Today I was invited to the launch Of “Bump Babies and Beyond“. This is a web based series launched by Yahoo with Myleene Klass. Below I will publish the official press release but first I wanted to put my own comments on what I have seen and heard so far.
Some recent occurrences and discussions have led me to ask some questions.
In 2010/11 of 522,000 births with a known gestation length, 35,775 babies were born at 36 weeks or before, 28,489 were born in their 37 week. Now officially a premature baby is defined as one born before their 37th week of pregnancy.
Back on the 15th of August I got the great news that I had been listed as finalist in the Gurgle Blogger Awards for Dad bloggers. To say I was over the moon would have been an understatement, unfortunately on reading who the other 4 finalists were my heart sank.
Most who know me will know I am not a great fan of forums. In my opinion, they tend to lead to competitive parenting. The advice is often contradictory, doing nothing to give parents confidence in their own abilities. This is the reason I suggest to people coming through my classes, that if they are after advice on particular subject, to contact myself or another birth professional and ask them to point them in the direction of balanced information they can read.
Why? Simple, I believe that it is our job to empower parents, help them get the information they need, for them to be able to make an informed choice. My personal opinions on parenting are irrelevant, it is for them, as parents to trust their instincts and make best decisions for their family based upon as much information as they need. After all, all families, their lifestyles, and their needs, are different!
Having taken time to reflect on what I saw on Saturday, I am still filled with an amazing warm feeling about what happened.
Saturday, saw me running a New Dads class. New Dads classes are for any dads with babies up to crawling stage. They are based around Developmental Baby Massage, whilst at the same time giving dads time to share and discuss their experiences with other dads. They also have the opportunity to ask me for specific advice on any subject relating to them and their baby.
Dads, PAY ATTENTION!
In my previous blog, I talked about your role in labour as being twofold. First, you are your partner’s ‘protector’ but secondly, and just as crucially, you have a role as her ‘advocate’. So what do I mean by advocate?
The dictionary definition is:-
n [ˈædvəkɪt -ˌkeɪt]
1. a person who upholds or defends a cause; supporter
2. a person who intercedes on behalf of another
This quite accurately defines your role, but you cannot advocate successfully if you don’t understand what your partner’s wishes are. Advocacy starts now, not just during labour! (We will focus on labour and birth here but the same rules apply during pregnancy and when baby joins you.)
In all things relating to labour and birth, you need to sit down together and talk things through. Look at what choices you might be presented with. Discuss induction, if it is offered, do you want to be induced? If not, what do you want to do instead? If you are offered induction, what methods are you willing to use? What about pain relief? Do you feel strongly about it? What types of pain relief are you willing to use if needed? What are you dead against, if any?
You should try and look at as many possible outcomes as possible, although you don’t need to discuss them all in depth and over analyse! Communicate and reach a decision which you both feel comfortable with. I suggest you write a birth plan detailing these preferences, you can give a copy to your midwife in labour, so she knows in advance what kind of birth you would like her to help facilitate. It is also for your own benefit, having a copy you can refer to in the heat of the moment can be helpful.
You should both be happy with your decisions, but if you cannot agree, then (sorry guys) your partners wishes come first. You have to accept this, and still advocate her wishes regardless of your own feelings. A true advocate always puts forward the viewpoint of the person they are advocating for, regardless of their own feelings on the matter. It is also crucial for the birth process that your partner has complete trust that you will honour her wishes. Preparation here is the key to successfully advocating on behalf of your partner.
So how do you do it?
Firstly, you can use your advocate role in conjunction with your protector role.
Most women when labouring, in the right environment, will zone out. During contractions they will almost go in to themselves and be focused on what they are doing. You need to protect that state. NOBODY, not you, not the midwife, no one should ask her a question during contraction. If anyone does ask her a question, you will advocate for her, NOT by speaking on her behalf, but by gently asking the person to wait a moment and re ask the question when the contraction has passed.
During labour, you partner may be offered pain relief or other interventions. Here, your role as her advocate is to ensure that the wishes that you have DISCUSSED are respected. Your partner during labour will be vulnerable, she will not generally feel in a position to argue or even refuse interventions she doesn’t want, this will be YOUR job. You will need to explain on her behalf her choices, you need ensure these are respected and she isn’t pressured in to anything you or more importantly SHE isn’t comfortable with.
One question I get asked a lot is ‘What if she changes her mind about something on the birth plan, when she is actually in labour?’ How do you know, so you can advocate for her accordingly? There is a special DaddyNatal technique for this, this is where our CODEWORD principle comes in. This technique allows mum to signal she has changed her mind about something, but leaves her to feel safe to know that her original wishes will be respected until this moment. More about this in a later blog 😉
This role does not end with the birth of your child, once your child is born you will be advocating on your partners wishes regarding the third stage of labour. If your partner has decided to have unassisted third stage, one of you needs to let the midwife know. If you see that injection being prepared without having been asked (rare, but I have known cases where this was the case) you may need to physically get in the way of the injection, until you explain she doesn’t want it!
You will have some decisions to make regarding, chord cutting, injections, examinations. You should also be aware of these choices, discuss them beforehand, and then ensure those decisions made on behalf of your partner AND baby are respected.
Both your roles during labour can feel intimidating, but being prepared is the key. TALK about the choices and possibilities beforehand. It is very difficult to advocate for someone, when you do not know what their preferences are.
I will also be writing about two key tools to use in your role in later pieces. So please, keep coming back for updates or subscribe to the blog RSS feed so you don’t miss them.
Better still book yourself onto a DaddyNatal course and learn all these tools first hand!
Kirstie, I cannot quietly sit and continue to read the completely unbalanced view which has been put forward via Twitter last week, and the Telegraph article today.
Kirstie, I understand your experience of birth has been of C Section birth. I understand that you did not feel prepared or supported before or after this. I think this is appalling, and that you were terribly and unforgivably let down. You are correct, NO woman should suffer a stigma for having had a C-Section. C Section is definitely NOT an easy way out. Women who are facing having a C Section should have access to appropriate support, both to prepare and recover, both physically and emotionally.
HOWEVER, Kirstie just because this was YOUR experience, does not mean that the answer to women having better birth experiences, is implementing across the board, surgical birth education. I guarantee, if antenatal education took that direction, that our C Section rate would climb even higher.
Your standpoint is that because approximately 25% of births are now C -Sections, we should accept this statistic and start preparing and teaching parents antenatally about surgical birth, as there is a 1 in 4 chance they will have one.
Sorry Kirstie, on this you are just wrong, and doing expectant parents a huge disservice.
WHY do you not want to challenge this 1 in 4 C-Section rate? WHY are we not looking for a way to lower this, rather than accepting it & educating our expectant parents to just accept it too?! This isn’t about stigma Kirstie, this is where your arguments have gotten confused, its about safety, its about education and its about informed choice.
C-Sections SHOULD absolutely 100% be used when needed – they are an amazing medical advance which undoubtedly saves lives. That is what they are there for, and there should be absolutely no guilt, stigma or failure ever attached to this.
A C-Section should be (which even you, yourself referred to it as on Twitter) – a “life saving operation”. So, if we agree that this is the role of a C-Section, do we therefore really think that 1 in 4 of all births are so dangerous that they require a life-saving procedure?
Your comment that “Not talking C-sections during a childbirth course is like not talking Shakespeare during an English literature course” is so unbelievably misinformed. Unlike you, I believe in the ability of most women to safely birth their own baby. I believe that the majority of traditional NHS and some other antenatal classes do not teach women how to do this, therefore leading to this high rate in interventions and C-Sections. That’s right, I don’t simply blame the NHS for poor care, but I blame the quality of our antenatal education, which has a crucial role to play in the UK’s high ratio of C-Sections.
I was reading with interest some of the tweets which you received during your debate. Proud parents tweeting to say that they agreed with you that it was important they had done the full C-Section role play in class, because in their class “5 out of 9 couples ended up with C-Sections”.
So, this class which had educated and prepared its parents for C-Section, had a C Section rate of around 65%! More than twice the national average… alarm bells ringing for anyone else here??
Compare this to the classes I teach, where my average C-Section rate is around 12% – HALF the national average, and four times lower than this class. Why is this?? Maybe because I am empowering women, educating them to understand their body, understand how it works, and preparing that body to get ready for birth. These are things which are not currently adequately covered in all NHS classes or traditional classes. Perhaps Kirstie, you should attend a private natural birth class, see some of the really great practice out there and the difference it makes, and promote the good… Rather than putting us all in the same boat, and slagging us off across the board with little understanding of what we do.
I am PRO women having the most positive, easy and enjoyable birth experience they can. I am anti unnecessary medical procedures which are risky and can be highly traumatic to the whole family unit. Yes, I support woman to have natural births. By your definition Kirstie, this makes me anti C-Sections. Not the case. I teach all my ladies, that in an emergency, you trust your care provider and their medical expertise, as that is what it is there for, to back you up.
However, I work with women to make INFORMED choices. Kirstie, if I had worked with you for the birth of your second baby; I would have supported you to consider all your options, and then 100% supported whichever decision you felt was RIGHT for you. Considering all the options is not about stigma attached to any particular choice – but about the fact that decisions should be about INFORMED choice. This approach is relevant whether we are talking about C Sections, or which house we decide to buy.
I am working with two perfectly healthy pregnant women at the moment, with perfectly healthy babies, who in the last week who have been told by their medical provider, that no-one should have a water birth because “it will kill their baby”. Not all advice, just because it is offered by someone in a medical role, is unbiased, accurate or informed.
There is a reason some of us are trying to support more women to have natural births, and bring down that overall C-Section percentage, and it is nothing to do with thinking women who have C-Sections are ‘lesser than’. For a start, a vaginal birth is much safer. C Sections carry much higher risk than natural birth, to both the mum and baby. The risk of a woman dying following a C-Section is 4 times higher than following a natural birth. We are talking about major abdominal surgery here. Other reasons include the impact on the mother following the birth, which is also something clearly close to your heart too. The increase in rates of postnatal depression in C-Section mothers is not just about stigma, but also is rooted in physiological factors that are absent when baby is not born vaginally.
The women I work with who have been faced with an emergency C Section during their labour, have been able to utilise the coping and breathing techniques I teach to stay calm and involved in the decision making process. I don’t ostracise, make an example of or highlight as ‘different’ any woman who while attending my classes decides to opt for an elective section. All women learn the same coping techniques which are applicable in a variety of situations.
For those women I have worked with who have had been faced with emergency sections, do I honestly think that having ‘role played’ a C Section in advance with some playmobile will make that moment when their baby’s heart stopped beating, and they got whipped into theatre, with dad chewing his nails in the corridor, any less frightening ? No, this is probably one of the most traumatic, terrifying moments of your life. It is scary, and sometimes there are things in life which we can never be truly prepared for.
Kirstie, you absolutely deserved more support, both antenatally and postnatally, than you received.
C-Section birth should not have any stigma attached to it.
But that’s as far as I can agree with you.
The answer to addressing stigma and support is NOT adding specific surgical birth education to childbirth courses. Women do deserve better education, support and birthing experiences. I already have too many women who come to my classes who have been terrified by descriptions of epidurals or demonstrations of forceps, but no real idea of how to empower themselves to have a better birth. Let’s start to support this generation of ladies who are not “too posh to push” but rather ‘too scared to push’.
Birth & Postnatal Doula & Antenatal Educator
Bump, Birth and Beyond www.bumpbirthandbeyond.co.uk
1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready.
We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 4-year-old to clean his room. In all of these situations, we are being unrealistic. We are setting ourselves up for disappointment and setting up the child for repeated failures to please us. Yet many parents ask their young children to do things that even an older child would find difficult. In short, we ask children to stop acting their age.
2. We become angry when a child fails to meet our needs.
A child can only do what he can do. If a child cannot do something we ask, it is unfair and unrealistic to expect or demand more, and anger only makes things worse. A 2-year-old can only act like a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old cannot act like a 10-year-old, and a 10-year-old cannot act like an adult. To expect more is unrealistic and unhelpful. There are limits to what a child can manage, and if we don’t accept those limits, it can only result in frustration on both sides.
3. We mistrust the child’s motives.
If a child cannot meet our needs, we assume that he is being defiant, instead of looking closely at the situation from the child’s point of view, so we can determine the truth of the matter. In reality, a “defiant” child may be ill, tired, hungry, in pain, responding to an emotional or physical hurt, or struggling with a hidden cause such as food allergy. Yet we seem to overlook these possibilities in favor of thinking the worst about the child’s “personality”.
4. We don’t allow children to be children.
We somehow forget what it was like to be a child ourselves, and expect the child to act like an adult instead of acting his age. A healthy child will be rambunctious, noisy, emotionally expressive, and will have a short attention span. All of these “problems” are not problems at all, but are in fact normal qualities of a normal child. Rather, it is our society and our society’s expectations of perfect behavior that are abnormal.
5. We get it backwards.
We expect, and demand, that the child meet our needs – for quiet, for uninterrupted sleep, for obedience to our wishes, and so on. Instead of accepting our parental role to meet the child’s needs, we expect the child to care for ours. We can become so focused on our own unmet needs and frustrations that we forget this is a child, who has needs of his own.
6. We blame and criticize when a child makes a mistake.
Yet children have had very little experience in life, and they will inevitably make mistakes. Mistakes are a natural part of learning at any age. Instead of understanding and helping the child, we blame him, as though he should be able to learn everything perfectly the first time. To err is human; to err in childhood is human and unavoidable. Yet we react to each mistake, infraction of a rule, or misbehavior with surprise and disappointment. It makes no sense to understand that a child will make mistakes, and then to react as though we think the child should behave perfectly at all times.
7. We forget how deeply blame and criticism can hurt a child.
Many parents are coming to understand that physically hurting a child is wrong and harmful, yet many of us forget how painful angry words, insults, and blame can be to a child who can only believe that he is at fault.
8. We forget how healing loving actions can be.
We fall into vicious cycles of blame and misbehavior, instead of stopping to give the child love, reassurance, self-esteem, and security with hugs and kind words.
9. We forget that our behavior provides the most potent lessons to the child.
It is truly “not what we say but what we do” that the child takes to heart. A parent who hits a child for hitting, telling him that hitting is wrong, is in fact teaching that hitting is right, at least for those in power. It is the parent who responds to problems with peaceful solutions who is teaching his child how to be a peaceful adult. So-called problems present our best opportunity for teaching values, because children learn best when they are learning about real things in real life.
10. We see only the outward behavior, not the love and good intentions inside the child.
When a child’s behavior disappoints us, we should, more than anything else we do, “assume the best”. We should always assume that the child means well and is behaving as well as possible considering all the circumstances (whether obvious or unknown to us), together with his level of experience in life. If we always assume the best about our child, the child will be free to do his best. If we give only love, love is all we will receive.
This piece was written by Jan Hunt of The Natural Child Project
As if there are not enough pressures placed on families and relationships, we are now going to add to this with DIY paternity kits. Today, Boots, through 375 of their larger stores, is selling these kits over the counter. At prices of about £30 for the kit and a further £120 to get the results, they are not exactly cheap, and any quick search on the internet will find them available for as little as £99 including the results in 5 days.
But that’s not my point, my point is, why? Why do we need them? Why are we so determined to make it harder for parents?
Some may argue that unless there are doubts within a relationship in the first place, people aren’t going to buy one, so what harm will they do? They may actually solve doubts by proving paternity. Really? Do we really believe that if one person in a relationship wants a paternity test done, that it is not going to harm a relationship?
I am totally against these kits, mostly because I believe they are profiteering by building on men’s fears. As the UK’s leading specialist worker with expectant fathers, I know that at least 6 out of 10 men (yes, that many!) will have, for a fleeting moment, asked themselves if they are the real father. That’s over 360,000 men a year feeling that same doubt and fear.
Why do men have this fear? Simply, it is a normal subconscious self –doubt, a lack belief that they are really capable of having done something so tremendous as create a new life. This fear has no real foundation; it is not brought about by any real doubts about their partner’s fidelity. Indeed, if you asked these men if they think their partner had an affair, they would be insulted. By no means is this a logical fear – it is purely a subconscious one brought about by a sense of inadequacy and doubt about their ability to be a father.
Most of these 360,000 men will naturally come to terms with these doubts, although this may not be until after their child is born – there is a reason that Mother Nature made babies look more like their fathers in the first weeks! Once men have met their baby and start to bond, these fears and doubts do start to recede BUT they can still present for weeks and even months after the birth in a lot of cases.
Hence the dangers of these kits. They are playing on the doubts and fears of the average expectant or new father. How many dads already under pressure of becoming a father, dealing with sleep deprivation and the feeling of exclusion in his own home, will place massive additional stress and strain on the family by buying a kit? The damage this will do in so many cases is potentially huge, and I have no doubt will lead to even more breakdowns in family life than we currently see in the first year.
DaddyNatal is the only antenatal class that addresses and deals with men’s fears, including paternity fear. We support men to face their fears, understand them, deal with them and move forwards. In this way, DaddyNatal builds stronger families. Let’s support men to be better fathers, not exploit them for trying.
If any man would like help or advice on any fears he may be having as an expectant or new dad, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Postnatal depression in men is a subject close to my heart. From working with expectant fathers and talking to new dads (especially first time dads) I’m aware that this is a real issue.
The medical profession now accepts that postnatal depression in men exists. Really? Tell us something that those of us who work with dads didn’t know! A recent survey by the Medical Research Council of 86,957 families found that 3% of men will suffer postnatal depression in the first year of their baby’s life rising to over 10% by the time baby is 4. This percentage is believed by many to be on the low side, as many men don’t seek help with depression and therefore numbers affected can’t be accurately recorded.
So why is postnatal depression in men on the increase and what causes it?
Is it coincidence that the increase in postnatal depression in men has coincided with the change in the man’s role surrounding pregnancy, birth and fatherhood?
Society has moved towards men being more involved, and taking a fair share of the parenting role, but what we haven’t done is change anything about how we prepare men for this new role! In any other walk of life would we put somebody into a role where they can potentially hurt themselves or others without the correct training? Of course not, but we are perfectly happy to say to a man ‘here you go, you’re going to be a dad, now get on with it!’
Research has shown that one of the most common reasons a man suffers postnatal depression is because his partner is also suffering from it. Women tend to mask their depression very well, and their partner doesn’t recognise it or has no idea what symptoms to even look for. Recent research from the Medical Council suggests that 13% of women are likely to suffer depression in the first year of their baby’s life. Men don’t understand what their partner is going through, which can then be misinterpreted as a lack of care, and we end up in a vicious cycle.
Other reasons for postnatal depression can be guilt, guilt about the birth, trauma from the birth, guilt about not feeling bonded or love for their newborn child, lack of communication between mum and dad, guilt when dad has feelings of resentment for his baby. It can also be from suddenly feeling like an outsider or excluded from his own family, as mum puts baby’s needs first, or simply from the pure tiredness and stress of being a new father, & juggling work and family.
Prevention rather than cure
Prevention has got be better than cure, as this problem will remain hidden in the majority of cases and only come to light in extreme circumstances. So how do we become pro-active in preventing it develop? ‘New Men’ are here to stay so we owe it to them to support them in their new role!
The answer is actually quite simple.
Let’s prepare men for becoming a father, let’s train them on becoming a dad. Once baby is here, let’s support them by providing dads groups at times that are accessible for them. There are some, but we need more, and ideally run by men to allow that open male bonding and support that can occur in a male only environment. Ask a new mum and many will tell you her support network is not her family but a group of new mums she has met through various baby classes. This support is invaluable to mums.
Let’s educate men about symptoms and causes of postnatal depression in their partners. This will help their partner get the help they need quickly, and prevent the transference to them. Men will understand why the mood swings etc are occurring in their partner and not take it personally.
Let’s support men to bond antenatally with their baby, therefore helping to prevent dad’s feelings of guilt about not feeling love for his child when they are born.
Let’s help men to understand and learn practical skills for their role as a birth partner, let them & their partner decide how involved in the birth dad wants to be, and whether they wish for additional support.
Let’s explain to men the changes their partner’s are going through, & how the possible changes will affect them as a family.
Let’s get men to fully appreciate what becoming a dad is all about and prepare for the changes that are going to happen.
Let’s reassure men that a lot of what they will feel and go through is perfectly normal, & it’s ok to talk about their feelings and experiences. Let’s help them to release their fears and stop them manifesting.
So… Prevention or Cure?
The answer therefore is clear. Yes, postnatal depression in men is very real, but through correct education and support can be and should be, prevented. The benefits for society and the family are huge. These are all things I care deeply about and are intrinsic as to why DaddyNatal came to be. We need traditional antenatal education to change and reflect the way society has changed. Dads need specifically tailored help and support, & if we empower them, they in turn will be better able to support their families.
Just think for a minute about how tackling this could have an absolutely massive effect:
Reduced family break up.
Mentally healthier parents = mentally healthier children
Cost savings for our health service.
The list goes on…………..