Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Active Birthing aka Pull Your Socks Up

TLOML and I attended an Active Birth Course at the weekend. Active birthing is the exact opposite of giving birth lying on your back. It involves moving around, saying mantras, and listening to plinky-plonky spa music whilst giving birth in a great big tub.

Active birth, hypnobirth, or just plain old fashioned ‘grit your teeth and bear it’ natural childbirth are fairly popular in the UK. Of the British babies I know, fully 75% of them were born without medical intervention and to women who had no pain relief other than a bit of gas and air. (The other 25% involved emergency C-sections or epidurals administered after hours of agony).

Those are British babies though. And I’m sure there are pockets of ladies in Venice Beach or Berkeley who give birth listening to dolphin music. But the vast majority of US births are managed less like a love-in, and more like a medical event. My US sample size is a lot smaller, but Mr Google backs me up in my instincts: twice as many US births involve an epidural, for example. Epidurals are a bit of a dirty word among the yummy mummies of North London. It’s up there with  admitting you had a MacDonald’s at the weekend.

TLOML and I mused about why this transatlantic difference exists. He has long held a theory that Brits are tougher than Americans. Brits are tough because we are used to putting up with awful weather and crummy service. But Americans will always win the day, because they refuse to put up with anything sub-par: they battle the climate with air-con, and don’t tolerate anything other than good, smiley service.

So it makes sense that most American women will not be conned into thinking that their painful contractions are, in fact, ‘surges of energy’. Nor will they miss a chance for pain relief, and the assistance of extra staff. Just as there are 20% more staff per customer in the average US restaurant, there are probably 20% more staff per birth in the average US maternity unit.

Having seen how Kourtney Kardashian gives birth* I understand the appeal. She lies, blissful and quiet (presumably doped up to her eyeballs), not looking remotely sweating or anxious, being told when to push. It looks very calm and lovely, the model of a medicalised birth.

Meanwhile, with our upper lips famously stiffened, we Brits just soldier on thinking hours of agonising pain is just all part of the process. ‘Pull your socks up, Samantha, plenty of women have pushed out breech babies!’ ‘Stop making such a fuss, Edith, it’s only been eight hours of pain!’.

I hope I’ll handle the birth stoically, if not joyfully... I will update you sometime in February about whether I stayed tough, or went all America and called for an epidural.

*Don’t judge me! It’s good telly. Also we like the shots of LA, Malibu and Calabasas. Sigh.

1 comment:

  1. There is only one statistic I can confidently quote from all my acquaintances "Plan a homebirth, get an emergency C-section"