Did you know that 97% of Australian women give birth in hospital settings?
In a minute, I want to share how you can have an incredible birth in a hospital.
But first, let’s look at how our culture gives birth.
In Australia, 9 out of 10 women have at least one medical intervention while giving birth.
For our purposes, medical interventions are defined as diagnostic or therapeutic tools that may interrupt the flow of labour, birth and bonding.
The vast majority of women have at least one of the following:
> Vaginal examination (to estimate labour progress)
> Induction (to try and start labour)
> Epidural (to give pain relief)
> Augmentation (to try to speed up labour)
> Episiotomy (surgical cut to the perineum)
> Instrumental birth (to pull the baby out), and/or
> Cesarean (to deliver baby surgically)
Many women have multiple.
For about the last twenty years, we’ve known that one medical intervention usually leads to another.
Birth researchers call this the “cascade of interventions”.
In one study, they observed that for most women who start with an epidural in early labour, augmentation is needed after a short time.
The study concluded that as the number of interventions increases so does the labour’s duration and the likelihood of a cesarean section.
So, to have a quicker birth and an easier postpartum, we need to find ways to avoid the first intervention.
To better understand how our culture gives birth, let’s look at three areas that matter: (1) how labour starts, (2) the method of birth and (3) tearing.
Each of these areas directly impacts women.
How labour starts will impact your experience and memory of labour.
Your method of birth will stick with you forever.
Tearing will influence future sexual experiences and body confidence.
So, let’s look at how our culture measures in these three areas.
In Australia, more than 4 out of 10 women (43.2%) go into labour spontaneously (naturally).
Meanwhile, more than 3 in 10 women (34.2%) have an induction.
And about 2 out of 10 women (22.5%) have an elective cesarean section (which means they, of course, don’t go into labour).
The rate of spontaneous labour has decreased in the last 15 years. More women are being induced than 15 years ago and fewer women are going into labour spontaneously.
With birth, it’s quite evenly split.
Even though the majority of women give birth vaginally.
Only 5 out of 10 women (52%) in Australia give birth naturally (without forceps or vacuum extraction).
The other almost 5 out of 10 women (48%) give birth via cesarean (35.3%) or with forceps/vacuum extraction (12.7%).
Okay, now this is crucial to postpartum healing.
How do women go with preventing tears?
Of those who give birth vaginally, almost 5 out of 10 women (46.5%) do not tear at all or get a small cut that doesn’t need stitches.
This is good news because a small cut will heal in a week. There will still be tenderness, even without tearing, but this settles quickly.
Yet, unfortunately, more than 5 out of 10 women (53.6%) sustain a tear or surgical cut (episiotomy) that requires stitches.
So, that’s how our culture gives birth in three vital areas: (1) how labour starts, (2) the method of birth and (3) tearing.
What does this all mean for women who plan to birth in a hospital in future?
This is where I want to interject and exclaim that: our culture’s way of birthing doesn’t have to be your story.
So, why even share these statistics?
To provide contrast.
Birth is not broken, but some things are.
If you can see that our culture’s way of giving birth isn’t working, then you can look for an alternative.
As you prepare for your birth, think about:
> What is God’s way for women to give birth?
> What is my culture’s way for women to give birth?
> What is my way to give birth?
The bottom line: you are not destined for an induction or emergency cesarean or tearing.
I share these statistics so you can see how out of sync our medicalised way of giving birth is from our original design.
We are elegantly designed to give birth, but our man-made birth systems aren’t always so streamlined.
You’ve already begun the first step: seeing what you likely don’t want.
Once you realise there’s more on offer than “at least you have a healthy baby”, then you can focus on preparing for a quicker, easier birth.
If you’d like to learn more about preparing for the type of birth you do want, take a look at our other birth articles.
Stephanie Renee Cluff