How to have a Gentle Birth
The birds and the bees doesn't end at fertilisation!
What do you think birth is like?
If you have been watching " I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" and "Birth Story" you may think birth is a loud, panic stricken event, in which mother and baby never escape a doctors intervention.
The medical establishment would like you to keep on believing because, it's how they make money.
There is another way. It's called a gentle birth.
What's Gentle birth?
The basic tenets of a gentle birth are that birth is a natural physiological event that in most cases with most women will proceed naturally at its own pace. It doesn't require immense amounts of monitoring and intervention. The Gentle Birth sisternity believes that many medical interventions are completed due to the timing not suiting the doctor not due to danger to the mother or child.
A gentle birth is a birth that proceeds at its own pace with no or minimal medical intervention. Most women can and should attempt to have a gentle birth as the outcomes for mother and child are better than a highly interventional or medicalised birth.
Why should I have a gentle birth?
It is a medical fact that there is a flow chart of medical interventions. One medical intervention almost inevitably leads to another. So I will go through the medical interventions that can be offered and their potential pitfalls
Effects of Interventions during birth
Vaginal examination ( internal exam): is when the doctor or midwife checks your cervix to see how dilated you are. If the amniotic sac has ruptured this can allow bacteria to be passed onto the baby or into the uterus. It can also be disheartening to the mother to hear how little she has dilated.
Fetal monitoring: Is when a belt is attached to the mother so the babies heartbeat can be monitored during contractions. They can indicate fetal distress. Electrodes can also be screwed into the babies head and they can be monitored that way too ( I don't think i need to say anymore about that method!). Fetal monitoring if constant can cause the mother to lay on her back and be unable to move around the birthing suit... this can slow labour down.
Adding oxytocin/pitocin to speed up labour: this can be given as a pessary ( placed in the vagina) or intravenously. This causes contractions to speed up very quickly and as the mother is now not in a normal birthing cycle her endorphins don't kick in, this is very painful very quickly and often leads to pain relief being rapidly accepted. This can also cause the baby to be born faster than it may normally have been, as the descent through the birth canal is so fast all of the fluid may not be squeezed out of the lungs of the baby.
Pain relief: there are 3 main kinds gas, epidural/spinal block and pethedine.
Gas is taken by the mother breathing it in, can cause nausea and vomiting and it can cross the placenta and effect the baby.
Epidural/spinal blocks stop the mother feeling contractions and can slow down birth. They can also cause other interventions like vacuum and episiotomy. Depending on the extent of block mother may not be able to walk and is forced to labour on the bed. These can effect respiratory rate of the newborn and cause permanent spinal damage in the mother. They can also cause massive headaches after birth in the mother.
Pethidine is a drug given by injection to the mother to ease pain. It can cause respiratory issues in mother and newborn, this can cause poor attachment in the first 24hrs after birth.
Episiotomy: is when the doctor cuts the mother perineum to allow the babies head( the largest part of the baby) out. This can cause the birth to happen faster than it would naturally and it will be uncomfortable and an infection risk for the mother when healing. It is better to massage the perineum before birth to encourage elasticity and to allow natural tears as they have edges that knit together more quickly and strongly compared to a scalpels cut.
Forceps: these are metal "tongs" that lock together and create a space for the baby to be moved into. Google what they look like and then think about whether you would like to have them used on you! They can be used to speed up birth and if the baby is in distress and needs to birthed quickly. They can leave marks on the baby and damage the mother internally.
Ventouse ( vacuum) : is used to pull the baby out of the birth canal. again this can speed up the birth process which is not good for the baby and it can slow the release of endorphins in the mother. They can leave haematoma on the babies head. Ventouse extraction is not always successful and requires a episiotomy to allow it entrance into the vagina.
Cesarean section: is major abdominal surgery to remove the baby from an incision in the mothers abdomen. This doesn't allow the mother to experience labour if it elective and so none of the hormones associated with birth ( or reduced amounts of them) are produced. This can have an effect on the mother feeling attached to her baby after birth. Due to the baby not having gone through the birth process there can be excess mucous that needs to be expelled from the babies respiratory tract, that can mean respiratory difficulties. As the mother is recovering from major surgury for the next 6 weeks it can mean difficulty breastfeeding and tending to the baby. Increased levels of infection may also occur in the mother as the wounds heal.
Where to from here?
When parents to be are given anti natal classes at the hospital, they all seem to focus on worst case scenarios and managing the incredible amount of " pain" that the mother will be suffering from. The side effects of the interventions are not really mentioned. My advice is to skip the anti-pep talk and go and do a hypnobirthing course instead!
The best thing that a pregnant couple can do is to know what they are getting themselves into in regards to birth and breastfeeding, so that you can make an informed decision. Get in touch with a gentle birthing group, so some reading and find out for yourself.
I am surprised at my strength of feeling on this topic. I am a science graduate and the daughter of a doctor but until I was pregnant I had thought I would have an elective cesarean, my how things have changed!
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