Most people reading this blog would have heard the news that Lance Bombardier Lynette Pearce went into labour during her 34th week of pregnancy and gave birth to a baby boy on 18th September, whilst serving in Afghanistan. One can hardly imagine the range of emotions she must have experienced during this peak physical experience but I certainly offer my congratulations.
What interests me is how the physiological processes of the labour progressed to the eventual birth of the baby. I can’t see in news reports whether the baby was born vaginally or by caesarean section but given the knowledge that the camp’s medical centre is clearly not kitted out for obstetric emergencies then one can only hope that she gave birth vaginally.
You do hear stories about women who without knowing they were pregnant went into spontaneous labour and gave birth, either because they genuinely didn’t know or they were suppressing the knowledge that they were pregnant. But when women do ‘just give birth’ often it is very straightforward and I can’t help but wonder whether this is because they haven’t been influenced by the negativity and scare stories associated with childbirth. The average age for a women giving birth for the first time in the UK is twenty nine by which time, her friends, family and media would have had a significant impact on how she is feeling about going into labour. If you don’t know what to expect and never had any exposure to negative thoughts then very often the labouring body and the baby get on with the job. As the young woman said to Grantly Dick-Read when she refused chloroform, ’ It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t meant to, was it doctor?’.
The second element is that baby Bastion was born in the 34th week of pregnancy. Presumably the doctors or Lynette calculated the estimated due date post birth. Prematurity is often seen as a medical emergency and consequently we now have superb obstetric units but what might happen if access to this support was unavailable? Hopefully the following:
- baby is put straight onto the mother’s bare chest for skin to skin contact.
- the umbilical cord is not cut, allowing for the body’s natural placental transfusion to occur. An important process to allow to happen even more so in the case of a baby who may need a little more help because the continuous flow of blood returning from the mother to baby not only carries vital bonding hormones but also oxygen.
- that the baby remains in contact with the mother’s body which regulates the temperature between herself and the baby – the mother is the baby’s incubator.
This mother-baby connection was promoted at Pithiviers Hospital under guidance of Michel Odent and this is what Odent reports, ‘…our approach finds support in the fact that, of the forty eight premature babies born over the past four years at Pithiviers, each weighing less than 5.5 pounds, not one has had to be hospitalized subsequently.’ Not scientific but food for thought.
I find it extraordinary that a woman wouldn’t know she was pregnant, not least because the baby will be moving all the time inside her. Unexpected births are rare but they do happen. It is unusual that they get this amount of press coverage but clearly these are exceptional circumstances and when the hype had dissipated then this mother and her baby can begin to enjoy getting to know one another.
As a natural childbirth consultant, Sarah helps expecting women and their partners make informed choices about their pregnancy and birth. Sarah teaches Hypnobirthing, lectures about normal birth and founded Baby-Birth Limited – an international website all about pregnancy, birth and the immediate postnatal period – www.baby-birth.com
Odent, M ‘Birth Reborn’, page 89.