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Should we have lied to newly preggy friend about what birth was like? Is it wrong to join the conspiracy?

(166 Posts)
Ushy Thu 18-Aug-11 18:24:19

Think I have an ethical dilemma confused
Five of us went for an evening out with newly preggy friend. When it came to discussion of what the birth was like the ONLY one of us who had had an uncomplicated birth went on and on about how wonderful it was and what an overwhelmingly life changing experience and how she should have the baby at home and resist all the interventions etc etc....
The rest of us said nothing or muttered 'it was ok' because we did not want to scare her. We had all had horrific experiences of childbirth and the three of us that have had elective caesareans have all said, between ourselves, it was far better than the 'intervention free' birth.

We chatted about it afterwards. Do we conspire to lie? I now actually feel quite bad because I remember - after my first birth -thinking why didn't someone tell me how awful 'natural' birth could be? I would have insisted on an early epidural and got DH to drag the doctor in to do a caesarean much earlier.

Somehow I feel I have been seduced into a conspiracy and I feel incredibly bad about it. She's a good friend, asked us a straight question and we lied.

Anyone else had this dilemma?

MrsHoolie Thu 18-Aug-11 18:27:13

Nah you did the right thing. It's best to avoid horror stories when you are pregnant I think.

And maybe she'll have a pain free birth grin

cece Thu 18-Aug-11 18:31:02

I think you should gently tell her and give some indication that it is often not beautiful and wonderful... I too was shocked at how bad it was and wish someone had told me so I could have prepared myself. Hence my subsequent births were much easier to cope with as I knew what to expect.

Ungratefulchild Thu 18-Aug-11 18:31:04

i really wish someone had told me! Truly. I think the conspiracy of silence means that women arean't able to make an informed choice about birth and also that medical science doesn't progress in this area as much as it could.

Ushy Thu 18-Aug-11 18:32:00

Thanks MrsHoolie that's exactly what we all said afterwards. But I can remember just being so annoyed that people hadn't been honest with me and if they had I might have made better and more realistic I'm doing it to someone else hmm AAAARGH..

gailforce1 Thu 18-Aug-11 18:33:59

I do think that, as a friend, you could educate her. Given that maternity units are now so stretched and midwives simply don't have time to spend with each woman, I think it is important for women to have as much knowledge as possibe! Perhaps you could chat about "the things I wish someone had told me" and steer her in the direction of MN? Does she, for example, know about Doulas, home births, IMs? The things that wont be discussed at appts.

paddypoopants Thu 18-Aug-11 18:35:34

Yup- my sil asked me as all her friends had said it was a piss of piece. I told her that my labour was long, more painful than you could imagine and ended up with an emergency forceps. I told her she needed to think seriously about pain relief before the event. She chose to believe her other friends and I got a row about scaring her ( I didn't- I could've told her a whole lot more). In the end she was quite traumatised by the whole thing when it happened as she was seriously underprepared for the reality.
I swore after my labour I wouldn't lie to anyone else about it as all the people who told me it wasn't that bad -turned out they had had epidurals, pethidine or were just lying- it didn't help. I kept thinking I was being a total wuss as everyone else had sailed through it.

RitaMorgan Thu 18-Aug-11 18:36:32

I was sick of all the horror stories when I was pregnant, I would rather have heard positive ones. Going into it scared and expecting the worst won't help anyone.

Were you really under the impression that giving birth was lovely and easy before you did it yourself? I'm suprised, our culture is very much about the idea that giving birth is painful, difficult and dangerous.

stripeywoollenhat Thu 18-Aug-11 18:38:14

i think it does people a terrible disservice to not let them know that it's actually a very hard thing to do, and that it might not work out the way they want it to. my sister had a hard childbirth experience six months before dd was born and actually hearing about it kind of helped to prepare me: i was expecting it to be horrendously difficult, and that helped me to stay calm, iyswim. (obviously not everybody approaches things this way, but i think i might have panicked way before transition if i had gone in as blind as people seem to think you need to...)

becstarsky Thu 18-Aug-11 18:43:57

Funny, when I was pg, no-one ever told me that birth was easy, I got nothing but horror stories "I was in labour for 48 hours", "baby nearly died", "needed ambulance and emergency blood transfusions", etc etc. It was terrifying! I remember being at the hairdressers (ie trapped) at 8 months pg while the girl went on and on about a client who had recently died in childbirth. No-one told me that sometimes it isn't that bad and doesn't always last for days on end.
On the other hand no-one warned me quite how tatty my undercarriage would be afterwards! All that talk of 'I had a slight graze'...

QTPie Thu 18-Aug-11 18:53:14

Difficult one really... My one and only birth was ELCS and was wonderful - so I can be honest about my birth. However I am very aware that the other 7 women in my NCT group all had varying amounts of trauma and NONE had a calm, beautiful birth....

Depends how good a friend it is and how you can spin it in a "constructive" light...

I agree that NO-ONE wants to hear horror stories before their birth: I am sure that "state of mind" has a big influence on natural childbirth (and so going into tense, stressed and frightened is only going to make things an awful lot worse).

However, what if your friend has a pretty nasty birth? She comes out with it and tells you things that you might have been able to make her life easier by telling her? She might be very angry....

Maybe have a chat with her and say that if she wants to talk more about childbirth with you (some people would rather stay ignorant), that she is very welcome. If she does then put it in as "constructive" light as possible... i.e. more along the lines of "if I did it again, then....", rather than talking all about what went wrong.

Childbirth is such a personal thing: I am pretty sure that the different people could experience the exact same birth differently (due to different pain thresholds, different personalities, different levels of tension/stress, different inhibitions, different social conditioning, different levels of support from partners and midwives etc....). For example an epidural (or even ELCS) may work for some, but not for others. So no-one can be prescriptive about childbirth advice, but giving constructive hints and tips (and being clear that it is from your personal point-of-view/experience) should be helpful (if your friend wants to hear).

Good luck.

Ushy Thu 18-Aug-11 19:16:26

QTPie that's such good advice - thanks! The tricky thing is that if all of us were to talk to her about "if I did it again", we'd all be saying 'We'd have had an elective caesarean'. It is a personal thing but from 80% of her closest mates she'd be getting a pretty consistent message.

Like you say, it is such a personal thing but what you have said makes perfect sense.

QTPie Thu 18-Aug-11 19:47:08

Thanks. smile

Hhhhmmm, that is a tricky one too!

Personally I would agree with you (having had an ELCS and heard many, many horror stories), but not something that you can really say (unless your friend is rich and can afford to fund an ELCS privately, then trying to get one off of the NHS "because my friends have said it is better" can be rather difficult...). And besides there are many people out there who go to all sorts of measures to avoid having an ELCS... so some people MUST prefer VB to ELCS (some women have VBACs and even a 2VBAC).

I would (in your position) just have to scrub the option of ELCS out of equation and try to give her what constructive advice you can to help with a VB (short of "save every penny you can and go for a private CS!").

Avoid the issue of ELCS unless she brings it up. If she says "what did you prefer?", then be honest: "for me, the ELCS was a lot better, but that isn't the case for everyone....". I really don't think you should lie, but it is true to say that not everybody finds ELCS favourable to VB....

I really do think that there is too much "over-positive" hype about natural VB (whereas the overwhelming opinion of the 7 women who had VB in my NCT group seemed to be "we did it, we survived it, now we get on with our lives...."). I think that it is wrong to scare women (especially about something they may not be able to avoid), but I also think it is wrong to lie or to with-hold information that may be useful...

(it is a bit like "growing old" really.... there are lots of things that will probably happen to us as we age and get near to dying. Some things it would be helpful to know about, others maybe not.... ).

If ELCS were available to all (through personal choice), then your dilemna would be a lot easier....

Make me wonder what I would say if I had a pregnant daughter (at the moment I have one son of 18 months). Neither my Mum (2 VBs, vaginal prolapse, hysterectomy, continued urinary incontinence) or my MIL (1 ELCS and 1 VBAC) had any advice for me....


MatthewWrightOffTheTelly Thu 18-Aug-11 19:55:47

The thing is Ushy she probably can't just go to her midwife and say "I'd like an ELCS please". Well she can, but she won't get one!

I do think you can prepare her gently for complications / intervention / possibilty of CS etc. And if a CS is on the cards at a later date you can give her good advice and help her see the positives. I do agree that there is a school of "it's a lovely natural process" that ill prepares you for the reality of even a "straightforward" VB.

FWIW it can go both ways. I have a friend who had a ELCS second time round and was postively encouraged to it by friends who had had CS previously. She said afterwards that the recovery was far more difficult than she had been led to expect and made her, previously considered "traumatic" VB seem less so by comparison.

theborrower Thu 18-Aug-11 20:03:52

You know, it was afterwards that I found the worst - trying to recover from an EMCS with a baby that wouldn't latch, trying to BF, leaving hospital with a cup and syringes before having to get an undiagnosed tongue tie cut 8 weeks later, not to mention lots of hospital appointments because she had clicky hips and needed a brace, failed her hearing test etc.... Man, the first 2 months were stressful! Where was the lying in bed cuddling my baby image that I had in my head? I had the baby blues which later turned into pnd - and thinking that everyone else was doing ok made me feel crap.

I felt like I had been 'lied to' - mainly with regards to how difficult, in particular, BFing can be if it doesn't go well (I mean, whoever tells you that sometimes babies just won't actually do it??) - that was what really pissed me off. We are always told it's the most natural thing in the world. Same goes for childbirth - we're told that women have been doing it for centuries, squatting in paddyfields etcf - so when it's not 'natural' at all, we feel like failures.

For me, I think an important message is that sometimes you can't control what will happen - you have to go with the flow, and that you don't know what your baby will do!

But tell her that no matter what, she'll come out the other end and she'll have supportive friends there for her too if she needs them... smile

verybusybear Thu 18-Aug-11 20:16:19

I was induced at 14 days overdue. I now realise how relatively common it is to be induced but I had no idea about it before the midwife booked me in (and I had been to prenatal classes!). I think that not being prepared for what induction meant (pretty much tied to the bed, stronger contractions, drips etc) made it harder on me. I wish I had been prepared for it as a possibility and that someone who'd experienced it had told me what to expect.

I think it would be sensible for you to say to her that while most people have relatively uncomplicated births, you think it would help her to consider all of the things that might happen - induction, forceps, ventouse, episiotomy, emcs etc as preparing herself (and also OH) can help make them decisions at the time and deal with whatever does happen better and more positively.

jellybeans208 Thu 18-Aug-11 20:17:31

I think it all depend a few people told me it was awful, a few said it was no big deal. I think it was an even amount really. I rememeber thinking its not anything like you see on the telly or that big of a deal. If you have a water birth it doesnt even hurt especially if you have a bit of gas and air and you havent drank for 9 months. I thought it was fun as me and my husband were all alone and off our heads on it!

Same as wisdom teeth though I had people telling you its the worst pain ever and that didnt hurt either really.

I would never have an ELC. It would be awful you cant move after, your body will be scarred and it would change your body too much. Its major surgery after all if you have to have it then you have to but I know of no one who has had 1 that would ever choose one.

Ushy Thu 18-Aug-11 20:26:36

"MatthewWrightoffthetelly* You're right about the NHS - it doesn't believe in letting women choose. The Portland charge about £7,600 for a c/s plus the night's stay - it's a lot of money but I have a hunch it wouldn't be out of the question for her.

Interesting about your friend but to be honest I am not sure it is that common. Most people I know who have had a traumatic birth followed by an elective c/s, rate the c/s as miles better. On the other hand I guess I would have an issue with answering the question 'what is it really like giving birth?' by all four of us chorusing 'horrific' and telling her to book into the Portland. wink The trouble is that is the truth and that's my big issue. Anythhing else is a great big giant porkie!!!

It's a toughie

jellybeans208 Thu 18-Aug-11 20:31:37

Honestly if you didnt have a waterbirth you should try it if you get the chance. Its so laid back in the dark, with all the warm water soothing you, gas and air making things a bit of a laugh as your off it. It really was great before I got in the pool I was hating it at home but after I came in to the hospital the experience was wonderful. 7 months to go and I want the same for the next hopefully we need more water pools!

herethereandeverywhere Thu 18-Aug-11 20:40:56

I think there isn't enough said about how horrendous birth can be and if people were more honest women and their partners would come better prepared to the birth. Epidurals and other interventions are painted as bad and to be avoided but sometimes they are unavoidable and very much the lesser of two evils in a difficult labour.

Also there is far too little said about the recovery from childbirth. With very short hospital stays the expectation is we'll all be on our feet and back to normal on day 3 regardless of the amount of bloodloss, nerve and tissue damage, incontinence, stitches and associated pain (my friends who had CS stopped taking their painkillers after about 7-10 days - I was still counting the minutes to every dose of diclofenac at 6 weeks.) Childbirth (particularly with first babies) can be and is, for at least a significant minority, damaging and degrading. I wish someone had spent longer being honest about that and spent less time harping on about tens machines and back massage.

mamofK Thu 18-Aug-11 21:01:01

@ jellybeans208 - I had a ELC as DD was breech (tried to turn her but no luck). I can only speak from personal experience, but it genuinely was fine. Yeah, I wasn't able to get up for the first day but tbh, all I wanted to do was gaze at my baby in (admittedly drugged) awe. Then for a few weeks, I was very tired alright but in no real pain, just a bit achey, and I just concentrated on looking after babs. Many of my friends who had natural births were still wincing when they sat down for much the same time frame!

@ Ushy - Am TTC for No. 2, and really don't have any fears about having another CS, but am also willing to try a VBAC - have heard the awful stories, but I'm one of those people who like to know the absolute worst and can therefore expect the worst, and am therefore prepared for what can happen. If I was your friend, I'd prefer your honesty as otherwise the poor thing could be in a dreadful panic when her time comes

QTPie Thu 18-Aug-11 21:04:21

Hi Ushy

I am pretty sure that the Portland is more than "£7,600 plus a night's stay" - I think that there are consultant's fees on top of that (plus many women want more than one night's stay after a CS and a first baby). These days, you are - realistically - looking at £15k plus. I had my baby at St John and St Elizabeth's in January 2010 and it was £15k for the ELCS (I had "mixed" Consultant/MW antenatal care, ELCS was due to medical reasons - they charged more for truly elective CSs - and I had 5 nights stay.... could have gotten away with 3/4). Prices go up year on year.

My ELCS was due to breech. To be perfectly honest I was very scared of VB (although not in a phobia/psychiatric way), but it never really occured to me to ask for a ELCS on those grounds (would have felt a complete idiot). I chose John and Lizzies (maternity now closed) because they had the best reputation for natural births (since before I was diagnosed breech, that is what I thought that I would have). I was concerned that my local NHS hospital would not give me the support or access to pain relief that I wanted (they have a bad reputation and getting an epidural, if you decided you want one, would probably require a minor miracle....). We live in Bath, so that gives you an idea of how worried I was! (however in-laws have a house in St Johns Wood, so we managed to make it work....).

I felt that, if I had to have a VB, I wanted to be as supported as could be. To have some control over my birth and have access to all of the painkillers and facilities (anaesthetist on call, one-to-one MW care, definite access to birthpool etc) that could be available to me. To me that was going private.

As things turned out, I ended up with an ELCS (at the private hospital) anyway: best of all worlds in my personal opinion (I am sure that many would disagree....). If baby had turned out of breech (had my final scan on the morning of the op at 39+1), then the op would have been cancelled and I would have had a normal VB. So it was anxiety up until the end! Many women want their babies to turn, I was praying that mine wouldn't...

In retrospect, at least one of my NCT group (also in Bath) wishes they had gone private too.

You could, casually, bring up "have you thought of going private?" to your friend.... It is another contentious issue (even within couples) and many people are either against private maternity or against paying for it (luckily my DH was very supportive of me). I wouldn't labour on the issue, but it is worth considering if they can afford it: it may well give a much more supported birth completely regardless of mode of delivery....

One of my lessons learnt would be to pay for some private/additional scans towards the end of pregnancy (maybe 32/34 weeks?). Many problems like breech/size/position can go undiagnosed until birth without a scan: an extra £50 very well spent (my private midwives didn't pick up my baby being breech - it was the extra scans that did it....).

At the end of the day, all you can do is give little pointers and see what your friend makes of them herself (since what is right for you or me may be very wrong for her).


jellybeans208 Thu 18-Aug-11 21:12:11

I suppose it all depends I know many people who were pregnant again by the 6 week checkup (really common in my area of work as I work withfamilies and see it frequently!) A lot of pregnant women dont feel any pain after birth. I dont think blanket advice of caeserean is a wise idea for your friend as for many people as it is the fear that often makes contractions/childbirth worse for people.

mamofK Thu 18-Aug-11 21:13:19

Your breech wasn't picked up by midwives either QT? That seems to be the norm then - I knew that whole feeling the bump and saying babs was head up or down was utter tosh. For six weeks they kept on telling me that "oh yes, baby has turned nicely" - eh no, indeed she had not. My breech was picked up at 32 weeks at a scan to check placenta (it was flagged as being low at anomaly scan) - I was a public patient so wouldn't normally have been scanned at that late stage, so breech may have been picked up when baby was stuck on the way out [shudder]

AliGrylls Thu 18-Aug-11 21:18:47

Somewhere in the middle seems about right. I don't want to put people off their romantic visions but I would tell people about my births (both of which have been hairy) but then qualify it by saying some people have really easy births.

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