The main goal here at Free Pregnancy and Freebirth is to arm men and women with information to make educated choices about health, pregnancy, and birth. Pregnancy and birth is not predictable, and as such, it’s important to understand the body, how to care for it, and the dynamics of birth to encourage a safe and empowering experience. Keeping the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual states of the mother, father, and baby in mind all factor into this experience.
We support the desire of men and women who feel more comfortable with assistance that includes chiropractic, midwifery, naturopathic, or obstetric care. It is not our goal to ostracize the medical community. There are scenarios when the need for urgent care arises, and that should be the only time interventions take place. For this, we are thankful for those in the medical community who seek to serve, educate, and empower families in their pregnancy and birthing journey, and take on the life-saving tasks when it’s a true need.
Freebirth is not a desire to risk or endanger the lives of babies or women. It’s a calculated and educated choice with the desire to be free to birth as it was designed and to be free to seek help if and/or when it’s needed. Emergency cesarean sections are a gift, only when they are necessary. The decision to move onto a cesarean section should not be taken lightly if a woman would rather give birth vaginally. In order for that to happen, interventions should only take place if there is a need. Routine practices and liability concerns are not needs.
There is a known truth in our culture and it’s not that ‘labor is hard’ or that ‘women are strong’. It’s that men and women are intelligent and capable of making choices for themselves that is in the best interest of their families; it’s that they are the protector, provider, and parent and will seek help when they need it for their babies. It is never okay to ignore that truth, no matter whether one deems themselves in a position of authority. Even if anyone had authority over the woman and what she feels led to do in birth, good leadership comes when you consider the benefits that everyone brings to the team. This includes the woman’s knowledge of her own body, her compassion for her baby, and the wisdom she has in how to address any situation involving her family.
Here at Free Pregnancy and Freebirth, we believe women are designed to bear, nurture, and bring forth life. We believe that both men and women should be cared for while during this transition of welcoming their new baby into their arms. We believe that birth is not a medical event. We believe that birth is beautiful.
“Note: this page is about how to TEACH this concept to expectant parents. If you’re an expectant parent looking for info on labor hormones, their effect on labor pain, and what your partner can do to help you have a shorter and less painful labor, click here.
In my childbirth classes, and with doula clients, I want them to understand that our emotions, and the support we receive, absolutely affect labor on a physiological basis, by influencing our hormones. The big message is that fear and anxiety slow labor down and make it more painful. Support and feeling safe make labor faster and easier. I have simplified the complex details into a simple stick figure drawing that takes 5-10 minutes.
Before I talk about my teaching method, let’s start with a basic summary* of hormones:
|Hormone||What Does It Do||What doesn’t help||What does help|
|Oxytocin||Causes labor contractions that dilate cervix||Anxiety, bright lights, feeling observed, feeling judgedPitocin – if have synthetic oxytocin, make less hormonal oxytocin||To increase oxytocin: Skin-to-skin contact.
Nipple stimulation, making love.To increase endorphins: social contact and support from loved ones.To increase oxytocin and endorphins and to reduce adrenaline: create an environment where we feel private, safe, not judged, loved, respected, protected, free to move about.(So, partners, if you remember nothing else about labor support, remember that if she feels safe, loved and protected her labor will be faster, and less painful)
|Endorphins||Relieve pain, reduce stress (cause euphoria and feelings of dependency)||Stress, lack of supportNarcotics (if you have an external opiate, your body will start producing less internal opiate… even after the narcotics wear off, you’ll have less endorphins)|
|Catecholamines (adrenaline, etc.)||In early / active labor: slow labor down(Imagine a rabbit in a field. If it doesn’t feel safe, it wants to keep baby inside to protect it)In pushing stage: Make you and baby alert and ready for birth, give you energy to push quickly.
(If the rabbit is about to have a baby, and something frightens it, it wants to get the baby out as quickly as possible so it can pick it up and run with it.)
|Stress / anxiety / fearLack of control
So, in class how do I convey these ideas in just a few minutes, so it’s easy to understand and to remember?
First, I say: “In labor, our emotions and our environment effect our hormones. Our hormones have a huge effect on labor. Let’s look at a couple scenarios for labor.” [I draw two stick figures on the board.] “This one is awash in stress hormones which will make labor longer and more painful. Let’s label it adrenaline. This one is under the influence of oxytocin and endorphins. These help the laboring person shift into an altered state where labor pain is milder (less intense and less unpleasant) and also help labor progress more quickly.” [Add labels to drawings, add sad face and smiley face.]
Then I say “So, you are all probably familiar with adrenaline. What do we call it? Yes, the fight or flight hormone. This is the idea that if an individual ran into a tiger in the woods, they would choose either to fight it or to run away. Do you know what we call oxytocin? Many call it “collect and protect” or “tend and befriend.” If a tiger is coming into our village, we gather everyone together, because we are safest together.” [I add these labels to my drawing.] (I sometimes throw in the tidbit here that men who are not dads are more likely to release adrenaline during stressful situations; women and dads are more likely to release oxytocin – it’s the “gather the babies and protect them” response.)
“So, what effect do these hormones have?”
“With adrenaline, all your muscles tighten. All your energy goes to your limbs in case you need to fight or run away. So, oxytocin production drops and labor slows down. (It’s hard for your cervix to open when you feel scared…) You are also more sensitive to pain – this is useful if you’re at risk of injury – your body tells you what to move away from. But, in labor it’s not helpful – it just means labor hurts more!”
“With oxytocin and endorphins all your muscles relax. Energy is sent to the uterus and oxytocin increases. (Oxytocin is often called the love hormone, because it increases when we feel loved, and its peak levels are when we orgasm, when we birth, and when we breastfeed. It’s all about making babies, birthing babies, and feeding babies.) We also get an increased endorphin flow, which makes us less sensitive to pain, can cause euphoria, and can cause feelings of love and dependency in us… “I love you man….””
Amniotic sac and fluid play an important role in the labour process and usually remain intact until the end of labour. However, around 10% of women will experience their waters breaking before labour begins. The standard approach to this situation is to induce labour by using prostaglandins and/or syntocinon (aka pitocin) to stimulate contractions. The term ‘augmentation’ is often used instead of ‘induction’ for this procedure. Women who choose to wait are often told their baby is at increased risk of infection and they are encouraged to have IV antibiotics during labour. In my experience most women agree to have their labour induced rather than wait. I wonder how many of these women would choose a different path if they knew there was no significant increase in the risk of infection for their baby?
The rush to start labour and get the baby out after the waters have broken is fairly new. When I first qualified in 2001 the standard hospital advice (UK) for a woman who rang to tell us her waters had broken (and all else was well) was: “If you’re not in labour by [day of the week in 3 days time] ring us back.” Over the following years this reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours, then 24 hours, then 18 hours, then 12 hours and now 0 hours. You might assume that this change in approach was based on some new evidence about the dangers involved in waiting for labour. You would be wrong.
2. Allow nothing in vagina. No fingers, no tampons, no oral-genital contact, no bath water, no swimming pool water, no speculum, no penis, nothing whatsoever!
3. Wear something loose-fitting with no panties.
4. If you are leaking and need something for sitting, use clean towels fresh out of a hot dryer.
5. Take your temperature every 4 hours while you are awake. Normal range is 35.5 to 37.3 Degrees Centigrade or 96 to 99 Degrees Fahrenheit. If it goes above the upper ranges, drink some water, retake it and if your temperature remains up call your medical person. It could be a sign of infection.
6. Take 250mg Vitamin C every 3 hours while you are awake. Oranges, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, red peppers are all good sources.
7. No baths. Shower as much as you like.
8. Eat foods that are non-constipating and easy to digest. Especially avoid foods with MSG or nitrates, such as pizza, Chinese food, or deli meats. These foods can make you vomit in the birth process.
9. Be meticulous about toileting. Wipe from front to back, and wash hands carefully after.
l0. If the water is colored green or brown (meconium), or if it has a bad smell (sign of infection), let your medical person know.