When I was born in the late '70s it was something of a novelty for dads to be present in the delivery room. Thirty years later I gave birth to my son with his dad present — and my mum. This was a no-brainer for me. Having the support and reassurance of my mum helped me get through a difficult 10-hour labour. But having any more than two birthing partners seems like it's a little excessive, which is why I can't get my head around crowd-birthing.
Apparently women in their teens and twenties have an average of eight people present with them at some stage during the birth. Eight people? I can't think of anything worse — even if they are working on some kind of rota system and not crowding in to the room all at once. (I have a vision of them circled around the bed, while the poor mum puffs and pants and tries not to expose her auntie and uncle to her lady parts.)
And if that's not enough exposure, the survey reveals that almost a quarter of mums also share their birth experience on social media.
Siobhan Freegard, founder of Channel Mum said: "The younger generation are used to sharing every aspect of their lives, so why not birth? Many women feel it is their biggest achievement and so want to share the moment with all of those closest to them. The crowd-birthing phenomenon may not suit everyone but being part of the birth is an honour and privilege which unites friends and family like nothing else.”
Maybe if I was younger I'd feel differently about this. Nowadays it's second nature for teens and 20-somethings to share every intimate, gory, painful detail of their lives online. The first time I became a mum I didn't even have a Facebook account. Next time around it was a C-section, with a strict one birth partner rule. I did post pictures on Facebook but only when I'd had a few days to recover and my closest family members and friends had been able to meet my daughter in person. Those early minutes, hours and days with a newborn are so, so special — I didn't want the eyes of the world (or, at least, a few hundred Facebook friends) on her until I'd had ample opportunity to familiarise myself with every fold, dimple and scent of her brand new body.
A worrying aspect of sharing every aspect of childbirth (whether it's live-tweeting every contraction or inviting your entire family to pop into the delivery room to say hello) is that young mums feel under pressure (as if giving birth doesn't put enough physical and emotional pressure on them as it is).
Three in five mums feel that giving birth is becoming more competitive as it becomes more social and one in five feel choosing a C-section would make them feel that they had "failed" at giving birth. There's also the pressure from celebrities who share their childbirth experiences online: 15 percent of women feel inferior to stars who have apparently sailed through labour.
Mums, all you need to know is this. Childbirth is hard. It can be messy and gory and exhausting and emotional. It can be wonderful and uplifting and life-affirming and exhilarating. Whatever it is, it's yours. Share it with whoever you like, both in the real world and the virtual one. But don't be so busy trying to connect to Facebook that you forget to stop and appreciate what you've just achieved.
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