Midwives have existed since the
beginning of humanity. Why, then, is it so difficult to find a midwife in America?
What events occured between the mid 1800's until the present day which nearly made
midwifery extinct in America? And why are more families now looking into homebirth as a
refuge from hospital care?
Pain during childbirth. Can it be controlled naturally?
Is pain and extreme discomfort a natural accompaniment to birth? Or is pain a consequence of our well meaning attempts to remove all risks at birth?
Benign birthing experiences take place when the mother births herself, or receives help from close relatives or tribal members. People she has known all of her life. My research shows, that the presence of relative strangers can trigger an adrenaline rush, the flight or fight response. Partners, family members can also trigger this reaction if long held resentments have not
been ventilated and resolved. There are ways to alleviate, or bypass this unconscious reaction which I wish to present in the following paragraphs.
This adrenaline rush is a survival mechanism, designed to assist a birthing mother in protecting herself and her newborn from predators, by delaying birth until the mother has been able to flee or fight off a predator. Most other species will seek a private, dark and safe space in which to give birth, usually by themselves. If an intruder appears the fight or flight mechanism is triggered. The adrenaline released will inhibit the birthing from continuing until the mother has reached a place of safety
Picture then the following scenario: The birthing mother's water bag breaks, contractions set in full and powerful. The family is alerted, and the midwife or physician is contacted. Anxiety levels rise and the need to get the birthing mother to the hospital or the midwife to the home is paramount. Often
when the midwife arrives, or the mother arrives at the hospital, everything stops. Contractions cease or modify. The cervix ceases to open and often the situation is diagnosed as premature. The midwife sits down to wait, or in the case of a hospital delivery the mother is sent home. Commonly, on the
way back home from the hospital or when the mother reaches home, contractions start coming in again full and strong. Quite often birth takes place in the car on the way back to the hospital.
If the mother waits at the hospital or the midwife stays with the
birthing mother, birthing can be delayed over hours or even days, no matter how kind and supportive the birth attendants or physicians are.
After a prolonged period during which the neonate is trying to be born, the mother is unconsciously trying to prevent birth and usually experiences severe pain and anxiety. (For a description of the physiology involved see excerpt below from Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read, M.D.)
Tension will also mount in the supervising staff and as the fetus is affected by its need to be born, countered by the instinctual and unconscious need of the mother to delay birth until the environment is judged safe, infant stress factors will rise and intervention is then judged to be essential.
Obviously flight as a way to release these toxins is not possible. What I suggest to midwives and attending physicians is that a birthing mother be encouraged to discharge feelings by beating on a large pillow or mattress. This enables the toxins in her system to be released. If times if a mother has difficulty in accessing such feelings, it has been found useful to encourage the mother to start making a deep throated sound, akin to the bellowing or roaring of a wild animal. The best position for this is on ones hands and knees, either on the bed or floor, with a large cushion strategically placed for when the rage is triggered, and the mother can beat the cushion with great enthusiasm.
Of course the triggering of feelings, such as rage and fear, are not usually encouraged in hospitals or other traditional birthing environments. This can be alarming to other mothers in the vicinity or relatives. Our cultures try to bypass such feelings with the use of pharmaceuticals, or by persuading mothers to suffer such feelings privately.
As an alternative in the future, such extreme measures may be able to be forestalled. Having a mother birth herself, only accompanied by attendants who are familiar and unconsciously non-threatening to her, the flight or fight reaction may be avoided altogether. A video camera can be installed in the
birthing room, and a monitor in an adjoining room. Birthing attendants can then monitor the birth and if intervention is required are able to respond immediately. The parents-to-be can be taught the simple procedures involved in a normal birth during the prenatal period.
Wireless head sets could be provided if the birthing companion needs assurances or coaching through the birth. In this manner competent medical assistance is immediately available if required and the most important two involved, the neonate and the mother, are safe and comfortable.
On many occasions such a method will not be possible as accompanying partners, and/or relatives may have previously communicated to the birthing mother high levels of anxiety and stress. The West does not have, historically, an attitude towards birth that is calm, relaxed and at ease. Many parents have recently undertaken the various approaches to reducing fear and pain that come under the label of Natural Childbirth. While these approaches have been invaluable in educating parents-to-be concerning birth, and have significantly reduced anxiety and pain for many birthing mothers, some mothers have still been disappointed at the levels of pain, and stress that they
experienced. Many feel that because they were unable to have the kind of birth that they anticipated, that they have been deprived of a more benign and even enjoyable experience. Some even feel that they have been left wanting, and that this is somehow their fault.
The central core of most systems of Natural Childbirth such as The Bradley Method, Lamaze etc., is to train the mother-to-be to use various relaxation methods such as Edmund Jacobsons. Unfortunately for many mothers who have attended such classes and have become proficient in relaxation, it becomes apparent that when the birthing environment has been deemed
unsafe, they still become overwhelmed by the fight or flight reaction. At this point any conscious learning becomes overwhelmed by the primal reaction to a perceived threat to survival.
Certainly the safest and most effective way to reduce pain at this point during birth is to ventilate this unconscious mechanism. This can be done by stimulating the mother to express her feelings about the pain and anxiety that she is experiencing and encouraging her to physically discharge those
chemicals that are coursing through her system. Many mothers wish to experience an unmedicated birth in order to be alert and fully cooperative during the birthing procedure.
Excerpt: There is no physiological function in the body that gives rise to pain in the normal course of health. In no other animal species is the process of birth apparently associated with any suffering, pain or agony, except where pathology exists or in an unnatural state, such as captivity.
There are certain primitive cultures in which childbirth is looked forward to with joy and anticipation as something wonderful! Here one finds little evidence of suffering, pain or agony. Again, there is no other physiological process in our body that is painful under normal conditions except when
complicated by pathology, including fear and tension.
Any stress to the mother stimulates the adrenal glands to pour out catecholemines. As a result, muscle sphincters tighten down making uterine contractions less effective and sending blood away from the uterus to the arms and legs because stress and tension prepare the body for fight or flight. All of this prevents an adequate supply of oxygen to the big contracting
There are three muscle layers composing the uterus, the outer muscles contract to push the baby down, through and ultimately out of the uterus. The middle muscles contract to squeeze the blood out of the walls of the uterus and then relax to allow the blood vessels to fill up again with a fresh supply of
But when the inner circular muscles contract they close the outlet, maintaining the uterus in its unemptied shape. Thus, these inner circular muscles must be loose and relaxed when the long muscles contract to open the womb and push the baby out.
If a woman is frightened during labor this inner muscle layer contracts, then the muscles of the uterus and the muscles that hold it closed are working against each other.
Whenever there are two big groups of muscles working against each other they soon begin to hurt and in a short time the pain becomes very severe. We speak of this as the fear-tension-pain-syndrome of childbirth for a woman
who is afraid and unconsciously resisting the birth of her baby by tightening the circular uterine fibers which prevents the progress of the birth and increases muscle tension within the walls of the uterus.
This causes nearly all of the pains and distresses in otherwise normal labor. Which describes the labor of about ninety five women out of a hundred. excerpt from Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read, M.D
I have received many anecdotal reports from various countries that appear to show that in cultures such as the Bedouin or Pigmy, the birthing process is measured in minutes rather than hours. Here, extreme pain and distress are rarities, and the causes of such pain would be deemed unnatural. Such reports
seem to indicate that these observations have some validity, but further research is needed. There may be many other factors involved that are not obvious at first reporting. The author welcomes criticisms, suggestions and interest in partaking in
controlled trials. Funds are being sought for this purpose.
If you are interested please contact Rayner Garner at The Nurturing Center P.O.Box 1616 Forestville, Ca. 95436 USA or email to email@example.com
© Rayner Garner
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