Has anyone ever told you that birth can be pleasurable or even pain free? It may be a very strange concept to women bombarded with stories of painful or traumatic birth. As an Independent midwife I rarely see women needing pharmacological pain relief, the main reasons being that they feel safe, loved and respected. They know and trust their midwife and know the sensations of labour are not to be feared. When a woman feels safe and supported throughout childbirth her biological functions can work as they were designed to. Her body produces complex coctails of hormones, endorphins and oxytocin to bring forth her baby in joy and triumph.
The strong sensations of childbirth are actually signs that our body is working well. The discomfort alerts us to the start of labour so we can move to a place of safety and gather our birth supporters around us. As the baby moves through our body it instructs us how, and when to move, to paricipate in the intimate dance of birth. As sensations change they let us know that we are making progress, and to assume a birthing position. The sensations of the expulsive stage enable us to work with our body and baby to give birth. These signals are more likely to be perceived as painful if the birthing woman is unsupported, scared, disturbed, or interferred with. Most women with good support manage labour with self-help techniques, love and their own determination.
I am of course referring to healthy women, experiencing full-term spontaneous labour, with a baby in the optimum position. If a labour is induced or augmented with artificial drugs, if a baby is in a really unusual position, or if an instrumental or surgical birth is necessary, then pain can be more difficult to manage.
The secret to an enjoyable birth experience is preparation, good labour support, and Oxytocin. Oxytocin has been called the love hormone as it is produced when we fall in love, or make love. It is very important in childbirth as it makes the uterus contract, enhances maternal behaviour and enables the letdown reflex in breastfeeding. Oxytocin is a very shy hormone though. It is hard to produce oxytocin in stressful situations.
The same environment which is conducive to making love is also advantageous in childbirth. Can you imagine having to make love in hospital, with bright lights, little or no privacy, unfamiliar staff wanting to watch, examine, time and chart every move? It would be very hard to mainain that loving feeling, let alone reach orgasm.
Oxytocin production is enhanced in an environment of trust, privacy, love, tenderness, darkness and emotional and physical comfort. As normal labour progresses it is normal for a woman to become more inwardly focussed, and less inclined to commumicate. The thinking parts of her brain need to not be stimulated as she enters a different state, sometimes referred to as being in “labourland.” If a woman is disturbed during active labour the flow of oxytocin can be interrupted.
According to wikipedia “The word oxytocin was derived from Greek oxys, and tokos, meaning “quick birth,” so you can see its advantages!
Of course, if medical management is really necessary it is still possible to give birth in joy. Loving support, being in charge of the decision making process and sending love to your baby throughout, can make all the difference.
See the films below to see how joyful birth can be.
Elephant birth – rather dramatic but worth watching just to see the power of birth and maternal instinct.