Birth at 42 weeks: a Doula's story

This blog post was not written by me, though I’ve had very similar experiences supporting clients in their pregnancy and birth. It was written by Kelly Winder of BellyBelly. I’ve chosen to share this story as it highlights to me so clearly the lack of faith we have in women and their ability to birth a baby. So while at times they are right, I’ve found that our care providers too often tell us that something is wrong, our body isn’t working, our baby is too big and won’t fit, or that our baby will die and that we as mothers are being negligent, not putting our babies first.

Personally, I’ve never met a mother that doesn’t want the best for her baby. In my opinion, a health mum is just as important as a healthy baby, and healthy to me, means both physically and emotionally. In birth, our mindset also plays such a big role! Ensuring we are surrounded by people who believe in us is in my view, one of the most important ways to achieve an amazing birth (you can check out my TOP 10 TIPS here).

I read a quote recently by Henry Ford that said “whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right”. Now he was probably talking about motor cars, but I believe the same applies to birth. And with that in mind, I invite you to read the below birth story from a Doula’s perspective.

 A birth story written by a doula, who understandably is frustrated with the medical system here in Australia. She shares this story of narrowly avoiding a c-section with a long posterior labour.

I rarely RANT... 😇 but I MUST. 😡

This has been brewing for a while. It's frustrating being in this industry for nearly two decades, and stuff like this is still so rampant.

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While there was a happy outcome, it took A LOT of work and stress, and it shouldn't be this way.

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Most wouldn't know what to do or say, and would not have had the same outcome otherwise.

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My client had her 41 week visit at the large Melbourne public maternity hospital.

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Obstetrician tells her he's booking her in for an induction in 3 days, as it's the policy to induce at 41+3 (10 days post dates).

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She says no thank you.

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He pulls out all the stops, telling her how risky it is and the baby could die, as there are poor outcomes at 42 weeks. He said he couldn't help her at 42 weeks of pregnancy anyway, there is nothing more to do here, there are no more appointments with him, only thing left to do is induce.

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He continues on that "this is the public health system" as if she shouldn't have any choices and just lock in the induction. He set the trap.

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Mum-to-be agrees to being booked in for an induction... at 41+6 (day before 42 weeks). She's told it may not happen on that day, because it's busy and they'll be prioritised according to need, so could actually happen the next day. But she can't leave once they start the induction process.

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Before she hits 41+6, I do lots of working with her to both help get labour going and to mentally prepare for all that she's been horrified and freaked out with.

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She's anxious every day that the baby could die.

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This is despite there being NO issues the whole pregnancy, and scans showing the baby is perfectly fine - water levels, placenta, all fine.

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Rocks up to the hospital at 41+6 after we've had some really good chats and asks for another day.

The doctor on duty (a woman) declares herself pro-induction and wants the induction done now. Does and internal and announces that the cervix was completely closed and no signs of readiness for labour.

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The doctor then tells mum-to-be that she's a first time mum and her body doesn't know what it's doing - she's almost 42 weeks and no labour, so, she needs an induction (with gels to ripen the cervix) to get labour going.

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After almost buckling to start the induction right then and there, I suggest to her to ask what would happen if the gels didn't manage to get her into labour. They told her it would be a c-section, which was a big fat NO for mum-to-be.

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She manages to leave and has a crisis of confidence. I ask her what she feels about it all. She feels really good and well, but she feels too good - like she's never going to get into labour. She confesses the doctor has really gotten into her head that her baby could die. It really shook her up.

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She heads straight to the amazing Christopher Tang, who I always recommend to my clients in a tough spot. She has a strong acupuncture session, then later that night tells me she's been having period pain like cramps. It ended up waking her up in the night but she gets back to sleep.

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Smack bang at 42 weeks, I get a call saying there have been early labour contractions, and them seem to be ramping up. It's not long until they end up in hospital. It was a huge victory that she'd gone into labour on her own, but the battle kept going.

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Because she was 42 weeks (exactly!), she was now classed as high risk and they wanted continuous electronic fetal monitoring (CFM). Of course, we all know there is risk with birth, but we also know that CFM results in more c-sections without improving outcomes.

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By now, mum-to-be (and dad-to-be) have both gotten a lot more confidence, as actually, her first time mum-to-be body DID know what to do. After having an entourage of staff come in of escalating authority, telling her how risky things are now and they need to know what's going on with the baby, eventually they accept mum's preference to have intermittent doppler listening.

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She also refuses all internals, as I stand back and watch her overflow with new-found confidence... the trust in her body and her baby blossom - beautiful to watch. Labour is kicking along nicely.

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After doing an amazing job actively labouring, and definitely making great progress (was wonderful watching her drift off from her thinking brain into her birthing brain), mum-to-be wants to jump in the bath to get some natural pain relief.

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Nope. Too dangerous at 42 weeks.

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Again, doctors and other staff come in and say she cannot be monitored so she cannot have the bath (the shower was ok though - doesn't make sense right?). Mum is upset, she was really looking forward to the bath. But she couldn't because they didn't know what the baby was doing without CFM.

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When they all leave, dad runs the bath anyway. Halfway to being full, the midwife walks in and dad cops it BIG TIME for going behind her back. She calls in the doctor and takes the plug from the room.

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I could go on for much longer, but what this willing, hard working first time mama had to go through, was an absolute joke. Her support team (her husband and I) had to be completely on the ball, and we were exhausted trying to hold space for mum-to-be. She was doing beautifully! It's not fair she had to put up with all of this crap.

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It's so very clear that this is the very reason we have the pathetic outcomes we do for birth here in Victoria, let alone Australia. How many women would have come up against those doctors and understood that policy is not law? That they can say no? That would hear the words "your baby could die" and still say no thank you? That research shows us that CFM increases the risk of c-section without improving outcomes? That you have choices and options...

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Until this mess is fixed... please get independent birth education. Please get yourself a doula. And please read the right books about birth. The maternity system is a mess. And some of our biggest public hospitals are handling thousands more births than they are built for.

/end of rant.

I will say that the final shift of midwives were the most woman friendly and tried to facilitate as much of the breastfeeding, bonding and skin-to-skin as possible. It wasn’t all bad, but it was a shocking lead-up and start to labour.

With love, ❤️ BellyBelly Kelly

PS: IT’S A..... 9lb, 13oz (4.4kg?) girl 😍. Finally born 6:49pm after a loooong direct OP (posterior) labour... narrowly avoiding a c-section. 😴 First baby too!

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About Essential Me

Hi, I'm Amanda.  I support women and couples during their pregnancy, birth and postnatal journey as a Doula, Ka Huna massage therapist and Pilates instructor.  I'm Based in Sydney and would love to help you.  Please check out my Top 10 Tips for the best possible birth experience here.  I'd love to meet you for an obligation free interview to see if you feel we're the right fit.  Contact me here. Thanks, Amanda x