Loss of control – a reason for fear of birth ? 

When any of us are admitted to hospital we lose control . We are unable to get a hot drink when we want one , eat what we want when we want to ,take simple pain relief , go to the toilet , sleep as well as we would at home , get up in the night or stay in bed longer . We are also unable to control what we hear , what we see . We lose our safe place of home and being surrounded by friends and family – it feels lonely and alien to us . This doesn’t mean that we are not able to adapt to new situations it’s just that more than a few things change and this throws a curveball towards us .  The fear we feel is because we feel we are handing ourselves and our bodies , our routines and home comforts over to others, they are dismissed  – this has quite a destabilising effect on our psyche . 

A key part of NICE CG190 guidelines for care in labour encourages midwives to set the scene for women. The section I am going to focus on is COMMUNICATION – which is part of 1.2 Care throughout labour (click on the following numbers to be taken to the site)  CG190 

I have copied and pasted the exact words and written the key words in CAPITALS below to help highlight their impact – does it make you think about them differently ? 

COMMUNICATION 

1.2.1 Treat ALL women in labour with RESPECT . Ensure that the woman is in CONTROL of and involved in what is happening to her, and recognise that the way in which care is given is key to this. To FACILITATE this, ESTABLISH a RAPPORT with the woman, ASK her about her WANTS  and EXPECTATIONS for labour, and be AWARE of the importance of TONE and DEMEANOUR , and of the ACTUAL WORDS used. Use this information to SUPPORT and GUIDE her through her labour.

1.2.2 To ESTABLISH communication with the woman:

GREET
the woman with a SMILE and a personal WELCOME, establish her LANGUAGE NEEDS , INTRODUCE yourself   “#HelloMyNameIs”

explain your ROLE in her CARE .
Maintain a CALM and CONFIDENT approach so that your demeanour REASSURES the woman that all is going well.

KNOCK
and WAIT before entering the WOMAN’S ROOM , respecting it as her PERSONAL SPACE , and ask others to do the same.

ASK
how the woman is FEELING and whether there is anything in particular she is WORRIED about.
If the woman has a written BIRTH PLAN , READ  and DISCUSS it with her.

ASSESS
the woman’s KNOWLEDGE of strategies for coping with pain –PROVIDE  BALANCED INFORMATION to find out which available approaches are ACCEPTABLE to her.

ENCOURAGE the woman to ADAPT to the environment to meet her INDIVIDUAL needs.
Ask her PERMISSION before all PROCEDURES and OBSERVATIONS, FOCUSING  on the WOMAN  rather than the TECHNOLOGY or the DOCUMENTATION .

SHOW the woman and her birth companion(s) how to summon HELP and REASSURE her that she may do so WHENEVER  and as OFTEN  as SHE NEEDS to. When LEAVING  the ROOM, LET her know when you WILL return.

INVOLVE
the woman in any HANDOVER OF CARE  to another professional, EITHER when ADDITIONAL EXPERTISE has been brought in or at THE END OF THE SHIFT. 

Every person who cares for (no matter how short a time ) a woman in labour should follow this guidance and I feel there should be posters up on maternity units in all languages which emphasise that this will happen . 

There are many barriers to communication and one that most midwives, student midwives , maternity health care assistants , obstetricians and anaesthetists agree on is that time, pressure and NHS systems restricts our practice. I want to have laminated cards that go with the analgesia cards to explain why kindness and compassion will also help ease women’s pain . Fear is a huge factor in the perception of pain and if we try to reduce fear we might help reduce not only  pain but also anxiety and then by this we will gain trust and build on positive care. 

As the  midwifery workforce we must start to say to ourselves “how would I feel ? ” another question which is used on the Nye Bevan leadership module is this …. 

Lets keep sharing our ideas and thoughts and if you have any more relating to CG190 – tweet using #CG190 or why not write a blog or design a poster ? 
Thank you for reading and please leave comments , I always value them and they help me to reflect and grow . 


Yours in midwifery love 

Jenny ❤️

Fear of birth 

How can midwives help women who have a fear of birth ? 

If you meet pre labour I cannot over emphasise the benefits of using a doula service – doulas connect with women and support them through pregnancy , labour, birth and the postnatal period – I value all doulas and I have learnt so much from them . 

Sit beside the woman at her level , listen carefully with your eyes and your  ears . Demonstrate that you accept her fear as real and tangible and do not dismiss  it by saying “you’ll be fine, lots of women give birth”. When as a midwife you first meet a woman, it’s crucial for you to have open body language which means arms by your side , warmth in your eyes, and you should display love and truth . Ask the woman if she wants you to hold her hand , this is a connective proces and a simple yet effective of cementing your relationship with her . 

Help the woman to gain a rapport with you and confidence in herself by demystifying some of her previous experiences  eg the gas and air didn’t help last time , I tore badly last time , I failed at breastfeeding last time. this time it just might . Be a source of knowledge and light for her .  Explain that you are with her that you love your job and you will be her advocate throughout .  

Explain the process of pain in the cervix and why relaxation can help , use mindfulness links for her to listen to and actively take part in them with the woman and her partner to show your commitment to them both . Teach her that an internal examination is about choice, consent and that she is the one in control with an ability to stop the process at any time . Also explain her human rights matte in labour. . The woman may decide against internal examinations – be with her in this decision. 

Hold the woman’s hand when she is talking to you , this will let her see that you are kind and that you  want to help her . Say things like ” I can see vulnerability in your eyes , tell me how I can help you , I am with you” “how are you feeling at this present moment? ” 

Ask what her fears are – one woman I met recently was so scared , she thought that she might die in labour – this may seem irrational but it’s acutely important to know that these expressions of fear are very real to the woman herself . 

Don’t talk about feeding intention , sometimes a woman’s confidence and belief in herself are knocked for six when there have been difficulties with breastfeeding and this can manifest as fear in labour . Discuss instead why her newborn craves for skin to skin with her at birth and that these physiologically magical hours are also to help her feel validated once she has given birth . 

Help the woman to focus on the moment not what might happen this is mindfulness in labour.

If a woman has had a straightforward birth before , her perception of it is what matters not what the notes say or the fact that it appears to have gone smoothly. 

Try your best to stay in the room most of the time , even use the ensuite in the room yourself once you have asked her permission to do so . Your aim is to to reduce her anxiety and fear of being left by the midwife .

Handover information to the team on shift about the woman and her fear of birth so that staff enter the room peacefully and introduce themselves . If someone enters the room and doesn’t introduce themselves, do it for them. 

Ensure that the partners voice is heard and that they see you are trying to help by using open questions . Learn what they do , how they met and see their love for one another . 

Don’t push the woman to have stronger analgesia , the key is give information. It’s crucial to give full explanation of all analgesia and their effects not only on the woman but on the baby and its ability to feed after birth . The pain is the woman’s pain and she must feel heard regarding her analgesic choices. 
Never underestimate the value of finding  a midwife that knows the woman and also suggest aromatherapy. Frankincense is wonderful scent that reduces anxiety and if used in combination with other scents has a calming pain relieving quality . 

Keep the room darker and ask staff to be respectful by not  entering the sacred birth room – interruptions increase adrenalin response which blocks the production of oxytocin and if her partner can get on the bed too this helps the woman to feel safe and loved . 

Explain that you will not talk loudly during the birth and also try not to leave the woman afterwards , complete all notes in the room . Sometimes the most vulnerable time for a new mother is immediately after her child is born . Staying with her to help with positioning and handling of her baby will serve to strengthen her own belief in herself .

Avoid using terms such as “good girl” use the woman’s name to speak to her so that a sense of trust is built upon . 

Explain why prolonged skin to skin contact will help the woman after the birth , it is revalidating

If you think she might need your help with a shower or bath that’s fine – ancient cultures have washing rituals and cleansing is sometimes quite cathartic for a postnatal woman plus you are showing that you care about her and reaffirming that human kindness makes a difference to someone’s experience .

It’s important to be aware of fear of birth and how it manifests in women sometimes it’s difficult to recognise  in the antenatal period and might not be disclosed until labour . Women with a fear of birth  must’ve given time , feel listened to and feel supported . 

Whichever way the birth takes place stay with the woman , and be a constant for her . 

Read as many articles as you can about fear of birth let women know that you understand , follow @FearOfBirth , Yana Richens is a consultant midwife at University College Hospitals London NHS Trust who has just submitted her PhD on fear of birth , she has extensive knowledge and experience . Also Kathryn Gutteridge aka @Sanctummid who is a consultant midwife at Birmingham Women’s who recently co- hosted a tweet chat on  the @WeMidwives platform together with   @TheLovelyMaeve  Maeve O’Connell (a senior Irish Midwife who has also submitted her PhD) . The tweet chat discussed  the subject of Tocophobia . 

Lastly try to write a birth story for the woman from her newborn . When a woman sees words on paper that reflect how she gave birth and her newborns belief in her the effect is indescribable . This will pass into the next generation and you will be affirming birth to many others who read the letter. Never underestimate the effect that your actions , inactions or displays of love , kindness and compassion will have on a woman and her family , they will unknowingly to you. Quite simply your support kindness and compassion will last much longer than a lifetime. 

Thankyou for reading and thank you to wonderful Claire Harrison midwife and friend for believing in me and inspiring me to write this piece .

Love from Jenny 💛❤️💛XXXX