Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick Facts About Birth - Birth Works!

Here is an article I wrote to empower pregnant women, and to help teach them that their bodies are made perfectly with the ability to birth their baby, just how nature intended. Enjoy!

Did you know that you have been wonderfully made, with all the perfect equipment and tools required to birth your baby just the way you would like to?

Your uterus has three layers of strong muscle, made especially to birth your baby. The outer muscle layer has longitudinal fibres that allow the baby to descend by retracting. The middle layer is made of criss-cross fibres that provide the other two layers with the blood they need to work. The inner layer is made of ringed fibres that wrap around the uterus and the cervix and expel the baby by contracting.

Did you know that the blood in your body goes to where it is most needed? It is important during labour for you to relax, so that the uterus is getting as much blood as possible. If you are not relaxed your body will send more blood than is required to your extremities ready for what it predicts will happen – a ‘flight or fight’ response – and your uterus will not be able to work as efficiently. Good practices of relaxation include meditation, visualisation and positive affirmations.

Did you know that when you breathe slowly and deeply you provide your body with as much oxygen as possible? This is important during labour as the more oxygenated the blood is that goes to the uterus, the more effective it will be at birthing your baby. It is a good idea to practice breathing long, slow breaths. This can be incorporated with your relaxation routine to be used during labour.

Did you know that if you are afraid of labour being painful, it is more likely that you will actually experience pain? This is due to the “fear, tension, pain” cycle. When you experience fear, your body produces chemicals that change the way your body works, that in turn triggers the ‘flight or fight’ mechanism. This causes your uterus to continue working with less oxygen, the body tries to stop labour (thinking there is danger), and the muscles begin to work out of sequence, which causes unnecessary pain. It is important that you deal with any fears about the impending birth while you are pregnant to prevent them from having a negative affect on your labour. Relaxation and meditation can help with these.

Did you know that when you are praised and loved it can make a labour shorter, easier and happier? This is because when you feel good, a powerful hormone called oxytocin (the love hormone) is being released into your body. Oxytocin is a potent stimulator of contractions, and helps to dilate the cervix and move the baby down and out of your body. Your body will produce oxytocin to help birth your baby when you are relaxed, when your partner speaks positive words and gives you hugs, when you are comfortable and when you trust in your body and those around you.

Did you know you can help your body birth your baby by having an active labour? This does not necessarily mean continually moving around, but putting your body into positions which encourage the descent of the baby. You can use gravity to help expel your baby and you can use positions that encourage your pelvis to open and allow the baby to move through easier.

So, birthing your baby will be made much easier if you firstly surrender to your body – it knows what to do. Prepare yourself while you are pregnant to help you relax as much as possible during labour, clarify anything you are unsure about beforehand, surround yourself with people who speak positively about the impending birth and talk to your partner and your baby about the feelings you are experiencing. When the day comes, try to remain as calm as possible and focus on the practise you’ve done to prepare yourself for a beautiful labour experience!


Jen Staniforth

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Language of Birth

When I say "The Language of Birth" I don't mean all those clinical terms your birth team use (usually between each other, that you may or may not understand); I'm referring to the way you are spoken to, about or on behalf of during the labour and birth of your baby.

Imagine you had been labouring for a long time. You are tired. You are feeling weak. You may even be questioning whether you can actually do it! You arrive at the hospital. The 'medical person' asks if you'd like her to check how dilated you are. You consent. She or he does the V.E. (vaginal examination) and finds out you are 3cm. In the realm of language, it can be said one of two ways:
  • "Oh, you're only 3cm. You've really only started labour. If you haven't had the baby in another X amount of hours, we'll have to think about augmentation (speeding up labour) [which means you'll need to be strapped to a monitor and your movement will be limited, and there's also a much higher need for pain relief as chemical contractions can be much more intense than 'natural' contractions]." You are being restricted in your abilities already. Is there any need for implying that you don't have a choice as to what happens next if your body doesn't birth your baby in a certain time? This language may be considered quite threatening and you might start to feel as though you can't trust this person.

  • "Wow! You're 3cm. You've done such a good job to get to this point at home. Some people consider the most difficult part of first stage labour is 0-3cm. Keep doing what you're doing and if you need more support just let me know." You are been given a lot more freedom and probably feeling much more positive about how far you've come.

The language of birth can be so vastly different, and in the same way drive vastly different outcomes. When thinking about what to say during labour to a woman there are many things to consider, such as:

  • past experience of the woman

  • choices the woman has previously made

  • how much the woman already knows

  • what the woman would like to know

  • present choices the woman is currently needing to make

All in all, the language of birth should always be positive (even if an unexpected outcome occurs). Consider that any person that supports a woman during labour and birth (including doulas, midwives, obstetricians and others) can strongly drive how a woman copes with labour, how positive her experience is, how confident she will feel going into parenthood, and specific labour and birth outcomes, such as:

  • comfort during labour

  • feeling safe during labour

  • feeling supported during labour

  • length of labour

  • outcomes for the woman

  • outcomes for the baby

How then can the language of birth not be considered as a main concept of supporting women during such a cathartic time?

Talk to your support team during pregnancy to find out what they consider important when it comes to communicating with you at the birth of your baby.


Jen Staniforth