What Makes for a Positive Birth Experience?

My two children were both born in midwife-attended hospital births. I opted against using epidural anesthesia for a number of reasons. But the biggest factor, for me, was that with excellent support and relatively short labors I found the discomfort manageable. I trusted my husband and the midwives who were there with me. Looking back, I feel quite satisfied with my birth experiences.

Recently, a study was released comparing several indicators of childbirth in Canada. One of the findings showed that my home province of British Columbia has one of the lowest epidural rates in the country, at just 30% of vaginal births. There were varying reactions to this statistic. Some people suggested it indicates a shortage of anesthesiologists, and others were concerned that women who requested epidurals were being denied. The truth is, we don’t really know. Epidural rates vary for many reasons, including local economic and education levels.

Smiling between contractions
Smiling in between contractions during my second birth

In the absence of a clear reason, it can be tempting to conjecture. I have my own ideas as to what might be up, too. But I really think that is beside the point. What is most interesting to me is not how many women opt for epidurals – it’s how women feel about their birth experience.

One study reviewed of 137 factors affecting women’s satisfaction with childbirth, and 4 stood out: personal expectations, the amount of support from caregivers, the quality of the caregiver-patient relationship and involvement in decision making. These factors overrode age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, childbirth preparation, the physical birth environment, pain, immobility, medical interventions and continuity of care. It seems most mothers are more concerned with having people around us who we like, who involve us in decisions, honor our preferences and support us through the process than the epidural rate, specifically.

Baby Jacob
The first photo of baby Jacob, approximately 30 minutes later

One of the principles of Attachment Parenting International is “Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting.” This includes exploring different types of healthcare providers and birthing options, including natural birth and home birth. It includes being alert and physically active during birth, and trusting in your body’s ability to birth. It includes being involved in decisions surrounding birth, and possibly hiring a birth doula. All of these recommendations can help to ensure that we can make informed decisions, and find the support that we need to honor those decisions.

We can’t really say exactly how any birth will go. But if we take the time to prepare ourselves, and find good support, we can maximize our chances of having a positive birth experience, while still ensuring that both mother and baby are safe and healthy.

What do you think makes for a positive birth experience? Please share!

You can read more about Amber’s daily adventures with the two children she birthed on her blog at Strocel.com.

Natural Birth & Pain Management

ultrasoundI never expected to give birth naturally.  When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child’s birth in February 2009, I anticipated being in the hospital, an epidural in my spine.

In January 2009, I wept as we drove to our midwifery practice for a “Home Birth Information Night.”  It was my birthday.  I would rather have been going out to dinner.  I didn’t want to give birth at home, but our finances could not handle the cost of giving birth in a hospital if there were other options. With my hands clenched atop my swollen belly, feeling my daughter stretch within, I stared out of the window for the entire drive, angry at the government of Canada for not processing my residency and hence my free health care faster, angry at my husband for saying we should go to this information session, and most especially angry at the thought of having to deal with the pain of childbirth.


It terrified me. Continue reading Natural Birth & Pain Management