Of all the experiences of the human condition, birth surely represents the most important. Human society places great importance upon it: for social, not to mention legal, reasons knowledge of our birth date is a lifelong requirement. Much more important than its timing is the need for our birth to release us towards independent existence with the fullest possible endowment for physical and intellectual development. Despite its enormous importance it is doubtful if any of us can recollect any of this experience.
In contrast, few, if any, women can forget their birth-giving experiences; yet the imperative that the offspring should complete the birth process unscathed applies almost equally to the mother. The spectrum of maternal experiences of childbirth extends from exhilarated, fulfilled and enriched mothers, to those women who are permanently crippled physically or emotionally and even, still all too commonly, those who pay for the experience with their lives. Safe motherhood is a wholly reasonable expectation but one which still ranks too low in the priorities of male-dominated political arenas.
Amidst the complexity and sophistication that is modern obstetrics it is important to remind ourselves of the simple objective of every pregnancy, namely the delivery of a healthy baby to a healthy mother. The fullest possible understanding of the birth process, its perturbations and appropriate management policies is central to that objective.
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