The Pitfalls of ‘Going With The Flow’ in Birth

So many of us aim to ‘just go with the flow’ as our birthplan. But could the gentle flow of birth we envisage actually be undermined with this approach? Could ‘going with the flow’ even be detrimental to a positive start to life for your new family? (authors of How to Heal a Bad Birth: making sense, making peace & moving on) explores this approach and looks at how we can improve our chances of a positive birth experience…and why it matters.

Kelly is 39 weeks pregnant with her first child – round, radiant, and ready. Her belly precedes her as she enters the café, kisses her friends hello, and lowers herself carefully onto the chair. After they joke and jostle over the menu, all eyes turn to Kelly and the question is asked. “So,” says one friend, “Are you scared about the birth?”. “Oh,” replies Kelly casually, “I’d really like a natural birth, and I don’t really want any drugs… but I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens.” One and a half weeks later, Kelly is lying on an operating table, after an induction, some pethidine, an epidural and 28 hours of labour. She is exhausted, frightened, concerned for her baby, and in shock at the happenings of the last day and night. And now she is meeting her baby via abdominal surgery.

Necessary…or not?

Many people would look at the above scenario and express relief that Kelly was able to access the care she and her baby apparently needed. They would assume that some dangerous and unexpected complication had arisen that necessitated the interventions, and ultimately the caesarean, in her labour. And this is certainly a possibility, and of course does occur. But what if this situation was merely the end result of ‘going with the flow’?

This possibility can be difficult to embrace. As Melissa from shares : “I know when this was suggested to me after my own caesarean, my emotions shifted from immediate denial (“No! I was TOLD it was necessary!”) to disbelief (“I DO NOT want to hear that the pain and side effects of major surgery may have been avoided!”) to intrigue (“You mean…maybe I COULD HAVE birthed normally?”) to anger (“I can’t BELIEVE no-one told me this could happen!”) to grief (“I am DEVASTATED for what I missed out on.”) to an undertaking of an exploration of a whole side to birth that I had never known existed.

I discovered that my own antenatal education was sorely lacking, even though I did the hospital’s antenatal course, and a private ‘Active Birth’ course. No-one told me that ‘going with the flow’ was setting me on a trajectory to an outcome I did not want…and very possibly did not need.”

Why we decide to ‘go with the flow’

‘Going with the flow ‘s an oft-used expression many women turn to when asked about their impending birth. For some of us, it takes the pressure off us to “perform” & have the “perfect birth”. It suggests we are fairly relaxed about the whole deal. What else can we say when we don’t know how things will turn out? We haven’t road-tested our bodies for this sort of thing before. Most of us have never seen a baby being born, unless you count watching our favourite characters in sitcoms…which most of us acknowledge aren’t very realistic birthing moments. What else can we say, when we have been bombarded with horror stories of birth for the last few months, by friends, family and people in line at the bank? How else do we quell the nervous ache in the pit of our (sizeable) belly, except by acknowledging and accepting the unpredictability of birth in this way? And where do we find the good stories, the happy stories about babies being born? We certainly don’t hear them in the street or at parties. Unless you count those women who see birth as a sporting event, and define their births in terms of velocity…which just ups the ante for those of us who are already feeling pressured to perform.

Out of our control

“Going with the flow” can be a safe way of saying “I have no idea. I am scared stiff. All I hear are descriptions of excruciating pain, and watermelons coming out of places they shouldn’t. I am just going to put myself in the hands of the experts, and hope I am fine.”. Women may be inclined to turn to this approach as a form of default, not knowing any other way, and as an acknowledgement that childbirth is out of their control. An understandable justification. And understandable fears, when you look at the way our culture views birth – as an event that must be endured to extract an offspring. No wonder many of us become frozen in our tracks, looking for guidance. But the act of ‘going with the flow’ contains inherent pitfalls unbeknownst to most women who follow that plan of action. Unfortunately the question is not, “Are you going to go with the flow?” In our current birthing climate, the real question is, “Just whose flow are you going with?”

Healthy mother, healthy baby?

“The flow” implies a natural unfolding of events, where mother and baby’s well-being is paramount and central to the occasion. It suggests a gentle meander from stage to stage of the birthing process, veering smoothly to a different course if the current path seems unviable. And it implies that all paths of the flow lead to the same outcome: a healthy mother and healthy child.

Healthy mother and child. If we pause for a moment and really consider this over-used phrase, we need to look at what defines “healthy”. When we look at safety in birth, we tend to only think of physical safety, i.e. getting both parties out of the experience alive. But doing so without attending to a woman’s mental well-being seems to have shocking implications for women, their babies, and their whole family after the birth.

Debby Gould is a trained midwife, mother of two, and co-founder of, an Australian education & support group with an arm devoted specifically to supporting women after traumatic births. Says Debby, “Every week we talk with women whose birth plan was to ‘go with the flow’. And now they are contacting us for support after a traumatic birth.” Debby describes these women as expressing feelings of sadness, confusion, and often anger. “The effects are more far-reaching than most of us realise. The emotions can spill over into how women parent, how they relate with their partners, and even how they feel about themselves.”

Most women’s interpretation of ‘going with the flow’ is ‘to put ourselves in the hands of our health carers, and accept the interventions they suggest as inevitable, and unquestionable and in our best interests.’. However, as Debby Gould is finding at, it seems that this approach may not only offer us few benefits for the actual birth, it may also put us at a disadvantage in parenting our new babies, and how we experience our entire postnatal phase.

The hospital’s definition of healthy?

Miranda, a 38 year old mother of two, tells sadly of her realisation that her definition of the “healthy mum and bub” term, and her hospital’s definition, were eons apart. “I could not fathom that any decision being made was not in my best interest. I did not think for a moment that we weren’t all working towards the same goal. I was going with the flow. But their flow took me to a place I never wanted to be, and I am still paying the price. And it wasn’t because their way was safer. It was because it suited their institution better.”

This is where the real flow can rear its sometimes ugly, institutionalised head. Although our health carers are there to ensure physical safety, and many would like to be able to support women emotionally through birth, they are often stymied by the very system they work in. The birthing journey consists of many twists and turns, and some of these turning points may require decision-making. As an institution, the hospital has certain protocols and policies in place to enhance the smooth running of an enormous organization. And while some of them are designed with the woman as the main focus, many other regulations were created more to meet the hospital’s needs. So every decision made about a woman during birth must take into account not just that woman and her baby, but issues such as litigation, liability, staffing, costing, and more. We generally assume that all “flows” will arrive at the same result of “Healthy Mother and Baby”. But now – what is the hospital’s definition of “healthy? And indeed, what is the doctor’s definition of healthy?

Debby Gould hears over and over again that physically healthy is not enough. “The goal of emerging from birth with body and baby intact is a bit of a no-brainer, really,” she says. “ Of course we all want that. But what many health providers fail to recognise is that it is completely possible to support a woman to birth a child so she feels mentally healthy afterwards, without compromising safety in any way.”

Is there another way to approach birth?

Going with the flow just doesn’t seem to have worked for women such as Miranda, & many of the women who contact, and sadly they are not alone. Research shows that one in three women report their birth as being traumatic. Many more are disappointed or view their birth experience negatively. But is birth really that horrible? Or is it more the culture of care being provided that causes problems? Are we helpless pawns in the machinations of the maternal health system?

Debby Gould believes there is much we can do to birth safely, & experience the actual birth as an enriching, positive event. She offers some practical advice on a different approach to labour and birth, tried and tested by hundreds of women attending Birthtalk, explored below. But firstly, does it really matter? Is it important that the birth is a positive experience for the mother, as well as a safe experience for mother and child?

Does birth matter?

Contrary to popular belief, birth is not just ‘one day in your life’. Why? Because we don’t just leave our feelings about our birth at the hospital. The feelings we bring home about the birth can affect our experience of parenting our new babies. If we bring home feelings of confidence, joy, and strength, our instinctive bonding is promoted with our babies. Our confidence in all aspects of life can soar and we can connect at a new level with our partners. Conversely, if we are bringing home feelings of fear, isolation and confusion, bonding with our beautiful babies can be difficult, and feelings of failure can result. Our confidence can plummet, and relationships with partners can suffer. These feelings can infiltrate all areas of our lives as a new family.

Birth DOES matter, because how we experience it can affect every single thing that occurs after it. For this reason, ‘just going with the flow’ can be risky, as it often entails ‘giving your birth over to the experts’, and following their flow, as they advise you throughout. What this process can fail to provide, for a woman and her partner, is the opportunity to ask questions, provide insights, and make decisions as part of a team. Being involved in decision-making is a key aspect of emerging empowered from birth. Even if you make the same decision as your health carer advises…it is still YOUR decision if made from a place of knowledge (due to having information) rather than fear.

To make that clear – we are not advising ignoring your health carer’s suggestions and advice. We are, however, sharing the benefits to be gained from taking an active role in the decisions made, and entering this process with a wealth of information rarely offered in regular antenatal courses, to optimise your chances of emerging empowered and ready for parenting.

A birth that is safe AND positive?

Debby Gould suggests, firstly, looking further afield for birthing information and knowledge than the regular hospital antenatal classes, and mainstream pregnancy books. “There is a huge gap in women’s antenatal education,” she says. “Women are actually encouraged to ‘go with the flow’, and then are naturally surprised & disappointed when the outcome is so different from what the books and classes told them to expect.” Debby recommends that women expand their understanding of birth to include education in a few key areas :

  • Knowing how women’s bodies work best Finding out what our bodies need to be able to access their innate ability to do their job is strongly recommended. Influences such as sound levels (quiet allows focus), obtrusive interruptions during contractions (avoid), lighting (low is best), privacy (essential) & feeling safe and supported are often important factors in determining our body’s optimal physiological ability to birth. “By knowing what our bodies need, we can ascertain if these needs will be met by following the hospital’s flow. If not, we can take steps to ensure our needs are met,” explains Debby. Dr Sarah Buckley, an obstetric GP and mother of 4, agrees. She writes, “We share almost all features of labour and birth with our fellow mammals. We have in common the complex orchestration of labour hormones, produced deep within our mammalian, or middle brain, to aid us and ultimately ensure the survival of our offspring.” Her book,”Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering : A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth” outlines the way our bodies are designed to work. This information can support our decision-making when choosing which “flow” to go with during your birth: your body’s or your care provider’s which ideally would be one and the same..
  • Understanding how our health system works. “To birth in our system and emerge emotionally healthy, women may need to buoy themselves with knowledge in how decisions are made about their provision of care,” says Debby. Knowing how and why the hospital usually arrives at their “flow” decisions can make it easier to negotiate getting your own needs met, often in a positive way for both you and your health carer. (see box for further reading)
  • Support, support, support  Although most of us expect to have our partners at the birth of our child, there is much research that suggests the presence of another support person can greatly enhance the experience for everyone. Some partners are reluctant to “share” the birth with an outsider, and worry they will be made redundant in the birthing room if there is someone else there in a support role. But talk to couples after the baby is born. The actual experience of having extra support is usually expressed as a blessing, and a part of their positive view of their birth and their role within it. Research indicates that continuous caregiver support during childbirth has a number of benefits, including a “reduction of the need for medical intervention such as forceps, vacuum or caesarean, a tendency for shorter labours, and a reduction of negative feelings about one’s childbirth experience”.

Catherine, a mother of two young children, wishes she knew about this before her first child was born. “I didn’t think I would need any support, as I knew exactly how things were planned to go. I so wish I had someone to advocate for me, and explain my options in more details, and offer me the continuous care I know I needed. I could see the birth just getting away from me, and I didn’t know where to turn.”

So who is going to provide this continuous presence throughout the labour if it is so beneficial? Usually not the obstetricians…they are generally only called in towards the end of the labour or if any concerns. Traditionally this support has been provided by midwives, but as we have seen, our health care system places many limitations on our health carers. And this is especially true of midwives. In our hospitals, midwives are generally unable to really get to know women prior to their birth. So they are unlikely to be aware of your particular needs, and the “flow” of birth you are looking for, and are often unable, due to hospital policies, to remain with a woman for her entire labour.

Many women are now seeking the services of models of care offering continual care from a known carer and /or a professional support person (known as a doula) who see their job as supporting both partners as they enter this new phase of life. A doula can stay with the woman at all times, as well as act as an advocate for her, to work with the midwife to ensure that, as much as possible, her birth is a positive event. Kay, 37, is a mum who experienced a vaginal birth after caesarean (vbac), and hired a doula to support herself and husband Jake.

Says Kay, “ Having experienced hospital policy with the birth of my first child, which culminated in a possibly unnecessary emergency caesarean, I could not imagine giving birth in the hospital environment without the support of a doula. To know that I was going to take a doula second time round probably gave me the confidence to proceed with falling pregnant”. This confidence extended to Kay’s birthing experience, as she recalls, “The step into motherhood following a well supported birth has been streets ahead of the step into motherhood following [my previous unsupported ] birth where I felt a failure.

  • Being involved in decision-making This final tip from Debby Gould comes with an assurance that “we don’t all need to be midwives and know every possible thing about birth to be able to birth well in our system”. Rather, it means knowing which questions to ask so you can weigh up each situation. Many issues that arise during birth can be resolved a number of ways – there is often no set path that must be followed. The hospital may not volunteer the fact that you have choices – as they may have what they consider to be the best path to meet all the needs of their establishment. Once you know there may be options, the trick is determining which option is right for you and your family. How do we choose, when we are not doctors or midwives ourselves? Debby says, “Once women have attained the information about how their bodies work, they will have a better idea of what will support them in birth. We suggest to begin by using the acronym of B.R.A.N. to help to get enough information from care givers that will enable you to choose the best options for your individual needs.” By asking “BRAN”, (see below) you can get a wealth of information to enhance your decision-making abilities.

Benefits What are the Benefits of this intervention?

Risks What are the Risks of this intervention?

Alternatives Are there any Alternatives to this procedure?

Nothing What would happen if we did nothing? (or do we have to act Now?)

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Perhaps we should check back with Kelly, who we met at the beginning of this article, as she was about to undergo an unplanned caesarean. Kelly knew she couldn’t control childbirth. She decided to go with the flow. But she was unaware that in doing so she was effectively giving up her chance to be involved in one of the most amazing, empowering experiences life offers us.

A few months later, she is still upset, confused and affected by her experience. “What tears me up the most, is that I am really questioning whether my caesarean was even necessary. Right from the induction onwards, no one let me know I had any options. I didn’t know if decisions were being made because my baby was at risk, or because the hospital’s timetable was at risk, or some other reason. I didn’t know that every intervention could have repercussions for the natural labour I envisaged. Now I am finding out about the choices I could have had…I am so upset. Why didn’t anyone tell me?”.

So…when IS it OK to go with the flow?

While we can’t control childbirth, we certainly can have a level of control over the environment we are birthing in, made possible by the knowledge we bring to the birth, the support we have around us, and the ability to ask the right questions. Once these things are in place, it becomes time to go with the flow – but with a different focus. Once a woman has this additional information and support, it becomes the flow of BIRTH we are going with, not ‘the flow of birth as dictated by an institution or a particular carer’. It is then possible to surrender to the power of your birthing body, to follow the flow of this birth, knowing that you have set in place the people and the environment to support you in meeting your goal of ‘empowered healthy mother, and healthy baby’, no matter what path your birth follows.

And by giving ourselves the gift of an informed, empowering birth, we are giving our new little family the gift of a strong, confident mother, who has the ability to create a gentle flow of family life based on what is best for herself, her child, and her family.

©Melissa Bruijn and Debby Gould, 2012

Melissa and Debby from are the authors of How to Heal a Bad Birth : making sense, making peace and moving on. This ground-breaking self-help book takes the reader on a ‘Choose your own adventure’ style of healing journey… because every woman’s path to healing will be different. The pages are filled with heartfelt quotes from women, facts and insights about birth trauma, and ideas for dealing with common emotions that arise such as sadness, guilt, feelings of failure, anger and partner issues. There are step-by-step tools for healing, and immense support and compassion contained within these pages. Say the authors : “For the past 15 years we’ve been working with women after a traumatic birth in our ‘Healing From Birth’ support sessions. Because we’ve see the impact birth can have, we are gentle with women’s hearts as they step forward and acknowledge that they are ready to take the journey to healing. And we are with you all the way.” Go to to learn more

©Melissa Bruijn and Debby Gould, 2012

Further resources for a better birth experience

  1.  Dr Sarah Buckley’s article “Pain in Labour : Your hormones are your Helpers” 
  2. Learn more about how our health system makes its decisions about your birth – contact Debby Gould for a private consultation (IRL or via phone/skype)
  3. Contact Debby from Birthtalk regarding Brisbane based doulas, see Find a Doula for Australian doula support and DONA International for worldwide listed doulas
  4. see Henci Goer’s, “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth”
  5. Sarah Buckley “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering : a Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth”
  6. Birthtalk (

©Melissa Bruijn and Debby Gould, Birthtalk2012

Nicole after her unplanned traumatic caesarean.  She says, “Ella’s birth was definately an example of ‘going with the hospital’s flow rather than my own’.  Oh, how little did I know back then!”. She has since gone on to have two empowering VBACs

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  1. That is brilliant! I think that many women choose to “go with the flow” thinking it’s the right attitude to have in order to avoid disappointment if things don’t go the way they envisaged. And as you say above, it sounds like a completely logical decision. I have certainly been there and done that myself.
    I also agree that there is a huge flaw in what is taught in ante natal classes. I cannot understand why the physiology of childbirth is not taught. It would make women understand their bodies so much better.
    “Going with the Flow” wouldn’t be so bad if all maternity health carers embraced the philosophy of Woman Centred Care.

  2. Megan Jantke · · Reply

    Thanks for this beautiful article 🙂 I will forever be grateful for my involvement with birthtalk. Cheers, Megan

  3. Belinda Yard · · Reply

    although i have never experienced a caesarean, nor will i now, i feel for women who are not given the knowledge to have a baby under their own terms. I did go with my flo, lucky for me nobody told me what i was to do, i DID tell them tho.. no drugs, no interventions and my body will do the work. Lucky i had midwives who supported my choices and encouraged me to birth naturally, i will never forget what i have done and i always tell my friends to be in control. Yes, they do think im crazy, but i just tell them im a mum!!

  4. glendasings · · Reply

    Im constantly amazed at the educated, professional women I know who just hand their bodies over to an obstetrician and don’t educate themselves about their choices. Once you’re in labour, it’s too late to learn about the side effects of drugs or implications of decisions. Learn early, so that when you’re in labour and making a decision about simple things like laying down or remaining upright and walking, you understand the implications.

    I was fortunate at 21 to be invited to support a friend and her husband in delivering their baby, so when I had my first child the following year, I had a birth plan; a list of my preferences regarding pain relief, epidural etc. The one thing that didn’t go to plan was that I delivered reclining; so with the birth of my second daughter, I made sure and my partner made sure that each new midwife knew htat my preference was to deliver on my hands and knees, which was the best way for me following a back injury.

    This planning didn’t mean that I was inflexible, but it meant that when the time came and I had a choice of how to deliver, I knew what I wanted and understood the alternatives if that wasn’t going to work.

  5. I’d agree with Tamara’s comment above, antenatal education needs to be completely rethought, the current NHS model of antenatal classes is all about information transfer, of a practical nature. We need to be educating women about relaxation, and how to birth their own way. We are letting women down by not talking about these issues with them.

  6. a good read for anyone whose birth plan is to ‘go with the flow’

  7. In my experience on “going with the flow” was just saying it because everyone wanted to sure that my birth plan wasn’t set in stone. All the members of my birth team, forums, articles, and other sources for birth plans kept reminding me, “Well, just in case it doesn’t go as planned, etc.” So, I agreed; okay, I’ll keep that thought in my mind that I’ll try not to be disappointed.

    Although, in the back of my mind, I knew that I will stand my ground and WILL make sure it goes with all MY preferences and it did. 🙂

  8. A wonderful article, full of excellent advice, and very well written. I love Debby Gould’s advice. She is someone I have always wanted to meet, and maybe I will someday. I teach antenatal classes and agree that there is much more for parents to know than what happens in the stages of labor. The point about making the important choices about where to give birth and with whom as the caregiver, are key to the kind of “flow” the woman may have to go with. I could go on and on, but you’ve said it so beautifully that there is no need for me to do more than agree!

  9. In the beginning of this article is Melissa from birthtalk. She was ok with her C/S birth until it was SUGGESTED to her that it was unnecessary and This is what started her 2nd guessing herself.
    I am all for advocating choice and being fully informed ,but I think you can go overboard , overzealous, like religion.

    Things can go wrong and do. I was an EN in labour ward for a few years. Nearly all women were happy with their delivery. No one wants to ceasar after labouring 28 hours ,of course not. I did not see ceasars that could have been avoided unless it was a prior booked c/s. There are women who choose C/S just in case. There are women who cannot tolerate the pain and ask for epidurals or gas or pethidine.It is not fear of pain, it is pain,real pain. There are also women who do not like to be “seen” out of control by their partner but who still want them there and so will use pain relief or epi to avoid the sometimes volatile reaction to pain. These are all choices available to women but it seems like if they choose them they have made the “wrong choice”. Yes, we have become overly cautious in our attitude to childbirth, but study some mortality rates.There are whole legions of women in 3rd world countries who would love some of this “intervention” .I know personally a woman from a village in Indonesia. She had an all natural birth on the dirt floor of her hut/home.She could no longer work, her husband sold bbq corn on the cob, but it was rainy season and not much money coming in from the beach selling. they had 300,000rp saved, thats $30 that they had saved over 9 months.they needed 900,000rp to go to hospital.Her baby boy was born fine, but she said she would at least like to have been able to have a Dr, see her at some point in her pregnacy, she would have liked to have some of the gas she heard about,would have liked to have had CHOICES.
    I don’t find the “go with the flow” as bad as you do,I say this from an informed view though, if you an idea what is going to happen to your body or the level of pain you can expect and the choices available to you.

    1. Hi, Bernadette – thanks for your comment 🙂 It’s Melissa from Birthtalk here – I wanted to clarify some things you have written…

      “In the beginning of this article is Melissa from birthtalk. She was ok with her C/S birth until it was SUGGESTED to her that it was unnecessary and This is what started her 2nd guessing herself.”

      Firstly, I know that this was not made clear in the article, but I definitely was NOT ok with my caesarean birth in the period of time before it was suggested to me that it was unnecessary. I was traumatised, struggling to parent, struggling in all my relationships as a result of the impact of this birth. And I was not second-guessing myself after I did learn that perhaps it was not necessary. Instead I was trying to make sense of it all. At first, I felt like I NEEDED it to be necessary, as it was so incredibly difficult, it would be too much to know that perhaps all that emotional pain, plus the added risks I now had for future pregnancies, could have been avoided. The suggestion that it may have been unnecessary was not one made lightly, or without an understanding of the circumstances surrounding my birth, and it was suggested by a number of midwives, so it was not just casually thrown ‘out there’. And it was only suggested after I ASKED, as I was desperate to know, in one way, that it was necessary, and desperate to know, in another way, that it was NOT necessary.

      “I was an EN in labour ward for a few years. Nearly all women were happy with their delivery.”

      We’re so glad to hear that nearly all the women you worked with were happy after their birth. And maybe they were all, indeed, happy. In our experience, though, in the postnatal period many women are under the influence of a ‘halo effect’ where some women just feel so grateful for their child, and to be alive, they view the birth through rose-coloured glasses. So you may have been witnessing this ‘halo effect’ on some women who would, later, feel very differently. We find most women who come to our “Healing From Birth’ sessions attend when their child is around 12 months old, as it is only then that they find the ‘space’ to be able to reflect upon the birth, and explore their feelings about what happened. Many hospital workers do not have the access to women in the months and years postpartum, so never get to witness the ongoing effects of a birth that, at the time, was seemingly ‘fine’.

      “There are women who choose C/S just in case. There are women who cannot tolerate the pain and ask for epidurals or gas or pethidine.It is not fear of pain, it is pain,real pain. There are also women who do not like to be “seen” out of control by their partner but who still want them there and so will use pain relief or epi to avoid the sometimes volatile reaction to pain. These are all choices available to women but it seems like if they choose them they have made the “wrong choice”.”

      We would never assess any of these choices as being ‘wrong’. That is entirely not for us to say. But we would look at all those reasons for choosing a caesarean/intervention as being based on fear. And understandably so, given our culture’s view of childbirth. Our concerns are around making decisions from fear, rather than from good information, as this can lead directly to feeling disempowered and frightened, and result indirectly in a hampered labour, compromised hormones, and feelings of distress, with an ongoing negative impact postnatally. If a woman is wanting a caesarean ‘just in case’, we would express our understanding at her fears and concerns, and offer her real information that properly addresses her concerns, and really hear that woman. We would be wanting to support her to a place where the woman was no longer frightened, and if she still chose a caesarean, it would be with a wealth of information that would support her in her recovery and bonding with her child. We hear, in your comment, about the fear of pain. And yes, it is real pain. Deb and I have both experienced the real pain of labour. But there is an enormous difference between the pain of labour when a woman is scared and feeling out of control, and the pain of labour when a woman is well-supported, nurtured, and informed as to the purpose of that pain. And knowing this can mean difference choices are made. None of the choices are wrong…but informed choices when a woman feels heard and understood carry a different legacy.

      “Yes, we have become overly cautious in our attitude to childbirth, but study some mortality rates. There are whole legions of women in 3rd world countries who would love some of this “intervention” .I know personally a woman from a village in Indonesia. She had an all natural birth on the dirt floor of her hut/home.She could no longer work, her husband sold bbq corn on the cob, but it was rainy season and not much money coming in from the beach selling. they had 300,000rp saved, thats $30 that they had saved over 9 months.they needed 900,000rp to go to hospital.Her baby boy was born fine, but she said she would at least like to have been able to have a Dr, see her at some point in her pregnacy, she would have liked to have some of the gas she heard about,would have liked to have had CHOICES.”

      Firstly, seeing a Dr is not an intervention. I can totally understand this woman wanting some contact with a health professional at some point in her pregnancy – that makes sense, and it is so sad that she could not access that care. You have used this woman as an example of the mortality rates, but as you said, she and her baby were healthy, even though he was born at home onto a dirt floor, as you say. And yes, she might have liked some of the gas she has heard about…but was that coming from an informed viewpoint? That is, knowing the possible effects the gas can have on labour progress, that it can cause nausea, how it can affect your state of mind, and how, dependent upon the individual ,it can affect your ability to feel steady enough to move around and work with your body as it labours? Of course she should have the CHOICE to have the gas…but choosing gas without knowing the implications is actually disadvantaging this woman further.

      Bernadette, thank you again for your comments, we appreciate you sharing your experiences. I hope this clarifies some things from our article further.
      Melissa 🙂

      1. Samantha · ·

        I appreciate your response so much, Melissa! I had my first son in a hospital in America & was so scared as a first time Mom that I DID just decide to “go with the flow.” What my Dr’s view of said “flow” looked something like this: Schedule induction at 39 weeks because I’ll be on vacation next week. Bring her in at midnight to begin monitoring & (essentially) deny both food & movement to her, as well as any form of aromatherapy, as it might disturb others, then take away my robe AND slippers for no justified reason after making me take my earbuds out so I could hear them (even though no one ever spoke to me, except to offer the NEXT intervention). Strap constant fetal monitoring & fluid IV to her. Give pill at 2am to soften cervix (that was already progressing on its own, it turned out). Monitor on the half hour until pitocin begins administration at 5am. Break membrane at 7am (OB comes in at 8am, no sooner). Allow her to labor on her back for three hours before she begs for an epidural. Push on stomach & yell at her to PUSH, etc. force episiotomy because “you’re surely going to tear” & then yank on placenta after early cord clamping to wrap this all up.

        Needless to say, I was grateful that both my son & I were alive, so I didn’t think anything of not getting to hold him for fifteen minutes as he was scrubbed, washed, weighed, eyes wiped with silver nitrate & apgar tested. My son struggled to breast feed & they gave him sugar water AND a pacifier in the nursery. That was the beginning of feeling like I was already failing as a mother…this was all supposed to be so instinctual! Wherr did I go wrong? After we left the hospital, I worried my son never made that eye contact like I’d heard he would from other (non medicated) mothers who had actually birthed at home. I started researching every step I was put through & every medication/response I had throughout labor. I was FURIOUS, hurt, ashamed & defeated after I realized not only all of the negative effects caused by these “interventions,” but that NONE were necessary AND it was all a snowball effect of having “gone with the flow” and blindly trusting my Dr & the hospital staff had MY best interest at heart.

        Four years later, I’m working with a midwife on the homebirth of my second child who will not receive unnecessary shots, testing, removal from skin-to-skin contact, eye drops, or removal of the cord & placenta.. all medical emergencies (real emergencies & not those deemed necessary by a clock on the wall) aside, and my baby & I will not go through this experience being drugged into submission, either. I almost cannot stand the sight of that hospital or OB for the betrayal I feel. Thank you so much for this article!

      2. Also wanted to point out that, as an L&D nurse, you are only seeing these women for at the most, 4 days post birth experience. To say that they are “all” happy with their experiences really only means that these women appeared in a good state of mind for the first days following childbirth. Lots of times, trauma can take weeks, months, even years to finally sink in, for a person to realize “wow, that really had a serious effect on my life.” Also important to take into account that around 1/3 of the women in the average hospital will be recovering from a cesarean section, meaning she will usually be heavily medicated with mood-enhancing opiates. There are also a good amount of women still coming down from the opiates and narcotics used during labor. I was PERFECTLY happy with my unwanted section for the first week postpartum, telling everyone had easy and fine the recovery was. Then my percocet ran out. Just saying, as a professional who is only with these women for a short amount of time, the impression you can come away with may be WAY different than what she’ll feel in the future about her child’s birth.

      3. Melissa 🙂 thanks for your clarification and informative reasoned response.

        “”””. And it was only suggested after I ASKED, as I was desperate to know, in one way, that it was necessary, and desperate to know, in another way, that it was NOT necessary.””””

        I fully understand where you are coming from . I do believe though,that some women have their feelings picked at like a scab by other well meaning women.I clearly remember midwives feeling they would have done things differently than the obstetrician,there was one OB that had “rules”, EVERY woman he “delivered ” had to be on her left side with a nurse holding her leg up.God,.I hope he has retired. It does sometimes works both ways. We had a stillborn baby born that the midwives felt should have been c/s earlier but the OB “waited and saw” too long when several things began to go awry for this first time young mum.
        woulda shoulda coulda can go both ways.I understand trauma means different things to different people and that emotional pain needs to be acknowledged as valid and ok .

        “”””So you may have been witnessing this ‘halo effect’ on some women who would, later, feel very differently. We find most women who come to our “Healing From Birth’ sessions attend when their child is around 12 months old,””””””

        I am so glad there is a “Healing for Birth ” centre for distressed women post traumatic birth. I do know there are horror stories. My own sister had her 1st born internally rotated ,with no epidural..She had no halo effect. she was never having another child.EVER.she cried for 3 months when she remembered it. She had 5 including a set of twins 15 months after that traumatic birth. If someone had picked at her scab, I doubt she ever would have had another child. She went into the 2nd birth with even more “interventions ” and what if’s than the first ,being twins this time. But had a hospital delivery very different from the first . Did the 2nd experience negate the first? no she was already over it . She went on to have more, in hospital and the first one will always be a painful memory. For some women it doesn’t matter what happens, they have their baby in their arms. For others it matters how they get here. a LOT. How long does it matter? Depends on the woman I think, not the trauma.And for that I am glad of your centre.

        The halo effect, no from what I have seen, the effect is immediate,(not negating it exists though) Either the mum is happy with the birth or not.In my experience it is the personality of the midwives in the room that make the difference. An abrupt ,short on time and temper midwife is going to make even the best birth circumstance ….memorable , in a bad way.

        “”””Many hospital workers do not have the access to women in the months and years postpartum, so never get to witness the ongoing effects of a birth that, at the time, was seemingly ‘fine’.””””””

        I was lucky to live and work in a rural area, where I met many of our new mums out shopping who always loved to show me how their bub was growing,sitting,walking now 🙂 ………..or tell me of any problems ………..
        I’m not saying that women cannot be affected by traumatic birth by “going with the flow”, just that in my experience, it has not been often the case,perhaps the antenatal classes given at the unit I worked at, were ..”better” more informative, i don’t know. I do know we loved our jobs, the midwives there were constantly studying and fundraising for the unit. They built a birthing room and did all the planning and decor themselves, I was L & D there, lovely births in there. I had a high risk labour myself and missed out on the new room 😦 Changes were made to the classic delivery suites too, to make them more homelike and less clinical. If a woman is experiencing trauma and sad thoughts that are DEBILITATING her several YEARS after the birth then something is amiss that I’m not sure the Healing Birth Centre can address.

        “””””” But there is an enormous difference between the pain of labour when a woman is scared and feeling out of control, and the pain of labour when a woman is well-supported, nurtured, and informed as to the purpose of that pain. And knowing this can mean difference choices are made. None of the choices are wrong…but informed choices when a woman feels heard and understood carry a different legacy.”””””

        yes, yes there is. I have been at births where the woman has been so strict with herself.She has been informed to within an inch of her life. No gas, NO peth NO epi. ever. even if i ask.. even if i ask. do you know what this means? I do, I’ve seen it.

        It means that in some births at some point we have a girl who is asking for an epidural because she can’t stand it any more etc……everyone there knows what she has said and written down,so partner says no, midwife says this is what you’ve said,so no. so she gets out of control . It doesn’t matter how focused you are, how informed you are, if it hits, it hits . so she proceeds the rest of the labour with partner stressed and m/w calming and informing.And remembers her birth as traumatic.

        same girl/different girl , everyone there knows what she has said and written down,so partner says no, midwife says this is what you’ve said,no. so she gets out of control …gas, peth or epi is given . she feels guilty and cheated.

        I don’t care how informed you are,how much reading how may youtube births you watch, it is a different and unique experience for for everybody and one you cannot control to inth degree. You can plan what you want and definatly don’t want, but there has to be some degree of elasticity or the experience is going to be disappointing in some form or other.

        ””””’but as you said, she and her baby were healthy, even though he was born at home onto a dirt floor, as you say.”””’
        she has many friends who weren’t so lucky. You say this from a position of privilege I don’t think any of us really realise the significance of not being able to afford a midwife a Dr or simply to have an ambulance to ring, or a telephone for that matter.

        That is, knowing the possible effects the gas can have on labour progress, that it can cause nausea, how it can affect your state of mind, and how, dependent upon the individual ,it can affect your ability to feel steady enough to move around and work with your body as it labours?

        I met many women who were disappointed that they vomited as they enjoyed the affect on the state of mind 🙂

        “”” an informed viewpoint””””

        exactly, we need to be informed and have choices that are just that choices,not ” yeah you can choose that……buuuuuuut………..”.without being made to feel like bad mothers or bad birthers for those choices.,so they then need birthing healing.

    2. Wow you are lucky Bernadette to have 100% satisfaction rate post birth – that is extremely rare. I definitely had the ‘halo effect’ after my births. I laboured 3 times and had 3 emergency caesareans. I was relatively happy with the first as it was under my terms and I negotiated when it was done. The second I was lied to and I know this as I have the birth records and I feel robbed, however after the birth for the first 2-3 months I was satisfied with it but the honeymoon period wore off and I started questioning it. 3rd was due to a clot on my placenta at 34 + 6 weeks, however after the fact I was told if I hadn’t been a VBAC I would not have had the c/s and would have been left to see if the situation resolved itself.

      Even though I consented to all three surgeries I never gave informed consent and they are experiences I will remember. I dream of having a 4th baby just to try and get the experience that I know I can have and deserve.

  10. “Going with the flow” doesn’t mean “giving up power”.

  11. Thank you for this thoughtful piece. When the uninitiated speaks that phrase, “…go with the flow,” my antennae begin to quiver because I sense this is a pseudo-openness that lacks the intent of a Birth Warrior. And you have aptly pointed out what might be behind this attitude. This article needed to be written and I applaud you for doing it!

    This quote from Carlos Castenada came to mind: “Intent is not a thought, or an object, or a wish. Intent is what can make a man succeed when his thoughts tell him that he is defeated. It operates in spite of the warrior’s indulgence. Intent is what makes him invulnerable. Intent is what sends a shaman through a wall, through space, to infinity.”

    1. “””lacks the intent of a Birth Warrior””

      While birth warrior is an empowering label, It negates the ‘earthmotheryness” of women who choose to birth’s leading to a birth class war. 100% natural…….or some other way. I am seeing it all the time on mumyforums.

      1. Peppa pig · ·

        I must admit that whilst I realise that traumatic births can have a negative effect on bonding etc, I do tire of endlessly reading about how c sections/interventions prevent mum s from successfully bonding with baby, feeling empowered etc. I read soo much during my first pregnancy about natural birth and felt strongly that I was going to be a ‘birth warrier’ and have no pain relief/interventions especially after reading so many articles which Definately imply that doing so will make you feel a failure and be an inferior mother (no matter how nicely dressed up the words are). I had to have an emergency c section 2 weeks early due to a blood clot on my placenta. I felt devastated but feel that was largely down to all the negative things I had read and heard about anything that was beyond the natural. I got very depressed afterwards and in my second pregnancy I knew it was vital to my mental health to ‘go with the flow’. I wanted my vbac but needed to prepare myself that it may not happen. I laboured for 8 hours or so and baby s heartbeat was becoming irratic. I was advised to have c section. I was disappointed but not devastated as I had approached my birth this time with an open mind. Could my baby girl have still lived and been healthy without a section? Very possibly. Was i prepared to risk that for the sake of feeling like an empowered birth warrier? Absolutely not. I am looking forward to becoming a student midwife this year and i love learning about natural birth. I also hope that I manage to help women who have assisted/opperative births and epidurals/interventions to feel every bit as proud and empowered as those who manage to achieve it fully naturally. Becoming a mum is still a massively significant thing in itself.

  12. […] article about ‘going with the flow’ in childbirth is absolutely brilliant, and makes some fantastic points. I wish I’d read it […]

  13. […] came across this article from on facebook today. It talks about how many people go into labour thinking they’ll just […]

  14. Thank you for this great article. I too believe that going with the flow = disaster. I am a firm believer in natural birth, and more specifically unassisted birth. I have been reading Laura Kaplan Shanley’s latest book, “Unassisted Childbirth” and am have been so grateful to the great tips she offers- having delivered four of her own children, she knows first hand what to expect. I am following her plan and tweaking it a bit to my own.

  15. My young daughter is due to have her first baby in 4 1/2 weeks. We are in a small country town with no local hospital where she can give birth. The nearest antenatal services and hospital are 1 – 1/2 hours away. She is not in favour of home birth although I would have really supported that had it been her choice.

    For various reasons, despite my encouragement and offer to pay for antenatal classes she chose not to take up that offer. So we have been working very hard researching many aspects of birth and basically I have become her birth educator . She has asked me to be her birth attendant. I feel very honoured that she has asked and I will do my utmost best to look after her and protect her. The difficulty is that I had an extremely traumatic time bringing her into the world, because of the appalling way I was treated by medical staff. My concerns have been that I may not be the best person for the role as PTSD is in overdrive and has been since she discovered she was pregnant.

    I contacted the hospital where she decided she would like to give birth – of those that we can reach in a reasonable time frame, it was the one with the lowest interventionr rates, cesaeran rates etc and there seems to be a reaonably high birth satisfaction rate. It also had a birthing centre in the grounds of the hospital. While we couldnt book into the birth centre we assumed that a similar philosophy of midwifery led services would flow through to the hospital.

    I rang the hospital to dicuss engaging a doula for my daughters birth as at that time I was very shaky with regard to my being able to cope or focus on my daughters wishes rather than my own. I was very loudly told that a doula would absolutely NOT be allowed to be present. I tried to explain that a doula was not a midwife and should not pose any threat to the medical staff etc etc. I was then told very sternaly that I was being transferred to someone else in a higher position….. I hung up fearing we would be flagged as ‘trouble’. So very early on the alarm bells started ringing very very loudly.

    Since that time my daughter returned from a visit with her (hospital) midwife with a swag of information on services which included a speal about the benefits of a doula. I was gobsmacked!! They promote the benefits of a service they dont allow.

    All the way along my daughter has been told she always has choices, everything will be up to her (me thinking yeah right except you cant have the support people of your choosing).

    I am getting a little anxious that at this point in time she doesnt seem to have come to firm decisions as to what she would or would not like to happen during the birth. (Thinking what do we need to take with us) Her response – “ll just go with the flow”. I tried to explain that if she doesnt make choices someone else will make them for her and she will get someone elses birth plan not her own, which may not be to her liking.

    “eh Whatever”…

    We have found some great resources – Sarah Buckley for one, the Birth Partner, Ina May. However my daughter is less than enthusiastic to really take much of this in. Apparently Sarah is a hippie, I am just all earth mothery (I kinda like that description though) She is very bright and should have no trouble with any of the information but seems so incredibly reluctant to be proactive about her impending delivery. This is despite the fact that she seems to have come to terms with an unplanned pregnancy and her circumstances and appears to be looking forward to becomeing a mum.

    I work for her GP and tonight I asked if I could borrow one of his books on obstectrics. – I really want to see what are they teaching doctors and what challenges we might have to deal with on the big day.. So we got into a brief discussion ie he started with “If my daughter was pregnant…”

    This is what he told me..

    “It would be better if she just went with the flow”

    “If you over-educate her, you will just frighten her”

    I told him I had a different view on this, ie you work through the fear by being educated and being able to recognise and understand what is happening. If you arent already knowledgable you may not understand what the midwives are suggesting and you would be hard pushed to give ‘informed consent’ to any procedures His response

    “She doesnt have to know anything really, the midwives will tell her what to do”

    “Some women come in with a birth plan and it is so unrealistic they are setting themselves up for a huge disappointment”

    “Some peoples birth plans are so up there its ridiculous”

    He handed me a couple of ‘Bump’ magazines – I guess a “Celebrity Birth Story” will really be a great help.

    It was just so patronising it makes me sick. grrrrrh!

    1. Nerida – I am just so sorry to hear how you and your daughter have been given the run-around. I can hear how you are trying to support her in understanding the importance of an empowered birth – it can be very tricky giving that information…especially to someone in your own family. Been there myself. I wanted to encourage you to contact Deb from Birthtalk via phone, just to perhaps look at some key points you might share with your daughter in the last days before she births. And to get some support from Deb for yourself as you prepare to be your daughter’s birth support. What a huge experience for you both – thank you for sharing how challenging this has been, and we wish you and your daughter all the best as you prepare to meet this little one 🙂 Deb’s contact details, and info about her private birth consultancy, are here :

      1. Thank you for the article. I had an element of go with the flow with my daughter’s birth and regret that now. I had done lots of reading, attended a class (though now I wish it had been a more detailed one) and had a very specific birth plan. However, I had tried to reflect in my plan that I understood circumstances could mean changes to the plan. I did stress that I wanted all interventions fully explained and that I wanted to limit interventions as much as possible. Although I do think that in many ways the hospital tried to follow my plan I also fear that leaving that openness in my plan meant that no one around me thought to try to encourage me to keep going, that I could do it when I got tired and things got to the crunch. I ended up with a birth completely against my plan. Perhaps it was necessary I still need to figure that out. But I can pinpoint when it all started to go wrong – the moment I agreed to an epidural I never really wanted that ultimately didn’t work. I ended up with an emergency c section under a general. It still makes me cry even though I have a happy healthy beautiful baby who is the light of my life. I felt prepared and relaxed going in but what I wasn’t prepared for is how labour affects your emotions and energy and can make it harder than you think to advocate for yourself.

  16. Beautiful article. Says everything that needs to be said. I hear so many women saying they will just see what happens. When they say that I cringe because what happens is a cascade of interventions often leading to surgery. You have to know what you want and make choices that lead you toward your goal. Having expectations is vital. We can be flexible with what life presents us at the same time as working toward an ideal. Keeping all choices in the hands of women can make a birth empowered even if it must involve some sort of intervention.

  17. This is a very interesting angle. My understanding and definition of going with the flow is the very opposite of what this article talks about, and my doula name is actually Go-With-The-Flow doula! My understanding of ‘the flow’ is to instinctively follow and protect the internal flow of birth in an idiosyncratic way. It’s not about surrendering to external agendas at all, or being swept in different directions. I’m all about women surrendering to their own bodies flow, tapping into the raw power of the life force which flows through us and beyond. I had an amazing dream the night a dear friend died in which a river of rushing sparkling pinky light came out of me and gave her the strength to take her body heavenwards – and the very next morning discovered she had died at the time I had my dream. It felt like pure life force energy had flown between us. It didn’t belong to me or her especially – it was just the energy of the universe flowing like a river harnessed at that moment. Call it god if you like. Ever since then I feel strongly that there is an energy source that flows along, that is channeled in our bodies and onwards – so for me, going with the flow means a powerful ownership of that, and a commitment to not run away from it, and the only force a woman needs to pay attention to and harness. Pure life force and birthing energy gives women all the strength they need and it’s right inside them already and needs protecting by loving carers who keep her in flow with gentle loving care and working in harmony with her flow and never against it.

  18. I have eight children, and the last three have been born unhindered, at home, with my husband there. Even in that circumstance, i don’t completely “go with the flow”. I apply counterpressure to get throught those last transition contractions, and i wait till i get grunty before getting into the warm birth pool. Some part of me is methodically obeying the rules :). Difference is, it’s my set of rules, refined through two decades of childbearing. I think it’s almost a shame that i can’t just apply my rules to everyone else and help them have a good, non traumatic birth. But we are all so different. And it’s too bad that it took five births for my husband to be comfortable with what made sense to me 🙂

  19. I didn’t go with the flow, in fact I sacked my obsteriatrian a month before I was due because she was getting concerned that the baby may be too big and wanted a scan, which by the way, can not determine accurately the size anyway. As we discussed this more, I told her that I didn’t want constant fetal monitoring and wanted to be able to move around freely and not birth on my back. Her reply was I feel like you want to be in control and in that case I cannot continue with your care. So I said fine and moved to a mid wife birthing clinic. I was in control! However the birth did not go well, after 48 hours of labour I had only dialated 3 cm and was exchaused and in agony. My contractions slowed right down I get began to get the sense something was wrong. I asked to be transferred to hospital and get fetal monitoring. At the hospital i was given drugs to start my contractions again and and epidural so I could rest, all at my request. After 72 hours I still had only dialated to 6cm. I knew what the outcome would be but I still felt in control. The doctor wanted to increase the drugs but I said to him I was worried the baby would get distressed. He listened and said he would give me another hour as the baby seemed fine at the time. 10 minutes later the baby’s heart beat started to drop and I was taken for an emergency cercerian. At the time I was happy as I felt I had done everything possible and I still felt in control. The cercerian did not go well, 50% blood loss due to the long labour and the baby being in a very awkard position (however not oversized). Baby and Mum survived though and recovered well. But due to two cuts that had to be made on my womb to get the baby out a natural labour in the future was out of the question. I am happy with the outcome because I didn’t go with the flow and felt in control. If I did go with the flow I probably would have had a better outcome as they would not have let me labour so long and the cercerian would have probably gone better and I even may have been able to have a VBAC. However would I have been happy, probably not. The moral of the story is, it is more important for a woman to feel in control than what actually happens as an outcome. Empower the woman to make her own decisions and avoid depression is more important than making a doctors life easier. I know doctors are held accountantable especially in the private system, and I think this is the issue, however in my case I took that accountabilty away from them and was then emplowered myself. I am pregant again with a planned c-section. I don’t even feel too bad about it because of my decisions and my empowerment the first time.

    1. Hi Eve,
      Your story is amazing, and I think gets at the very heart of the matter of accountability in the medical field. It is essential that we don’t just give our lives and our babies’ lives away to the medical experts, without being fully informed. I can’t agree more with your statement of taking the accountability away from the doctors and gaining your own empowerment in the process. All the best wishes for your next birth.

  20. Antoinette, South Africa · · Reply

    This is a great article and website!
    I was lucky enough to have been traumatized by my Dr at 23 weeks which prompted me to do my research after which I moved to a natural birthing centre where I had a fantastic midwife and a wonderful facility, with all the medical equipment for real emergencies, but with the correct attitudes so as not to use unless necessary.
    Even though I had a wonderful birth experience I still feel upset at the
    treatment of my first doctor, so much so that my husband says he doesn’t understand why it still bothers me. In short she told me I am very small and will tear a lot and I should know that it hurt a lot and there are modern medical methods to manage the pain and she choose to have a c-section, because she was afraid of tearing. Followed by which during the sonar she stated that she couldn’t see a bunch of vertebrae on the baby’s back, he wasn’t lying in an optimal position for her to view. Instead of saying I have nothing to worry and should come back after 10min, she promptly sent me off to a fetal anomaly specialist! I was so traumatized! Nothing was wrong, the baby wasn’t lying correctly and the fetal specialist the following day had to push on my tummy to get baby to turn (well the gyne could have done that too and spared me 32hours of panic and stress!!) I had a very easy pregnancy, no complications and she also told me that we should not go on an oversea’s holiday ( we had booked one and I needed a letter stating how many weeks I was) she said that she does not recommend flying and

    if I do it I must know that I will have to take responsibility for my decisions.

    I think the thing that upsets me is that 2 of my best friends are pregnant and they are with her and both said they want normal births but now I see her gently motivating them towards c-sections. She told the one at 32 weeks that she thinks she is to small for natural, they have to start talking about c-section. The second one she has told up to now natural is a good option, but 2 weeks ago shes started saying the baby is very big, if he is not here within the next 2 weeks (which is still 2 weeks away from her due date!) they should start talking c-sections, my friend is so stressed that she told me this afternoon that if the Dr mentions a c-section tomorrow she will tell her okay do it today..

    I warned both of them and told them what happened and they choose ti stick with her.

    The problem is in SA in the private medical industry the norm is for people to have c-sections, we have a 70% c-section rate in the private sector. C-sections have become the fashionable thing to do. The problem is further escalated with the fact that the town we live in is so over populated that there are two few gynes and you basically have to stick with a gyne if you can manage to get an appointment. They ask you if you are an existing client when you phone for an appointment because they only take in new clients certain times of they year! We only have one private practicing midwife and the doctors do not want to work with her so when a real emergency arises they struggle to get a back up doctor.

    I had to drive 150km to appointments in another city, my husband couldn’t always go with but in the end it was worth it! The clinic was so wonderful, more like a hotel then a hospital, king size bed, my husband stayed over, I had the freedom to labour the way I wanted, I could eat and drink (in fact it was encouraged), I did not need pain meds, I held my baby immediately, I have never felt so empower before.
    Research is KEY! Most people do not research their options! Going with the flow is NOT an option, because the hospital system is flawed when it comes to birth.

    I feel so sorry for my friends who don’t have the freedom I had who have been told they have to have an enema, they have to be shaved, they have to have their bladder emptied, they are not allowed to eat or drink, only suck on ice, if they receive induction they have to be on constant fetal monitoring, they have to lie on the for the pushing phase.
    Too be told all of this before you are even in labour (and all they above is pretty much the exact opposite of what I read is best for labour and birth). Then I would also rather choose a c-section up front..which is so sad because natural birth, in a safe, calm environment is really the best experience EVER!

    Sites like this educate people like me to make the right choices for mom and baby! Thank you

  21. Reblogged this on bellabirth: informed birth and parenting and commented:
    I came across this a couple of years ago…and I thought “but I plan to ‘go with the flow’!”. So indignantly I read the article, and saw that the term ‘go with the flow’ did not translate the same for everyone.

    To me, to go with the flow meant that I would surrender to MY body, I would welcome the sensations, and listen to my instinct, trust my ability and allow the process to unfold. In order to do this, my preparation involved understanding what to expect, and understanding what a deviation might look like. It involved ensuring my birth team were on board with my needs, were not going to ‘freak out’ or intervene. That they understood the process and were comfortable and accepting of the ‘flow’.

    But this article talks of ‘the flow’ as what is happening beyond your body, and this flow means surrendering to the will of another. This is not a flow you want to embrace. There is far too much ‘luck’ involved, as this in of going with the flow usually means very little, if any, preparation occurs and a complete reliance on others.

    Informed Birth Planning is a vital preparation process.

  22. I disagree with this article. Birth is a dangerous and traumatic means to an end, not an empowering experience. I’ve always been happy to let the medical team get us both through it alive and then do my best to forget about it.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Kate. You’re right – birth can be a traumatic means to an end. Birth can also be dangerous, in certain situations. Birth can, however, also be an empowering and positive experience. It depends so much on so many things – there is not one universal experience of ‘birth’.

      We understand your willingness to hand over the care of yourself and your baby to your medical team – you would certainly not be alone there, and it is, of course, wise to choose health carers you feel safe with.

      Unfortunately, some women we work with feel that in handing over that responsibility, they were left out of decisions that had long-term repercussions for themselves and their families, and left them feeling disempowered and out of control.

      Additionally, some women we meet feel that their medical team was responsible for some of their birth trauma, due to the way they were treated during that process.

      Trauma does not just go away if it is not processed and dealt with. You say that after your own births, you then ‘do your best’ to forget about it. I think this is where things can get challenging for many women, as they are unable to move on until their trauma is acknowledged, and validated and processed. Even when they are doing ‘their best’, the birth shadows their daily life. So forgetting about it is not only not an option, it is also not healthy for them, as addressing their emotional pain, and working through it, gives them the ability to move forwards with new information and understanding about birth, about themselves, and what is really important for them and their families.

      So while birth can be a traumatic means to an end…it doesn’t have to be.

      That’s why we wrote this article, as the tips at the end give some guidance towards a birth experience where, rather than handing over responsibility to your medical team, you work as a team with your health carers, and become as informed as possible, to work towards a non-traumatic, empowering experience. It definitely is possible.

      Thanks again for commenting,

    2. I have had two dangerous births. Both resulted in haemorrhages, both took a very long time to heal physically, the second required two surgeries to fix a torn artery (which happened during labour) and three blood transfusions, yet it was my first that was traumatic, due entirely to how the medical staff treated me.

      The birth that everyone else thought was so much worse was my birth that was ‘better’ emotionally. I was empowered, I had a midwife and doctor that I trusted, and when things went bad (extremely quickly, arteries are very different to veins!) I knew that I had not done anything wrong, I had not caused this. I did not see my son for three days while I was in intensive care, which was immensely difficult, but the support was there, so while difficult, it was not traumatic. In fact, I feel like a stronger mother than ever. I lived, and am so thankful to the doctors and nurses who cared for me, both physically and, more importantly, emotionally.

  23. Not everyone has a success story. I had to choose medical because of SCIENCE. or there would be less people in the world today. If I’d homebirthed we wouldn’t be here. People need to be realistic about risks of an “unknown” firstborn… And believe me, I have the hips. Look at the stats for infant mortality since the industrial age.

    My kids are genius level and may do great things because of science. It is not for one person to judge. And the guilt never leaves me, because you always have that friend who had “no drugs; so proud.” Some of us were clinging on to our baby’s lives. I still have physical problems 10 years after my first birth due to complications that might have killed both of us. We all have our battle scars, but it’s what we do with them that counts. We are all warriors in our own right from being parents. And you Don’t have to give birth for that privilege.

    1. I Think I am coming across as too mean here. I don’t mean to sound awful and I think I do. I am not over my experience. My use of the word science is not sounding how I meant. I have trouble communicating with words, and never get enough sleep. I wanted to say if my comment is offensive or damaging in anyway, please delete it. I’d hate to hurt someone without meaning to. I just am not good with words or sharing my story. It still hurts, and I was in tears last night when I’d decided to share. I was left out of decisions by my team but there was no way I could have made the right decision from my birthplan. Toni

      1. Hi, Toni – thanks for your comments…and you don’t sound awful, but we so appreciate you wanting to protect other women. Thank you.

        Before receiving your second comment, we were going to reply to you that we are so sorry to hear how your births have impacted upon you – both physically (10 years is a long time to be carrying a physical problem from birth) and, we would guess, emotionally.

        We were going to write that, reading between the lines, it sounds like your births have left you feeling hurt, and that we are so sorry.

        We were also going to say that we wondered if comments that people have said in the past have also been hurtful, and left you feeling judged and ‘less than’ because of the way your children arrived in the world. If so, you are definitely not alone there. And also…those people are wrong. You are absolutely right – it is not for one person to judge.

        Just to explain a bit more about where we are coming from : when we talk about an empowered and positive birth, we do not necessarily mean a drug-free homebirth.

        We simply mean a birth where you don’t feel scared…or if you do, that you are supported through the fear and acknowledged and nurtured; a birth where you trust your caregivers; a birth where you are involved in decision-making. That’s what we mean by a positive, empowered birth.

        It is actually possible to experience this (i.e. feeling supported, nurtured, trusting your caregivers, being involved) in most births, whether homebirth, hospital birth, natural birth, caesarean etc. (although it can be very difficult to access info that guides you in how to do this).

        Of course, if there is an emergency, things move faster, but we believe that the woman’s emotional safety is highly important even then. Perhaps especially then.

        I wonder if, instead of the word ‘science’, you mean ‘medical intervention’? We would agree that medical interventions can be life-saving, and that there are children who would not be here, doing great things in the world, if not for those interventions.

        We are very sorry that you were left out of the decision-making by your team. We hear you when you say there was ‘no way you could have made the right decision from your birth plan’, and we understand what you are saying, however, it is important to know that, contrary to what most people think, you do not need to have all the knowledge to be involved in decision making. What you do need, is to be considered central to the decision-making, to have options explained to you, to have a role. Which it sounds like did not happen for you, and we are so sorry to hear that. When women are not central to the decision making process it is a huge deal, and many women struggle with the impact of this situation, so you are not alone in your response, and we understand.

        We also want you to know that it is possible to heal emotionally from a challenging birth that has left an impact upon you…we support women in that journey, and many of them voice similar things that you are, along the way.

        We hear you when you say you are not over your experience, and we wonder if maybe this process of writing here on our blog may support your moving forward – just by simply acknowledging that your births have affected you. We invite you to read our other blogposts about traumatic birth, and learn more, and read other women’s comments too, as you may see yourself reflected there.

        If we can offer you support, place contact us via this blog. Thank you for caring about the other women who read this blog. We also care about you. We want you to know that you are no doubt strong and a warrior. But it is also normal to feel some fall-out from your birth experience, which is separate to how you feel about having your kids and your gratitude for their wellbeing. We are so sorry that it still hurts, and we want you to know that we understand and that it doesn’t always have to be like this.

        Warmly, Birthtalk

  24. Thanks so much for your understanding. It had been 10 and a half years for me. My married life has never recovered. Thanks for letting my voice be heard. I’ll try to reply after my Other degree notes. I have a lot to add if it is okay.

    1. You are welcome, and yes, reply more whenever you get the chance 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Toni.

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