Pieces of a Woman Netflix drama praised by Scots doula

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A MOTHER who gave birth at home during the first national lockdown said she hopes those considering the option will not be discouraged by a new film starring Vanessa Kirby which documents a catastrophic delivery.

The Crown actress Vanessa Kirby is being tipped for a best actress nomination at this year’s Academy Awards for her powerful performance as Martha in the Netflix drama Pieces of Woman, which begins with a continuous, 24-minute labour sequence that ends in her daughter being stillborn.

Home birth rates across Scotland are very low – the average for Scotland is 1.17% compared to 2.21% in England and 3% in Wales. 

Georgina Forsyth, 40, gave birth to daughter Florence, 3, at home in 2017 and then Magnus on May 1 last year when the UK was in lockdown.

While some health boards stopped offering home births in the first lockdown, NHS Grampian continued to provide a midwife-led service allowing the 40-year-old to deliver Magnus at her home in Aberdeen with husband Stuart, 47, by her side.

She praised the film for its authenticity, describing the birth as “beautiful” but acknowledges that pregnant women might want to avoid watching it.

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She said: “It’s only a hard watch because you know something is coming. It was a beautiful birth, there was nothing unusual or untoward about it, it just had a very sad ending and you are preparing yourself for that.

“I’m not a medical professional but it didn’t look like anything unusual happened. (Martha is told after an autopsy, “In 60-70% of these cases we rarely find a satisfactory explanation)

“I don’t think (the film) will put women off because when someone goes for a home birth, they do the research. But my advice would be maybe don’t watch it.

“Home birth is as safe as giving birth in hospital

“American home birth is very different to UK . In the UK there has to be two midwives attending – one is for the birthing person and the other is for the baby.”

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She opted for hypnobirthing for both home births, which involves the use of relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques to help relax the body before and during labour and birth.

She said: “They were both very similar and I felt very safe and secure. They differed in small ways, Florence’s waters went earlier while with Magnus they went 11 minutes before the birth. 

“If your labour goes on for hours or days you are in your own home. You are able to go to your own toilet, have a shower, you an eat what you want, you can move around freely and you can go to your own bed. You could dance around in the garden if you wanted!

“With Magnus, I was in full labour for about two hours my waters went and then I was pushing for 11 minutes.”

Ms Forsyth says her decision to have her last two children at home was prompted by a traumatic hospital experience delivering her daughter Millie in 2008.

“I had an induction and that went fine, I started off in labour but I was stuck in an induction room.

“As it ramped up, Millie’s heart rate started to dip and they broke my waters and then it just all went wrong. Her heart rate went right up and they rushed me into a labour ward.

“I was on morphine and didn’t know what was going on. I honestly thought I was going to die or that Millie was going to die.

“I only found out when I had my son Magnus that I had had a forceps delivery.

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“On paper, it sounds like a well managed medical birth but for me it was horrific. It left me with PTSD, for years. I was like Victor Meldrew, that’s what my family used to call me.

“Until I had to examine what I wanted from a birth with Florence I hadn’t realised it had affected my entire parenting, my entire life. It matters how women birth.”

The 40-year-old says she would have considered freebirthing, where no midwife is present, if she had not had access to a midwife-led homebirth.

She is now trained in hypnobirthing and works as a doula, supporting couples through pregnancy, labour and birth and the immediate postnatal time.

“Hypnobirthing is really just about understanding your body and trying to stay relaxed.

“In an induction it’s equally important to stay calm and relaxed and understand what is going on. I work with womenin all situations including caesareans again where it is really important to stay calm.”

Dr Pat O’Brien, Consultant Obstetrician and Vice President at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said for most women who are low risk, a home birth is a “perfectly reasonable and safe option.”

He said: “It’s particularly the case for women who have had a vaginal birth before.

“There was a study done a few years ago which looked at home births in the UK over a period of time.

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“With women with their first baby, there is a slightly higher risk of a poorer outcome for the baby, only slightly, but for women having their first baby around a third were transferred to hospital during labour – but a fair proportion of those women were transferred because they wanted an epidural or the labour was taking much longer than expected so not an emergency in the sense of drama for mother or baby.

“It’s certainly the case that some babies become distressed during labour and sometimes that needs help. Obviously if you are home, your only options are watch and wait or transfer to hospital. If mother and baby start as low risk the chance of that happening is small.

“All midwives are trained in resuscitation and even if the baby turns blue, in most cases they will be able to resuscitate the baby.”

Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Advisor, at the National Childbirth Trust, NCT, added: “Birth settings outside a medical unit are safe for most women and can offer benefits such as local access or a greater chance of care from a known and trusted midwife.

“NICE guidance states that planning to give birth at home or in a midwife-led unit is particularly suitable for women with straightforward pregnancies who have already had a baby. For women who are expecting their first child, there is a small increase in risk for babies born at home but a midwife-led unit can be suitable.”

For more information about hypnobirthing services in the Aberdeen area visit www.sonamum.com/

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