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27th January 2015

“I wanted a home birth, but things changed quickly”

Londoner Hedy Watt was planning for her daughter’s arrival in a pool specially designed to be used in labour and childbirth, with little or no medical intervention.

Like many women with straightforward pregnancies, Hedy wanted to have her baby at home, where she knew she would feel more relaxed and would be able to avoid any “unnecessary medical intervention”.

A self-confessed control freak, Hedy says she did loads of research so she would know what was going on at every step of the way, especially if the birth didn’t go according to plan. She knew, for example, that the UK National Health Service says women giving birth in hospital are more likely to have “assisted deliveries” using medical equipment such as forceps or a ventouse.

To help with the pain in the early part of labour, Hedy planned to use a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine, a small portable, battery-operated remote control-type device that allows you to send little electrical pulses to your body via electrodes attached to the skin. It is believed that the TENS stimulates the body to produce more of its own natural painkillers. Unfortunately for Hedy, this wasn’t enough. “The TENS machine didn’t really do anything, but it was a distraction,” she says.

“It was all going well and then I started to get this really bad back pain”

Hedy then switched to “gas and air”, which is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas that is inhaled through a mask or mouthpiece and is controlled by the person using it. “I didn’t expect the gas and air to do much, but it really did help.” The next step was getting into the birthing pool, where she planned to stay and deliver the baby with the assistance of a midwife and a doula (a woman who offers emotional and practical support before, during and after childbirth).

“It was all going well and then I started to get this really bad back pain,” she remembers. After several more hours of trying different positions to ease the pain and no further progress in the labour, however, “I decided to call it a day and go to hospital. I figured this wasn’t working, and I was up for trying something else. The guy with the epidural needle was ready and waiting in the room when I got there, which was great.”

“I was fine with the way things turned out in the end”

Things seemed to pick up once Hedy had the epidural, “but then they stalled again so I was put on a syntocinon drip to move things along”. Syntocinon is a man-made version of the hormone oxytocin, which is released by the pituitary gland in the brain during labour and causes the uterus to contract so the baby can be pushed out. Hedy hoped that this would do the job but because of the baby’s position, it was decided, after nearly 24 hours of labour, that a Caesarean section – an operation where the front wall of the abdomen and womb are cut in order to deliver the baby – would be best for both mother and baby. Erin was born shortly afterwards with no further complications, and she went home with Hedy two days later.

Hedy is philosophical about the way the birth turned out. “I really didn’t want a Caesarean, and all my plans were to try and avoid that, but when it got to that point I decided it wasn’t the worst case scenario. We tried everything and I was fine with the way things turned out in the end,” she says.

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