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The Harm Of Romanticising Childbirth

by Katie Hodgkins

Disclaimer: this blog does contain swearing so you may wish to avoid if you’re offended by profanities.

Stop romanticising childbirth.

Stop it. Please, for fucks sake, stop it.

Childbirth is hard.

Pushing a watermelon out of a bagel sized hole is hard. Being sliced in half and having a baby dragged out of your entrails is hard.

It is an absolute, irrefutable fact for the vast majority of women.

I’m not saying that it isn’t an amazing, soul-defining experience.

But please, please, please, stop misleading women with biased, romanticised fluff.

In recent years, there has been a push towards striving for the ‘perfect birth‘ which seeks to bring about more positivity and remove the fear surrounding childbirth.

This is absolutely fantastic – fear is a huge psychological barrier, which can even manifest itself physically to the detriment of the mum and baby! There is absolutely nothing wrong about addressing the fears of expectant mamas, and wanting to empower them to strive for their perfect birthing experience.

However, what I don’t agree with – strike that, loathe with a passion – is not giving women a balanced perspective, and chastising people who openly talk about their traumatic births, labelling them as scaremongering and ‘depressing’.

Seriously. There are actually people who attack others for daring share their negative birthing experiences, even when they come from a place of positivity and caring

Soz that my experience was so shit, but don’t try to censor me. I’m not going to lie. I will always endeavour to evoke positivity, but not by being dishonest. I 100% advocate mums being fully informed.

This is why I love the Positive Birth Movement; they seek to make birth positive through rational information, reality, and a balanced perspective.

“The Positive Birth Movement believes that every woman deserves a positive birth. But what does this mean?

A positive birth means a birth in which a woman feels she has freedom of choice, access to accurate information, and that she is in control, powerful and respected. A birth that she approaches, perhaps with some trepidation, but without fear or dread, and that she then goes on to enjoy, and later remember with warmth and pride.

A positive birth does not have to be ‘natural’ or ‘drug free’ – it simply has to be informed from a place of positivity as opposed to fear. The Positive Birth Movement is woman-centred and as such respects a woman’s human right to choose where and how she has her baby.

You can birth with positivity in hospital or at home, with or without medical intervention. You can have a positive caesarean, or a positive home water birth. Positive Birth is about approaching birth realistically, having genuine choice, and feeling empowered by your experience.

The Positive Birth Movement believes that communication is the key to shaking up birth. By coming together, in real life and online, and sharing experiences, feelings, knowledge and wisdom, women can take back childbirth.”

Their message is simple; you can have a positive birth in any scenario, even if it’s wildly different to what you had planned, as long as you are fully informed.

Too bloody right!


There seems to be a militant minority of ‘positive birthers’ who take the principle too far – to the extreme as a matter of fact. They have an inherent mistrust of the ‘medical’ side of childbirth, and feel that taking it ‘back to nature’ is the only way.

DON’T GET ME WRONG – this is not an attack on wanting an amazing birthing experience. This is merely me addressing those who take the concept too far to the point that you cannot even mention complications/pain relief/surgical intervention to an expectant mum without being lambasted by them.

It is detrimental to the physical and mental health of new mums to give them a romanticised, rose-tinted view.

Romanticising childbirth can lead, in my eyes, to negative mental and physical ramifications.

Postnatal depression
A sense of ‘failure’ if things don’t go to plan
Declining important intervention leading to further complications

I’m prime example! I had it drilled into me that I’d have a lovely water birth, no pain relief. Boy, was I shocked to need an emergency caesarean! Here I am now, out the other side after a nasty bout of Post Natal Depression. It well and truly knocked me sick and it took 9 fucking months for me to get over it.

Is it any wonder that as many as 1 in 10 women are stuck down with postnatal depression when we have all these ‘ideals’ and ‘standards’? These days, I can’t even click onto a parenting group online without seeing something demonising intervention, making women feel like it’s something to be disappointed, even ashamed about.

(Postnatal depression can hit hard.)

The lack of information isn’t just exclusive to the ‘extreme positive birthers’; it is deeply rooted in our healthcare system too, which does not help to address the issue!

At no point during antenatal classes was I told what could go wrong.

At no point did my midwife talk about anything other than a straightforward vaginal delivery at full term despite me being high risk and under 4 different consultants by the third trimester!

At no point did any consultant or registrar talk to me about anything other than a straightforward vaginal birth, although I was put down for an induction at 37 weeks due to my complications.

Credit where credit is due, my anaesthetic consultant did take a few minutes to explain what an emergency caesarean would entail; however, again, the focus was entirely on a ‘normal’ birth.

On one hand, it’s great that the NHS is so accommodating to mums and their birth plans! On the flip side, surely a balance is vital? Knowledge is power, right?

I’ve seen articles, blogs, comments and videos from the ‘extreme positive birthers’ sending out the message that pain relief isn’t a ‘good’ option, or that you’re more of a ‘strong’ woman and mama if you go ‘all natural’, which obviously leads to making mums who opted for pain relief feel inferior.

This also means that people who may seriously benefit from an epidural or other options will miss out to their detriment. Don’t give me the ‘how did women cope before pain relief’ bollocks; they simply did or they didn’t. If they didn’t, they were fucked. Thank god for modern medicine, eh? You do not get a trophy for declining intervention, end of story.

Even worse, I’ve read way too fucking many news stories where a mum has had it drilled into her that it’s a homebirth or nothing by the ‘extreme positive birth’ advocates who are assisting them. Complications arise, and they’re lulled into a false sense of security, and made to feel that they’re past the point of seeking real medical attention.

This has caused babies to die.

This is not ‘positive birthing’. This is not ‘female empowerment’.

This is, to put it bluntly, brainwashing. It is dangerous.

Having a balanced perspective when the time comes is extremely empowering! It is absolutely possible to aim for your specific birth plan, with a positive outlook, but at the same time maintain a rational perspective that sometimes, things go tits up and out the window.

It’s all about drawing the line between scaremongering, and giving rational info about what can go wrong.

Telling a pregnant lady “OMG, you’re going to hate it! It’ll be a bloodbath with gore and shit splattered across the walls! You’ll never be the same again! My births were all like a scene from American Horror Story!” – this is scaremongering and dramatisation, no matter if it is intended to be satirical or jokey.

Just don’t do it, ok?

Telling a pregnant lady “…keep an open mind. As awesome as your birthplan sounds, it helps to be fully informed..” – this is not scaremongering and allows a new mum to be fully equipped with information. Quite simply, it is vital that we open up a dialogue about these things!

Furthermore, it  really bloody bothers me to see posts from pregnant ladies on social media asking for positive birth experiences ONLY; what help will that be?!

What benefit will you possibly gain by creating an echo chamber, hearing only what you want to hear?

In addition, how can you dictate what people will or won’t tell you? You can stick your fingers in your ears and hum all you like, you cannot escape reality. Stuff goes wrong. Plans don’t follow through.

Like it or not, childbirth is still one of the most dangerous things that a woman can endure, even in the 21st Century!

Be prepared. Be informed. Be empowered.

Like the Positive Birth Movement states, ‘communication’ and ‘information sharing’ is key.

Ok, I get that negative experiences can terrifying to hear about, especially for anxious mamas.

However, as long as they’re not gleefully relaying it blow-by-blow without giving any helpful advice, I think that we need to hear about negative birth experiences JUST AS MUCH as we need to hear about positive birth experiences!

Romanticising childbirth leads to false illusions, unrealistic expectations, and ultimately heartbreak for so many bloody women, usually manifesting itself as postnatal depression. It’s ridiculous. It’s harmful. It’s ultimately avoidable.

Assume the best. Plan for the worst. This will allow you to keep a positive mindset about birth whilst maintaining a realistic expectation.

Mamas-to-be, if you want that unmedicated water birth, damn well go for it!

If you want an epidural on a bed, go for it!

If you want an unassisted home birth, go for it.

It is your right to shape your own birthing experience.

However, I urge you to maintain a sense of caution, and to fully inform yourself.

Keep a positive mindset that all will go well, but also keep an open mind.

Childbirth isn’t all ‘rainbows and glitter’. It’s serious shit.

Don’t romanticise it.


Kate xx


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