By Vanessa Shribman

    Birth is safe! Yes, this is what the World Health Organisation tells us. 

    Australia has some of the highest intervention rates in the developed world. Our C-section rate is around 36% and overall intervention rate is at 92% for first time mothers. This makes giving birth without intervention a very rare event. When women tell me in my birth education and yoga classes that they just want to go with the flow, my heart plummets. The flow is what we call a cascade of intervention. One thing leads to the next until you may end up with a lot of unnecessary interference in what may have been a straightforward birth. 

    The essential thing that women do not hear about birth is that their bodies are perfectly designed for it. The body is like a finely tuned orchestra that functions beautifully. When one instrument is disturbed, the entire piece is off key. This is what happens when the body is interfered with in labour. It changes the fine tuning of birth. Unfortunately, we have come to believe that medical intervention is better than normal birth which is contradicted by the evidence. For all medical interventions there are benefits for a certain number of women but when those interventions are used routinely the risks can outweigh the benefits. 

    So why in Australia do we have such massive intervention rates? There are several reasons: 

    • Women have lost confidence in their ability to birth. 
    • Hospitals are understaffed and beds are precious. The inability to predict when a woman will go into labour and how long it will take is a nightmare for the smooth running of the hospital. Incidentally, women who have little or no intervention are those who spend the least time in the hospital.
    • Birth interventions are BIG business. Normal birth requires good support, a fabulous midwife and a room. Abnormal birth involves many specialists, operating theatres, equipment and pharmaceuticals.
    • Most women in Australia do not have access to the Gold Standard of Care. Copious research in Australia and overseas shows that women at every level of risk have much better outcomes with continuity of care from a midwife. This leads to a decrease in stillbirth (we don’t know why this is but this is one of the outcomes), less intervention leading to less physical and emotional trauma, fewer sick babies and more.
    • About a third of Australian women report feeling traumatised from the care they received at the birth.

    So how can I reduce my chance of a traumatic birth and increase my chance for great outcomes?

    Find a continuity-of-care midwife either in a publicly funded setting of which there are few, or pay privately for a midwife.

    Educate yourself so that you know what the best care is and can make informed decisions. It is your legal right to choose what is and is not done to you and your baby.

    Choose a great support team (partner, doula, friend) that is informed and can advocate for you when you cannot advocate for yourself. 

    Vanessa Shribman is a Holistic Physiotherapist, Senior Yoga Teacher and Birth Educator with over 30 years of experience. She practices in Footscray. Find out more about her at

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