Birth is not only about making babies. It’s about making mothers;strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and believe in their inner strength. – Barbara Katz Rothman
When one would nudge a grandmother or grandaunt to tell us their birthing stories, beautiful stories emerge which make us feel that birthing was a simple process then. As a grandmother recounts how she would just slip into a room in their home when she feels ready, delivers the baby with the help of a midwife and get back to the usual business after couple of hours as if nothing has happened. This would be the same story for all of her 12 babies! Without any sophisticated technologies or highly educated doctors or zillions of books/web pages which give weekly descriptions of pregnancy – how did our ancestors do it so easily?
Similar birthing stories vary from culture to culture. Quoting few birthing stories from the book “The magical child”:
“When an australian aborigine mother is ready to deliver, she drops back from her tribe, alone, She digs a hole in the sand, squats over it, delivers her infant, waits for the placenta to discharge, catches and eats the placenta(which is more nourishing than liver and ideal for the mother at that moment, a practice followed by many economical cultures, such as the Eskimo), puts the infant to her breast and runs to rejoin her tribe. She is gone an average of twenty minutes.
The Ugandan mother, as is typical in non technological cultures, follows her usual routines until some five minutes before the baby appears.She retires to a place of privacy, squats, delivers her young (perhaps with a help of midwife, perhaps not), and resumes her ordinary routines within the hour.”
Natural birthing has many advantages. The mother feels more satisfied with the whole birthing experience and can instantly connect with her child physically after the birthing has taken place. She feels normal and not drugged in any way.The child is also more alert and can easily latch on to mother’s breast and the mother also can initiate breastfeeding sooner.During the process of natural birthing, the muscles help squeeze out the liquid from the lungs of the child and the chances of having any respiratory issues at birth are nil. The birth canal has good bacteria which helps boost the immune system and protect the intestinal tracts of the child.The intestinal microbes plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the infant.Pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding seed the microbiomes and hence have a long term effect on the health of the child.
Lot of support for natural birthing is sprouting up around the world. Many women who want to experience the natural way are coming together to discuss and seek support from midwives/Doulas. Midwives are professionals who are trained to educate and support women to maintain healthy pregnancies and help during their delivery and also support them during their postpartum period.They help the mothers to trust and listen to their body.Women’s body is designed to give birth naturally.The vaginal muscles are built for delivery and the fetus can easily mould its head and pass through the birth canal. Midwives encourage the mothers to follow their natural instinct and to do what is needed to push the child .A complication in delivery is usually not the norm but are exceptions. Such information about the body physiology and how the body works during labour physically and emotionally are conveyed in lamaze classes.
During the birth process, midwife checks for the fetus heartbeat, mother’s blood pressure , pulse and temperature – checks if there is any medical intervention needed for both mother and the fetus.The mother is in her constant care and observation. Apart from the observations, midwifes will support mother emotionally, give her occasional massages and just share the space with the parents and let the nature take its course. Midwifes aim to keep all the interventions including vaginal examinations to the minimum and give constant support to the mother irrespective of the time it takes.
When the birth is undisturbed,just born babies have the natural instinct to find mother’s nipple and commence breastfeeding.Midwives encourage skin to skin contact between mother and baby for the sake of bonding and also for the baby to seek for mother’s breast.
Midwives strongly believe in the independence of movement of the labouring mothers. They are not strapped down to a bed but are allowed to move about freely in the room and take on any position which feels comfortable.
Quoting a similar text from the book “magical child”
“An apparently incidental issue here, which actually turns out to be monumental,is the position medicine men of the West have, since the time of Louis XIV, forced their victims to take: the supine position – flayed out flat on the back and, in a shocking number of cases, even strapped down, a position that would strike terror into the staunchest soul.What does the word supine mean?Helpless and incompetent.This position throws every muscle and bone of the body completely out of line for natural delivery of an infant from the womb and makes that delivery extremely difficult.”
So what is the right way of birthing? There are various natural birth options available.
One of the most popular birthing method where birth takes place in a tub of warm water. Water provides a calming influence on the mother and reduces the pressure on the abdomen. Lot of women have reported to have enjoyed their labour in water as it provides significant pain relief and facilitates the mother to assume any position which is comfortable for labour and birth. Some people call Water birthing as ‘aquadural’ which is definitely safer and more effective than an epidural.
Quoting from Waterbirth.org site:
“The effect of buoyancy that deep water immersion creates allows spontaneous movement of the mother. No one has to help the mother get into a new position. She moves as her body and the position of the baby dictate. Movement helps open the pelvis, allowing the baby to descend.
When a woman in labor relaxes in a warm deep bath, free from gravity’s pull on her body, with sensory stimulation reduced, her body is less likely to secrete stress-related hormones. This allows her body to produce the pain inhibitors-endorphins-that complement labor. Noradrenaline and catecholamines, the hormones that are released during stress, actually raise the blood pressure and can inhibit or slow labor. A laboring woman who is able to relax physically, is able to relax mentally as well. Many women, midwives, and doctors acknowledge the analgesic effect of water. Thousands of these mothers state they would never be able to consider laboring without water again.”
Birthing centers such as Birth Village, Kochi , Birthing Sanctuary, Goa facilitate water birthing.
Lotus birthing which is also known as Delayed Cord Clamping (DCC) is a practice where the umbilical cord is not cut after the childbirth but the placenta is kept connected through the umbilical cord until the cord dries up naturally – this drying up may vary from 3 to 10 days.This non violent way of keeping the placenta intact with the infant seems to have life lasting benefits.
Quoting text from the book “Lotus Birth”:
“Lotus Birth establishes the baby-placenta relationship and suggests that the mother gives birth to the baby-placenta. As we shall see, there are no sustainable medical reasons for cutting the cord and separating the biological unit that conceived, grew and delivered (or birthed) together.
Lotus Birth ensures that the physical body is well cared for by ensuring that the baby receives the full quotient of the oxygen-bearing highly nutritious blood that is in the cord. The infant obtains 40 to 60 mL of ‘extra’ blood from the placenta if the cord is not tied until pulsations cease. The loss of 30 mL of blood to the newborn is equivalent to the loss of 600 mL to an adult. Common practice of immediate cutting of the cord before the pulsations cease deprives the newborn of a possible 60 mL of blood, the equivalent to a 1200mLhaemorrhage in an adult. This is a likely explanation of the strange phenomenon of weight loss that most newborns seem to endure. The new organism is put immediately under undue stress to reproduce the blood it was denied.
The immature liver is supported by the placenta in the offloading of toxins, as the pumping action continues until the cessation of pulsations. Most babies’ bodies are loaded up with these, including any drugs administered during the birth, and have to begin life dealing with the unnecessary toxic waste in their immature systems.”
Placenta has always been that integral organ which physically connects the mother and the fetus – feeding and nourishing the unborn with nutrients and oxygen through the umbilical cord. In few indian cultures, if a girl child is born, they would gently rub the placenta on her as this would ensure clear skin with minimum facial or body hair.
In few other cultures, the mothers eats the placenta which is rich in stem cells and iron content.
Hypnotherapy is used to assist the birthing process. It functions on the premise that most labour related pain is the result of fear and tension, which can be diminished.
Deep relaxation breathing methods and visualisations techniques are taught through the pregnancy and many women have felt labour pains to be less intense while using hypnotherapy technique.
Experience of a mother who has undertaken hypnobirhting – from the website hypnobirthing.com
“Sherry says, “go with your gut and keep breathing”. This was tricky, I was surprised at the power of the NER (natural expulsive reflex) of my own body. Jon got the relaxation track going and I said to myself, “this power cannot be greater than me, it is me.” I talked myself into going with the flow of power (it was not painful, please don’t confuse my surprise with pain) and accepting the pressure. It’s really neat when you stop being scared (I spent two years, terrified to be exactly where I was at that moment) and give in to the reality and majesty of the experience. I was following my own body’s lead to birth and my baby’s desire to be born. I felt so in touch with everything going on inside and truly no pain. I looked to Jon for rejuvenation and calm. 40 minutes later, I held my son in my arms and snuggled to my chest, literally the first person to lay hands on him in this world. “
Born at Home Documentary