Birth practices probed

University of Lethbridge researchers are looking at women’s expectations of childbirth and the very different reality many experience.

University of Lethbridge researchers are looking at women’s expectations of childbirth and the very different reality many experience.

They want to include Red Deer area women who have given birth in the last year or so.

Claudia Malacrida, primary researcher on the project, said literature shows caesarean births have skyrocketed since the 1990s, but often that’s not what women intended.

“Women, primarily when they talk about what they expect their birth to look like, are opting for a natural birth. For most of them it means: ‘I prefer not to have any medical intervention, but I’m going to a hospital,’ ” said Malacrida, who is also a professor and chair of the sociology department at U of L.

She said once they are at the hospital, they may be encouraged to have an induction if the labour is slow. When faced with severe pain, often women will ask for the epidural, which can slow down labour, so they face additional intervention.

Malacrida said that can lead to disappointment for women.

“I think there’s kind of an idea that women can choose, but in practice it doesn’t play out that way at all.”

The national average for C-sections is about 24 per cent of births. In Red Deer, it’s 29 per cent, she said.

“Red Deer has actually quite high C-section rates, but also has midwives so that’s a really interesting problem because the assumption is that midwifery and women-centred birth professionals would probably help women have less intervention. But it doesn’t always play out that way so we’re looking at a really complicated picture.”

Malacrida said the rise in C-sections have given rise to two camps. One says it’s just a problem of women who are “too posh to push” and the other says it’s just a problem of doctors who want to have a convenient practice.

“Right now it’s: blame the doctor, blame the mother. And that really doesn’t help anybody. By looking at the perspective of multiple stakeholders, we hope to provide recommendations that might deal with this more complicated set of experiences.”

Researchers have so far interviewed about 40 women in the Lethbridge and Calgary area.

Malacrida said a few of those women made the decision to have a planned caesarean section for their first birth without medical indications.

It’s an option that’s slowly becoming more socially acceptable.

Researchers want to hear all sides and will be in Red Deer on Sept. 18, 19 and 20. They have set up interviews with Red Deer-area midwives and also want to speak to obstetricians, gynecologists, nurse educators and doulas.

To set up an interview, contact research project co-ordinator Tiffany Boulton at or call her at 403-332-4489.

The project is being funded by Alberta Innovates Health Solutions.

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