Labor and Birth

5 Simple Reasons You Should Take a Birth Class

Anyone who has experienced the joy of pregnancy knows that as soon as that little blue line appears, so too does a seemingly endless list of expenses.  From the fun things, like decorating the nursery and buying baby clothes, to the more serious preparation for childbirth, everything just seems to add up.  Which, of course, begs the question, “Must I really take a childbirth class?”

Well, we might be a little biased, but we would answer with a resounding YES!  You should take a birth class.  Here are five simple reasons why the money spent on a great birth class is money well spent. Read more

Yes, my dear, you do need childbirth education, even if you have a doula!

Let’s start with what a doula is.  A birth doula provides physical, emotional and informational support for a family through pregnancy, labor, birth and early postpartum.  Doulas usually meet with birth clients for an interview and two prenatal visits prior to birth.  We have a lot to cover in these meetings.  We have to develop a relationship and I have to get a feel for what our rhythm will be, how you like to be touched, comforted, spoken to. And how your partner plans to help and is best supported as well.  Imagine how long it takes to find this stuff out while dating. . . . at best, I’m doing this in six hours.  Yup, doulas are awesome!  Read more

Rules for Talking to a Laboring Woman

Preparing for birth is a unique time in a woman’s life. Many women spend their lives looking outward, seeking to serve others. But in labor and birth a woman has the opportunity to be at the center for a brief moment, and to have those around her serve her, listen to her, and help her in any way they can.

Occasionally, however, those close to a birthing woman use it as an opportunity to fill their own needs or express their own fears to the mother or those closest to her. While it may seem obvious to most, dumping our own emotional baggage on a pregnant or birthing woman is actually inappropriate. Sadly, there are many who have missed the boat on this particular subject.

How many birthing women are surrounded by people (including family) at their birth that they didn’t even want present? How many pregnant women must listen to the horror stories of others simply because they have a round belly and are, obviously, expecting? Birth, however, is not about making those that surround a woman happy and comfortable. A great birth team seeks to make the mother and her closest loved ones happy and supported so that they and the baby can have the best experience possible both physically and emotionally.

The Goldman and Silk “Ring Theory,” as discussed in this LA Times article, explains the idea that during times of extreme stress (such as turmoil or illness) the person most affected or at the “center” has the privilege of receiving emotional support, and the ability to “dump” outward. That is, the person at the center can ask for help, and the people outside can offer.

The idea that “support goes in, needs expressed go out” doesn’t just apply to illness; it works beautifully in labor, too.

When a woman is in labor she should be at the center of the circle, the center of attention, and the person who is focused on. She can request anything from those around her. Support should always flow towards the center from the outer circles, and requests should flow outward. For example, random strangers should not act as though the birth is theirs or that their needs are more important than those of the laboring mother. The mother should not have to support her partner, doula, or family. When the focus
of support stays on the mother, the entire labor goes better and she feels safe and secure.

Remember this simple rule of birth etiquette when attending a birth. Remember, also, that very soon that laboring woman will be a mother and all of her attention will be focused outward on her precious child. We can focus our love and support on her for a few hours to help ensure that both mom and baby receive the best start possible.



What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is an amazing little hormone.

Even if you don’t know what oxytocin is, you probably notice its effects each day. Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone” and it has a unique role in many of life’s important events. Oxytocin is released by activities such as cuddling, nursing, massage, and lovemaking. Even hair brushing and chocolate can encourage oxytocin release. However, the largest release of this hormone is usually at the moment of birth.

The emotional and physical importance of Oxytocin-

The impact of oxytocin is twofold. First- it has an incredible emotional impact. As you probably guessed, it is often present when we do things that have a special ability to bind us to others. Oxytocin release during nipple stimulation (such as while nursing a baby) serves to bond us powerfully to our children. The incredible oxytocin “high” that is experienced at the time of birth causes a fierce attachment to our child and an overwhelming desire to love and protect them. The emotional impact of oxytocin is powerful in romantic relationships as well as the parent/child dynamic.

Second – it has an important physical component. The surge of oxytocin causes contraction of the uterus both during labor and after the birth. This is not only beneficial, but can actually be lifesaving, as it prevents excessive blood loss.

Oxytocin and your labor-

Imagine the typical charts of labor that you may have seen. Labor is often depicted as coming in waves or hills. Each contraction lasts for around a minute and is followed by a longer break. As time goes on, the contractions get longer and the breaks get shorter.

But what causes these rushes of contractions? What stimulates them? The answer is fairly simple- oxytocin. Produced in your brain, oxytocin is rhythmically pulsed throughout the body. This is, in part, why contractions come in waves with a break between them. (Note that a labor stimulated or sped by an IV drip of Pitocin may not follow this pattern. Pitocin is what artificial oxytocin, often delivered via an IV, is called.)

It is important to understand what can stimulate oxytocin during labor (relaxation, massage, nipple stimulation), because you can use this knowledge to speed or encourage good, strong labor, if necessary. The same things that make you open to oxytocin reception and production (feeling loved, safe, and secure) can help encourage healthy labor.

Think of the uterus at the time of birth. This large, powerful, and muscular organ has been stretched to capacity to hold a full term baby. Suddenly, as the baby delivers, it is empty and must quickly shrink down to a much smaller size. Let’s not forget that the uterus, during pregnancy, has a large organ (the placenta) attached to it on the inside. Shortly after the birth of the baby, the placenta detaches and delivers. The spot of placental attachment within the uterus leaves, what really is, a large wound. This place (the spot where the placenta was attached) is where we see blood loss from at the time of birth.

Now, if you have a large, stretched out organ with a large wound within it, how do we reduce the size of that wound and thus reduce subsequent blood loss? The answer is simple- we must quickly shrink the organ (the uterus) and thus the wound (the place where the placenta was attached). Oxytocin serves this special purpose. The contractions it causes (remember how strong they are at the time of birth?) help to quickly shrink the uterus and limit blood loss.

As a new mom often notices, the days after birth are not without contractions. Every time a new mom nurses her baby, these post-baby contractions (often called “after-pains”) may be felt. While they may be uncomfortable, after-pains serve an important purpose – they help the uterus continue to shrink down so that mom’s blood loss is minimized.

You can see that oxytocin is important to our day to day life but particularly vital during childbearing and the years after. Oxytocin emotionally helps us feel bonded and attached to our children. It also serves to protect the life of mom by helping minimize her blood loss postpartum.  There is a lot to love about the “love hormone.”

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