Sunday, August 16, 2009

Giving Birth in Spain: Are the Horror Stories True?

32 Weeks

Soon after I found I was pregnant, I began looking online for forums, websites, articles, anything that would give me tips on what it was like to have a baby in Spain. Here are some quotes from an article found at

"I had found a birthing position that worked well for me when I had my first son in England. It was a completely ordinary position, but you would have thought that I had asked the doctor if he could come into the woods with me and light joss-sticks from his reaction!"

"I was put on my back with my legs in stirrups."

When she didn't want to forcibly push because she didn't want to tear, the female doctor on duty told her: 'With the volume of deliveries that we have here we haven't got time to wait until you're ready to push."

She (a Spanish midwife) is highly critical of the childbirth system here, describing it as over-'medicalised'.
"It is all defensive medicine with the idea being this is dangerous; let's get this baby out as fast as we can," she says.
"Natural birth is about being patient and waiting. Here almost everyone is induced. Almost everyone is given episiotomies and the drug oxytocin.
"Women can't eat and drink. A drip is stuck into her with glucose. The worst thing is a woman being on her back without being able to move which is the worst position to have a baby in."

But here is one encouraging quote:
According to Eurostat figures, in 2004, infant mortality in Spain was 0.35 percent of births, compared to an EU average of 0.45 and the UK's 0.51. (Read full article here.)

So as you can imagine, I've been somewhat anxious about what my birthing experience will be. My midwife from the states has emailed me a few times and she recommended a birthing position that would help me prevent tearing. So at one appointment, I thought I'd see if any of the stuff I'd read was true. I asked my doctor if it's true that women in Spain can't choose their birthing position. Her response? "Oh no. You'll be on your back with your legs in stirups." Smile.

With Renae I had quite a few complications all relating to my somewhat messed up pelvic bone structure, plus a few other things. Basically, if this baby is big, my midwife in the states said I'm pretty likely to have the exact same problems (which I'm trying to avoid this time around). Even in the states, with what happened last time, many women are often given the choice to do a c-section the 2nd time around.

Here I'm not yet sure what will happen. The upside of a c-section is it's planned, my recovery will be much better than last time because I won't have the other recovery plus the run over by a truck feeling you get from a long labor. The downside of a c-section is your husband cannot be in the room with you. This is a strict rule they follow to a T. Trust me. I've asked. And of course, it would mean future births would be c-sections too.

The upside of delivering naturally (and natural for me includes an epidural for sure!) is that the labor could go much faster than last time (too many hours to count), and our little boy could be much smaller, thus easier to push out. Plus, the way they do episiotomies in all of Europe is different than in the US, and would actually help me out quite a bit.

But for me, it all really comes down to getting a healthy baby. I've come to the conclusion that I can't control what will happen and I just need to be OK with that. Spain has a very low infant mortality rate, and babies are born healthy everyday. So although the process of getting here might not be that great, Baby Boy Masson is pretty likely to arrive safe and sound eventually. I can deal with the aftermath. Plus, honestly, the whole birth experience for me is not some big emotional event (which is weird because I'm usually a big sentimental person and I'm also a huge feeler). It's just something you gotta do if you want a baby. :)

More articles about giving birth in Spain:

To end on a happy note, here are a few pics of Renae from some potty training we did this week.

She loves eating melons!



Jack and Sheryl said...

You cute tiny little thing! You look beautiful. However he comes, you are going to do a great job. And you are right to focus on the fact that healthy babies are born every day there. They might be more inflexible than they are in the States, but maybe it will encourage you that I had a way better birthing experience in Istanbul, Turkey than I did with either birth in America. Excited for you as the time draws near!

The Beasley Family said...

Come to Prague and have your baby here with my OB! She's amazing!! All the women here love her! And yeah, the episiotomies are different here. I told my mom and she said it was weird but I think it made recovery better.

Kari said...

Oh Julie, I'm sure everything will work out great! C-section recovery is just as long from what my Mom tells me and it's a major surgery. I hope things go much better for you this time! Have you heard I'm expecting #2? Remembering childbirth isn't fun but we did it once so we can do it again!!

Jenny said...

Cute pics of Renae. I can't believe that you are 32 weeks already! A healthy baby is #1. Eveyone recovers differently, but c-section recovery is not a walk in the park. They cut your stomach muscles in 1/2....and I could NOT have done it without Tom there. But, maybe it wouldn't have been so bad had I not had 30hours of labor before hand. Whatever happens, God will protect your baby.

P.S. Do you really have to lay on your back with your feet in stirrups? That makes no sense! Let gravity try to help you out. You're in my prayers!

J and J Masson said...

oh i know c-section recoveries aren't easy. but after talking with my sister in law who has had 2, she said if i can recover from what i had last time, i can recover from a c-section :)let's just say last time was REALLY bad . . . a co-worker here has to have c-sections and she said with her 2nd, she felt so great afterwards because she didn't have to go through labor AND a c-section. that is the WORST. i pitty you girls who have had to recover from both labor and c-section :( the things we do for kids huh?

Scott & Julie said...

Hey Jewels! Have you thought about laboring at home for as long as you can? Do they have doula's over there?

Mark, Kendra, and Evan said...

Congrats on reaching 32 weeks already! You look great! I love reading your posts about childbirth in Spain, having just done it in France. I too found the system very medicalized, with high rates of episiotomies, few options for birthing positions, and such. But on the day Evan was born, the midwife that was assigned to me was wonderful. My husband told her of my preference not to have an episiotomy, and she was very supportive. She didn't give me one, and I didn't tear either! She also let me have an interpreter in the room, which before had been forbidden by the hospital. So, on the day of the birth, the team of people who deliver your baby may be more flexible than the practitioners you are seeing now. We also found that the younger midwives were more open. So, on the day of the birth, don't be afraid to voice your preferences, even if they don't match hospital policy.

We're wishing you the very very best!

Mandy B Stenberg said...

Julie: Stenbergs will be rooting for a healthy baby without much drama! How's that???

kpjordan said...

We are "lifting" you all up to Him who is able.
Love you.

Nate and Natalie said...

You look fabulous for 32 weeks. We will just pray that the delivery is smooth and everything goes well. By the way, do melons help with successful #1s or #2s? :)

Jack and Sheryl said...

I read your comment on my blog, so I thought I would shoot a little more positiveness your way. Klaire-15 hours. Ava-3 hours. Klaire-almost died and recovery lasted weeks and was horrible. Ava-came so fast that I didn't have time for the epidural and I literally felt like I could run a marathon about an hour after I gave birth. In that instance there really wasn't much time for anything other than laying on your back in stirups. ;) I am going to pray for a smaller baby for you and this kind of delivery. A lot of people that I have talked to with multiple children have said baby #2 was the easiest. This was the case for me! Blessings, sister!

lankris said...

You look so cute!! I love that Renae is sitting on the potty with watermelon. The girl will do anything for it I guess :)

Christy said...

I'm with Sheryl...will be praying for a smaller baby this time around, as well as a speedy and uneventful delivery!! I had a GREAT experience this time around (after the whole surgery-during-pregnancy thing of course,) with a labor that lasted 2 1/2 hours from start to finish. If you get to the hospital when you're already 9 1/2 cm dilated they won't have time to do anything 'extra' to you! :) sending prayers your way.

Meredith said...

I am so glad to see I'm not the only one with a potty seat in my living room! :)
If it makes you feel any better, Jack was 3/4 lb smaller than Zoie and it made a HUGE difference! I hope your little boy is little too!