Mum left in tears after being 'lectured' for wanting epidural while giving birth
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Featured Image Credit: Supplied/ Lauren Psyk
In 2020, research conducted by Mumsnet and childbirth charity, Birthrights, found that a quarter of mothers felt their decisions were not respected when giving birth. In fact, only 45 percent of respondents felt like they were the primary decision maker in their care.
While women should feel empowered to make their own choices in pregnancy and labour, it seems it's not always the case.
In April last year, a review into the disastrous failings at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust revealed that more than 200 babies could have been saved if they had received better maternity care.
One finding from the inquiry, known as The Ockenden Review, revealed that many women should have been offered a caesarean, but 'a culture of reluctance to perform caesarean sections resulted in many babies dying'.
Instead, women suffered traumatic births, maintaining the lower than average caesarean section rates at the trust.
In fact, the report noted that women 'appeared to have little or no freedom to express a preference for caesarean section or exercise any choice on their mode of delivery'.
Meanwhile, last year, a now-deleted page on the website of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said mothers were 'more likely to feel satisfied with labour' and 'less likely to experience psychological problems like depression' if they had a vaginal delivery.
According to i, the pages were deleted four days before The Ockenden Review was released.
Mum-of-two Allegra, 39, claims she experienced judgement and stigma in response to her pain relief preferences during an NCT class she took in 2018, where she says she was rebuked for wanting an epidural.
Although on the NCT website, the charity explains: "NCT want to empower you to decide which information to trust and confidently make decisions that are right for you and your family. We are not here to tell you what to think, we don’t provide clinical advice and we won’t promote one way over another," Allegra claims her experience was quite different.
"I left my first NCT session in tears, I said I wanted an epidural and the class leader was really rude about it and kept picking on me for the rest of the session," Allegra tells Tyla.
"She gave me a massive lecture on pain relief. I was 34 at the time but there was a girl in there who was in her early twenties and she told me afterwards she felt really frightened about having pain relief. She had her baby without pain relief and said she regretted it massively.
"There seems to be a real pressure among some for ‘natural’ birth and I find it strange. I think there’s a real overhang of old attitudes that women should suffer in childbirth, you should be in pain and it should be hard or you’re not doing it properly.
"I had an epidural and it was glorious. It was wonderful, I had a really relaxed birth, I wasn’t exhausted from being in agony or worn down by it all. I could just relax. I recovered a lot quicker too.
"I know people who felt bullied into not having pain relief, one of my friends wasn't even allowed gas and air and went on to suffer PTSD from a traumatic birth as a result."
Allegra explains that one woman in her class had been booked into having an elective c-section due to the size of her baby. Despite needing the section for medical reasons, Allegra says the class leader opted to create a role play session of what happens in theatre during a caesarean.
"There was another woman who had been booked in for an elective caesarean section because she was having an 11lb baby. She was fine with it, but in the second class we had they acted out what a c-section birth would be like," she continues.
"Everyone had a different role and she kept saying ‘doesn’t this feel like too many people’ and ‘doesn’t this feel so overwhelming with all these people standing around you'. She knew this woman was definitely having a caesarean but still did a big performance about it being 'so scary, so overwhelming [and] really intrusive'.
"Many mums think if they have a c-section they're 'not really giving birth'. Women should be built up and give them coping tools to prepare them as best they can, not starting off from a part of already struggling."
When asked about Allegra's claims, NCT told Tyla: "We are very sorry to hear about this experience. We are not here to promote one way over another and take feedback very seriously. We'd urge anyone who has had a negative experience to contact us directly so we can listen, learn and take action."
The organisation added that its antenatal course framework was 'extensively reviewed' in 2019, and covers 'all options for giving birth and pain relief, so that parents can make informed decisions that are right for them'.
“It's important that our website is up to date so that parents can access helpful, relevant information," NCT added. "We continually review and update all articles on our website, including articles about different types of birth, to ensure that parents are given the latest information and evidence."
After welcoming her children into the world, Allegra now works as a diversity and inclusion consultant and motherhood coach, helping women who’ve experienced shaming and bullying during childbirth – and those who have sadly gone on to suffer PTSD as a result.
"I work with so many women who’ve experienced shaming and bullying during childbirth – a time when women are so intensely vulnerable and in need of care," says Allegra.
After her own problematic experiences, and through her work on the matter, the mother has concluded one thing: "Nobody knows your body or your baby like you do."