If you’ve received the ‘everything that could go wrong‘ talk, you may think a straightforward labour and birth is unlikely. Some hospitals (and some medical professionals) are good at having this talk sensitively and rationally. Some are not, and merely leave you feeling wretched, guilty and worried.
Sadly, some clinicians can be pretty insensitive. You may even have been told that you, or your baby, or both, are more likely to die. Usually delivered at a time when you can do very little to improve the situation! In fact, given that you’re best to keep stress to a minimum, these talks are decidedly not for our benefit. While it’s true that risks and death rates are higher for people with higher BMIs, what such clinicians neglect to mention, is that we are still talking very, very, very small numbers!
If a woman with ‘normal’ BMI (I detest that phrase) has a 0.05% chance of a bad event occurring, and you’re told you have 3 times the risk of the same event, that still only represents a 0.15% chance. It just sounds a heck of a lot more worrying!
The Scare Stories
You may have been told that your labour is likely to last longer; the baby’s shoulders are more likely to get stuck (shoulder dystocia); you’re more likely to have an instrumental delivery with forceps or ventouse; you’re more likely to have problems with anaesthetic; and you’re more likely to end up having a caesarean section. As if that weren’t enough, your harbinger of doom may have added for good measure that; afterwards your wounds are less likely to heal; you’re more likely to have a haemorrhage; more likely to struggle with breastfeeding, and more…
All of these outcomes, while statistically more likely for a bigger mum than a woman of ‘healthy’ BMI, they are still not common! Big Birtha has had the easiest two births of anyone she knows, healed fine, and breastfed fine! Have faith. Your body was made to do this.
Thinking and planning positively about your labour and birth experience has to be the first step.
Anxiety is the enemy of natural labour, and worrying about potential problems may erode confidence and actually make problems more likely, or make you less confident to challenge or explore options presented to you and just ‘do as you are told’. While having a professional-led birth should lead to safe outcomes, and some women are only too glad to have someone else take over and tell them what to do, afterwards it may lead you to feel a sense of loss about your birth experience.
We know that one intervention can lead to another, and another, and another. All too often women regret this loss of control, wish afterwards they’d trusted their body more, pushed on a bit longer to see if they could do it by themselves, wished they’d explored alternatives first, feeling that ‘if only’.
Some of us change personality completely when we are in labour; the strongest, most capable people can become meek, quivering wrecks! It’s really important that we are fully armed with the facts and make sure our birthing partner(s) are ‘on message’ and ready to fight our corner if we’re not able to (using the BRAIN mnemonic can help here).
Some health professionals are less supportive of bigger women, and believe less in our ability to birth our own babies, either consciously or subconsciously. This lack of faith can then be reflected in treatment which can subtly undermine your body’s natural instincts and the flow of your labour. Don’t let their negativity bring you down!
For more information, please see the Labour & Birth sub-pages.