Polarising birth

Feb 29, 2024

Last week Guardian journalist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett wrote her opinion piece with the subheading: NHS midwifery is in crisis and unmedicated birth in vogue, but doing it at home without medical support is simply dangerous.’

She goes on to denigrate the usefulness of hypnobirthing as she describes her own traumatic premature birth.

It was another polarising piece of journalism that depicts parents birthing choices in these extreme opposites.

The problem with this narrative; ‘physiological birth is a dangerous cult’ and ‘parents are in danger because of NHS staff shortages’ is:

It presents birth as a very frightening either-or choice ‘radical freebirth’ or ‘understaffed hospital birth’.

It goes for the fear stimulating, headline attention grabbiness at the expense of discussing the details of what is truly impacting many parents birth experience.

It presents freebirthers and homebirthers as risk takers.

It presents fans of physiological birth as unrealistic, idealistic hippies.

It presents everyone else as desperate for a well-staffed, medicalised birth experience.

Many women do feel safer in a hospital environment.

Many are surprised when they get there that they don’t feel safe.

Would more staff make it feel safer? Not necessarily.

Many are surprised that their c section recovery was quick.

As many are surprised that their c section recovery was difficult.

Many women want to take full ownership of their bodies and their baby’s birth and so home and free birth will be increasingly popular choices.

Judging parents for wanting a medically managed birth experience (epidural, c section, assisted delivery) or for wanting a birth where their bodily autonomy is paramount is wrong.

Understanding the reasons why parents opt for their particular birth choices is essential if we are to ever make birth better.

We should be able to support parents in all settings to feel safe and birth well, whatever that may look like.

Letting parents know that, despite articles like Rhiannon’s, they do still have a choice when it comes to their birth.

Nothing will ever come from the fear mongering, shaming and blaming that is naturally a part of the marketing of a national newspaper.

It’s one person’s opinion and not journalism.