Positive Birth News

birth stories, news and articles to encourage and inspire

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Preparing for a Positive Birth

This is an excerpt from an article by Dr Shari Read in the Birth Journeys book. Shari is a psychotherapist, yoga and meditation teacher, and mum to two beautiful children, both born using the techniques taught in her BirthSkills® program, book and CD. Visit www.birthskills.com.au for more information on the program or to find your nearest practitioner.

In some cultures, birth is celebrated and honoured. Relatives and close friends care for the woman during pregnancy and are there to guide her through the process of birth. Young girls grow up having witnessed the births of siblings or cousins and learn that birth is a positive event. They develop expectations of being supported and nurtured. Birth is regarded as a natural, normal event in a woman’s life. As a result of this positive expectation of childbirth, the next generation is born into a calm, welcoming environment.

This is quite a contrast to birth in Western cultures today. For generations, we have been told that delivering a baby means many hours of painful, hard work – something to be regarded with fear and trepidation, something to ‘bear’. We experience pain in childbirth, in part, because we expect to.

All that can truly influence a woman’s birthing experience are her views and perceptions of it. What you believe, you will find. If you believe that birthing is a painful and traumatic experience, you will most likely interpret the sensations you feel during labour as painful and traumatic.

Alternatively, if you believe that women’s bodies were designed to birth a baby, you will be much more likely to interpret the workings of the uterus in a similar manner to the way other muscles in your body work – with one obviously different and wonderful outcome – the birth of your baby!

It is important that you believe that birth is the process of welcoming your child. This belief provides the framework for your birth preparations.

There are three underlying principles of birthing in harmony with your body: breathing, physical relaxation and physical positioning. Read about them here.

  1. Learn the skill of physical relaxation and form an intention to work with your breath during labour and birth. Physical relaxation allows the muscles of the abdomen, back and pelvic floor to soften and move gently out of the way as the uterus expands and contracts during labour and your baby moves down through your body. Being physically relaxed also ensures that your body isn’t flooded with stress hormones (eg. cortisol), which results in tense muscles, robbing the uterus of oxygen.
  2. Breathing is a very important part of birthing calmly and comfortably. Breathing is the essence of relaxation. There are several breathing techniques that will help you remain relaxed and focused, breathe through surges, and breathe your baby down during the second stage. It is also essential that you keep the oxygen flowing around your body and to your baby (if you aren’t breathing well neither is your baby). The muscles of the uterus need oxygen to work effectively, just like any other muscle in your body, and your baby needs oxygen to stay healthy during labour and avoid unnecessary distress. Breathe in deeply to ensure your body and baby have oxygen available, breathe out fully to ensure you release carbon dioxide and waste products from the working muscles.
  3. Understand how your body works during labour, particularly the muscles of the uterus. Ensure that you understand what is actually happening, mechanically, during the first and second stages of labour and how you can assist your physical body in this process (physical relaxation and breathing will contribute significantly). Also understand how the positioning of your body during labour and birth affects how the muscles work in nudging your baby down and out.

There are many techniques for enabling your mind and body to work together and enable you to birth your baby in a calm, confident and welcoming manner.

Women who are free of fear, well informed, well supported, and prepared with techniques and skills will be able to create a positive birthing environment and a welcoming birth for their baby.


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Birth IS All About Love

A positive birth is all about how a woman feels during her labour or birth. Whether women describe their birth as empowering, positive, spiritual or sacred – they are talking about how they felt in mind, body and spirit. Feelings are shaped by how they perceived birth as well as how they were supported and treated by those around them.

I admit it. Before experiencing birth at all, I thought women who spoke of birth like this must be absolutely crazy! I couldn’t reconcile what I thought must be the most painful and dangerous ordeal imaginable with these descriptions of joy, ecstasy, empowerment and strength.

Even once I began to understand that labour was manageable and a natural birth was possible, I didn’t understand how birth could be anything but hard work. I went into my first birth determined to get through. It felt like a battle.

One of the missing pieces of the puzzle for me was the connection between the biology of labour and the experience of labour. Labour is all about letting go, not fighting. My dogged determination was actually in conflict with the process and the progress of my labour. Mentally and emotionally holding on like this tells the body “I am not safe. My baby is not safe.”

When women feel anxious, the hormone that drives contractions is interrupted by fight or flight hormones. Labour may slow or stall and medical intervention may be introduced to move things along. Women need to feel safe, private and loved to support the work of the hormones that create labour.

The hormones released during labour also provide pain relief and enhance a mother’s feelings of joy and bonding with her baby. These hormones are most effective when women feel safe enough to let go of inhibitions, fears and rational thoughts and enter into a deeply relaxed state of consciousness. The combination of birth hormones and joy at the birth of her baby produces intense feelings of strength, love, pride and euphoria for the woman. Birth can be a powerful experience that causes women to exclaim joyfully “I want to do that again!”

So feeling loved, safe and private enough to let go is not just a ‘nice idea’ for labouring mothers. It is a biological imperative – it is nature’s plan.

You can learn more about the hormonal blueprint for birth from Sarah Buckley’s excellent free ebook on her website: www.sarahbuckley.com

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Estimated Due Dates – choosing to induce?

In the final weeks and days of pregnancy most women feel tired, impatient and very ready to meet their baby. The waiting time may be emotional and challenging as you edge closer and closer to the moment when labour begins but when that moment will actually be remains an unknown – a mystery – and you simply have to wait. You may also feel the pressure to have an induction if your baby has not arrived by 41 weeks.

An induction may seem like an appealing and easy choice, however induction can be “like playing with fire, and many women do end up getting burnt. The problem with an induction is that women often end up on the ‘cascade of intervention’ – a road that many women regret taking, as the final outcome is often not the birth they wanted or desired.” writes Gabrielle Targett, birth educator, doula and author.

Your pregnancy is not an hourglass. The sand does NOT run out on your estimated due date.

An induction brings risks as well as benefits and it is wise to be aware of the full picture before making any decisions. An induction changes labour from a natural process to a medically managed one, requiring increased monitoring. Further medical assistance is more likely once you begin an induction because of these risks, including an increased chance of a caesarean birth. A caesarean is the usual recommendation if the induction fails, so when you choose an induction you need to be aware that you are agreeing to a possible caesarean if your baby is not born within a safe timeframe, (this timeframe will be determined by your doctor or hospital, although you may be able to have input into this).

As a guideline, it makes sense to choose an induction when the risks of waiting have become greater than the risks of an induction and all that might follow. Ask questions and share openly and honestly your concerns and thoughts with your midwife and doctor. Ideally, you will have been able to choose the most suitable carers and place of birth in the beginning and by the time you are 37+ weeks into your pregnancy you will have a relationship of trust, respect and open communication.

If you need to, seek a second opinion. It is not too late to hire a doula for extra support or even to change place or birth and care providers if you do not feel supported and heard.

If you do need an induction, it helps to know that you are making the best choice for your unique circumstances. You may find some people will question your need for an induction, offer their advice and anecdotes, or make little of an induced birth when it may have been an enormous decision for you. You may feel sad or disappointed that your wishes for birth are no longer possible.

Read up on induction and understand the process, the possible complications and what you can do to counter these or manage them. Explore the options that may be possible (but not always offered) like turning down the artificial oxcytocin once labour is established, intermittent monitoring or using a water proof doppler so you can move more easily or labour in the shower where the warm water may help with the intensity of the contractions. If you are not able to use the shower, make use of heat packs or warmed wash clothes on your back or belly. Ask your supporter to help you breathe deeply, but not to not hyperventilate, so you can consciously keep your baby oxygenated – a lack of oxygen is one of the increased risks an induced baby faces.

A positive birth depends on the way you feel and the way you are cared for more than anything else. So gather your supporters and surround yourself with strong, encouraging and loving people. Approach your new plan for birth with as much optimism as your old plan. If it has turned out you and your baby need a different path to birth, there is no shame or failure in being wise enough and flexible enough to recognise this. You can choose to handle this change in plans beautifully and you will soon be holding your baby in your arms!

For more information on induction visit Midwife Thinking – induction

Read women’s positive experiences with induction

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On Breastfeeding in Mother and Baby Magazine

I was invited to write about my experience breastfeeding beyond the baby years for Mother & Baby magazine last year.

I was invited to write about my experience breastfeeding beyond the baby years for Mother & Baby magazine last year.

“I never thought I’d be an “extended breastfeeder”. Before I had children, the thought of having a baby attached to my breast made me cringe! However, when my baby was born, I found breastfeeding was a beautiful, miraculous and natural thing for me to do.

I loved watching my baby boy fall asleep in my arms – it felt very special to catch that moment when his eyelids finally settled. Breastfeeding made me slow down and connect with my baby.

When my son was still a baby, I remember seeing a mother breastfeed her three year old. I was shocked and thought that three was far too old. I wasn’t sure how long we would breastfeed for – we just did what felt natural and right for us. I wanted to let my son wean slowly, at his own pace. He weaned just before he turned three.

I have taken the same approach with my second son. He has just turned three and is still breastfeeding. This is new territory for me – I didn’t expect this to happen! My first son let go when he was ready so I trust that my second son will too.

Although my son continues to benefit nutritionally from breastfeeding and it gives his immune system a boost, I find the biggest benefit is how it gives him a physical and tangible way to feel close to me, to calm himself down, and feel safe and loved. Breastfeeding doesn’t stop him from developing or becoming independent. He is just as active, rambunctious, determined and playful as any other toddler!

As a mum who is an “extended breastfeeder” I find it hard sometimes. I haven’t had many negative comments, but I don’t get much encouragement either. I find it helpful to connect with other breastfeeding mothers for support, understanding and a sense of belonging.

The recent provocative Time magazine cover put extended breastfeeding in the spotlight and shocked many people. It is easy to judge and criticise but we each have to make the best choices we can for our children and ourselves. Every mother needs to be supported and respected.” in Mother & Baby Magazine, August 2012.