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Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK
Women 'frightened of giving birth'
Lack of information caused fear in pregnant women
Lack of information caused fear in pregnant women
Giving birth in Northern Ireland is a terrifying experience which leaves women in a state of shock, according to a survey.

The National Birth and Motherhood Survey commissioned by Mother and Baby magazine questioned new mothers in every region in the UK about their experiences of giving birth.

In Northern Ireland, 75% of the women surveyed - the largest number in any region in the UK - said they were frightened during labour because they were not told what was happening. That was compared to the UK average of 45%.

And 37% of women said they found their hospital maternity staff cold and lacking in compassion.

Their men were not much help either - 37% of partners present at the birth said they felt queasy and needed to leave the room for fresh air, and 4% actually passing out.

However, there were a higher number of women compared to the UK average who said their partner's behaviour towards them improved when they were pregnant.

Unplanned pregnancies

The survey said almost half of all pregnancies in Northern Ireland were unplanned, 46% compared to the UK average of 32%, and women in Northern Ireland also conceived more quickly - in an average of six months, compared to the UK average of nine months.

Women in Northern Ireland were the least likely to want to know the sex of their baby in advance - only 35% compared to the UK average of 45% - because they preferred a surprise.

Three quarters of mothers in Northern Ireland said they did not feel comfortable breast feeding in public, which was slightly higher than the UK average of 65%.

Meanwhile, almost half of new mothers in Northern Ireland said it was not financially worth their while returning to work due to child minding costs (46%), compared to the UK average (36%).

'Birth lottery'

Nationally, the report authors said that eight out of 10 women said they were frightened during labour and birth.

Three quarters said it was more painful than they ever imagined and 53% found it "far more shocking than they thought".

More than half - 57% - found antenatal classes had not told them the truth.

After the birth, 86% said they were in pain for an average of 24 days and a third said they were "in considerable pain".

Dani Zur, editor of Mother and Baby, said it showed that giving birth in Britain today has become a "lottery".

She said if a woman went into labour on a day when the maternity unit was fully staffed she was likely to have a good experience, but if the unit was understaffed and under-resourced she was not so lucky.

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

See also:

27 Jan 00 | N Ireland
19 Jan 00 | N Ireland
24 Dec 00 | N Ireland
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