Childbirth educators moving away from showing 'frightening' birth videos

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Some childbirth educators are moving away from showing graphic birthing videos to expectant mothers in a bid to stop them becoming terrified of a natural delivery.

Private educators and midwives who spoke to Essential Baby said they were shifting away from screening birthing videos at childbirth classes and instead only showed them when specifically asked.

Sallee Dwyer, a midwife and childbirth educator who offers private group and one-on-one antenatal classes through her business Midwife to Mum, said she and business partner Narelle Stark decided to phase out the videos some time ago after noticing they made parents-to-be more apprehensive about the impending birth.

"We want our mothers to be to be positive and not so afraid," she says.

"We noticed the videos were adding to their fears so we stopped showing them.

"Now we ask if they want to see a birthing video and if they do, we can arrange it.

"But most of our private classes do not want to see it and I don't think they need to."

Ms Dwyer said it was difficult to find a video that was relevant, as most were 20 years old, and were often too graphic.

"They are generally extremely confronting for both the woman and her partner and it often stirs more fear than confidence," Ms Dwyer said.

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"Screaming, naked woman in pain isn't great. Many first-time mums are inundated with birth stories, even without asking for them, and many not great experience that they are told about.

"I have a brief animated clip we chose to show that explains how the body is changing [and] preparing for birth, and the mechanics of birth and the body.

"I find this is a useful tool and sparks conversation about how amazing the body/women are, [and is] much more helpful.

"We do have a birth video but we only show it after meeting the couple and discussing if they are comfortable to watch it. Maybe only 20 per cent opt to watch it, however they usually have watched a YouTube clip already."

But Ms Dwyer admitted not everyone agrees with her stance.

"The comment I've had from another midwife is 'well, they need to see it to know what they are in for', but I don't agree.

"Watching a birth is very different to being in labour and birthing yourself. It's frightening!"

Dr Jane Svensson, Health Education Co-ordinator and midwife at the Royal Hospital for Women at Randwick in Sydney said birthing videos were still screened as part of its antenatal education programs. However, she said couples could choose to leave the room if they wished.

"Our two most popular antenatal programs – Having a Baby and Birth Intensive – cover a range of topics including the final weeks of pregnancy, labour and birth processes, active labour strategies, pain relief options, baby care and adjustment to parenthood," she said.

"At both programs, we screen a birthing video filmed in 2009 at the Women and Children's Hospital in Adelaide.

"This video was chosen in particular because it demonstrates the types of birthing practices we have here at the RHW.

"The video can be beneficial for women and their partners who are nervous about labour, or may have views about labour after watching reality television programs such as One Born Every Minute, or birthing videos on the internet.

"Our educators' brief participants prior to screening the video, and people can choose to leave the room if they do not wish to watch.

"So far, we have not received any negative feedback about the video. In fact, at post-birth reunions couples do tell our educators they were pleased to have seen what labour is 'really' like, and not as fearful as it seems on television or at the movies."

Claudia Aiello was adamant she did not wish to watch a birthing video prior to giving birth to her first child six years ago.

She ended up having a caesarean without any labour but is now pregnant with her second child and is planning a vaginal birth.

Claudia says she feels this is technically her first experience of labour and childbirth, and doesn't want other people's birth experiences to put fear into her mind.

"I refuse to watch birth videos or look too much into birth stories for a few reasons," Claudia says.

"I know a birth plan doesn't always go to plan and I have an open mind about it, but feel watching videos would have a negative effect.

"I want to keep a positive mind and not stress about giving birth.

"I don't think it is necessary to watch other women giving birth for it to prepare me for my own birth.

"I also feel that watching other women labouring will put unnecessary worries and fear into my mind about the pain and complications.

"I want to be relaxed going into this. I've been reading up about labour and using forums/posts from mothers' group and feel that is more than enough."