Hello. I’m Will. I’m an obstetric doctor and I’m lucky enough to help deliver babies for a living.
I feel hugely privileged to do the job I do. But I know many couples are disappointed when I come into the delivery room.
I’m sure it’s nothing personal, but obstetricians aren’t usually in people’s birth plans. However, we are called to over 40% of deliveries. If this figure was 1% or even 10%, then maybe I wouldn’t need to write this post. But these are the official NHS statistics, so chances are that you might come across me, or one of my colleagues during your birth.
Last year 28% of babies had an abdominal birth (C-section) and 13% had help with forceps or ventouse. I’ve lost count of the number of times parents told me they weren’t prepared for this. Sometimes there are feelings of failure or of being failed.
The challenge we have as obstetricians, is that we are often in the background and can meet couples for the first time during labour. Midwives have done an excellent job of building a relationship and gaining trust, but we enter the picture when things have started to go ‘off plan’. Together with midwives, our job is to keep mums and babies safe. We do this on a balance of risks. Is the risk of doing nothing, greater than the risk of intervening? Sometimes we have time for in depth discussions. Other times we don’t and we need to act fast.
These high stress situations are not an ideal time to introduce concepts for the first time. Why would we use forceps instead of ventouse? What’s an episiotomy for?
It’s important to have these conversations earlier in pregnancy and not leave so much to chance. Parents deserve to prepare for the birth they’ve imagined, but also the one they might not expect.
That is the reason I wanted to write this blog. It’s also why I set up Happy Parents. Happy Baby. Antenatal classes. We take a modern approach to antenatal teaching, where a midwife, obstetrician, hypnobirthing teacher and perinatal psychotherapist work together to help parents feel as confident as they possibly can.
If you are reading this and expecting a baby, there’s so much you can do to make your birth experience a positive one. Take some time to think about what I call the five Cs…
- Confidence: fear often stems from the unknown. Do your research, understand what may be offered and the reasons why. Everyone loves a good story, but check that facts are evidence-based. Choose an antenatal class that’s balanced and honest.
- Change: it’s good to think about how you want your delivery to be, but remember situations can change. I prefer ‘birth preferences’ to ‘birth plans.’ This gives you the opportunity to set out your wishes for a variety of situations, instead of just one. For example, you may not hope for a C-section, but if you needed one how would you like it to be? If you need some ideas, help yourself to our birth preferences template using the link here.
- Communication: everybody has a different idea of the perfect birth. Communicate your thoughts and take an active role in decisions that need to be made. If you’re stuck, the BRAIN acronym can help: B – what are the benefits? R – what are the risks? A – are there any alternatives? I – what is your instinct telling you? N – is doing nothing an option?
- Consent: remember you always have a choice. If you don’t consent, it can’t be done.
- Closure: debrief with your team after birth. If you have any questions about what happened, get the answers you need. If you are struggling with your feelings after some time, seek professional help. Everyone has the right to have a positive birth experience.
That’s it for the serious stuff!
I want to sign off this blog with my thoughts on parenthood. Yes, there are sleepless nights and explosive nappies, but holding your baby for the first time, or hearing their first words, are feelings you’ll never beat. Here’s my daughter, Luna, who I’ve (sort of) promised not to embarrass in these posts…
Over the coming posts I’ll be talking about her from time to time. I’ll also be tackling topics from forceps to C-sections. Inductions to tears. Please do get in touch with your ideas and experiences. I really hope that by talking more we can make a difference. Contact me on Instagram – @hphbantenatal or via our website www.happyparentshappybaby.com