It is the most unrecognised form of torture of women today according to Professor of Midwifery Hannah Dahlen.
“We are putting women through torture. Women forced to give birth on their backs described the experience as torture and unbearable pain,” she said.
“They are less likely to have a normal birth and more likely to have a caesarean section or forceps delivery.”
Professor Dahlen from Western Sydney University said physiologically the most natural position for women to give birth in was forwards leaning, such as on their hands and knees, however, over 90% of women still give birth lying flat on their back, shared Kidspot.
President of the Royal Australian College of Obstetricians, Professor Steve Robson, said while he wouldn’t use the word torture he did agree with Professor Dahlen that lying on the back to birth should be avoided. He said the weight of the baby in the uterus could block off the blood supply so there were good physiological reasons for avoiding it.
Upright births best for mum and bub
Professor Hannah Dahlen previously told The Conversation that “large reviews of evidence show labouring upright and giving birth upright have advantages for the mother and baby.”
“Apart from the obvious benefit of gravity to help the baby descend, these include
- more efficient contractions
- shorter labour
- better oxygenation of the baby in the mother’s uterus, as the vena cava vein and aorta are not compressed by the pregnant uterus
- increased pelvic diameter, especially in positions such as squatting
- less maternal pain
- greater satisfaction
- fewer forceps, vacuum births and episiotomies.
So why most Australian women give birth on their backs?
Professor Hannah said, she undertook an ethnographic study (using observations and interviews) looking at how women gave birth in the three different birth settings: hospitals, birth centres and at home.
We discovered that the way we have constructed the birth environment, such as putting the bed in the centre of the room and having little supportive equipment (such as birth balls, birth stools, mats and bean bags) had a major subliminal impact on both the way women and midwives acted.
When the women weren’t directed by midwives or obstetricians, and the environment facilitated their moving about adopting different positions, the majority gave birth upright and forwards leaning – the total opposite to what happens when a woman gives birth on her back on a bed.
Giving women information before the birth and helping them practice different positions also helped facilitate this, as did continuity of midwifery care and creating home-like environments.
Isn’t it all about choice?
I delivered both my children on my back, that was the position I found most comfortable. I had a choice. I was encouraged to walk around and move as much as possible but being curled in the fetal position was all I wanted to do until it was time to push and I was happy to do so on my back.
What did you find more comfortable? Did you have a choice?
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