How many times have we heard peoples birth stories? How often do women tell you "Well, my water's broke at midnight, we jumped in the car, a little while later my contractions started, Gosh, it stung a bit, anyway baby Joshua arrived after 7 whole minutes of pushing. Felt like we were at the hospital for ages but we were home by 10 past 6"
Wouldn't it be wonderful if it happened like that for everyone however a report by the RCM aimed at promoting natural birth reported that as few as 40% of women in the UK actually had a "natural birth" and in addition an even smaller percentage of those women escaped without any perineal trauma. What we need to appreciate is that those of us who have a trickier time are more commonly found than the lucky few! If we put out a request for stories of text book birth we receive very few replies - ask about how things deviated a little and our computer system crashes!
That said, it is not all bad! Most of us come out of the other side knowing that we will do it all again! But, what we need to do is re-address what we consider to be a normal experience. In addition full understanding that the opening paragraph is an actual possibility for those having their second child may give us all some light at the end of the tunnel.
Women and their partners are generally actually in very safe hands when having their baby. Overall outcomes in the UK are excellent and as healthcare providers we want to empower women to feel proud and happy with their experience and what we see as a barrier to that is the education they receive prior to going into labour. There is currently have a huge gap in antenatal education. Recent years have seen a massive influx of services helping couples with hypno-birthing skills, pregnancy yoga and relaxation classes. NCT provide great opportunity for couples to meet others and form a support network for the months and even years ahead.
BUT and it's a BIG but, taken in isolation, unless you are one of the very few lucky ones who are able to breath out their first baby without so much as a sniff of gas and air - going into labour without all the other information you may need is leaving women feeling, disappointed with their birth experience and, even more heartbreaking, with a sense of failure.
Please don't get me wrong all of the education on offer has its benefits and if you can afford to do a combination fantastic but if you have a limited budget to spend on antenatal education - I urge you to seek a class that covers every eventuality. Your antenatal course should provide you and your partner with information packed sessions which prepare but don't frighten, and empower you to make the right decision for you at the right time and to feel good about it.