Women 'unprepared for childbirth'

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Many women are going into labour vastly underestimating how painful it can be and overly optimistic that they will be able to manage without drugs, a study suggests. How has this happened?

... In England around a quarter of women who give birth end up having an epidural ... although many did not plan on having one.

Growing emphasis on birth as an entirely natural process - which may be better carried out in your front-room than in a labour ward - also means many women feel they have somehow failed if they end up rapidly making their way through every form of pain relief available.

Much evidence suggests ... that women who are well supported by midwives and partners throughout their labour and made to feel at ease are the ones who manage their pain the most effectively and require the fewest drugs.

... "The problem with some of the [antenatal] courses out there is that they concentrate so much on doing it naturally that inevitably women feel as though they've done something wrong when those techniques simply aren't enough for them."

" ... the bottom line is that we encourage women to have confidence in themselves and their bodies," says Gillian Fletcher, a former president of the NCT.

"We help women weigh up the pros and cons of every method [of pain relief]. ... we do make clear that if you have [an epidural] you are two to three times more likely to end with a forceps delivery."

"What's crucial is that women are ready to negotiate with their midwife, and don't find themselves lying flat on the bed, which we now know is a sure way to a more difficult experience."

Indeoendent childbirth education is one way to ensure that your childbirth preparation meets your needs and that you feel confident approaching to your birth.

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