All mammals give birth to their young ones and start feeding them as soon as possible after birth. Human beings are evolved mammals, and human birth is the most miraculous, transformational and mysterious event of our lives. Women worldwide are seeking more natural and family centered ways to birth their children and experience motherhood without suffering and trauma that have been associated with labor and delivery. And because of this, they want optimal education and support. The education that best prepares a woman for a gentle birth is the one that empowers her by providing information and a belief in her ability to give birth naturally.
Labor progress is facilitated when a woman feels safe, respected, and cared for by the experts who are responsible for her clinical safety, when she can remain active and upright and when her pain is adequately and safely managed. The opposite feelings of shame or embarrassment, of being observed, of feeling unsafe, being immobile, being treated with disrespect may trigger a psychobiological reaction that interferes with efficient progress in labor.
When I did my thesis on laboring women it was found that when the mothers were allowed to move around, changed positions and listened to their bodies, the pain they felt at the time of labor was reduced and also the time span of labor was shortened. Women want and need supportive people around them during labor.
The three measures that help a woman to achieve a natural gentle birth are:
Psycho-emotional measure: women should be encouraged to bring along comforting things like her favorite music, pictures, loved ones, her clothing to wear during labor. This may require advance planning for packaging for a hospital birth. Preparing a birth plan can help in sharing the feelings and concerns and in turn, clear up misunderstandings, and establish trust amongst the mother and hospital staff.
Physical comfort measures: using simple physical comfort measures may increase the women’s sense of mastery and reduce her stress and likelihood of labor slowing. An atmosphere with dim lights and comforting music adds on to the relaxation and breathing techniques. The partner should be encouraged to massage the points of pain. For every mother, the pain area would be different, and if they are addressed with proper rhythmic movements and breathing can benefit in reducing it. Hot and cold packs at the painful sites, bath and shower, using a birth ball and frequently changing position can help the mothers to ease during labor.
Physiological measures: a laboring woman should be encouraged to empty her bladder every hour or two as a distended bladder may increase the pain or interfere with the descent of the baby. Women should remain well hydrated throughout the labor. Oral liquids such as juices and water are good and comforting ways to quench her thirst. Women should be encouraged to try a variety of movements and positions and use the ones which feel better for her and help in relaxing of muscles of pelvis and back.
It's very well said by Dr Michel Odent: For the body’s natural powers to come into play, they must be left alone…. Giving women painkilling drugs and synthetic hormones during birth, as is common practice in most modern hospitals, destroys the hormonal balance on which spontaneous labor depends. Certainly pain itself can slow down labor, but when drugs are not used, the body can defend itself effectively and naturally against it.
Will continue with what all positions help in progressing labor and decrease in pain in my next blog with detailed description and pictures. Till then keep reading Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper and Google the website of Lamaze International.
(About Dr Shalinta Tyagi – Dr Tyagi is a physiotherapist specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. She is a certified breastfeeding counselor and antenatal-postnatal fitness expert. She has been working for 12+ years in the field of childbirth education, women's physiotherapy and lactation. Over the years she has updated her qualifications as a Hypnobirthing and Water birthing Practitioner. She has worked with Apollo Cradle, W Hospital and Cloud 9 in Gurgaon and now a freelancer).
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