A talk with OBGYN Claire Stramrood

By Mariah Mansvelt Beck, co-founder of Yoni

The mental aspects of pregnancy and birth

Claire Stramrood is an OB-GYN (or more simply put gynecologist) specialized in the mental health aspect of pregnancy and birth. A topic that needs more attention considering that between 1 in between 5 to 10 women experience giving birth as traumatic. Claire explains that these women are not always the woman who have an unexpected challenging birth. These women are often those who felt no longer in control during birth, that their wishes weren’t listened to or even disrespected by health care professionals. During our two conversations (once on The Pussycast and again during a longer IGTV conversation on Instagram) we fleshed out how we might better prepare ourselves for a positive birth experience.

Claire shares three main misconceptions she sees that can play a part in women feeling inadequate or let down after birth. By sharing data Claire hopes for woman to realize that if they are unable to for example give birth vaginally, need assistance or if they had envisioned a home birth and instead ends up going to the hospital they have not failed. One thing she makes clear – she isn’t sharing any of these statistics to make women feel scared or move them away from choosing for home birth if that is what they feel will be most comfortable and safe for them. She is sharing these facts so that women can make an informed decision.

GOOD TO KNOW

The first misconception Claire speaks to is the idea that everyone feels great about their birth experience and about having a newborn. Many women as just mentioned have a traumatic birth experience and around 1 in 10 women feel depressed following birth. I If you believe you should be on your “pink cloud” and that everyone else is – it becomes more difficult to be honest about how you feel. Knowing you’re not the only one and definitely not a “bad mom” helps women to be honest and find someone to talk to sooner rather than later.

Secondly, Claire shares that many women feel that if they don’t have a natural vaginal birth without assistance they’ve failed in some sort of way. It good to know this is not true. 13% of women have an assisted birth with the use of forceps or vacuum and 16% of women have a C-section. If for whatever reason you need assistance know you are not the anomaly but part of an almost 30% group of women.

Lastly, Claire shares that for women giving birth to their first child in 80% of the cases, birth becomes medical. This means that a gynecologist is needed, and care has to be given in a hospital setting. This does not in any way mean that in 80% of the cases something is going “wrong”. A gynecologist is also needed if you e.g. need pain relief or if you’re baby has pooped in the womb. After the first birth this number declines. Claire also emphasizes this does not mean you shouldn’t opt for a home birth if this is where you feel the most safe and comfortable. It is however, good to be aware of the statistics if things go otherwise to manage your expectations.

A BIRTH PLAN

During our IGTV talk Claire and I speak about birth plans. A birth plan is a relatively new concept. It’s a plan that the expecting mom makes in order to express her wishes so that all health care professionals involved in the birthing process are aware of want she wants and doesn’t want. Claire explains that at the moment there is no clear process in terms of what exactly should or should not be in a birth plan nor with whom the expecting mom should discuss it with.

Claire feels that a birth plan could potentially reduce the number of traumatic experiences as it has the potential to make the woman feel more in control of the process. However, she adds that it can also create confusion and irritation if it blocks health professionals from taking measures, they feel are necessary when a birth doesn’t go as smoothly as envisioned. She feels that it is important to not only state your wishes but also the why behind them as well as to have a conversation with a health care professional about when e.g. the wish to not use pain relief might have to be overrode to avoid potentially unsafe situations as well as disappointing and potentially traumatic birth experience for the mother.

Claire is just at the end of her own maternity but when she’s back at work she hopes to start researching birth plans and how they can be used towards more positive birth experiences. Do you want to share your experience with a birth plan? Feel free to get in contact with Claire or to follow her work via Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/clairestramrood/. Listen to her episode on The Pussycast here for more on the above as well as topics ranging from sex after birth to one of the main fears of tearing and/or cuts during birth. Also listen to our conversation on IGTV here for more on birth plans and how to avoid traumatic experiences.