5 childbirth myths that need to be busted

<i></i>
 Photo: Getty Images

Birth is an unpredictable, mysterious process that intrigues us all, and there is a lot of misinformation out there.

We've all been fed some myths around childbirth, so here's the truth behind some of the more common ideas we've been holding onto:

MYTH: You only have two options: a private obstetrician or a public hospital

When you visit your GP, you might find they direct you towards one of two options: a private obstetrician if you have health insurance, or a public hospital if you don't.

"This is ignoring the evidence that the best model is midwifery continuity of care," says Liz Wilkes, CEO of Midwifery and Maternity Providers. "It's available in both the private and public systems."

This evidence is based on 15 research studies involving more than 17,000 women, which found that this model resulted in a reduction in the use of epidurals, with fewer episiotomies or instrumental births. It also showed that women who receive midwife-led continuity of care are less likely to experience preterm birth, to lose their baby before 24 weeks' gestation, or to lose their baby overall.

So, what is midwifery continuity of care? It's a model that is centred on the woman, tailoring the care to the needs of her and her baby. It also means the she has the same midwife, or small team of midwifes, with her through the prenatal, birth and postnatal stages.

MYTH: Having a caesarean is the 'new normal'

Caesarean births are an important part of the health system. "I hope we always have such great access to caesareans as we do now," says Wilkes.

Advertisement

However, it's important to know that it isn't an easy way to go, as many myths would have us believe. "It's major abdominal surgery, there are lots of risks to mums and babies, and risks to subsequent pregnancies," Wilkes says.

MYTH: Private care is superior: the more you pay, the better the outcome

The more expensive option isn't necessarily the best.

"Women having their first baby are more likely to have major interventions in birth within the private sector," explains Wilkes, adding that research shows a 20 per cent reduction in normal vaginal births when compared with public hospitals. "We need to look at why that's happening."

If you're making the decision about where you'll give birth, ask your care provider and hospital questions about possible interventions and postnatal care in order to make fully informed choices.

MYTH: Having a baby with a midwife means no drugs

"There's still a view that using a midwife is a bit alternative, but that's a big myth," says Wilkes.

Midwives in hospitals can certainly administer some pain assistance, but Wilkes adds, "Having said that, women are often more confident with a midwife so they tend to rely less on drugs, particularly with second and subsequent babies."

MYTH: It is better to just do as you're told

Wilkes says she often encounters women who think they should just go into the hospital in labour and simply do as they're told. This isn't the case.

"You have a choice and you have a voice," says Wilkes. "But it's often based around fear, and women feel that if someone tells them what to do then it will be less scary."

Instead, choose a care provider you trust and talk to them about your options, and how you can make choices that best fit your needs and those of your baby.