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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 23:16 GMT 00:16 UK
Births 'should be less medical'
Midwife and mother
Birth should be a joyful experience
Women are failing to get the birth they want because hospitals insist on making it too medical, warn midwives.

From the minute prospective parents walk into a maternity ward they are left in no doubt that they are about to undergo a medical experience.

Often a mother's choice of support partners is restricted, music discouraged and ensuite bathroom facilities and refreshments unavailable.

Medical equipment is clearly on display and even the hospital gown is usually stamped 'hospital property'.


What are we doing to women in labour that is making them so frightened they would prefer major surgery

Debby Gould, Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital

Debby Gould, a consultant midwife at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, London told the British Journal of Midwifery that women needed to be offered a more pleasant birth experience.

Fear

"Women are requesting elective caesarean sections.

"So what are we doing to women in labour that is making them so frightened they would prefer major surgery?

"I think we have got carried away with making it a medical experience."

"We have become desensitised to the medicalisation of birth and lost sight of the miracle of birth.

Mum and midwife
Midwives need to talk about their experiences

"Women have to fit the system, a medically dominated system.

"The metaphor of medicalisation is imprinted subliminally on women from the moment of admission."

Speaking to the BBC, she said hospitals could easily make subtle simple changes such as putting medical equipment out of sight.

"I would like to see all equipment put out of sight in cupboards.

"I would like to see the bed put to the side of the room rather than in the centre so that it is more like a divan bed.

"The message has got to be that women can move around and choose their birth position.

Celebration

"I would like to see refreshments available for the women and their partners as some of the men are there for a very long time.

"I would also like see the men have somewhere to sleep if they need to because births can be a long process.

"Birth is a celebration of a baby and it should be treated as such."

She said that some hospitals, such as her own, did offer more relaxed birthing areas for low-risk births, but she said she would like to see changes made in all maternity wards.

Mary Newburn, of the NCT said she agreed that hospital births needed to be made more personal.

"The culture in maternity units does not help women have a straightforward vaginal birth.

"We want to break the cycle and get birth out of the hospital environment because it can spoil the birth experience because it helps prevent the normal flow of labour."

Checking

Another article in the BJOM praised midwives for their work, but called on them to listen to concerns and points of view as well as carrying out checks.

Mothers said that although they expected doctors to emphasise the clinical aspects of birth that they wanted midwives to offer a more personal approach.

And they said talking about their own experiences at birth would help other women.

See also:

24 Jun 01 | Health
29 Nov 00 | Health
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