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In Good Company: Contractions

...Recently, in a hairdressers’ I heard two ladies in full-womb discussing their forthcoming events. The question ‘When?’ cropped up. One was due ‘Some-time next month.’ ‘I’m going in to have mine next Wednesday at ten,’ was the other’s surprising forecast.

On her last clinic visit she was told she was about to be induced. The decision had nothing to do with her or baby’s health; she said it was simply to ease overcrowded hospital conditions during the holiday period...

When it came time to give birth Enid Blackburn was of the opinion that there was no place like home.

It depresses me to note the progress made in maternity procedure over the past twenty years. When I first became pregnant Dr Dick Grantly-Read was advocating the art of natural childbirth.

Every Monday afternoon we lay hands clasped on our foetus at our weekly ante-natal classes listening to teacher’s promises. If we breathe deeply through our forthcoming contractions, panted eagerly when baby arrived, motherhood would prove to be just another vigorous exercise.

All those tales of terror, the scourge of smockland could now be buried and forgotten. No more pulling on towels or biting straight through lower lips as one relative relates so realistically, you can almost see her sitting there with her three lips.

It was a big bluff, naturally, because as we mothers soon discovered, pain-less childbirth is a medical myth. Nevertheless with adequate care and concern it can certainly be less painful. Dr Grantly-Read definitely took maternity a step forward, away from the idea that suffering was a woman’s lot. Trilene – the soporific mixture of gas and air was also introduced.

I remember turning away from it in disgust at an ante-natal rehearsal. What did I want with artificial aids when I could breathe in and out to four counts and pant like next door’s bitch at the drop of a scalpel?

I am only thankful none of the other mothers witnessed me screaming for ‘more’ at my actual delivery, when the nurse tried to separate me from the mask.

Today, according to many young mothers I know, the popular method of childbirth is by induction. This is the unnatural acceleration of baby’s arrival, usually by drugs. Normally applied where mother or infant’s health is at risk if pregnancy is allowed full term. The proportion of these induced births rose from 15 per cent in 1965 to an alarming 40 per cent in 1974.

Recently, in a hairdressers’ I heard two ladies in full-womb discussing their forthcoming events. The question ‘When?’ cropped up. One was due ‘Some-time next month.’ ‘I’m going in to have mine next Wednesday at ten,’ was the other’s surprising forecast.

On her last clinic visit she was told she was about to be induced. The decision had nothing to do with her or baby’s health; she said it was simply to ease overcrowded hospital conditions during the holiday period.

The sad thing for me was the look of unconcern when it was pointed out by another expectant mum that this operation was merely for convenience of staff.

Mums I have spoken to who have undergone this treatment, experience more painful and stronger contractions compared to their natural births.

Home confinements are no longer encouraged. My first two children were born at home, where the ratio is one patient to one midwife. Nurse and I had time for long conversations concerning baby’s welfare. Due to her perseverance I nursed all my five babies.

In my three hospital confinements I never once saw a mother taught the art of breast-feeding. On one ward I was the only one not feeding by bottle.

The policy of aiming for 100 per cent hospital births must be crippling an already debilitated National Health Service. Yet with improved ante-natal services I firmly believe all mothers-to-be would eventually agree with me, health permitting, there is definitely no place like home.

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