hannah dahlen

Hannah Dahlen and Kate Levett are pretty much celebrities in the birth world and I’m thrilled to have been able to chat to them both for my podcast. When I was going through the edit of my book recently I realised how much I’ve cited much of their research, so this was a real treat for me.

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Hannah Dahlen & Kate Levett

Hannah Dahlen and Kate Levett carried out a study last year which shows that “antenatal education classes focussing on pain relief techniques dramatically reduce the rate of medical interventions during childbirth, such as epidural use and caesarean section. The research, the first of its kind and published online today in the medical journal BMJ Open, raises questions about the way expecting mothers are provided childbirth education classes”.

The goal of the research was to test whether childbirth education programs can help to reduce the the rate of medical interventions. To do this they conducted a randomised controlled trial of 176 women having their first baby across two Sydney hospitals. The key findings of the research were as follows;
It found women in the study group:
  • Had a significant reduction in epidural rates compared with women in the control group (23.9% vs 68.7%)
  • Had a reduced caesarean section rate (18.2% vs 32.5%)
  • Were significantly less likely to require their labour to be accelerated using artificial means (28.4% vs 57.8%) or have perineal trauma (84.7% vs 96.4%)
  • Had a shorter second stage of labour (mean difference of 32 minutes)
  • Babies in the study group were also less likely to require resuscitation (with oxygen and/or bag and mask) at birth (13.6% vs 28.9%)

As you can see the findings are pretty astounding and makes undertaking childbirth education a no-brainer. So, it was against this backdrop that we chatted about the research as well as other aspects of birth including the effect that fear can have on your birth and what we can do about it. During our conversation we talk about;

  • how fear impacts birth outcomes
  • the importance of continuity of care for women when it comes to pregnancy and birth, and how it helps minimise their fear
  • value of a great midwife and how she is able to support a birthing woman
  • why relationships are at the heart of birth
  • the role that midwives play when it comes to introducing fear into the birth space and why they need to take responsibility when it comes to their fears and self-care
  • the techniques and tools that you can use to help you throughout birth
  • the key things to learn about before birth that can have a big impact on your birth
  • why learning about the birthing body can help you prepare for birth
  • how by taking a proactive approach to birth education and preparation can influence how birth professionals respond to you during labour


Hannah Dahlen

Hannah Dahlen is the Professor of Midwifery in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at UWS. She has been a midwife for 26 years and still practices. She is one of the first midwives in Australia to gain Eligibility and access to a Medicare provider number following government reforms in 2010.

Professor Dahlen has strong national and international research partnerships, has received 15 grants since 2000, including being CI on three NHMRC grants and an ARC Linkage grant and has had over 120 publications. She has spoken at over 100 national and international conferences and given invited keynote addresses at half of these.
Hannah is the National Media Spokesperson for Australian College of Midwives and has been interviewed in print, radio and TV numerous times and featured in three documentaries. Hannah is a past President of the Australian College of Midwives and received Life Membership in 2008 for outstanding contributions to the profession of Midwifery.

In November 2012 she was named in the Sydney Morning Herald’s list of 100 “people who change our city for the better” A panellist on the selection panel for the special feature in the (Sydney) magazine described Professor Dahlen as “probably the leading force promoting natural birth and midwife-led care in Australia.” Professor Dahlen was named as one of the leading “science and knowledge thinkers” for 2012.


Kate Levett

Kate Levett is a Research Fellow at the University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney School of Medicine, and an adjunct Fellow at the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) at Western Sydney University. She completed her PhD at NICM, Western Sydney University, and has a Masters in Public Health (Epidemiology) from the University of Sydney, and an undergraduate degree in Education, specialising in Health Education.

She specialises in complementary therapies for pain relief in labour, and has recently published the results from her PhD study, the Complementary Therapies for Labour and Birth Study, in the BMJ Open. A randomised controlled trial of an antenatal education program of complementary therapies for pain relief in labour for first time mothers.

With over 15 years’ research experience, she has a particular interest in maternal health and wellbeing, and is currently collaborating with Auburn Hospital’s Department of O&G, which services a unique population of refugee and migrant women, who may be at risk of adverse health outcomes. Kate also works as an acupuncturist at Restore Health & Wellness clinic in Sydney, Australia, specialising in women’s health, fertility, pregnancy and birth preparation



Alexia Leachman
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