Are Women Getting The Birth They Want?

Are Women Getting The Birth They Want?

If you’re pregnant, you’re probably thinking ahead to the birth of your baby.

You might be doing antenatal classes. Or talking to other experienced mamas. You might be thinking of hiring a doula. And creating a birth plan.

Most women wonder, think and dream about the process of giving birth.

Are Women Getting The Birth They Want?

Some women immerse themselves in every detail of labour, embracing all the knowledge they can, in the hope of being prepared for everything.

Other women prefer to avoid thinking about labour. Instead they focus on the moment they will meet their baby.

But one thing is a given: every woman expects the birth of her baby to be empowering and amazing.

Sadly, a new study shows almost 30% of Australian women aren’t getting the birth they want.

What Did The Study Show?

The research was undertaken by Safe Motherhood for All Inc. – part of the grassroots global movement, White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.

The research undertaken by Safe Motherhood for All Inc. surveyed almost 1,750 women who gave birth during a two-year period.

The results of the survey showed only 58% of women who gave birth in a hospital or a birth centre had the birth they wanted.

Almost 30% of women said they didn’t have the birth they wanted.

The researchers asked women whether they felt in control of their births. Overall, nearly 63% of women said they felt in control, but first time mothers were less likely to feel they were in control (58%).

Women who gave birth in birth centres had a far higher rate of feeling in control (94%) compared with those in hospital (57%).

A shocking 22% of women felt they weren’t in control of their births.

Significantly, 76% of the women surveyed felt their baby’s birth had affected how they felt about themselves. Of these women, just over 25% felt the impact of their birth was negative. This rose to almost 45% of women who had instrumental births, 55% who had a c-section, and 36% for first time mothers.

Birth can also have an effect on the relationship between mother and baby. Over 60% of the women surveyed agreed their baby’s birth had affected this relationship.

Nearly 13% felt this impact was negative, and this increased to 20% for first time mothers. Women who had an instrumental birth were also affected more negatively (33%), as were those who had a c-section (34%).

Of the women who had their babies in birth centres, only 3% reported a negative impact on their relationship with their baby.

What Does This Information Tell Us?

Every year, around 300,000 women give birth in Australia. The vast majority give birth in hospitals (over 70% in public hospitals, and nearly 30% in private). Only 2% of women give birth in birth centres. Fewer than 1% give birth at home.

The research from Safe Motherhood for All Inc. shows the deeply profound and ongoing effect birth has on women.

The assumption is birth only matters on the day, and the most important outcome is to have a healthy baby and mother afterwards.

Although a safe birth is high on everyone’s priority list, for the woman experiencing it there’s  also a lot to be said for being treated with dignity and respect by her support people.

The information from this research reveals an important truth: the way in which women are treated during this very vulnerable time of life can have long reaching consequences for their emotional and mental wellbeing. It can also affect bonding with their baby, and have a direct influence on family relationships.

What Can We Learn From This Research?

The results of this research are neither startling nor new. How women are treated during pregnancy and labour directly influences their physical and mental health following birth. It’s already well known and has been well researched.

Respectful relationships with maternity care providers can have a huge impact on whether a woman has a positive or a negative birth experience.

Even though most women have positive responses to their birth experiences, there is still evidence of women who don’t. This seems to be more apparent in large, busy maternity hospitals and in situations where women don’t have a primary care provider throughout pregnancy and birth.

The researchers decided not to include information relating to the experience of women who chose to birth from home. The data from these women showed very high levels of satisfaction with care compared with those who birthed in hospital.

97% of women who birthed at home felt a positive impact on their relationship with their babies, and  97% felt their birth experience was positive. 96% of the women birthing at home felt in control of their birth experience.

The survey information has borne out what had been noted in other research: the further from obstetric care and settings women are, the higher the likelihood of a positive birth experience and long term positive consequences.

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Sam McCulloch Dip CBEd CONTRIBUTOR

Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.


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