A shocking discovery about women's first birth experiences.
Birth Experience Survey response
I had NO IDEA this would blow up! I had no idea this survey would reach so many women! I am truly amazed at the sheer number of participants in this little one questions survey about their first birth experience. Thank you to all who took this survey, shared it, commented, liked, and told others about it. All of you helped me garner some pretty shocking data about how women feel after the birth of their first baby. For the record, there were 1,428 responses in total.
Any response with more than 3 answers was deleted to make sure the results were not skewed toward any one emotion.
There are so many ways one can look at this and interpret the data.
We can start with the statement and invitation to choose your 3 MOST appropriate words that BEST describe your FIRST experience of Labor and Birth. I choose to ask about only the first experience not because I do not think consecutive experiences matter, but because you will carry your first experience with you to your next birth and the one after that and so on.
This first birth experience shapes the rest of your life as a laboring woman. It is the truth. Let me explain. If you have a wonderful, blissful, beautiful, perfect birth the first time around, what is to stop you from thinking it will be any different next time? Those of us that have had great birth experiences the first time can testify to say they probably relaxed a bit with their second pregnancy. You may take less precaution, eat “forbidden” foods, possibly accept more risk all in the name of confidence. You might think, “The last outcome was perfect, this one will be too.” That line of thinking can be really healthy. It can also set you up for unrealistic expectations. We should examine the other side of this coin. If your first birth experience made you answer “traumatic” on the survey (like almost 23% of women said), you are going to enter the next labor and delivery with doubt and apprehension because of your history (and why shouldn’t you?). You might go into the next labor with fierce determination to “make it better this time”. How can you guarantee that? Might that just lead to more disappointment?
My point is that your first experience shapes your perception of birth. Good, bad, exceptional, or with trauma, you will form a new opinion about birth. The best part of what I do is to help show you that each birth experience will be different. We make decisions based on our past experiences and the experiences of others too. The comfort that good birth education and supportive doulas provide is essential to all mothers, but especially first-time mothers. We experienced Mamas can show them a birth experience that WHATEVER THE OUTCOME will leave her feeling what ONLY 4.8% of surveyed women said, peaceful. That peaceful experience of birth does not mean “pain-free”, “easy”, “blissful”, or “perfect”. It means that even if there was an event that will induce trauma, she will have understood what was going on, been respected and consulted in her health care, been supported by her birth partner, and advocated for by her Doula. It isn’t about what happened during labor and birth. It is about your perception of the events that took place, the care you were given after, and the environment that nurtured you to process your birth story.
According to the data above, THE MOST chosen response was anxiety. To be honest, I thought fear would have reigned supreme, but let’s look a little deeper. Below is a screenshot of the definition of anxiety. Do you see what I see? Worry, apprehension, tension, nervousness, and FEAR. All of those words were included in the survey.
You might ask, “Stephanie, isn’t it expected to be anxious before birth? Isn’t it okay if you experience fear?” My answer would be, of course! We are human going through the most human experience of our lives. We aren’t eating brownies and ice cream while watching a private fireworks show over the castle on New Year's day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom! That’s my idea of an almost perfect moment…just FYI 😉
We are working hard to bring our child earth-side. It will be painful, but you are not suffering. It will be hard, but you can do hard things. It may feel like you will split in two…you will! At the end of all that work (not suffering), there will be another person in the room. A breathing, crying, grasping little baby that is all yours. That is what labor is. Read those last couple of sentences again, I’ll wait.
Do you see? If that is what we are shown before our first birth experience, do you still think we would answer with such negative emotions? I don’t.
There’s the question of what about the consecutive birth experiences? Don’t they matter too? Again, my answer is, of course! Yes, they matter deeply! Because your first birth experience changes you, the second birth experience is where we aim to have either a repeat or a completely different outcome. These mothers are in need of birth education and doula care too! For a second-time mom or even a 6th-time mom, a whole course is not needed, but a refresher of labor positions, labor progression, and coping techniques would be quite valuable since every labor and birth are different. A doula is useful no matter how many times you go through labor as she makes everything better. Women tend to have shorter, less painful labors when they have a doula by their side. And if a better outcome can be achieved because mom and dad are well prepared for anything labor sends, then peace is the resulting emotion.
How can you help? You can offer your love and support to your pregnant friends. If they have no idea what to expect in labor, you can point them to someone that can help them. A childbirth educator or a doula are wonderful options. You can also offer up your personal story of labor and delivery, but be wary. Your experience, if it was a negative one, may cause them unintentional anxiety. And as we can see from the data collected, we do not need any more anxiety surrounding birth. So, before you offer up a labor story (good or bad) you could emphatically state, "this is my experience and my medical history. By no means can you assume this will this be your story." Let's give them a #Triggerwarning
Uplifting the new mothers in our community only helps all of us.
If you have had a traumatic birth experience and need to talk, please reach out. Let’s tell your story in a way that promotes learning, growth, and connection to each other through birth, a uniquely ours experience. Together we can change those numbers to reflect positive emotions.
If you have questions please reach out and ask. This subject is hard to talk about and I respect every woman's opinion on birth.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org