Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Childbirth Unmasked 5

Chapter 4 The Womb.
This chapter looks at the anatomy and function of the uterus. Jowitt informs us that the psychology of how the uterus works is just as important as the physiology. Spot on. However, it seems that researchers are more interested in the form and function of uterine activity rather than influences from an emotional mother.
"The well established medical discipline of the science of childbirth deals almost exclusively with the physical action of the uterus. Biochemists are interested in what makes it contract and what makes it relax, and endocrinologists are interested in control of this process by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. ...the role of emotions seems to be largely ignored.
That stance by researchers seems to be mainly the same 20 years later. No one seems interested in why labour hurts for most women when it was never designed to. The role of adrenalin in making the first stage of labour painful is totally ignored. 
This chapter goes on to explain the role of various hormones that affect the uterus at different stages of a woman's pregnancy and birth. She looks at the structure of the uterus, the 3 different layers of smooth muscle, (very similar in structure to the stomach, do you need an epidural every time you eat and your gastric smooth muscle is contracting?) and how it stretches to accommodate a growing baby.
Contractions are explained, especially for the first stage of labour when the cervix needs constant even pressure to dilate effectively.
"...the fetus and the uterus dance an intricate pas de deux which directs the fetus towards the cervix to be ideally placed for the second stage of labour...the mother should be allowed freedom of movement in order to give full rein to these directed contractions. I suggest that painful contractions occur when the uterus is prevented from working as it should." Exactly, when a woman is made to lie down on a bed to labour and her uterus is pushing baby uphill instead of down. Much harder work.
Jowitt warns of the consequences of allowing hospital staff to 'break your waters' as they are there to cushion the fetal head against the cervix.
"...a cushion of amniotic fluid between the baby and the uterus will be to spread the fetal force more evenly." It is now commonly known that breaking your waters releases hormones called prostaglandins which attach to uterine smooth muscle to make the contractions stronger and so painful. See the post - Hazards to a pain free labour - 2.
Finally, the wonderful Margaret Jowitt states:
"Some women go through the first stage of labour without even knowing that they are in labour. They do not feel any pain in the first stage because their brain sees no need to tell them to change either their position or their surroundings."
I have to say that with my first pain free labour I only knew that I may be in labour because my uterus was going hard every 5 minutes. But then, it was 1am and I was sat on my couch with nothing else to do except count contractions.

Pain free labour books now available from Amazon. 


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Childbirth Unmasked 4

Chapter 3 Stress and reproduction. Margaret Jowitt.
Unless you have a PhD in human biology you may not quite understand this chapter. I love anatomy and physiology but I have to admit I struggled.
This chapter maps the intricate hormone dance that is present in a womans' body during pregnancy and labour. It is a very complicated dance, and you thought the foxtrot was bad.
Jowitt links high stress levels to infertility, miscarriage, reduced fetal growth and premature labour. She even says that if you are only mildly stressed toward your due date then your body will resist going into labour and you will face induction of labour for postmaturity. Even more reason to practice the relaxation techniques IN PREGNANCY AND LABOUR outlined in earlier posts within this blog or in my Pain Free Labour books available from Amazon. If you are serious about life with long term reductions in stress levels then read Susan Jeffers book 'Feel the Fear, and do it anyway'. A beautiful book to help you cope with daily stress levels that cannot be avoided and bring out in you the best of who you are. Lovely.
So, blah, blah, blah, cortisol and Beta-endorphin and progesterone and oestrogen and cholesterol and even testosterone levels which control our bodies.
The hormone that we should be most interested in is ADRENALIN simply because we know that there are receptor sites for adrenalin on the cervix. High levels 'stick' to the cervix and make it rigid, harder to open. A relaxed person does not secrete high levels of Adrenalin. I have seen many stressed women in labour who as soon as they have an epidural, relax, and even go to sleep. Suddenly there are radically reduced levels of adrenalin and their cervix can open in peace and quiet to let their baby out. Awww. If they did not get stressed up to their eye balls in the first place then they would not need an epidural to reduce adrenalin levels!
Jowitt goes on to discuss the virtues of delivering your baby in a favourable environment.
"Offspring born to mothers in safe places away from predators would be more likely to survive than those born in dangerous situations. But I suggest that it was the place of labour for the mother as well as place of birth for the child that was important in evolution. I am convinced that labour proceeds more smoothly if the mother is spared unnecessary stress. High levels of stress hormones interfere with the process of labour itself, particularly in the early stages. The mother survived childbirth to bear more children if she chose to labour in a sage place, and throughout the animal world, that place is the nest."
However, we have so lost our faith in ourselves as women to be able to birth our children that most women consider hospital to be a safe place to labour. When offered a home birth at my parentcraft classes, most women turned away in horror and refused to even consider birthing at home.
"Most people maintain that hospital is the safest place for mother and child in labour while a few, myself included are convinced that home birth is just as safe if not safer, and certainly less painful and more enjoyable".
In the end it is all about choice, women should birth where they feel safest.
PROGRESSIVE MUSCLE RELAXATION say "relax" in your head, not out loud or people will think you are nuts!