Um, what? I’m sure that’s what you are thinking right now. What does the title even mean? What is a birth experience? Aren’t you just pregnant, go to prenatal visits, show up at the hospital, have your baby either vaginally or by c-section, and go home? Not quite, my friends!
In my business, the so-called birth experience is all the rage. When you think of what us OB/GYN’s do every day, you probably think that we talk to pregnant women, answer questions, look at ultrasounds of cute little babies, listen to little baby heartbeats, and bring new life into the world. Well, I do that, and many other things, but the majority of my time spent with pregnant women is dedicated to answering questions, alleviating concerns, and dispelling myths regarding the events surrounding birth or “The Birth Experience”.
My motivation to write this post stems from this excellent piece that was linked to by one of my fancy OB/GYN friends. I don’t know the person that posted the piece, but she captures the main responsibility of obstetric providers–MANAGE EXPECTATIONS. She perfectly sums up this topic that not everyone realizes is a big deal. We can’t just present one option (a beautiful, natural delivery, just the way you planned) for birth and then expect moms to be okay when it doesn’t turn out that way.
One of the main concerns of patients is whether or not they will have a C-section. There are various reasons for this concern, but an important one is that somewhere along the way, women that have C-sections are made to feel less than because they didn’t achieve a vaginal delivery. Obviously, women that have C-sections are still mothers and are not less than, but perception is reality. No one wants to feel less than, so they look for someone to blame (doctors) and a way to change the outcome (birth plan). Many women have this fantasy of a perfect vaginal birth without pitocin or an epidural that doesn’t hurt and they become fixated on having this. They have heard from friends, family members, articles on social media or elsewhere on the internet, documentaries, or random people that ALL doctors want to do is place IV’s, put monitors on you, put wires inside you, pump you with pain medicine, and do a C-section to get your baby out. First of all, not true! Second of all, this starts off our doctor-patient relationship with an us vs. them mentality. It is not ideal for you to distrust the person taking care of you at one of the most important times of your life! When a patient states that they don’t want to have a C-section, I simply say that I cannot predict what will happen and there a lot of factors that influence the type of delivery you will have, but as long as mom is healthy and baby is head down, the plan is for vaginal delivery unless other factors occur (such as heart rate problems or labor not progressing as expected) that may change that plan.
Other common concerns are whether they will have to be induced, have internal monitoring or receive pitocin during labor. Again, I simply state that I cannot predict what will happen, but there are certain issues with the pregnancy that may require induction and it is not a requirement to have internal monitoring or pitocin during labor, whether induced or spontaneous. There are many factors that influence the need for these interventions, many of which I cannot predict prior to admission to the hospital!
The list goes on.
There is not a one size all approach to having a baby and there are many variables. Women are all different and every birth experience is different, so they can’t be compared.
There is NOT ONE THING you can control about pregnancy and this creates tremendous anxiety for moms to be. There is an unbelievable amount of information out there and for some, taking in the information and trying to control it by making a birth plan and creating an expectation of how the birth should happen makes them feel better. Sometimes it works, and women get exactly what they expected and they are happy. Sometimes, women don’t have any expectations and they have a baby one way or the other and are happy. And sometimes, women have the complete opposite experience of what they envisioned to be their birth story, and because expectations were not managed, they are still upset, EVEN THOUGH they have a healthy baby. So as this post states, we as providers have to educate patients about all possible outcomes, and patients have to plan for the birth they want but be prepared for a different outcome and be ready to deal with that.
So glad that I read that article to stimulate me to write down my thoughts about something I deal with on a daily basis. Let me know what you think!