Excerpt from my upcoming book "Birth - It's more to it!"
When a pregnant woman watches programs or read books about childbirth, she should be aware of the risks she is taking by using an academic approach to birth. Is it possible to lose intuition and gut feeling if you add too much information and knowledge that creates unbalance in your mind? Women are so used to preparing for big events in their lives, like exams, weddings and job interviews, that they have started to rely more on ‘facts and figures’ than intuitive knowledge. Women are also choosing to have their children later on in their lives, when they have established a good career for themselves and along with this, a life style and daily pattern that they are comfortable leading. They see having a baby as the next thing in their life plan and very often work right up until their baby is due to be born, giving up their paid work around pregnancy week 38.
Preparing for the birth of a child requires women to get back into their bodies and start connecting with the baby as soon as she knows the baby is there. We know from research that the baby is very aware in the womb and from 20 weeks can hear everything that goes on around them. There are many benefits from singing, talking and connecting to the baby during pregnancy for both the mother and the baby.
The attachment of negativity and pain to the experience of childbirth has a huge effect on the actual physiology of birth, which requires a woman to keep adrenaline away and the encouragement of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin. Instead of trusting their bodies and learning about the physiological event that childbirth is, women will look to professionals such as the NCT, books on pregnancy and childbirth and believe that you need to learn and train yourself to give birth. Many hours and pounds are spent investing in the ‘right’ kind of training and ‘the best’ props and items to not only assist during childbirth itself, but also to give the baby the best start in life. The whole process becomes too academic and the pressure and expectations of women on how to behave and not to behave during childbirth can be immense.
Different brands which have been attached to the notions of emotional security through advertising and promotion are making huge financial profits based on women’s need to feel in control. The reliance on external resources and input from experts could actually be undermining the woman’s belief that childbirth is normal and physiological. It’s forcing the woman to look outside of her body and its abilities and places the emphasis on the importance of external paraphernalia to be able to give birth when the focus must be on herself.
If a woman has experienced any kind of abuse, physical, mental or sexual, this will most likely have an impact on the birth process. Many of the processes and sensations during childbirth and procedures by medical professionals can feel similar to what was experienced during the time of abuse. The physical memory of the abuse in the woman’s body will usually not just go away and it can’t be overridden by any amount of positive thinking. It has to be dealt with by some type of therapy and this requires a lot of bravery and it will often be a painful journey for the woman.
I don’t think physiological childbirth is necessary the right thing for all women as I don’t want to see any women suffer in childbirth. Sometimes it might be better to really look at what is possible in terms of the journey of self-discovery and healing. It might just not be the right time or enough time to or the self-awareness to go through a process of transformation before facing childbirth. Trying to relax into a physiological birth when your body’s memory is expecting pain and your whole being is anticipating the next sensations by fighting back in the form of adrenaline production is going to make it more painful and more drawn out.
If a woman is committed to giving birth physiologically, she needs to know that it is hard work, requires a whole lot of determination, the right support people around her and an openness to accepting what unfolds in the process.
Kicki Hansard is a member of Doula UK, however any opinions expressed on this blog are personal views and not necessarily the view of Doula UK.