I commented on in my blog). In the days following on from the RCOG press release and your article there were many fearful and angry reactions to the headlines “doctors call for more home births” that would seem to prove your point. Just recently a couple of PCTs (fife and durham as well I think) have announced they are planning to end the support for home births due to “falling demand” which I see as being further proof of what it was you were raising the issue about – until there is a cultural shift in the way we view birth, most women are likely to continue to perceive hospital as being the safest place to give birth. At the moment even midwife-led birthing centres located in the main hospital units have been under used (just 9% at my local hospital); most women choose to birth in the consultant-led units. As you said, how much of this is really “informed choice”, though? How much do expectant parents really know about the other options available to them?

    As an antenatal teacher (HypnoBirthing) I see a gradual shift in the way the parents view birth as the course progresses. Most start the course very fearful and determined to birth at hospital but as the classes progress, they begin to question their preconceived ideas and start to look into the alternatives. Sometimes I wonder if instead of teaching mums who are 20+ weeks pregnant, I should be going into schools and educating the next generation of mothers. Perhaps that’s where antenatal education is most needed.

  3. Lorraine berry says:

    Totally agree. I am always constantly amazed at how much fear women and their partners have of birth when they come to my Natal Hypnotherapy workshop and delighted at how they always leave feeling so much more positive and confident. It isn’t about telling people what they should be doing or how I think they should give birth – it is more about explaining all about what helps and hinders birth, suggestions to help themselves and supporting / empowering them to make the choices that are right for them. It is not down to me to make a judgement about their decisions, only to support them. It isn’t surprising to me that with all the balanced information before them, they often decide to go down a more midwifery led route. Regardless of how and where they give birth, they say they feel so much less anxious, free from fear and that the birth experience was amazing and uplifting. Isnt this how everyone should feel about birth? Home, hospital, no drugs, epidural… isn’t so important, in my opinion, as families feeling that they have been listened to and empowered to make the choices that they feel are “right” for them as a family. Xx

  4. Mars Lord says:

    Well said lovely lady!

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