Letter: The truth is, each birth is different

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The Independent Online
Sir: Kathy Lette ("The big birth lie", 19 November) complains that because other women's descriptions of labour have not matched her own experience, women lie to each other about the experience.

Ms Lette seems to assume that there is a single, universal experience of childbirth (hers) and therefore one accurate description - the one she provides, telling it like it is, apparently, for the first time in the history of womankind.

I have friends who experienced several days of terrible pain, while my most recent experience of giving birth involved no more than 15 or 20 minutes of what I would call "serious pain" (five or six contractions, with no pain in between).

Among human experiences, childbirth is perhaps the one that varies the most. It is crucial that women are adequately informed and prepared for labour. However, being prepared does not mean knowing what it will be like. It means, above all, realising the wide range of possibilities that exist in the experience of childbirth, not least in the physiology of the process and in how medical staff and procedures as well as one's own actions and attitudes can affect the process. To this end, the work of the natural childbirth educators Ms Lette castigates is vital, in informing women of the options that exist and the potential, at least, for a wondrous rather than a hideous experience.


Birkbeck College

London WC1