Hana had her first baby in the labour ward with the help of an epidural but was hoping to have a less medical birth in the birth centre with her second child. Here’s her story.
Hana, mum to Ella born in January 2016
“Because I felt out of control during my first birth, I wanted to have my second baby in the birth centre”
I was planning to have a home birth when I was expecting my first daughter, but a week before I was due I found out that I had a strep B infection and would have to give birth on the labour ward where I could be given antibiotics.
I didn’t like the experience of giving birth in the hospital at all – it was a very medical environment and I felt that the midwives told me what they were going to do without giving me much of a choice.
Because I felt so out of control during my first birth, when I got pregnant again I decided I wanted to give birth at the birth centre that’s connected to the hospital instead. Home birth wasn’t really an option this time around because of the strep B infection, but the midwives were happy to let me go in the birth centre as they said they could give me antibiotics there.
Second time around I was trying not to have my mind set on any particular type of birth, even though I was hoping for a water birth. I think that was a useful way to think about it and it helped me manage my expectations of the birth during the second pregnancy.
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“When I stood up and my waters broke I knew this had to be it”
About a week after my due date, my daughter woke me up in the night because she couldn’t sleep, and I noticed that I was having some twinges and pain. I didn’t want to get too excited in case I wasn’t in labour, but when I stood up and my waters partially broke I knew this had to be it.
I started getting ready to go to the birth centre straight away and as soon as my partner’s parents arrived to look after our daughter, my partner and I set off for the birth centre. Just a couple of hours after first waking up, we were there.
“The room I got was lovely – it didn’t feel like it was a hospital at all”
I was assessed in triage straight away by a midwife who said that they may not have enough midwives there to look after me, but luckily it was all ok and they found us a room. Even just being in the birth centre triage was a better experience than the labour ward last time, it felt like a much more personal experience where they talked through my options and really listened to me.
The room I got taken to was lovely, much bigger than the room I was in when I had my first daughter and it didn’t feel like it was a hospital at all. There was a radio playing and normal things around. Just getting in there helped me to relax a bit.
“I was hoping that the Tens machine and water would be enough”
I knew beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to have an epidural in the birth centre, but since I’d had one with my first child and it really slowed the labour down I wasn’t keen on having one this time around anyway. I was hoping that the Tens machine and water would be enough to cope with the pain.
I was given antibiotics for the strep B, and over the next couple of hours as the contractions got worse I managed with a Tens machine, and when I felt that wasn’t sufficient any more I asked to go in the pool and use gas and air.
Getting in the pool, as well as starting to use gas and air, really helped with the pain, it was such a lovely experience to be in water and I think not feeling the weight of my body had a lot to do with that. I also think being in the water really helped move my labour along – I was only in the pool for about an hour before my baby was born.
“Pushing in the water was a totally different experience”
Pushing in the water, as opposed to on land as with my first baby, was a totally different experience. The midwives didn’t have to tell me much at all as I could feel her coming out, which was amazing since I never had that experience with my first daughter because of the effects of the epidural.
After the birth, we had to stay in the birth centre for 12 hours so they could make sure the baby didn’t suffer any ill-effects from strep B. The first couple of hours we stayed in the room where she was born, and the staff just told us to take it easy and I could have a shower when I felt like it. They also brought me food and drinks.
About an hour and a half after the birth they moved us onto the maternity ward where we stayed until the next day.
Hana and Ella in the birth centre
“Go have a look at the maternity units near where you live”
I think it’s important to match the environment you choose to give birth in to your personality. Go have a look at the maternity units near where you live, whether that’s birth centres or labour wards, and talk to people who have given birth there to see how they differ so you can make an informed choice.
Sometimes people say something along the lines of: “Oh well, it doesn’t matter how the birth went now that the baby’s here and healthy,” but I think for me, actually it does matter. Both mentally and physically I recovered much more quickly after having my second baby somewhere I felt more comfortable during the birth.
After my first birth, I felt disheartened and traumatised because it didn’t go the way I had planned, and that was really difficult to cope with. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and bear in mind that the birth may be very different to your ideal scenario.
I’d love to go back to the birth centre again if I were to have another baby. It was a lovely experience and I felt well looked after but in control of what I wanted. I felt listened to – and that made a real difference to me.