Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Looking at the birth process from a physical perspective

Last night I felt very privileged to attend a talk by Michel Odent. For those who don't know him he is a French Obstetrician and leading pioneer for natural childbirth. He is now 81 years old and is an inspiration in himself but the way he talks about birth is captivating. As I listened though I actually became more and more baffled at why the majority of medical professionals do not appear to share the same views as him. His work is proof alone but it is also all just such common sense. Of course we share this same common sense view of birth during hypnobirthing classes, so none of what he was saying was particularly new information for me, but I loved the way he explained certain things and I felt I wanted to share this with my readers.

Odent states that as birthing is an involuntary process we cannot help it but we can inhibit it and knowing this we need to protect it from that happening. We can learn about this by, as the title of this posts says, looking at the birth process from a physical perspective.

As humans we are different from other mammals in that we have a developed neo cortex. This is important for birthing as it has nothing to do with the neo cortex but comes from our archaic, primitive brain. Our inhibitions though do come from the neo cortex and therefore it must be switched off during the birthing process to allow a woman's natural birthing instincts to come to the fore. Let's look at this in more detail

  1. Language stimulates the neo cortex - Silence (or more specifically lack of communication) is a basic need of labour. Language in particular when expressing a question needs activity in the neo cortex to prepare an answer. To further highlight this he asks us to imagine a couple making love, they are in an orgasmic state and the women ask the man "what do you want for dinner". No further explanation needed ;-).
  2. Light can stimulate the neo cortex - the darkness hormone melatonin reduces neo cortex activity.
  3. When we feel observed we observe ourselves and the neo cortex is stimulated
  4. When we perceive a possible danger the neo cortex is stimulated
  5. Emotional states are contagious - if a labouring woman is being supported by someone with high adrenaline levels this may cause her to mirror their hormone activity.
Amongst other things during hypnobirthing classes we teach:
  1. The dad/birth partner to be the labouring woman's advocate and deal with any discussions that need to take place.
  2. To look at ways to dim the lights (particularly in a hospital room) but if this is not possible by using the hypnosis techniques the mum is able to become much more internally focussed and therefore less aware of outside stimuli.
  3. The dad to protect mum from unnecessary interruption and be a gentle loving support.
  4. Couples to decide where the best place is for them to birth and also to understand that they are always the ones in control of their birth experience (even if they hand their birthing over to a doctor because of true medical circumstances if they have asked questions, got answers and made the decision for themselves they will maintain that control). Feeling safe and in control is key to the body functioning normally during birth.
  5. Dads/birth companions are also taught relaxation techniques alongside the mums as we know their adrenaline is catching. They leave the classes feeling fully confident in their role and with the skills to remain calm, relaxed and in control throughout the birth of their baby whilst being of wonderful support to their partner.
Makes sense doesn't it?

Odent smiled at the end of his talk and I had to smile with him when he said "we need modern science to rediscover and explain what is simple and common sense".

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