What are my chances of a natural birth? by Gina Potts
13 January 2016
When teaching my antenatal classes, amongst the largest concerns is feeling uncertain about how to have a natural birth and how to avoid pain and medical interventions.
People hear a lot of horror stories about birth from family, friends, TV and movies, and even perfect strangers. No wonder parents-to-be are often so fearful of birth, and hypnobirthing helps them get rid of that fear. Individuals and the media alike enjoy a dramatic tale. And often the stories that we hear exaggerate the birth process, turning it into a medical emergency in our minds. Indeed, some women attempt to outdo each other with their tales of enduring birth.
However, for the majority of women, pregnancy and birth are not necessarily medical events. Pregnancy and birthing your baby are natural physiological processes, which we, as mammals, have been doing this since the beginning of time. Not only is the female body designed for growing and birthing a baby, but the birth process is usually a gradual process. For women who are having a healthy baby and experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy, things can go smoothly. This is even more possible when women feel well-supported and safe, and are given gentle care with time and space to calmly ride through the powerful birthing sensations as baby makes it's way into the world.
Interestingly, a pregnant woman is usually at her best in terms of health during pregnancy: eating well for baby, looking after herself, getting checked out regularly by midwife, etc. We are living, overall, in healthy circumstances: well-nourished, sheltered, with a good health care system, clean water, hygiene, sanitation, etc. We enjoy the best possible conditions for healthy pregnancies and good births.
So why is there such a strong belief in negative outcomes of birth? A culture of negativity around birth informs our thinking in Western countries. Women are told it must be painful, and that pain is a burden that women must endure to become mothers.
However, the facts and figures tell a very different story. In the UK, the statistical likelihood is that you will have a normal natural birth; to which the chart below testifies. These figures are from an NHS study which compared birth outcomes of non-hypnobirthing parents and hypnobirthing parents:
The UK national average for 'normal' natural deliveries, is just over 50%. In the study above, the cohort at Wolverhampton NHS Trust had 64% normal deliveries, without hypnobirthing. This is greater than the national average. And, with hypnobirthing, that normal natural delivery rate was 84%. That's a 20% greater likelihood with hypnobirthing. And interventions (including instrumental delivery and c-section) are dramatically reduced. The c-section rate was reduced from 25% (in line with the UK national average) all the way down to 8% for the women using hypnobirthing. An amazing result.
Thankfully, a cultural shift does seem to be happening, and many more women are seeing that they can take birth back and embrace the power of their bodies. We do still have television programmes (including a very popular UK 'documentary' series) which tend to show the most dramatic, traumatic moments of some women. That does, of course, make for more engaging TV. However, more and more women are speaking out about their positive birth experiences, and having births that are not traumatic or dramatic. We have some wonderful ZenBirth stories you can read here for inspiration. If you'd like to share your positive birth story, contact us.
Wishing you a positive birth xx
Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth UK. She comes from an academic research background, focusing on women's history, writing and feminism. Since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience.