So the little blue line has confirmed your pregnant – but what happens next? After the initial excitement has subsided, it’s time to start planning for the birth. ARLENE HARRIS reports on a new independent Irish service that can make choosing your birth plan and hospital that little bit easier.
Having a baby is one of the most exciting and joyful events in most people’s lives. But it can also be the most daunting. Will your baby be healthy? Can you afford to start a family? Will you make good parents? The list is endless.
But before your new arrival makes its mark on the world, the biggest event looming on the horizon is the birth. There is so much information to take in, so many questions to be asked and more often than not, the parents-to-be are so overwhelmed with advice and well-meaning information that they forget to ask for the answers that really matter to them.
When Aoife Corrigan was expecting her first baby last year, she and her husband Paul were naturally nervous about the whole procedure. They wanted to avail of every service open to them but were unsure about what they were entitled to and what was available to them – particularly as living in central Dublin, there were a number of hospitals and midwife services at their disposal.
“When I was pregnant with my son Jack (nine months), both Paul and I were eagerly anticipating his arrival right from the moment my test was proved positive,” she recalls.
“The pregnancy was planned and very much wanted but we hadn’t really thought much beyond seeing the blue line on the stick. So when my doctor gave us confirmation and a due date, the next question was where would I give birth and what sort of labour should I aim for.”
The 34-year-old had no experience of childbirth, apart from her older sister who had given birth in the UK, so didn’t really have anyone to turn to apart from her local GP.
Public versus private
“I didn’t really know what was the best thing to do,” she says. “My sister had her babies in London and everyone there uses the public health system, whereas it seemed everyone in Ireland opts for a private obstetrician. The thought of spending a few thousand euro was very daunting, especially as we didn’t have much money to throw about, but whenever I mentioned I was pregnant, the first question I was asked was what consultant I was seeing.
“So I made an appointment to see my own doctor and told her that I was in a bit of a quandary. She assured me that the public maternity services are fantastic and the midwives were likely to be the most capable and understanding professionals I would encounter throughout my pregnancy so, on her advice, I signed up for the closest hospital to me – which happened to be the Rotunda.”
Luckily for Aoife, her doctor’s advice was sound and she had a great experience with her local hospital. Her only issue was the fact that her team of midwives were always so busy that she often forgot what she had planned to ask during her routine appointments and would return home and log on to her computer to see if she could find some answers.
“Every midwife who I encountered during my pregnancy and delivery of Jack was fantastic,” she says. “But being a first-time mother, I had so many questions that often went unanswered because I would either forget to ask or the clinic would be so busy that I wouldn’t have the nerve as I was worried they would think I was being trivial.
“So more often than not, I would come home after my antenatal check-up and go straight online to try and find out what would happen if I changed my mind about my particular choice of pain relief or what would Paul do if the labour went on for hours or even days. It seems silly now, but questions like those really bothered me and I found it difficult to find any answers.”
Many new mothers experience the same level of anxiety as Aoife and are often unwilling, or simply too shy, to ask questions at the maternity hospital as they don’t want to ‘cause a fuss’. But giving birth is not a trivial event and the more questions that can be answered, the better it will be for both the new parents and the professionals involved in their care.
Guide to maternity services
With this in mind, two antenatal teachers from Cuidiu, the Irish Childbirth Trust, have come up with a solution – www.bump2babe.ie is a new online service that provides a comprehensive list of information about every maternity hospital in the country.
Co-author Niamh Healy says the service is a vital tool for every would-be parent in Ireland. “Bump2babe is the consumer guide to maternity services across the country,” she says. “It is a free information resource to help parents become familiar with their local service and aid them in making decisions about their care.
“The format is broken down into stages of pregnancy and areas of interest, so we hope people can find the answers to all their queries quickly and easily. For each question we have distilled the answers from all units into a nationwide summary, and then the response from the local maternity unit is highlighted so parents-to-be can readily see where their unit stands relative to the nationwide range.”
Topics which are covered on the new website include:
Services and statistics for individual hospitals.
Practical information, like location of antenatal clinics, pain relief available during labour, visiting times etc.
Details on practices, such as what happens if a mother’s waters break but contractions do not start, ways of monitoring babies during labour, skin-to-skin contact for mothers and babies after birth etc.
Information about policies in relation to the number of birth partners, what is offered if a baby is in the breech position, eating and drinking in labour, birth plans etc.
“Being independent of the maternity services allows us to be objective and we’ve had feedback that doctors and midwives prefer parents to be involved in this way rather than being passive,” says Niamh. “So this new service will help them to feel confident about taking responsibility.
“Seeing the difference in statistics nationwide for birth interventions will hopefully encourage parents to ask more questions about all their options so that they can make informed decisions.”
For more information visit www.bump2babe.ie.