Why so many women love being in labour
Childbirth is painful, but some mums-to-be actually enjoy it
Giving birth may be gruelling and painful, but, believe it or not, many women love it. Research suggests more than two-thirds (67%) of mothers think giving birth is a 'positive experience', and a quarter even 'love' being in labour.
Overall the research, by the Positive Birth Movement and video parenting site Channel Mum, showed a quarter of mums felt giving birth was much easier than expected, compared to just 20% who found it harder than they were prepared for.
Milli Hill, birth expert and founder of the Positive Birth Movement, a global network of women's groups that spreads positivity about childbirth, says: "The fact that giving birth can be a brilliantly enjoyable experience is a well-kept secret that is finally getting out.
"Women are getting back in touch with the message that having a baby, rather than being something to fear, can actually be one of the most empowering and vital days of your life."
And Jacque Gerrard, Royal College of Midwives director for England, doesn't think it's surprising that so many women love being in labour.
"Women have been preparing themselves both physically and emotionally for nine months, and this is the point in the pregnancy when they're going to meet their baby," she says.
"So when they go into labour, the excitement starts to build -they know it's the means to the end of the whole pregnancy.
"Some women surprise themselves at how wonderful they are at coping during the birth, and how wonderful their bodies are. For some women it's not as bad as they expect - why do they keep having more babies if labour's so terrible?"
The excitement around giving birth means 36% of mums plan the type of birth they want even before becoming pregnant, and the study of 2,209 mums found the most desired birth is a hospital water birth (34%), followed by normal delivery in hospital (33%), home water birth (15%) and normal home birth (12%).
But just 40% of mums actually get the birth they want, with 60% of births not going to plan. Instead, the most common type of birth for the mums surveyed was a natural delivery in hospital (32%) followed by emergency C-section (17%).
And only 8% of mums surveyed managed to have a water birth in hospital.
Gerrard says: "Midwives are getting more and more involved with helping women plan births, and helping them understand that sometimes things don't go quite to the birth plan, and to be prepared for that and certainly not to be disappointed.
"If women plan not to have drugs or an epidural, for example, and then end up having them, it's absolutely fine because it's about having a better birth experience."
The research found mums' favourite part of giving birth is just as the baby is being born, preferred by 41% of women, followed by 27% who said the moment they went into labour was the most enjoyable part.
The least liked time is pushing, with 38% of mums finding it tough, along with a third (31%) who found the early hours of being in labour hardest.
"By the time they're at the second stage of labour, many women are pretty tired and they have to find additional energy to push," says Gerrard.
"They really want to meet their baby, but they're so exhausted. Pushing is a really tough part."
But however tough the birth is, nearly all (94%) modern mums go on to share their birth stories. A quarter of mothers post their story on social media, one in five at a support group and 7% even make a video or post their experiences on parenting sites.
The most common reason was that they wanted to 'be honest' about birth (61%), with half (48%) wanting other mums to know giving birth can be positive and a third (33%) wanted to show you can get over a tough birth.
"All women love to share birth stories, and midwives love to hear them," says Gerrard.
"If other women are planning a family or are pregnant, the stories can really encourage and support them."
But sharing birth stories really does seem to be just a mum thing, even though fathers are often present at the births.
While 96% of mums want to hear birth stories from dads, only 53% know of a dad who's shared his story - and just two in five said their partner shared his own story with other fathers.
Gerrard says: "I don't understand why dads don't tell birth stories, because they're absolutely fantastic when they're supporting their partners in labour. It's a shame they don't talk about it more."
Ask the expert
Q: I got very drunk before I knew I was pregnant. Could it have harmed the baby?
A: Pregnancy and postnatal specialist Anya Hayes, co-author with Hollie Smith of Pregnancy: The Naked Truth (White Ladder, £12.99), says: “It’s very unlikely. And if you didn’t actually know you were pregnant when you downed all that Pinot Grigio, there’s not much you can do about it, so there’s no point beating yourself up.
“Plenty of women have found themselves in this position — let’s face it, large numbers of babies wouldn’t even have been conceived if it weren’t for heavy drinking sessions. Chances are you’ll have caused no harm at all, although clearly it’s a good idea to ease up on the drinking once you do know.
“There’s evidence that regular heavy drinking — downing more than six units in one sitting, which can mean just two large glasses of wine more than once or twice a week — may have a detrimental effect on your unborn baby. Doctors simply don’t know exactly how much alcohol is safe to drink in pregnancy.
NHS guidelines suggest abstaining from alcohol in that crucial first trimester, but that if you choose to drink, limit it to one or two units (one small glass of wine), no more than once or twice a week, and certainly don’t ever get drunk now you know you’re pregnant.
“If you’re worried about your drinking and are finding it hard to cut down, speak to your GP or midwife about it.”