There are myths about birth out there that should be dispelled.
The moment one person becomes two is the most amazing moment in all of existence.
Sadly, it is a magic moment that holds a lot of fear for many women. This fear has crept in from highly dramatised media sources like movies or magazines and commonly from other women’s stories.
Often these stories are told by women who were not supported to follow their bodies lead at the moment of birth and instead coached how to push, left flat on their backs or given episiotomies. In those conditions it is no wonder they have terrifying stories to share.
The body and the baby have incredible wisdom and these natural physiological processes tend to do best when left to nature rather than man made machines for intervention.
Time to bust some myths about the moment your baby wiggles into the world.
Here are the top 3 myths about birth:
1. Your doctor needs to deliver your baby.
FALSE! Your baby knows how to birth itself! Instinct rules nature and your baby is no different. They know how to tuck their chins and keep their arms down by their sides. Of course there are many variations on positions but this is most common.Keep visualising her in a luge like position (ok minus the helmet, the outfit, the sled and the straight legs) and talking to her about the ease in which she is going to emerge out into the world!
After the birth of the head there is usually a natural pause until the next surge when the baby uses its momentum to birth her shoulders. Even if you are giving birth in water, waiting for this pause is perfectly safe. Your baby is not breathing yet, she is still being oxygenated by her cord.
In most cases, the only time someone actually needs to ‘catch’ the baby is if mum is squatting or standing, and this is only so it doesn’t land of the floor. Babies know how to get out and it is important to let them show their skills.
2. Unless you spend time daily stretching your perineum it won’t be able to stretch at birth.
FALSE! The body works better then what we give it credit for and your perineum was made to stretch, it was also made to gently tear! Studies are showing suturing first and second degree tears may not be required as often as we think. Possibly another myths we’ve been lead to believe.
From Cochrane Database Study: Surgical repair of spontaneous perineal tears that occur during childbirth versus no intervention
‘Two studies find no difference between the two types of management (suturing and not nurturing) with regard to clinical outcomes up to eight weeks postpartum. Therefore, at present there is insufficient evidence to suggest that one method is superior to the other with regard to healing and recovery in the early or late postnatal periods. …. can be based on their clinical judgement and the women’s preference after informing them about the lack of long-term outcomes and the possible chance of a slower wound healing process, but possible better overall feeling of well being if left un-sutured.’
Perineal massage can be helpful to do several times in pregnancy but in my opinion for other reasons other then helping it to stretch at the time of birth.
Then there is the Epi-no, a balloon with a pump that you practice pushing out of the vagina during pregnancy (post 37 weeks only). I know many women who have used one and swear by it. I do think it is helpful but not because the perenium needs to be trained but because sometimes our minds do. Women who have felt the stretching of those tissues several times in the lead up to the actual emergence of the baby’s head will indeed be more confident, calm and connected to their breath in the moment. That is what decrease damage to the perineum. Relaxing into letting go.
It is meant to stretch and it will! Find a care provider who supports you to follow your own lead. Then you will be amazed how it all will all simply happen on its own.
3. It is natural to give birth on your back.
FALSE! Give birth on your back can be much more difficult for both you and your baby. The pelvis is meant to open during labor, that is the point of all that wonderful relaxin hormone you have in your body, creating more space!
The rhombus Michaelis, the kite shaped area pictured below, includes the sacrum and three lower lumbar vertebrae and is the key to moving through second stage with ease. As the baby moves down we visibly see this area bulge outward as it moves back (meaning out-up to 2cm) and at the same time causes the wings of the ilia (top of the hip bones) to fan outward creating wider internal diameters and more space for baby to move thru.
If you are on your back with this area compressed you do not get that additional space and indeed moving baby down will be a lot more difficult. An additional road block for babies that usually accompanies laying flat on the back is having the knees pushed up above the woman’s hips. As Jean Sutton says in her article, ‘Birth Without Active Pushing’:
‘Any position that brings the knees towards the abdomen reduces the space in which the baby can move. It will also increase the chance of the baby being pushed into the back of the pelvis and into the back of the pelvic floor, instead of pressing against the symphisis. From here a major pushing effort is needed to get the baby out, and the likelihood of tearing the perineum or needing an episiotomy rises.’
Please choose a care provider who will support you to birth in upright positions including a squat and hands and knees.
Happy easy birthing!
Cochrane Database study: Surgical repair of spontaneous perineal tears that occur during childbirth versus no intervention http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21833968
Jean Sutton awesome article: ‘Birth Without Active Pushing’ http://www.elsevierhealth.co.uk/media/us/samplechapters/9780750654272/9780750654272.pdf
More photos of babies emerging. Mostly these are not hands off births, many of them could be if the care provider was more confident and experienced in supporting normal physiological birth. http://fermontfotografie.nl/en/the-birth-of-the-head