I have been a midwife since 2000 and I regard birth as a truly awesome experience, whatever the circumstances are. What troubles me the most is how many people regard birth as risky and fraught with danger, when essentially birth is a normal experience and very safe. Women who have never experienced birth are often fearful and some actually dread the day their baby is to be born, mainly due to hearing horror stories and seeing birth portrayed in the media as emergency events. For women who have given birth previously and perhaps had a negative experience would dread that happening all over again. This fear of birth (known as Toxophobia), has a knock on effect on the woman's feeling of happiness, control, confidence and self worth, not just for birth - I must add, but as a woman, a partner and a mother. The stress and worry throughout pregnancy is detrimental to the woman, as well, her partner, friends and family who are often powerless to help, but also there is a direct impact on the developing baby in the womb from the stress hormones, all because of the negative press that birth receives.
Antenatal care tends to focus on the physical changes in pregnancy with brief conversations about options, so women are directed to structured antenatal education to access information on options and choices regarding pregnancy and birth. Many women turn to programmes including 'One Born Every Minute' to learn about birth, but sadly many of the labours and births shown were very complex or sensationalised, so gave a dramatic and fear inducing view of birth, so many midwives and antenatal educators breathed a sigh of relief when that particular show ended, and now we need to bring back the normality and wonder surrounding birth. This is why now as a midwife I have moved to being an antenatal educator as a wonderful way to be influential in positivity surrounding birth, to openly discuss the hopes and fears for birth, manage expectations, dispel any myths and bring knowledge, calm and confidence in families planning for birth.
In providing researched and balanced information on options and having the time to discuss birth wisely, it helps women and birth partners know how birth happens and all the positive things they can do to influence it happening well - ultimately changing the way women birth! When women birth with knowledge, without fear and feeling calm, they have control and power to birth safely and in a way that it is important to them.
Having an empowered, confident birth it is beneficial to the new mother as she embarks on motherhood with feelings of strength, elation and self worth, and is also wonderful for the baby to start their earth-side journey so very calm and positively. For birth partners, to have a sense of how important and involved they were during the birth strengthens relationships and together they start as a new family very positively and joyously, which has a huge benefit on all of their physical and mental wellbeing.
Being a member of the local volunteer led 'Positive Birth Movement' is wonderful. The aim is to challenge the epidemic of negativity and fear that surrounds modern birth, and help change birth for the better. The Positive Birth Movement is a global network of free to attend antenatal groups, linked up by social media, to connect pregnant women together to share stories, expertise and positivity about childbirth. see - https://www.positivebirthmovement.org/.
Antenatal education can be provided in hospitals or are privately provided by people like me with a passion and interest for birth being a normal life event that should be celebrated and looked forward to. I teach two different classes, one is the 'Real Birth Workshop' that is just one day truly exploring how birth works physically, hormonally and emotionally. The other course I teach is 'Hypnobirthing' - which is run over 2 days - learning all about pregnancy and birth, and the 'hypno' bit is simply learning and practising relaxations to bring calm, comfort and confidence to help with the release of fears surrounding birth. Incorporated with both sessions is the knowledge of body positioning, environment and partner support to make the day of birth the best it can be. In my opinion, quality antenatal education is so needed to enable women to know what they are capable of, for partners to know this too, to know the things they can both do to help on the day, and ultimately to have excitement and confidence for this amazing time in their lives.
Midwife & Antenatal Educator