Thursday, 24 January 2013

One Born Every Minute

Last night, for the first time in very, very long time, I sat and watched 'OBEM'.  It wasn't a concious choice - we had watched the great classic movie 'Stand by Me' (oh River Phoenix, what a loss) as a family, and when the DVD had finished the TV returned to OBEM just as it started.  And I was hooked; mesmerized; drawn-in and unable to move despite my intentions to get to bed as I am feeling quite unwell of late.  But there I was, one hour later, as the credits rolled.

There are lots of reasons I don't watch programmes such as this one; firstly, my family don't allow it.  They feel it's detrimental to my health as I am unable to watch without large amounts of steam coming from my ears.  Secondly, it reminds me of the fact that the way I practise as a midwife is at risk, and frankly the thought of returning to work in a large, consultant unit, fills me with dread and fear.

So what was wrong with last night's programme?  Let's start with the fact that both labours, both healthy, first time mothers, both considered 'low risk' (hate that phrase), ended with unnecessary intervention:

'Mother one' was already in early labour; as she was 12 days over, she requested to have her labour 'induced' and just get on with it.  "Good news", hails the midwife, "we can break your waters and get you going."  A birth that was starting physiologically is now having a helping hand with an intervention that brings it's own risks (which I did not see being discussed), or other options given (such as go home - you shouldn't be anywhere near a labour ward at present) and is presented to an audience of viewers as the norm (which it probably is on a consultant unit).  Mother one did give birth vaginally - on her back, epidural in-situ and an episiotomy.

'Mother two' arrives in spontaneous labour, but she stalls and after a few hours it is decided her labour must be accelerated.  And when I say decided, this was the conversation:
Midwife "You've been stuck at 4-5cms for a while, so I need to talk to the doctors to decide what to do"........  "The plan is the get you going and put a drip up to get some oomph behind those contractions".  Interesting use of language, a really great way of not demonstrating informed CHOICE and decision making - the mother was not even included in that, the midwife and doctor decided - and another birth that needed a 'helping hand'.  It was however really fantastic to see the mother using an 'alternative position' and standing as she birthed her baby.

After watching the programme I am now aware of several things: Midwives are in charge and know best; women are clearly malfunctioning when it comes to labour; physiological birth doesn't work.  I am so grateful to have had those points clarified and to recognise that it must be time to change my practice as I am very outdated in my beliefs that birth is normal; that labour has it's own rhythm; that women should be involved in all aspects of the decision making; that the amniotic sac provides a safe, protective barrier in labour; that vagina's are designed to stretch to birth a baby; that facilitating a safe, warm, quiet, environment aids progress in labour.  Thank you to the powers that be (insurance companies and eu regulations) that foolish midwives like myself, or like Virginia Howes need to be tamed and brought into line and that we are wrong.

I clearly am one of those 'born every minute' that needs to be reminded on prime-time TV that birth does not work and the NHS knows best.

angela x

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