- Stay Warm
- Darkened Room
- Feel Unobserved
- Trust Your Body
- Eat Nourishing Foods, Drink Plain Water
Over the past few millions of years, humans and mamals have been giving birth without the use of hospitals, doctors or epidurals, for the most part, very effectively. The female body is designed to give birth very successfully and efficiently without the need for conscious control. In fact, the more you try to control the functioning and experiences within your body as you go through labour and childbirth, the more uncomfortable, stressful and prolonged your experience will be. Here’s why…
The thinking part of your brain, called the NEOCORTEX, is responsible for your intellect. This part of the brain, when stimulated, will try to rationalise, criticise, control and generally act very ‘human’ towards a situation. The neocortex is stimulated by language, bright lights, feeling cold, feeling observed and certain forms of touch. If this part of the brain is stimulated during childbirth, it will prevent the ‘mammalian’ side of the brain from functioning effectively.
During childbirth, if a woman’s neocortex is stimulated the whole birthing process will slow down. Being asked to think (for example asking what her phone number or postcode is, how frequent her contractions are or asking her to score her pain levels), being in a room with bright lights, being watched by one or more people or being touched in an irritating rather than relaxing way, a labouring woman will be taken out of her ideal state and become self-conscious, fearful and her muscles will tighten and create pain.
Allowing a labouring woman to relax and to ‘zone out’, turning off her neocortex, will make her labour more comfortable, faster and easier. This applies to the whole of the labour, from the beginning of the first stage right through to the delivery of the placenta. Staying in a non-thinking, meditative, animal state will help you to experience the birth of your child in a more Joyful way.
By understanding the process your body will undergo to allow your baby to be born will help you to feel more confident and relaxed.
During the first stage of labour, your uterus will be stimulated by the hormone OXYTOCIN to allow the muscles to pull up and outwards. This allows your cervix to become thinner and move out of the way to allow your baby to pass through your vagina. This means your cervix is dilating. Your cervix can dilate very quickly, so even if you’ve been having contractions for a while and you’re 5cm dilated, you may become fully dilated within an hour if you’ve allowed the conditions to be right (relaxed, unobserved, dim lighting and possibly contact with water).
With each contraction, remember that you are getting closer and closer to holding your baby in your arms for the first time. This is a Joyful process and your baby is looking forward to seeing you just as much as you are of him/her. Having negative thoughts and feelings about your contractions will make them feel even more negative. Feeling positive in your thoughts and emotions will allow the experience to be easier and faster.
Once your cervix is fully dilated (about 10cm), your uterus will respond by squeezing your baby’s bottom (if they’re head down) helping to push your baby downwards and out through your vagina. The wall of your vagina will already be lubricated by a pinkish substance to help your baby slip through. Make sure you’re still focusing on relaxing your breathing at this stage as your pelvic floor muscles around the opening of your vagina will need to be relaxed to allow a more comfortable birth. If your baby is in the ‘optimum position’ (chin to chest) then at the time of birth they help themselves to be born by wiggling and turning and lifting up their chin. This is the safest, quickest and easiest way for a baby to be born.
Just before the second stage of labour starts, you’re likely to feel a mix of emotions. It is at this point that many women opt to have drugs to ease the experience. A certain amount of pain during labour is very healthy and in fact essential for a Joyful Childbirth. Once your baby has been born, both of you will have a huge cocktail of hormones running through you, one of them being an endorphin that will make you feel fantastic and help with the bonding between you and your baby. By using painkilling drugs, you are likely to disrupt this cocktail of hormones and your experience of childbirth will be hampered.
Ask your midwife/medical carers not to offer you medication throughout your labour, and to only give you medication if you ask for it (in fact I would say if you ask for it more than once, just in case you can go without it). It is standard procedure to ask a woman if she would like medication, and during labour when it gets intense, you’re likely to accept anything. Encouragement, reassurance and a positive attitude will get most women through without medical pain relief.
During labour and the ‘crowning’ of your baby, you’re likely to feel the whole region as being very warm and expansive. Your bones, joints and muscles in and around your pelvis are making way for your baby and they’ve had nine months to prepare so are more than capable of doing this job. You won’t be the first or last woman to think you’re going to explode during childbirth as your body shifts and changes. But no woman has! In fact, some women orgasm at this stage because of the stimulation of all those wonderful, sensitive parts. It’s important not to be ‘coached’ through the second stage of labour so you and your baby can listen to your body and move and respond in a safe and instinctive way.
Once your baby is born, you and your new baby will both have a huge rush of hormones running through you. Dr Michel Odent discribes these as a ‘cocktail of Love’. It is very important for you and your baby that you are not disturbed during this time. Not only will it help with breastfeeding, but also with the bonding of you and your baby and your memory of childbirth. These hormones will make you feel full of life and love even if you’ve just come through a long labour. Painkillers can often disrupt this process. Ask your midwife to leave you alone with the baby for an hour following the birth so you can focus your whole attention onto your baby (if you ask for an hour, then if you get a bit less it’s better than asking for half an hour and getting a bit less). It is very important to STAY WARM at this time to allow the hormones to release.
The birth of the placenta, according to Dr Michel Odent is not too important… the only thing that is important is to allow the placenta to release itself from the uterus walls naturally. Using a synthetic drug rather than the natural release of oxytocin increases the risk of bleeding compared to being left alone with your baby to increase your own natural oxytocin release. Synthetic oxytocin may also inhibit the natural release of oyxtocin needed for breastfeeding shortly after birth.
The hormones that are rushing around your body during pregnancy and birth will be opening your emotions as well as your body. Feeling very open and vulnerable is very healthy and normal during childbirth and gives you the opportunity to let more feelings of love run through you. So long as you feel safe and relaxed with the people you are with and the place you are in, the birth of your child can be a truely Joyful and empowering experience.