Having a birthing experience that isnt quite what you expected

Several years ago some colleagues and I undertook a study of women's experiences post-IVF (see Chapter 18). About one-third of the IVF mums in our study weren't so thrilled with their childbirth experience — but were very happy with the baby, of course! These were predominantly the women who had a caesarean delivery, as shown in Table 19-1. Some possible explanations why these women felt less satisfied include

1 When you have trouble conceiving and need IVF to have a baby, you may want to at least be able to have a 'natural' birth. If that doesn't happen, you may feel cheated and disappointed with the way things turn out.

1 Apart from agreeing to have the caesarean section itself, you don't have much say about what happens during the birth: You have to leave that to the experts.

1 The ultimate reward for giving birth is to hold your baby in your arms straight away, but this isn't always possible when you have a caesarean delivery, which can be upsetting.

1 When you have a caesarean delivery you have to put up with the postoperative pain, which probably somewhat taints your experience of the birth.

Table 19-1 IVF Mums' Satisfaction with Childbirth

Agreed with statement

Vaginal birth

Caesarean delivery

1 had an active say about what happened during the birth.

95%

66%

1 feel pleased with the birth experience.

83%

55%

1 feel disappointed with the birth experience.

9%

31%

1 was able to hold the baby straight away.

96%

73%

1 had severe pain after the birth.

17%

32%

Some women blame themselves if they can't give birth the way nature intended. Don't give yourself a hard time about needing a caesarean section: It's not your fault and doesn't mean that you'll be less of a mother.

IVF mums and childbirth

As part of our study, my colleagues and I examined how IVF mums regard their childbirth experience and stay in hospital afterwards.

Facts and figures

About half the mums in our study had a vaginal birth, one-quarter had an elective caesarean and one-quarter had an emergency caesarean. Almost all of them said that they felt very well supported during the birth, the care they received was very kind and understanding, and they had an active say about what happened during the birth.

We compared the women who took part in our study with all Australian women who gave birth in the same year and found some interesting differences. For example, IVF mothers were i On average five years older when they gave birth (35 years versus 30 years)

i More likely to be first-time mothers (70 per cent versus 42 per cent) and to have twins (18 per cent versus 1.6 per cent)

i More likely to give birth in a private hospital (87 per cent versus 37 per cent)

i Twice as likely to have an elective caesarean (26 per cent versus 13 per cent) or an emergency caesarean (25 per cent versus 12 per cent)

i Twice as likely to give birth prematurely (before 37 weeks) (14 per cent versus

8 per cent) and to have a baby weighing less than 2,550 grams (15 per cent versus 7 per cent)

Views about the birth experience

Giving birth is a special moment in any woman's life, but for women who have IVF treatment childbirth is also the end of a long and testing journey. Here are some recollections of the birth experiences of the IVF mums in our study:

I 'The birth was a wonderful experience, just the way I'd hoped it would be. I was so proud of myself and the way I was able to handle the pain and I remember thinking soon after Charlie was born that I could do this again tomorrow.'

I 'Because my baby showed signs of distress during labour I had an emergency caesarean under general anaesthesia. I had real trouble bonding with her for the first week and I was very disappointed that I didn't experience her being born.'

I 'I felt cheated by having a caesarean but very happy it all went well and that my baby is healthy.'

I 'I was very pleased with the birth and the care I received and my husband and I were over the moon when we heard our baby's first cry.'

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