Silent or drug free births: some star mothers are not too posh to push

Miranda Kerr
Miranda Kerr 

News that slender Miranda Kerr gave birth to a 4.42-kilogram baby drug-free was enough to make many women cross their legs in discomfort.

The Australian model is one of a number of high profile women who have spoken out about their natural birthing experiences in the past 12 months, challenging the stereotype that celebrities are too posh to push.

Managing fear is one of the most important parts of child birth

Model Gisele Bundchen revealed she used meditation to help her get through labour. Dannii Minogue attempted a home birth but was taken to hospital to deliver baby Ethan due to complications.

Actress Kelly Preston, a Scientologist who recently gave birth to son Benjamin, is a proponent of the uncommon practice of silent birthing, where as few words as possible are spoken during labour.

Hannah Dahlen, spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives, and a practising midwife for the past 21 years, says the perception that celebrities favoured caesarean sections stemmed from the media attention given to stars such as Victoria Beckham, whose three sons were delivered that way.

Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and Angelina Jolie have also gone down this route for one or more of their children, in some cases under doctor's advice.

In Jolie's case, her daughter Shiloh was in the breech position and her second pregnancy was with twins.

In Australia, the surgical birth rate is about 30 per cent, but Dahlen says the most recent figures indicate this is levelling out.

The NSW government has pledged to reduce the number of caesareans to 20 per cent by 2015.


"Some women need to have caesarean sections, but let's make sure the women who have them really do need them," Dahlen said.

She stressed that mothers shouldn't "feel they are any less of a woman or mother as a result".

Unsurprisingly, the same figures show that, of the women who went into labour, almost three-quarters had some kind of pain relief administered, with the most common type being nitrous oxide gas. Looking at first-time mothers alone, this figure jumped to 84.9 per cent.

Sydney resident and mother-of-two Angela Cassar was able to deliver her first child, Rachel, now three years old, with no pain relief except a few Panadeine tablets.

The labour took more than three days and left her exhausted, yet she was able to walk around and bathe with her daughter afterwards.

"Right at the very end, after days of no sleep, I remember thinking I couldn't do this, and the midwife said something like, 'The baby's here,'" Cassar said.

"That was only in the last minute or two. It was more the endurance part of it than the pain."

Post-birth complications that took Cassar six months to recover from made her approach the birth of her second child differently. Following the advice of a specialist she opted for an epidural.

"Compared to the first one, which was like going into battle, this was just a dream," she said.

"It is pretty amazing to do it without drugs but it is still amazing to give birth naturally without a caesarean.

"It should all be about the baby, and people should do what they have to do to get a healthy baby and a healthy mum."

Kerr described her labour as "long, arduous and difficult".

Giving birth to a large baby, as she did, can increase the level of difficulty, Dahlen said.

"It was a big baby but for the majority of women their bodies are perfectly designed for the baby they carry," she said.

"Some babies are too big but the labour declares that. I've seen labour just stop when the pelvis isn't going to be big enough."

She said managing fear was an important part of child birth.

Techniques learnt at calm birth, hypnobirthing and meditation classes could be useful to focus the mind.

To aid the physical symptoms, she has seen good results from warm showers, massage and the use of bean bags and exercise balls to help the mother get into different positions.

"People have tried to get away from calling it painful; they've called it waves and surges, but it's pain and it's intense pain. However, it is normal pain, it's pain with a purpose," Dahlen said.

How the stars gave birth

Kate Winslet

The Academy Award winning actress and mother-of-two underwent an emergency caesarean for the birth of her daughter Mia in October 2000. Illustrating the complex emotions involved in the birthing process, she felt so bad about not having natural birth that she lied about it. In an interview with Gotham magazine in 2003, just weeks after the birth of her son Joe, she revealed the truth: "I just said I had a natural birth because I was so completely traumatised by the fact that I hadn't given birth. I felt like a complete failure."

Elle Macpherson

The Body gave birth to her second child, son Aurelius Cy, in a birthing pool in February 2003.

Heidi Klum

The model and television host has reportedly given birth to all four of her children naturally.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Paltrow was in labour for 70 hours for the birth of her first child, daughter Apple, who was born in May 2004 weighing 4.3 kilograms. She told ABC News in the US that some medical intervention was required towards the end. Her son Moses was born by caesarean in April 2006.