BORN SUPREMACY Choice is yours
A quarter of a century of change has put new mums in the driver’s seat on birth
father of william, 22, and daniel, 20 GIVING BIRTH has swung back from being seen as a medical emergency to a natural event, one of South Australia’s senior midwives says.
Caesarian rates have soared, along with the age of new mums, while other changes in the past quarter century include dads being joined by sisters and grandmothers in the delivery suite.
Even sterility has changed. Instead of instantly cleansing newborns, modern midwives encourage a cuddle rather than a rinse.
Protocol now is to put bubs warm from the womb straight onto mum’s tummy for bonding, breastfeeding and even a bit of bacterial exchange.
The bottom line for mums is more choice – including pain medication – as techniques, technology, medication, attitudes and much more have changed in a period where IVF also has changed lives.
As Kate Middleton prepares to give birth, the gradual changes in birthing since she was born has given women more options, less pain and more company.
Clinical Services Coordinator of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Midwifery Group Practice program Allison Waldron has lost count of the number of babies she has delivered over the past 25 years as a midwife.
One of the biggest changes in this time has been whisking new mums home soon after birth instead of fussing about them in hospital.
“We used to keep new mothers in hospital for five days or thereabouts but now, if everything is normal, we discharge them within 24 hours,” she says.
“There is also a lot more home-based support to go with that.
“We are seeing a lot more Caesarian births, some of the issues contributing to this remain unknown but we have a lot more mums over 35 birthing in SA and with older women you have more medical issues contributing which can lead to Caesarians.”
In 1981 the Caesarian rate in South Australia was 16.9 per cent, while in 2011 it was 33.2 per cent.
Ms Waldron says the ageing of mothers is also seeing an increase in interventions including inductions and epidurals.
“We are seeing less teenage births than 25 years ago and as the percentage of women over 35 giving birth rises it brings the risk of complications,” she says. “Epidurals have improved a lot over the past 25 years. Once women could not feel their legs and could not feel the urge to push because of the heavy block, they now give good pain relief but are a lot lighter.”
Ms Waldron says a major change in the past quarter century has been the attitude towards sterility in the delivery suite.
“We would shave and scrub the women, everyone would be in sterile gowns and gloves and we would wash the newborn baby with medicated sponges,” she says.
“Now it is clean but not sterile – we have realised the benefits of natural flora on the skin, so we just wipe the baby clean and then it is skin-to-skin on the mum’s tummy for a cuddle and a breast feed, rather than separating them.”
Ms Waldron notes the march of men into the delivery room to support their partners and share the experience largely started in the 1970s – but now there are often more family members on hand.
“We often now get the woman’s mother and sister or a friend also in there giving support as well as the partner,” she says. “Many women are also seeking out alternative therapies to help them through labour, such as hypnotherapy.”
Other major advances in recent decades include improvements in technology from humidicribs to ultrasounds, as well as screening programs testing for genetic abnormalities.
And one other big change Ms Waldron has noted since 1990 – a lot more women are eager to find out the sex of their baby before birth.