Ridulous to tell mothers to forego gas and air pain relief in childbirth - Christa Ackroyd

This week’s column is about childbirth. That’s 50 per cent of my readers lost then.

But bear with me if you can excuse the unfortunate turn of phrase.

Before you switch off or turn the page, before you men (particularly those men who have a penchant for gas-guzzling cars) say ‘oh this week is not for me’, then the news story which left me sweating and screaming is so much more than that.

Childbirth is a pain.

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It's ridulous to tell mothers to forego gas and air pain relief in childbirth, says Christa AckroydIt's ridulous to tell mothers to forego gas and air pain relief in childbirth, says Christa Ackroyd
It's ridulous to tell mothers to forego gas and air pain relief in childbirth, says Christa Ackroyd

Anyone who has gone through it can tell you that. The miracle of course of bringing a new life into the world means that no matter how difficult your labour has been, often all is forgotten when you are safely delivered of the new life you have been nurturing for the past nine months.

Suddenly all you have endured is worth it when you hold your newborn baby in your arms. It is the most emotional experience I and most other woman (and dads of course) who have successfully chosen to become parents will ever know.

And if you’ve had it tough, as many women do, it’s forgotten in an instant. Or at least put to the back of your mind. That’s why you can’t describe it. That’s why so few people share it with those about to experience it . And that’s why the most ridiculous suggestion surely ever made by the powers that be in Scottish hospitals must be thrown out now and never become best practice down here either.

What they suggests sounds good on paper. But then so does childbirth itself.

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I smile even now when I think of the antenatal classes I attended where amid the calm we were taught to breathe, to swallow the pain, while our partners looked on sympathetically mopping our brow.

It all seemed so simple, serene almost. It is often anything but, mine included.

Twenty four hours of agony and …but let’s not go there. As I have said it was soon forgotten and only thought on now some 38 years later by the idiotic suggestion of those who think they know best. And quite clearly don’t.

The one thing I relied on to get through was gas and air.

My husband of course was there to encourage me to breathe normally that is until he passed out and was put on the adjacent bed with a cup of tea to recover. He swears blind he didn’t but trust me he did. Then I reached for the bottle of Entonox and a very big bottle it was too.

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Throughout, wonderful midwives at St Luke’s in Bradford kept me calm and focussed.

They went above and beyond staying way over the time their shift should have ended until they finally had to hand over to a new team who were equally as good.

But you know what helped me more.. knowing I could clamp that rubber mouthpiece to my lips, breathe deeply and get a few seconds of instant pain relief. If you know, you know.

Now in Scotland women are being asked to forgo this decades long assistance and either go it alone or try other methods which are probably not as effective and definitely not as tried and tested.

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And they are being asked to do this for the good of the planet. Admirable. But madness.

NHS Scotland now suggest the use of gas and air in their hospitals is the equivalent of 18,000 transatlantic flights a year in terms of carbon footprint.

At first glance that does sound a lot. So in case they haven’t done the maths I decided to investigate on behalf of women across the border who, when push comes to shove, probably haven’t the time to do it for themselves.

Here are my findings

A transatlantic flight is roughly three thousand miles. There are around fifty thousand birth a year in Scotland which by my calculations means for each woman giving birth the use of gas and air is about equivalent to a flight to Spain. One way. Misleading eh?

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And when you consider most women only do it once, twice even three times in their lives it is hardly singly responsible for destroying the ozone layer is it ? Oh and by the way the transatlantic flight scenario they used was from Frankfurt which is six hundred miles longer than say flying from Glasgow where no doubt some of these women are being asked to grin and bear it. Or try water injections. Funny how you can play around with statistics to make your point isn’t it ?

Why oh why are these women being asked to shoulder the burden, quite literally ?

Let me hazard a guess that in the hospital car park are some of the biggest gas guzzling cars around.

At every school gate huge four by fours are parked waiting to pick the kids up from school when many of the drivers could have walked there.

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Council’s budgets mean most can only pick up recycling once a fortnight and that includes smelly food which means I suggest at lot of waste does not get recycled .

The government has pushed back its plans for a carbon neutral innovations by years. Electric cars cost a fortune and there are not enough chargers. We still import from the carbon spewing countries without environmental tariffs on their goods until they do better.

I could of course go on as long as the average labour.

So here is my suggestion.

We seem to be able to simulate anything these days. Let us create some sort of instrument which simulates childbirth with gas and air and one without and see how those making the suggestions would cope.

I would personally administer it or at least I know many women who would be available to do so especially they have been made to feel guilty about using a proven pain relief which is safe for them, safe for their unborn child, certainly doesn’t eliminate the pain but takes the edge of it. Women take a lot of the blame these days.

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In many cases they do most of the juggling when it comes to work, home and childcare. They are made to feel guilty if they can’t breast feed. They are considered unfit if they occasionally give their children a bag of sweets or let them use the iPad to grab a moments peace.

They have to prepare their poor offspring for an interminable round of tests almost from the day they go to school. And now they must worry about whether they are responsible for melting the polar ice caps.

That’s a lot if responsibility that is.

The least we can do is pass them the breathing apparatus when they are under going one of the most joyous but damn difficult things they will ever encounter.