Why is it not common knowledge what happens to you??(93 Posts)
Firstly, a little disclaimer, I have tokophobia, so am coming at this from a point of bias anyway.
But I just think it's so awful that no one prepares women for the true possible after effects of childbirth. Prolapse, continence issues etc. Even tears. 90% of women tear in some way. I don't think that most first time pregnant ladies know this....i think it's seen as unlucky to tear, when it's actually the norm! And 45% assisted births. It just feels like a massive conspiracy, the ability to have the natural, no damage, no intervention, birth. Its actually much harder to achieve than we are led to believe. Only once your "in the club" do you realise from talking to other women/reading on sites like this, that birth injuries to mothers are pretty normal. And when you speak to doctors about issues afterwards, they look at you as if to say "didnt you know this could happen? Its pretty normal" But the risks of vaginal birth are never discussed before you have a baby.
You can probably tell I'm anxious, but I just feel like I've peeked behind the curtain so to speak, and it all feels so dishonest.
My Mum told me about some of this stuff, not the percentages but things like being stitched up, long births, pain relief, continence issues. I also did NCT classes and I think most hospitals offer something similar (parentcraft?) to prepare you.
The medicalisation of birth and the fact that women, once admitted to hospital, are on the clock has a lot to do with the high levels of intervention. Also doctors are coming at birth from a pathological viewpoint where they need to get involved as opposed to letting women do their own thing.
I recommend reading Ina May Gaskin, she's an American midwife. She leads a birthing center in America and get intervention and other statistics are far far lower than those of "modern medicine"
I gave birth recently and had read a lot about childbirth and had attended classes both in my hospital and an independent one so I think I was very well informed about what happens. Also I understood that one intervention leads to the next so in order to avoid a c-section, sometimes you have to refuse to be artificially induced at the start (that's a single example, I know c-sections happen for a number of reasons and are an equally valid birth choice for many women)
And I tore when baby was born, second degree, but they stitched me up and I'm fine.
Are you pregnant/have you had a baby OP? There's a podcast called birthful and another called rockstar birth radio that might ease your mind.
I don't mean to be an annoying smug person but I didn't find giving birth or the recovery a negative experience at all (baby's not even three months so it's not that the memory has faded with time). I think that positive experiences are not shared enough and that has a bearing on the common perception of childbirth
I'm not sure that the information is hidden - as you've found out, a quick google will tell you the risks.
Before people give birth they are less likely to be searching for this information or speaking to people about it. It certainly never occurred to me. Ignorance is bliss sometimes!
I found that with my first people tended to say oh it'll be fine, don't worry it's not that bad. Well it was that bad and during labour I was so shit scared that I was doing something wrong because it hurt so much, d's wouldnt come out(needed a ventouse) had a retained placenta, ended up in surgery. After the fact women who had assured me that it would be fine admitted that actually yes it isn't all amazing and it does bloody hurt and no it probably won't go to plan 😞 thanks then. Could've told me before I was panicking in labour.
I was more prepared for my dd 😁 didn't let them fob me off with no pain relief.
I was well aware of tears and risks from my mother's experience. She told me about her traumatic first Birth (me!) From breech presentation, emergency transfer to a different hospital, 3rd degree tear, post-natal depression, the works! It is the medicalisation / hospitalisation of childbirth that has contributed to womens ignorance of the realities and dangers of child birth.
I can't help thinking that when women helped each other give birth, at home (regularly dying of losing the baby), their was less ignorance of the process. It is incumbent on us as mothers to ensure our children understand what giving birth is like. Sharing stories and supporting each other. I don't think we should be going backwards but we should understand the lessons of our history.
I don't think this information is hidden as such, it's there if you want to read about it and if you ask anyone close to you they will tell you in detail exactly what happens.
I always remember one of my best mates a few years ago telling me about her "surprise" finger up the arse just after giving birth (to check if she'd ripped through). First time I gave birth I was fully prepared but it never happened, second time yup, I was totally fine with it. Only thing I didn't realise would happen was having a catheter to empty my bladder when pushing both times, no one had ever mentioned it'd happened to them.
I had 2 fairly straight forward births, one I stalled so had the drip and the other I was contracting too much. No stitches or major tears with either baby. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how well/easy I recovered, although I had been talking to my mate who had a 3rd degree tear (I didn't know that until recently) so I was thinking I'd have a very slow painful recovery.
I don't think there's any point in frightening pregnant women, if you do you won't labour very well. But if you really want to find out information/stats on births and recovery etc you can, easily.
If you told everybody the birth rate would go down.
I remember sitting on a rubber ring and trying to hide it from my nieces as I was worried it would put them off.
And to be frank, I actually didn't care what happened, as long as the baby came out healthy. And it was worth it, both times. I had two 9lb babies and my nether regions are totally fucked now.
I remember thinking after DC1 that no one told me how utterly brutal it was going to be. (I was induced with the drip though, hyperstimulated and laboured in under 3 hours). I could never bring myself to watch programmes like One Born Every Minute after that as these women leisurely sipping cups of tea between each contraction was so far removed from what happened to me.
I completely agree OP
I know you can google as a pp said, but some people don't know what they don't know and that isn't their fault! If you were going to undergo any other medical thing, ideally, you would get full information.
there should be a big booklet that gets given to everyone. It's terrible to end up at the hospital with something you didn't know existed - but is actually quite common - and to be maybe faced with making medical choices you know nothing about, while you are in a panic.
Abbotswood, it is a shame you hid about the rubber ring. That sort of thing is what every woman should be told and should be prepared for.
Both my mother and my grandmother nearly died in childbirth and I am very glad no one hid that from me.
Didn't Kathy Lette talk about this a lot some time ago? I think a public information campaign would be really helpful. You can't prepare for anything if you have no idea what to prepare for.
Sorry OP but if I can add something else that gave me the rage - a good friend nearly died after childbirth and when she recovered, she mostly heard "I hope it doesn't stop you bonding with the baby". It was like hardly anyone cared about all the trauma she had gone through, which in turn made her very resentful of those inconsiderate gits.
I suppose with hindsight she'd say now she knows who her friends are.
the worst thing was, she was also one of these people who was a bit meh about having children and allowed her DH to "talk her into it" - I mean she takes full responsibility for that, but it was very much on her mind when she was recovering - nearly dying for a child that you were "meh" about.
But some of those things are very short-term. I had tears with both children, but both healed quickly and without further bother.
I don’t think there was any conspiracy - I felt like I knew what might happen. My friends were never shy about talking about their own experiences - none of them ‘horror stories’ in particular; just variation in our experiences.
To be fair I don't think the 'truth' about the difficulties of birth and also those difficult early weeks with a new born (sleep deprivation, establishing feeding, etc) is hidden, I think it's more that you don't really pay much attention to what people are telling you. I think that when you're a first time parent you're quite often wrapped up in this rosy glow of happiness and perfection and you just think it's all going to be amazing and extra special because it's happening to you. You think that your mum's 36 hour labour probably wasn't really that bad and you can't wrap your head around why you'd be anything other than ludicrously happy once the baby arrives, as surely the birth was the hard bit and then it's all plain sailing right?!?
And then it happens to you and you realise that everyone wasn't exaggerating! The information is out there, parents are always telling each other their birth(war) stories and sharing battle scars, I just think nothing really prepares you until you experience it, you don't really take the information in because you're all excited to have a baby and don't want to think about the gory bits!
Agree with pp about reading Ina May Gaskin. She is also on one end of the spectrum - v natural - but will be a good counterpoint to some of the other extreme fear you are feeling. There's no doubt that it's a full on physical experience, and many women and baby's lives have been saved by medical intervention - however the current environment, and often our own physical health during and before pregnancy (this is not a knock at anyone! But good physical fitness and health decreases though does not eliminate birth risks) do increase the medical nature of some of this. To put it in perspective, the WHO suggests 15% c section births - we are way ahead of that but not all for necessary reasons. Also, not all tears are equal, for example. It's great to be prepared for the worst case (when I hear of high risk women planning a home birth miles from nearest hospital I am ) but statistics also suggest that most women and children will be fine. Best of luck! Xoxo
My mother told me the truth, including infant mortality and morbidity.
I told my daughter the truth, tears forceps types the whole lot.
Decades ago people usually married within their own villages and there wasn’t a huge size difference. Now you have petite women having children with 6ft rugby types.
You could argue the same about pregnancy really. No-one really talks about piles, vulval varicose veins, people who vomit all the way through pregnancy, vomiting so much they end up wiith an oesophagal tear, terrible heartburn, SPD so bad that you end up on crutches, repeat UTIs/thrush etc.
Then there's the newborn phase. Reflux, colic, babies that won't sleep on anyone but you, breastfeeding on demand is hard and sometimes they want feeding constantly. C-section scar that was infected so badly it had to have a dressing on it for 6 months and had to be changed daily.....one extreme example.
When you think about it, it's a miracle anyone has children. You could drive yourself crazy thinking about it all. I'm a midwife but don't have children but think if I ever do I'll be terrified because of all the things I know can go wrong. A certain amount of ignorance is bliss I think. Education is important but I think there's a tendency to over think things now and want to control everything when you just can't. That's very difficult for a lot of women in the kind of society we live in. I'm generalising but in my experience I've found teenagers/women in their early 20s find this a bit easier. I've had a few who don't attend antenatal classes and worry for them a bit but then find actually they're laid back and just take it as it comes and don't look at childbirth as some horrendous, traumatic ordeal or the ultimate, empowering path to womanhood - it's a means to an end. (Not dismissing the fact that it can also turn out to be either of these things of course).
A couple of things I've noticed people don't talk about in regards to labour that people worry about at the time - vomiting lots and heavy shaking straight after. All normal but I've had dads in particular be very concerned re these.
I agree OP. My mum was always very honest and open about how painful and scary childbirth is but she had very straightforward births so when shit started going wrong during my labour (and nearly everything did go wrong), I felt totally lost. I've been really honest with my friends and relatives about how truly brutal and horrific it can be- at one point I genuinely thought I was dying (I mean, technically I guess I could have died with a 4 litre blood loss but obviously in hospital, Dr right there so was being taken care of). I also didn't feel "purposeful" during the pushing stage (even my mum said that bit was good as she felt like she was getting somewhere and the babies were born shortly thereafter) but I didn't feel that at all and I pushed for hours to the point of exhaustion. I would love more children but I can't fathom going through that nightmare again. Truly awful.
I have given birth 5 times.
Ds1, no idea wtf I was doing. Got to hospital at 10 cm's. Begged for an epidural but the midwife said no as I was too far gone. I almost fell off the bed in pain. Had to be cut though. That hurt.
Ds2, more straight forward although he went to special care for a few days. Again had to be cut and stitched up. He was 4 weeks prem.
Ds3, 8 weeks prem, we had a whole room full of medics, some for me, some for him. The midwife did say she was have to cut me again if I didn't deliver there and then. I begged her not to. Ds turned 16 on Xmas day oh and I did vomit after having him.
Dd1, a walk in the park. Delivered her with no intervention and the midwife even took the gas and air away as I was seeing weird things. 5 weeks prem.
Dd2, we both almost died. My contractions weren't working. I was bleeding all over the place. We were blue lighted from one hospital to another, no pain relief in ambulance, infact the only pain relief I had with her was gas and air as well.
She was delivered by ventouse. She had managed to wrap her cord around her neck, twice. She was 6 weeks prem.
With every baby I didn't hold them straight away (ds3 was taken immediately anyway) as I was shaking and so tired, I was scared of dropping them.
I attended NCT (post having babies) as a translator and I found it to paint a very unrealistic picture of childbirth. IMO it's this that takes so many people by surprise, as what is sold to you is a lovely, breathy, zen birth with little to no intervention- well, every one of the 8 mums on the course I attended had a traumatic or assisted labour. Every one. And they all felt quite ripped off that the teacher wasn't real with them (she actually told me that NCT policy is to be gentle and positive)
Every one of my friends has had something horrendous go wrong during labour, from SPD to forceps to tears to cytoceles/rectoceles PND incontinence etc etc etc. Every one. But theres little we can do about this surely, as people don't always really listen or absorb the facts as they can be so horrific!
As PP have said you can try telling people but its totally true that nothing at all prepares you until you're right there contracting away...
What can you do? You tell people how shit it can be, you're 'scaring pregnant women with horror stories', don't tell them and 'no one prepares women for the true possible after effects'.
I wouldn't share my birth story unless specifically asked as, truth be told, it was a bit of a horror story.
I think your figures are a bit of. I was quoted 80% for tearing at a recent NHS class and 45% seems high for assisted births.
Its hardly a revelation that child birth is dangerous. Not long ago that it was common for women to die giving birth.
When you look at the size of a baby, it obviously is not going to slide out easily. If a bit of tearing is all you have to worry about, I think you've done alright.
If you are low risk, it is a lot safer than a c section.
I had 12 hours of classes for free off the NHS and have no complaints about the information I've been given. I feel much more prepared for what is to come.
I agree. I requested c-sections due to fear of birth because of the real truth. All women should have both options fully open to them from the outset and ALL pros and cons explained.
As per DenPerry above, do note that there are dangers of c sections also. My cousin spent a long time in hospital after her cut got a severe infection after or during the birth, and it raises risks in future pregnancies.
I've had one for my second child, it was very necessary in the circumstances, and it is literally a life saver for a significant minority of women, and I think should be a choice for all. However it seems like some women on here consider it a risk free alternative, and it is nothing like that. Knowing the date gives you the illusion of control, but that's not necessarily the full story.
I found it pretty easy to familiarise myself with the realities of childbirth when I was pregnant. Yes, if you just talk to friends and family they inevitably sugar-coat it so as not to frighten you. But I did lots of reading (online and in books). I actually found that alleviated any fears I might have had. Ina May Gaskin's books, in particular, helped me understand that birth is a natural process that our bodies are designed for. It gave me great confidence in myself, demystified the process and a belief that I could give birth.
Btw, my 2 vaginal births were absolutely fine. Yes, it hurts a fucking hell of a lot. It's different and more intense than any other pain I've experienced. So much so that when the pain ramps up you inevitably start thinking 'something's wrong, surely it's not supposed to hurt this much'. But I had no tearing, no birth trauma, none of that stuff. I highly recommend hypnobirthing (or natal hypno therapy) and giving birth in water if you can.
Agree with DenPerry.
Personally I don't think it's that easy to find information about something you don't even suspect exists (bowel incontinence after childbirth?) so well done OP, you've done a good job and hopefully you can now decide what you think is best for you instead of blindingly believing your antenatal teacher like I did.
I wish you all the best
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