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All birth is beautiful


All birth is beautiful.

In the birth world, especially for those of us in the doula sphere, there is a pervasive mentality that the only empowering births are ones that are entirely free from medical intervention, and that interventions correlate to trauma in every case.

However, I'd like to set the record straight. While, like most doulas, I affirm that birth is a physiologically normal event and the true need for interventions is nowhere near the current level we see in the United States, medical interventions in birth are not inherently traumatic.

First, I think it's important to define birth trauma, both what it is and what it is not. Birth trauma is physical, emotional, and/or psychological distress during or after the birth as is related to those events. Birth trauma is not the same as postpartum depression, and it is not always correlated to a poor maternal or neonatal health outcome.

According to the study Preventing Traumatic Childbirth Experiences: 2192 Women's Perceptions and Views, "Women attribute their traumatic childbirth experience primarily to lack and/or loss of control, issues of communication, and practical/emotional support. They believe that in many cases, their trauma could have been reduced or prevented by better communication and support by their caregiver or if they themselves had asked for or refused interventions."¹ This study identified the primary factor in birth trauma to be a lack of control - which can include unforseen medical circumstances, medical interventions that were not needed or properly explained, a labor that didn't follow the pattern they were led to expect, a general feeling of being unheard, and more. Birth trauma is individual to each person who experiences it, and it cannot be defined by a singular "type" of birth.

While a factor in birth trauma is often unwanted/unnecessary medical intervention, it is important to affirm that C-sections and inductions can be an empowered choice. They do not always correlate to a lack of control on the part of the birthing person. For some birthing people, electing for these interventions can be the right call as long as the decision is an informed one. It is not our place as birth support people to decided what is best for individuals - we trust birthing people to make the best choices for their unique circumstances. Additionally, even when an induction or C-section was not in the original plans for a birth, when circumstances arise where those interventions become medically necessary, we should not assume it will be inherently traumatic. When a birthing person has all the information for an informed choice and feels confident that their provider is taking the best care of them and their baby, we can and should be supportive of the necessary steps. Demonizing medically necessary interventions compounds trauma - both for those who had birth emergencies in the past, and for those we serve who may have need for interventions not originally planned.

There is beauty in every kind of birth. That doesn't negate trauma to say so. We can recognize the beauty in picture-perfect unmedicated water births, in emergency C-sections, and everything in between. In my time as a birth worker I have had the privilege to attend many kinds of births, and I would never tell someone the birth they had wasn't beautiful. It is up to the birthing person to name their feelings around the event, and up to us to offer support. Support can look many different ways, but what is most important is that we don't project our own personal preferences onto the people we serve.Telling birthing people that certain types of birth are not beautiful compounds trauma, and even at times creates it. We see more and more through social media how black and white thinking can harm the perception of birth, both for people who have had incredible birth experiences and those who have had traumatic birth experiences.

Beauty and trauma can coexist. It is okay to hold whatever feelings you have about your birth. You are never obligated to believe it was beautiful, you are never obligated to feel traumatized - your feelings are valid. It is YOUR experience. We birth workers will support you through it, no matter what shape it takes.



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