By Hannah Schenker
For those who have been reading about and involved with the Positive Birth Movement and who have read about things like unassisted, ecstatic or orgasmic births, this may prompt you to throw your arms in the air and exclaim “No kidding! We’ve been saying this for aaaaages!”. For those who are pregnant and anticipating their birth experience, this may be helpful to know. Thousands of women could be saved from debilitating injuries thanks to a new midwife-led programme in the UK that aims to smash the myth that women need to force themselves to push during labour.
Designed by staff at Medway Foundation Trust in Kent, the programme has already reduced unintentional damage to the birthing mother by as much as 85 per cent in some maternity wards, and reduced the incidence of traumatic tearing from 7 per cent to just 1 per cent of mamas. How did they do it? Simply stopped asking mothers to push. They supported mothers to choose different birthing positions and to slow down. They stopped pulling the baby from the mother, and instead supported the weight of the baby. Seems so simple and logical, doesn’t it?
The programme was prompted by a call for action by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives, after they noted alarming rates of perineal tearing in women during 2013/2014. They saw a shocking 22 cases of third-degree tearing in women in just one month, which Dot Smith, head of midwifery at Medway Foundation Trust, told the Daily Mail was “not good enough”. She blamed a misconception among the public and medical professionals alike, that women must “push, and then push harder”.
This is very important stuff. One in ten women experience some form of tearing during childbirth. In serious cases it can lead to things like incontinence and even lifelong nerve problems. For mothers who have experienced tearing in a previous birth, they are over five times more likely to experience is with a subsequent birth, according to a study in 2014 of perineal tearing in NHS hospitals.