What We Can Learn About Birth, From Palliative Care

Bare with me on this one. It isn't as morbid as you may think. Promise.


As part of my midwifery degree, I have had the opportunity to work on a nursing ward. It has been tough, out of my comfort zone and has confirmed I made the right career choice with midwifery. I am not cut out to be a nurse. The work they do is incredible to say the least, but not something I could ever do justice.


I have seen a lot. The hardest part was coming across terminal illness.


Without going in to much detail, we were providing personal care, trying to maintain dignity and overall, making the patient comfortable, when rapidly deteriorating. This is important...


Palliative care is all about making you feel comfortable, dignified, managing pain and accounting for your psychological and spiritual needs. It is holistic. It is all about making this involuntary and uncontrollable experience, about you as an individual. Taking into account your preferences and not letting the illness take centre of attention, because death is inevitable at this point.


Birth and death draw many similarities. Both are required in life for the world to evolve. Both are going to happen and that is the point, they HAPPEN. You don't have to DO anything. Yes, there are things you can do to change the course of them, but the focus should be on you and letting natural processes take over.


So here is what birth workers and pregnant people can take from palliative care:


  • It happens. Making you feel comfortable, nurturing your preferences and placing you at the centre of care is what matters and should be happening.


  • We talk about leaving our dignity at the door during birth - why? For someone who is dying, we are trying to KEEP their dignity at this rather difficult time. Why do we not want that during birth? Our bodies are worthy of respect, you do not want people observing you 24/7, doing things without consent or intruding on your personal space. You are at possibly your most vulnerable and dignity is not to be pushed aside during birth.


  • If a dying person wished to be at home during the last days of life, we would not deny them of this. If they wanted to be in a hospice, we would let them. If they wanted to be in hospital, we would support that choice. Granted, birth poses other factors that should be considered, but you know your body and where you feel safest and that may not be surrounded by bright lights, white walls and the smell of disinfectant. Birth is a special moment and it should take place where you feel is right.


  • Would we intervene with the natural process of death, if we could see it was coming? Probably not. Enough said.


  • People talk about not being afraid to die and we work towards reassuring them in this. We should not be afraid to give birth either. The fear needs to be released, so that it can happen as naturally as possible.


  • I will go back again to the subject of comfort and being prepared for the moment. A terminally ill patient would be informed of what may happen in the late stages and what steps will be taken to protect them from potentially distressing circumstances, as would their families. Everyone would be involved. Why do we not prepare for birth, with our loved ones?


What I am saying is that birth workers need to bring it back to belief that women know right. Their bodies will take over. Pregnant women, you gotta be prepared. Know your options and do what you can to stay comfortable. Hypnobirthing can help you to do this, lets chat if you want to know more.


I wrote more about this over on the amazing Midwife Diaries blog, which you can find here.



Love this quote.


Do you see the parallels too?

Birth workers - how do you ensure dignity is maintained during labour and birth?

Pregnant peeps - what have you been doing to prepare for birth?


Hannah x



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