Monday 13 April 2015

Read All About It: Inspired By Sheila Kitzinger

The Read All About It Linky is a place for bloggers to share recent posts that relate to news or current affairs. This could be anything from a serious post about an international news story to a funny response to a newspaper column. You can write about local, national or international news, and can write about absolutely any news story that interests you. With that in mind, here’s my post for this week.

I stumbled across Sheila Kitzinger’s name by chance on Sunday. I was researching for an article about the pain of birth, and happened across a reference to her views on birth. A few hours later, as I was about to switch off my laptop and leave the world of work firmly behind me, I saw her name again. This time on the BBC News site, Sheila Kitzinger had passed away.

I immediately checked Twitter and, as expected, my timeline was filled with midwives, birth activists and mothers talking about what an inspirational woman Sheila Kitzinger was. They spoke of her achievements, her campaigns and her beliefs, but most of all they talked about how her work had impacted on their lives.

If ever you were looking for proof that one person can make a difference, Sheila Kitzinger would be it. She was an inspiring activist and academic, a powerful combination. She studied anthropology and was fascinated by birth. At a time when birth in Britain was very much controlled by obstetricians, Sheila Kitzinger helped women to take an active role in the decision making process. She introduced the birth plan, and through it helped women to make informed decisions about their care.

Birth plans are not set in stone, and many births sadly do not go to plan. But the process of writing a birth plan is in itself empowering. First of all you must read up on the pain relief and birth options available to you before making an informed choice about the kind of care you want. Before the birth plan was introduced, many women gave little thought to such things, and the commonly held view was that the obstetricians were the experts and so should make the decisions.

At a time when episiotomies were common practice, Sheila Kitzinger wrote a paper arguing that it would be better to allow things to tear naturally if such a thing were to happen at all. This paper inspired midwives to be begin questioning birth practices at their places of work. Just three weeks after Sheila Kitzinger’s paper was released the number of episiotomies at one hospital fell from 70 to just 40 percent. They are no longer considered to be standard procedure, and the rate of episiotomies is now down to 13 percent in the UK.

Sheila Kitzinger was a home birth activist who believed low risk women should have the option of delivering at home. As one of those women, I will always be grateful to people like Sheila Kitzinger who paved the way for modern home births. I can imagine no better place to give birth than in the comfort (and privacy) of my own home. When I think back to my daughter’s birth three years ago, I remember the candlelight, the quiet and the wonderful support of my husband and midwife. I really could not have had a more perfect experience.

I’ve read quite a few articles about Sheila Kitzinger since discovering her just yesterday, and one of the things that most stood out to me was the work she did with prisoners. This is probably partly because my dad worked with prisoners for years, and partly because the things she campaigner against seem so barbaric it’s hard to believe they ever happened. Sheila Kitzing campaigned for an end to prisoners being handcuffed during childbirth. The practice had been introduced by a Conservative government keen to prove just how seriously they took crime. As a result, women were forced to labour whilst handcuffed to prison officers. Thanks to a strong and emotive campaign, this was banned in 1996. You can find out more about all of this here.

Sheila Kitzinger was a feminist who campaigned for women to have the freedom to make choices about how and where they wanted to give birth. She championed individuals, fought for change and supported women in their quest for their ideal birth. And I for one will be eternally grateful for her achievements.

Please link up your posts below. Any news and current affairs related posts are welcome, no matter how big or small. All you need to do is include the Read All About It badge on your post, and then share your link below. I look forward to reading your posts!

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