As a senior midwife, I have seen pretty much all kinds of birth you can imagine. Home birth and no pain relief to instrumental birth with loud voices, panicked parents and spinal anesthetic. I haven’t had children but there’s no fear of childbirth for me whatsoever.
But according to Catriona Jones of the University of Hull and speaker at The British Science Festival, graphic social media accounts and women sharing traumatic birth stories are causing fear of childbirth (tocophobia) to rise.
According to a study last year, an estimated 14 per cent of pregnant women suffer from tocophobia globally, and the proportion appears to have risen since 2000.
Jones, who researches tocophobia, claims “all you have to do is Google ‘my experience of childbirth’, and you are met with a tsunami of stories...Women are very good at telling each other horror stories about childbirth.”
Justine Roberts,Mumsnet founder and CEO responded by saying many mums who contribute to these parenting forums want to know, honestly, what birth is like. A recent survey by Channel Mum found 92 per cent of mums actively seek out others birth stories when they are pregnant and 69 per cent found it helpful and empowering, against just 29 per cent who said it made them more fearful.
But isn’t there a bigger question here? Why are women having such traumatic experiences?
What do women really need to know?
So many women do wonder why no one told them the “truth” about childbirth. The truth is that women should be in control and understand their options fully. Women need to know what position their baby is in, how to progress their labour naturally and what they will and will not consent to. The problem of horror stories being shared is scratching the surface of a far bigger problem.
We have lost ancient wisdom and women are starting to feel out of control during childbirth.
Every woman, baby and birth is different but the common traits, in my experience, that lead to quicker, easier and calmer births start with women feeling and being in control.
Women are parents not patients – they’re in charge of their birth no matter what and everything is a choice. Professionals can only guide or advise but women should be in control.