The Guardian (11th August 2018) reported on a recent Instagram post from Harry Kane (footballer) about how proud he was of his fiancée for giving birth to their second child in a pool and without pain relief. Firstly, congratulations to the couple on the safe arrival of their second child and secondly, technically water is a form of pain relief and it is good news that his fiancée birthed her baby with using water and hypnobirthing.
There is, and always has been, tremendous debate amongst midwives, obstetrician and women about how different forms of pain relief might impact on the progress of labour and could impact on the outcomes. For example, some professionals believe and some research has shown that the use of an epidural for example could lead to a slowing down in the progress of labour culminating in either an instrumental birth or caesarean section.
There are others ( and this is current now) who believe that birth is a normal, physiological event and that the best way to birth your baby is to use no pharmaceutical pain relief and use other methods such as hypnobirthing, water or nothing at all. This is fine if this is what you wish to try. I do, however, believe that there has to be a middle ground and as a professional, I support women in what ever choice they make for pain relief to help them through labour and birth.
Yes, I support and promote normality and all that this means but this does not mean that I insist that a woman tries to birth her baby without pain relief – this is barbaric, and if we are not careful, we are in danger of creating another system similar to the paternalistic model of obstetrics when obstetricians more or less dictated what pain relief women had. This will be a maternalistic model, where as midwives, we will be trying to dictate that women have none or little pain relief in the pursuit of a ‘normal, physiological birth’.
I recently had to counsel a woman who had used hypnobirthing at home and describes her labour as ‘sheer hell’ when she was convinced that every time she had a contraction a little blue man was attacking her with a knife. Extreme, yes but an example of how one woman experienced her labour. For her next birth, she elected to have an epidural for pain relief.
In my experience, I have witnessed many women giving birth. Each and every one totally different. The majority of the women I have been with have had some form of pain relief including hypnobirthing and water birth. We mustn’t forget, however, that every woman’s experience of birth is different – it’s not just about how good you are at dealing with pain.
Birth for the majority of women can be a painful and sometimes traumatic experience – lets not make it any more so by making women feel failures for having pain relief in labour.