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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Women 'frightened of giving birth'
Only 6% of women had completely natural births
Only 6% of women had completely natural births
Women are "terrified" of giving birth, and find it "more painful than they ever imagined", a survey has shown.

Eight out of 10 said they were frightened during labour and birth in a national survey of 3,000 women.

Three-quarters said the pain was far worse than they had imagined it would be - and half said they found the experience more shocking than they had expected.

Birth in Britain today has become a lottery

Dani Zur
Mother and Baby
Eighty-six per cent said they were in pain after the birth, and suffered for an average of 24 days.

Six out of 10 said the antenatal classes they had attended failed to prepare them for the reality of childbirth.

And three quarters said they felt anxious during their pregnancy, with many worried about antenatal tests.

Daily life also has its problems for pregnant women, with 72% saying people do not show them special courtesies, such as giving up seats on trains.

'No compassion'

The survey also found only 6% had a completely natural birth, with 23% having a Caesarean.

Of those who gave birth normally, 38% had an epidural, 41% had to have the painkiller pethidine and a quarter were induced.

My baby's skull was fractured in the process of delivering him

Lucy, Scotland

Over half of the women needed stitches.

A quarter of the women surveyed complained staff in the maternity unit were "lacking in compassion and cold", with 45% saying they were not told what was happening during the labour and birth.

The survey also found four out of 10 women were not allowed to move around during labour, echoing recent findings of the National Childbirth Trust.

After the birth, 43% said they did not receive good postnatal care.

Eight per cent said they suffered "the blues" with 44% feeling "down and shocked" and 11% said they had definitely suffered from postnatal depression.

But despite their concerns, 99% said motherhood gave them more happiness than their career.

'Shocked and depressed'

Dani Zur, editor of Mother and Baby magazine which commissioned the survey along with Persil Non-Bio, said: "This survey gives a depressing insight into the state of Britain's maternity service.

"Birth in Britain today has become a lottery. If you happen to go into labour on a day when your maternity unit is fully staffed and there aren't many other women giving birth, you're more likely to have a good experience.

"But if your local maternity unit is understaffed and under-resourced, you're not going to be as lucky.

"The result is that many women who give birth in Britain today feel shocked and depressed by their experience. "

Mary Newburn, Head of Policy Research, at the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), said: "This new research reflects a series of serious, underlying problems in the maternity care most women experience in the UK today.

"However it is not all doom and gloom. NCT research has found that most women can and do have a positive relationship with their midwives and doctors and get the information they feel they need.

"If they get consistent care - particularly if they can really get to know a midwife through their pregnancy - women can have a good experience of childbirth and a positive start to their new life as a parent."

She said the NCT wanted the government to take note of the views and experiences of women and mothers, such as those in the Mother and Baby survey and include them in its National Service Framework for Children.

The BBC's Gill Higgins
"Recruitment of midwives is high on the government's agenda"

Why is the experience terrifying?
See also:

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