What are the questions about pregnancy and birth that you discuss with your friends, family and care providers?
Probably you have very practical ones: What foods should I avoid? Do I have to eat for two? Can I go to the gym? Can I carry my shopping bags? Can I pet my cat? Should I take supplements? Can I drink wine? How much weight should I put on? What tests should I do to make sure all is well? What medicine can I take if I get sick?
A wonderful job has been undertaken by your body, and no one is telling it when or how to develop your baby’s eyelashes, those wonderful rosey cheeks or the tiny little nails.
Nevertheless, you may be tempted to think that the most responsible act as a new mother is to delegate to the professionals your own health and that of your child, to rely on someone else to answer your questions. In a culture where images, words and stories perpetuate the myth that birth is some dreadful horrible thing that we can only hope to survive, it’s easy to stop believing you can birth happily, let alone enjoy doing it.
So, maybe that’s why real important questions, the questions that make you anxious, are left unanswered, as you confide in luck or faith or destiny or medical technology to take care of them. Questions like: Will I have a positive birth experience? Is everything goin to be alright?
I offered a first answer to these questions in my other post “Pregnancy and Birth: Being or Doing mode?“, where I said that in birth there is a lowered activity of the neocortex, the logical and alert brain, while the ancient and primal brain takes over. And this istinctive brain is sensitive to any signal of danger, so we must interfere less, do less, to avoid the risk of altering this natural mechanism that has been perfected by nature and that requires intimacy, safety and comfort. There is a biochemical communication between you and your baby that you can protect by listening to your primal instinct, and hypnobirthing helps you do that quite well.
Here, though, I’d like to look at the bigger picture. With the medicalization of childbirth, the percentage of cesarean births and inductions has skyrocketed in the last decades, as if modern women’s bodies are somehow defective. The data shows that the increase in the medicalization of birth did not necessarily correspond to a reduction of the adverse events, morbidity and mortality.
In Italy the percentage of Caesarean sections is on average around 36-37%, the highest in the European countries. Are Italian women less healthy, less able to give birth than others? Or could it be that the predominant culture of birth doesn’t respect the physiology of the feminine body, and in interfering is creating the conditions for unsafe labors and births?
In the United States, maternal mortality has doubled since 1990 (here you can find a pdf on the problems of the US in this regard). Although the reasons for this may be several, it is reasonable to think that medicine and technology, if misused, can be destructive, rather than beneficial.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, several Northern European countries are now leading the chart of the safest places to be born, thanks to their natural approach to childbirth and percentage of home births up to 30%, in the Netherlands.
As you can see in the picture, essentially the care given in childbirth can be described as a medical or a physiological one.
The medical model is not centered around women and children but around routines and protocols; the connection between mind and body is not considered significant in the process of birth, thus birth is treated as a mechanical event of the body, rather than a holistic one, which has physical, mental and emotional aspects. It basically defines birth as normal only in retrospect. The goal is survival for mother and baby, while the mother’s personal perception of the birth experience has no relevance.
To exemplify, if an initial labor stops or slows down (which is not dangeroous in itself), all that the medical model offers to a woman in labor is a time limit, beyond which it will intervene with synthetic oxytocin to augment labor.
In the physiological model, the experience of the mother, a good initiation of the relationship between mom and baby, and breastfeeding, are all parts of the definition of a “good outcome”. In the physiological model you have many tools to support a woman when her labor stops, the acceptance of birth as made by many variations of normal being the most important. Then, to name a few others: changing positions, deep breathing, movement, words of encouragement, gentle massage, birth ball, rest and nap, relaxing music, shower or hot bath, essential oils, birth affirmations, and more importantly in my opinion, hypnobirthing scripts! The recognition that mental and emotional well-being of the mother has a huge effect on labor and birth is at the core of the physiological model of care.
Now, we are fortunate enough to live in an age that has seen many advancements in technology and medical care, so that we can save more mothers and babies. Although medical interventions in childbirth are often presented as risk free and with side effects limited in time, they actually have contraindications and possible cascading effects that lead to more interventions, as well as long-term consequences that research has been revealing (you just need to look at the resources available).
Ideally, you want a careful professional support, respectful of your feelings and birth preferences. But the question that keeps popping in your head may be: “Can I afford it? Am I being irresponsible? Should I sacrifice my birth experience, in order to have a child alive and healthy?“
The World Health Organization, in the Fortelesa Declaration of 1985, states that birth should be treated as a natural and normal process, every woman has the right to receive proper prenatal care and must play a central role in all aspects of this care, including participation in the planning, carrying out and evaluating the assistance itself. And, more importantly, it says that social, emotional and psychological factors are extremely important for appropriate care in pregnancy and birth.
And if it isn’t the WHO, it is years of research into the physiology of birth, that should tell you: Yes, you can afford it, in fact it is your right, it is a responsible thing to do, and having a good birth is the same as making sure you get a safe birth for you and your baby as well.
Even with the best medical support and everything going right at birth, you still need to take care of that first question: Will I have a positive birth experience?
It’s not medical support that can answer to that question for you, but by asking yourself the most important question you’re in the right path to achieve that for yourself. The question may be something like the following: how do I protect the natural work my body is designed to do?
That’s all you need: to begin the journey with the right and most important question, to prepare for a positive, powerful and satisfying birth for you and your baby.
Contact me, for more information on my Hypnobirthing classes.