"For sixty years (now 80) or more scientists have been suspending strips of animal and human uterus in various liquids in test tubes, stretching it, adding hormones, adding chemicals, measuring contractions, analysing changes, and generally trying to find out what makes uterine muscle work and what stops it working"
In this chapter Margaret Jowitt uncovers the reason that women today fear labour and so stop themselves from labouring. All the research has been carried out on medicalised abnormal labour, normal labour has been ignored so that doctors know very little about how to help women have natural labours.
"The scientists have completely ignored the mother herself and her mind. This is why obstetrics is the least scientifically based medical speciality. ...stress hormones unlock the mysteries of labour itself."
In the posts on this blog entitled 'Why Labour Hurts' I try to explain how adrenalin, secreted when we are anxious or afraid, acts in a way that causes contractions to become painful. Margaret takes this explanation a step further by comparing labour to driving a car.
"The hormonal control of labour is very complex and difficult to understand but it has certain similarities with driving a car."
Margaret goes on to describe the functions of different hormones and how they can be interfered with by adrenalin, a little like having to use your brake in an emergency in order to stop. Women have their foot firmly on the labour brake throughout by producing copious amounts of adrenalin which makes it painful and will eventually halt the labour as the body goes into total exhaustion mode. This scenario can be avoided by the relaxation techniques outlined in this blog. A relaxed person does not secrete adrenalin and so the labour can continue with the accelerator pressed instead of the brake.
Painful contractions are considered and Margaret gives a lovely explanation of what to do if you find yourself with them at any time during a normal labour.
"...pain is a motivation for the labouring woman to do something to ease her stress, whether physical or emotional. She may change her position to relieve physical stress and relax her body and mind to relieve psychological stress."
Your body uses pain to let you know that something is wrong and you have to try different things to alleviate the pain. If you are sat on your hand and it becomes painful you would not keep on sitting on it would you?
Margaret understands labour so well and is a wonderful advocate for pain free labours during the first stage. "When the woman has learnt that she must relax or change her position to avoid pain, then the uterus can get on with its work. The better she learns how to cope with contractions, to relax and follow positional instincts, the shorter will be the first stage of labour." Amen.
And yet women today still firmly believe that labour will be painful and so start pumping out adrenalin at the first sign of a contraction. We have known about pain free labours since Dr. Dick-Read put forward his fear/tension/pain theory in the 1940s and yet we seem unable to accept the simple fact that uterine smooth muscle was never designed to cause the sensation of pain during a normal contraction. We never learn, do we?