Sunday, February 8, 2009

birth in Ireland

Maternity services in Ireland are in crisis.

We have no continuity of care. No space. Very little choice. And the care providers are focusing more and more in controlled, managed births, preferring the predictable, time saving ease of Cesarean section to anything natural or woman led.

Women give birth herded together, are induced without provision of pain relief, are left to labour alone, scared and in agony. They are denied their preferences, often denied pain relief, privacy, rest, breast feeding support, after care. Recent stories I've heard about our National Maternity Hospital amount to abusive practice, yet women continue to accept it, as if it's some sort of punishment original sin.

I'm not denying that woman can still have good hospital experiences or that there are skilled and dedicated midwives out there. But I think those experiences should be a given, not a lottery.
I could write about this in detail every single day, with stories and examples indefinitely.

My cousin had her children in a birth centre in California, with the same midwives who had given her antenatal care, and a doula , who is a friend of theirs. A birth centre is a nice half way house between home birth and hospital. There are medics and equipment there, but also quiet places, nice bedrooms, birth pools. We don't have these options here, despite their success in England. Despite the fact that an extra woman with the mother is proven to shorten labour time and reduce complications, doulas were banned from Irish hospital deliveries last year, only one birth partner is allowed, and women may no longer rotate partners.

Reading her story makes me thrilled and jealous in equal measure (well, not quite equal!), as to me it seems to epitomise the best about gentle birth and natural birth.

She took out the photos, of course, but if I could show you her glowing, ecstatic face as her husband lifts the a baby to her chest, nobody would deny the possibility of having a happy unmedicated birth.


nick said...

With the parlous state of the economy down south, unfortunately I doubt things will improve any time soon. British maternity services aren't that good either, and hospitals often turn expectant women away because they're full up.

As you say, the problem is that we continue to accept low standards rather than protesting loudly.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

I'd reckon Nick is quite right regarding any short or even medium term improvements, unfortunately.

I have noticed a marked shift in preference here from home to hospital births, I'm very curious as to why.

jothemama said...

People are moving BACK to the hospitals??

I do wonder why, as the govt promotes homebirth, doesn't it? And the safety statistics areway upon ours. Far lower death rates, etc.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

From what I understand, people are choosing to back to hospital through convenience.

For a home birth you will have your doula there, but they are also bound by certain regulations, so the couple has to ensure certain things are in place for her, if she insists. (e.g bed height and stability )
So you have a woman in labour climbing up and down from a ridiculously high bed, just so the doula doesn't have to bend more than the EU regulations. Silly, but that's an actual example.

On top of that, the mother will have to be brought to the hospital the day after the birth anyway, which is probably harder logistically that getting her there in early labour.

Smooth hospital births have the mother and baby home within 24 hours too, and I think the all round convenience is swinging it.

Holemaster said...

Sounds like separate birthing clinics are the way to go. Hospitals are for people who are sick and need treatment to recover. But I really haven't got a clue.

jothemama said...

It seems like a v successful model. Sadly we're going in the opposte direction, and planning one, central, huge, hi-tech maternity hospital.

And there are lots of problems with that.

Taking away local services, making pregnant women travel, it's neither practical or safe.

Their focus is on more intervention, and all the money is going towards extreme neo natal care, keeping tiny babies alive - so they're not so interested in natural birth, midwife centres etc. I'm not saying we shouldn't be keeping tiny babies alive, don't get me wrong. Just that ordinary birth is important too.

Despite huge amounts of proven study of midwife methods, pain relief methods, what works for women and babies, they are still demonising that sort of approach.

Anonymous said...

Bring back the old days, the really old days when women grouped together and did it for themselves. Far less isolation, the comfort alone would get a birthing mother through the toughness.

I was treated like a cow when I went public, like a princess with semi-private. I would far prefer to be the queen of my own bedroom though.

PĂ©itseoga said...

i had a relatively good experience, but who knows, the MLU might be a thing of the past with so little money to go around... i understand why people don't complain, though, you're so happy to have your baby and if you want another baby and for me the biggest thing is the fact that i would like another baby in the future, and what if i get a midwife into trouble and then she attends my next birth!?

Ms. Moon said...

Mmmm. You know, I've just discovered you. I am a woman in the USA who has spent a good part of her life observing how babies are born here- which is generally over-medicated and overly technologically.
I was lucky to have three babies born at home and one born at the hospital after twenty-eight hours of labor at home. We were so young and had no idea what we were doing for that one, but I got to the hospital, had him, and then came home the same day.
This was in 1976 and it's a wonder they didn't arrest me.
I'm going to keep reading here.

Rechru said...

There was some wind of this topic in the papers today I think, heard it on the radio this morning. Like Ms. Moon I had my daughter in the hospital after God knows how many hours of labour (Wednesday to Friday anyway, but HOURRRRRRRRRRRRS before any dilation) and came home the same day. I often resist the urge whenever I pass the Rotunda to go in and find the midwife, a German girl called Melanie, and thank her from the bottom of my heart. Her shift finished two hours after my daughter was born and she went home and out of my life - it still doesn't seem right, someone who'd been present at the most important and best experience of my life, and who'd actually had a part to play in it, and I don't even remember her surname! If it hadn't been for her, things might have been different. She was in tune with me and what I wanted.

Sometime near the end of my pregnancy I wondered how my Grandmother, who;d had four of her five children at home, had done it. I was delighted that my Mam had spoken to her about that and was able to answer for me - "crawling around the floor on all fours". My Mam winced as she retold this but I thought it was wonderful! I gave birth that way myself, albeit on a bed. I had an urge all the time to get down on the floor of the delivery suite so that I could move more freely, though I never thought of my Grandmother at the time. At least I don't think I did!

jothemama said...

Mrs Moon, have you read Ina May's Childbirth? It's kind of good publicity for Vaginal birth. She fears hospitals in the States are heading for 100% C Section births. No waiting, no lawsuits...

She's also writing about breastfeeding, and has a quilt project for women who've died post natally after poor care and follow up care post birth. Many statistics are unreported by the hospitals, who are private business... Check her out in my links.

Mothering magazine is a great place for news about birth in the States too.

Welcome, by the way! This is a good subject to get political and definite about.

I was born in 76!