Independent birthing units allow women to take charge of their birthing process, naturally.
This blog is part of our Weaving Wisdom series aimed at informing expectant parents about birth choices and encouraging proactive management of both the pregnancy and birth periods. Click here to read more articles in the series.
Byline: Louïne van der Vyver and Karin Steyn
“The whole emphasis of a birth centre is to find a private and non-threatening place for a healthy woman expecting a healthy baby to choose to birth in – naturally.” Heather Pieterse
The birth house or freestanding midwife-led birth unit fills the gap in the market between the private hospital and state hospital, says Heather Pieterse, Private Midwife and Manager of Midwives Exclusive Birth House in Pretoria. She explains why an independent unit is a good choice when wanting to birth naturally.
“On the one hand, when going to a private hospital you can expect obstetric care but also the cascade of unnecessary interventions and a high caesarean rate. On the other hand, there is the state hospital system with more evidence-based practice and a higher likelihood of having a natural birth, but it is lacking in compassion.”
A birth house is very different from a clinic or a hospital. It is more like a guesthouse where it is comfortable, quiet and the lights can be dimmed. It offers a safe, supported and undisturbed environment – perfect conditions to support the oxytocin-endorphin cocktail of hormones that is so significant in the birth process.
When the body is ready, the baby will be ready.
Within the midwifery based model of birthing, there is an inherent belief that labour should not be chased, but that when the body is ready, the baby will be ready and everything will work hand-in-hand. The natural onset of labour is supported with natural processes such as:
- Nipple stimulation
- Raspberry leaf tea
- Evening Primrose oils
- Various homeopathic remedies
Midwives are experts in natural birth and know how to best support a mother through the process. Pain management options that you would find in the birth house include:
- Use of hot water in the shower or birthing pools
- Positioning the body
- Rebozo (jiggling the abdomen to loosen the ligaments)
Managing the experience of labour and birth starts with the relationship between the mother and her caregiver and her ability to feel safe. Preparation for the birth is also essential. Mothers need to be in the right space, be realistic, understand what happens in the body during labour and be willing to take it on. A mother is encouraged to communicate her birth wishes and also her biggest fears. A high degree of responsibility on the mother’s side is encouraged – the midwives are not there to pull the mother through the birth, but to stand behind her and offer support. One of the best births is when a woman actually leads the way and everybody follows her. When she is chatty, you chat. When she is quiet, you are quiet. This is how it should be, for the woman to be the central figure in the birth.
A birth house is a good option to consider for a positive experience of birth. A positive birth is where the woman feels empowered and safe, where she feels like she is in control and the birth is going the way she wants it – she is guiding it and part of the team. She is not just a silent onlooker, but the most important member of the team.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.