I am currently 36 weeks pregnant (almost 37) and over the last nine months I cannot count the number of times that people, even people I don’t know, have felt the need to tell me just how awful birth is. Negative birth stories seem simply to be part of the conversation…and if you ask me, that’s totally wrong!
Two in every 100 women who give birth develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder afterwards, and many more develop postnatal depression. Starting a cycle of fear and negativity long before someone even gives birth really isn’t going to help!
Why Negative Birth Stories Do More Harm Than Good!
Now, of course I understand that everyone who has given birth has a story to tell, and that everyone is also well within their rights to tell that story! I also acknowledge 100% that pregnant women aren’t fragile little flowers that can’t handle hearing the gory details about birth.
What I’m saying, is that when you encounter a pregnant woman – whether she’s a friend or someone you have just met – please don’t start the conversation with scary, painful and negative birth stories. Trust me, it’s not helpful!
Just think about it for a second. The woman in question is already pregnant, already has plenty of anxiety about pregnancy, labour and being a parent and has already had negative images of birth drilled into her by TV and Film over the years!
Now, have a think about whether your cautionary tale of pain, intervention and stress is going to help her or make her feel worse. The conclusion, I hope, that you have come to is that it’s not likely to be a constructive conversation.
That’s not to say sharing birth stories doesn’t have its place, because it totally does. But, perhaps you could try and ascertain how she is feeling about things before launching into a horror story! Maybe ask if she would like to hear about your birth before you start (and warn her if it’s traumatic), or you could even try and pick out the positives from your labour story and share those instead…
The Science Behind Positive Birth Stories
Why is this all so important? Well it comes down to hormones at the end of the day. The two key hormones involved in a woman’s labour and birth are Oxytocin, often referred to as ‘the love hormone’, and Adrenaline which is produced when we are scared or under stress.
Simply put, Oxytocin causes labour contractions (or surges) to happen and to progress as they should. Adrenaline, on the other hand, puts our bodies into ‘fight or flight’ mode and actually stops labour progressing.
It all makes total sense if you think back to when we were giving birth in caves surrounded by predators. Once adrenaline is produced, because a tiger has broken into our cave, our bodies aren’t going to give birth for a very good reason!
Now, think of negative birth stories as tigers that break into a woman’s head when she is preparing to give birth or is in active labour. Fear produces adrenaline and her labour may well slow down which can lead to all sorts of problems and further stress.
One of the common analogies you hear in hypnobirthing classes is that if you removed our heads, our bodies would give birth perfectly happily on their own in the vast majority of cases. So, what we put into our heads during pregnancy is incredibly important!
Sharing positive birth stories, instead of negative ones, is therefore an empowering and helpful thing to do for a woman in labour! You can read five of my favourite positive birth stories here!
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Let’s Dispense With The Negativity Around Birth!
Of course, it isn’t realistic that a pregnant woman could or should go through her pregnancy without hearing about all of the potential eventualities that she may experience during labour.
However, these should most certainly be discussed in the first instance via her midwife, doctor or in a professional setting like an NCT group, where the right support and advice can be given and she can be given coping mechanisms and factual information!
If you do find yourself discussing birth with a pregnant woman, then please just take a moment to think about the way you’re phrasing things and whether the stories you’re telling are going to help or hinder her going forward.
If you do have negative birth stories that you feel should be discussed, or the woman in question has asked to hear, then have a go at balancing the conversation!
Most importantly though, if you had a positive birth then PLEASE share your story with as many pregnant women as you can find! It really surprised me just how many empowering stories there were out there and I wish I had discovered them earlier in my pregnancy.
We are constantly hit in the face with negativity around birth – just think about every film or TV birth you’ve ever seen – so hearing a few positive birth stories will make a bigger difference than you think!