Why all births should be followed by a debrief

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 Photo: Getty Images

We've all heard of a birth plan. And while we might not all agree on the merits of having one, they have become a standard part of the birth experience for most expectant mothers

Birth 'debriefs', on the other hand, aren't so common. But perhaps they should be.

During a birth debrief, the new mother has an opportunity to talk about her birth experience, preferably with the people who were in the room at the time. She can talk about how she feels the birth went and ask any questions that she may have.

Essentially, these are just a bit of a chat about how the birth went. But while they are simple to execute, they're not routinely offered to new mums.

Dr Joseph Sgroi, an obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says birth debriefs are extremely important.

"We all have an expectation of how the birth will go, so if it doesn't go to plan the woman can be left with lots of questions," he explains.

Dr Sgrio says that birth debriefs are especially important for women who've had traumatic birth experiences. "If you don't get an opportunity to have a debrief you can have lingering thoughts as to why things didn't go as planned," he explains.

Dr Sgrio notes that having an opportunity to talk through what happened can also reduce the risk of the mother developing postnatal depression or anxiety.

While many hospitals don't routinely offer a debrief, Dr Sgrio says that most healthcare providores (both in the public and private sectors) will do their best to accommodate them if they are requested.

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"The most important thing after childbirth is that the mother is well. If the mum isn't feeling well, either mentally or physically, then the baby isn't not going to get the nurturing they need," Dr Sgrio explains.

Dr Sgrio encourages women to seek a birth debrief within the first 24 hours of delivering the baby. "Even though they are likely to be time poor, most doctors and midwifes will understand the need to discuss how the birth went," he says.

Lucritia McCarthy, a doula who has assisted hundred of women during labour and birth, says that birth debriefs are important for all women, even if the birth went to plan.

"It is an opportunity to talk about anything that came up along the way," she says.

McCarthy notes that birth debriefs are important for the dad (or other birth partner), too. She says that some men find it very difficult to watch their partner in pain and can be left feeling very unsettled.

"A debrief helps them put everything into perspective," she explains.

Crucially, McCarthy says that a debrief is an opportunity for the new mother to tell her story.

"When she tells her story to other people who were there with her she can be acknowledged and validated," McCarthy explains.

"Which means she can leave the birth behind her and get on with mothering."