Sunday, July 3, 2011

Has AIMS misunderstood what women in labor want? You decide...

While listening to a recent episode of Woman’s Hour last week, it struck me how even the most basic research can be misunderstood by its interpreters - and in this case, Beverley Beech, the Chair of AIMS.

Beverley was talking about the subject of 'Birthing Buddies' (which is where a supportive, trained carer stays with a woman throughout her labor), and wanted to emphasize that in this role, the 'buddy' does not necessarily need to take an active support role in the birth - it is merely their presence in the room that is of importance.

However, the research example that Beverley provided as proof of this assertion communicated something completely different to me.

I interpreted as demonstrating that women feel secure in the knowledge that there is a DOCTOR in the room (in case anything should go wrong during their labor), and this is what made them feel more relaxed and supported - not just anyone's presence.

Here's what Beverley describes:

"In 1960, an AIMS member, a man, wanted to find out what was happening in labor wards and he suggested to a hospital that perhaps he could come in and do a short study and observe, and they said, ‘Fine. Go sit in the corner and don’t you dare say a word. We’ll give you a white coat and just sit there and observe.'

And what they found was that his presence resulted in women having shorter labors. And he didn’t ever say anything. But after the birth, the women would go to him and say “So thank you doctor, for being there all the time.” And in fact he wasn’t a doctor. He was just an observer.

So, the presence of someone, whom the woman feels is supportive, has a really important effect. And I think it’s helpful for women to have this kind of care. But this is what a midwife should be doing, and this is what midwives have not been enabled to do, in our centralized obstetrics system."

(BBC programme broadcast on Radio 4, 22 June 2011)

What do you think?

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