baby

'Will I tear?': An obstetrician and mum-of-five tackle every pregnancy worry you have.

Like many mothers, I had a list of fears before I gave birth to my first child.

A leading obstetrician and an Australian mother-of-five have given me a different perspective.

The anonymous pair say childbirth doesn’t have to be frightening, and I’ve found it reassuring because I’m pregnant and have to do it all over again.

Here’s what they had to say about some common birth worries:

‘Am I going to poo?’

Obstetrician: “I can remember a number of women being very frightened about that even in labour.

“We live in such a sanitised society we think that there’s something wrong about that, but that’s our key reassurance that everything is happening. So if a woman tells me ‘I need to do a poo or open my bowel’, I say ‘great’.

'It's natural to have some trepidation.' Image via iStock.
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"Birth is not David Jones, it’s messy. There is mess there – but that’s all signs that it is happening normally."

Mother of five: "In my day they gave you an enema prior, but they stopped this practice in the 90s and I pooed giving birth.

"I didn't care. It is not gross and it is part of giving birth. It's very hard to push out a baby and isolate that at the same time. Simply not possible."

'How much pain am I going to be in?'

Mum of five: "It is difficult and no one is calling it easy, that's why they call it labour. But having said that, you do recover really quickly and women go back for more. We survive and we're strong, we can do it."

Obstetrician: "The pain is very variable and some people don’t even call it pain. So there’s something different about this pain. It’s not pain because something is broken or because something is being torn apart, it is because the body is doing something. There’s the common perception that it’s pain like having kidney stones but it is something different...

"Just because of the language we use – labour pain – we invite an expectation that women are going to be in this torture. But some women, I’m not sure what they do, they call it painful, but they negotiate it and just sail through."

Listen: Is your baby name bogan? (post continues...)

'What about the epidural?'

Obstetrician: "There are things out there that help you negotiate and tackle the pain.

"Epidurals do have their place and they are becoming more and more refined. Some women only need a dose of a narcotic like morphine, it helps them float above the pain."

"Epidurals are very safe.  I’ve been at this hospital now for years and I can’t recall one nasty complication of an epidural."

Mum of five: "I didn't like the idea of an epidural. I wanted to give birth with the least intervention possible. But not all goes to plan so feeling okay about changing plans midway through is OK too, epidural or not.

"No mother should be judging any mother in whatever choice they make."

'Will my vagina tear?'

Obstetrician: "There’s no doubt that once you’ve had a baby, things are often different to varying degrees, but the overwhelming majority of women are OK after birth.

"We are very particular about identifying tearing and repairing appropriately.

"We have excellent physiotherapists now who specialise in that. We prefer that it didn’t happen at all and there are various strategies we can do to minimise the chance of it.

"It’s not something we just leave to the Gods, we are constantly mindful about that."

Mum of five: "All mothers think 'how am I going to do this?', but it comes down to support."

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'Support is key.' Image via iStock.

'I just can't do it.'

Mum of five: "You need a good birth coach, a good midwife, a good doula, a good mother, a good friend - whatever it takes. You need women supporting women.

"You need women who have had children to support women. It's about the support and preparation you get during childbirth."

Obstetrician: "That’s a fairly complex one. That to me is the fundamental role of midwifery. Midwives, other women, their job is to say 'yes you can do it' and they tap into an innate female confidence and capacity.

"I can say that, but I don’t think it is anywhere near as convincing as another woman saying it."

'I'm fearful something bad will happen to my baby.'

Mum of five: "Once you go into labour, there's no turning back. You have got to face your fear front on. There's no choice, that baby has to come out."

Obstetrician: "It’s an overwhelming natural fear, that to a certain degree, we’ve inherited from previous eras when babies did die in large numbers. It’s no surprise that it still lingers, but reality is childbirth has never been safer.

"When something nasty does happen, it gets a lot of press. A certain perspective is lost. Women dying in childbirth is exceedingly rare it is something like one in 10,000 or less."

The final word.

Mum of five: "I don't think any mother should be afraid of childbirth, if she's got support. It's a natural process and it may be challenging but having support is the key."

Obstetrician:  "A lot of women experience an ecstasy when they give birth, this is what women have said to me, and this is even when it’s quite difficult.

"It’s quite overwhelming and it’s so overwhelming it stays with them for the rest of their lives...

"The problem with the whole fear thing is that it doesn’t allow women the possibility of experiencing the overwhelming unique experience."

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