Medical intervention during labor is becoming more common. Women appear to have lost faith in their ability to give birth with no or minimal intervention. Yes, modern medicine is founded on noble goals: we want to save lives and intervene only when necessary. However, in the last 20 years, modern medical maternity care has gone a little overboard, performing far too many interventions that may have created more problems than they solved.
We need a way to approach this complex problem. Women must regain faith in their ability to give birth in a natural and comfortable manner. Technology can be useful at times, but it should not be abused. It's not just a matter of the mother's faith in her ability to give birth naturally. Health-care professionals and birth workers values and beliefs are equally important.
Researchers in the United States compared two groups of mothers a few years ago: those who had given birth 50 years ago and those who had done so more recently. There was a clear distinction between the two groups. Labor and delivery take 3-4 hours longer today, and the number of medical interventions is six times higher.
Initially, medical experts attempted to explain these findings by pointing to population changes such as larger babies, mothers who are increasingly overweight, women giving birth at an older age, and so on. But even after accounting for these variables, they were unable to account for all of the differences.
As a result, the most likely underlying cause in this case is the increased stress of modern life. For example, in the last 50 years, mothers have overwhelmingly entered the labor force, and while this is undeniably a step in the right direction, it also creates tension and strain that may necessitate some adjustments in order to promote better reproductive health. Women's stress has made labor and birth longer and more difficult, and it has resulted in a corresponding fear of childbirth in the medical community and the general population. Birth is now widely perceived to be difficult and dangerous, necessitating medical intervention the majority of the time.
What effect does stress have on the pregnant mother?
Maternal stress during pregnancy is harmful to both the mother and the child. It can result in premature births, small-for-date births, longer labor, and more difficult and painful labor, increasing the likelihood of requiring medical interventions. It will also have an impact on the child's cognitive, behavioral, and emotional development. The stress hormone cortisol is toxic to the baby's brain. Therefore, it is critical to reduce the stress levels of expectant mothers.
What steps should be taken to combat the negative effects of stress on both mother and baby?
Hospitals and birthing centers should use methods and policies that put the mother in control of the process in a quiet, comfortable, and private setting where technology and drugs are used only to address real problems and never on a regular basis. Giving birth is a very delicate and personal experience. Because the hormones involved are the same as those involved in lovemaking, it should be left alone and unobserved as much as possible.
However, we cannot always control what happens outside in the environment. For example, we could say that mothers should ideally not work during pregnancy in order to get as much rest as possible, and that they should find the best midwife, best doula, best OBGYN, and best birthing center possible, but this is not always possible. Even in the best of circumstances, life is unpredictably unpredictable. The most effective way to deal with stress is from within. That is, teach your body not to overreact in stressful situations. Learn how to maintain inner silence in the face of external noise!
As a birth doula and childbirth educator, I only want to recommend scientifically proven techniques and evidence-based information to my clients, and the results have been outstanding.
Those of my clients who practiced specific breathing and relaxation techniques, or hired a birth doula during pregnancy had, on average, easier pregnancies, shorter labors, and required fewer interventions. In fact, I don't recall having to go through a caesarean section (for failure to progress in labor) on any of my hypnobirthing clients.
What scientific findings compelled you to recommend this technique to your clients?
Scientific studies show that the breathing and relaxation technique lowers cortisol levels in the bloodstream and induces a deep state of relaxation, which is very soothing for both mother and baby during pregnancy and labor. It's not something you do during labor. When the technique is used on a regular basis, it produces an inner silence that lasts long after the practice session has ended. This silence tends to boost the mother's confidence. Stress causes fear, and fear disrupts the labor process. HH HypnoBirthing practitioners tend to remain calmer, and as a result, everything runs more smoothly.
Stress, we also know from neuroscience, promotes fragmented brain function – the brain begins to work in patches, responding to the most pressing emergency. Nature designed this fight or flight response to allow us to flee danger as quickly as possible. If it is chronic, the brain becomes accustomed to working in this fragmented manner.
HypnoBirthing, on the other hand, promotes mind body integration, or the brain's ability to function as a whole. It's the difference between getting caught up in a detail and forgetting everything else and being able to see the big picture while doing something specific. It restores confidence and the ability to deal with life as it unfolds in this moment. It is important for everyone to be able to deal with ups and downs without causing harm to their physiology, but for a pregnant woman, this takes on a whole new level of importance. Having a child is the ultimate act of love; it is a gift of life. It must not be taken lightly.
Before brain imaging, we didn't realize that a child's future is decided very early, even before birth, and that the mother's mental state directly influences the child's mental state long after birth. It's a huge responsibility for parents to want to give their children the opportunity to reach their full potential. It is critical to work on oneself prior to giving birth in order to gain confidence and a sense of safety, as well as to have good support. I believe that HypnoBirthing is by far the best pain and stress management technique to use before, during, and after pregnancy.
The physical environment is also important. Can the mother be accompanied by her husband and/or a doula while giving birth? Will she be able to keep the baby in the same room and in skin-to-skin contact with her for the first two hours after birth? Is there going to be enough privacy and intimacy? Will her decisions be honored? Will she receive adequate breastfeeding support?
Again, it all comes down to reducing stress and increasing bonding with the baby. It is extremely beneficial to keep stress hormone levels as low as possible.
However, we may not be able to control all external stressors – the atmosphere of the room, whether the mother feels accompanied and supported, whether there is trust in the institution – and so it all begins within. This is why breathing and relaxation techniques are so valuable. At the end of the day, it is the mother's brain's reaction to stressors that makes all the difference.
Nature has given every woman everything she requires to be a mother. It's a very wise and complete system for managing contractions and the progression of labor, milk production, and creating a state of euphoria in the mother even if the sensations of labor are intense, easing both the birth and the bonding – attachment and love – process between the mother and the baby. However, if the stress hormone level is too high, this process is disrupted. The orchestra of hormones that would normally guide you through the experience in a pleasant manner is thrown off-kilter. When a woman isn't confident in her ability to give birth comfortably and naturally, when she isn't mentally prepared, stress and fear set in quickly, and we'll soon be talking about a whole slew of medical interventions.
In any case, the mother should always be at the center and in charge of her care, making all decisions. The problem with maternity care today is that, despite their claims, most institutions offer very few alternatives to drug intervention. This is primarily due to the widespread use of epidurals, which has gradually supplanted all other, more natural approaches. As a result, it is increasingly up to expectant parents to find a solution. Breathing and relaxation practice during pregnancy, combined with prenatal preparation and good labor support like doula, appears to be the best recipe for success.