Posts Tagged ‘C-section’

More Principles for an Empowered Birth

I believe that all women, consciously or not, participate in a collective knowing about the empowerment we might claim in birthing our babies. But instead of empowered birth, as birth anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd has so thoroughly researched, the majority of women have a birth experience that is demoralizing and dispiriting. And that gets parenting off to a less-than-peaceful start!

So to add to the first batch, to further enrich Empowered Birth Awareness Week, here are yet more ways to engage Parenting for Peace principles to up your odds of having an empowered birth.

Principles for Empowered Birth: Part II

WSLaboringCoupleNurturance – Fathers and partners, this is the golden hour for you to express this principle magnificently!

  • You now act as her womb: it’s up to you to cocoon her from phone calls, texts, tweets, visitors, and all other contact—anything characteristic of the modern human, especially lights and language. All such stimulation brings adrenaline to her system. You yourself should use the very minimum of softly spoken words with her—again, so as not to call forth the labor-slowing adrenaline.
    • Rather than humanizing birth, as some reformers call for, Michel Odent suggests we need to dehumanize birth, or rather, mammalianize it—by taking away everything that distinguishes humans: rationality, speech and technology. Cameras are big culprits; the camera-face a woman feels she must put on will right there interfere with the process! Odent confidently declares, “Go ahead, let everyone into the room, chat, watch TV, run the cameras—and she’ll give birth after thirty or thirty-six hours of labor. If you respect the physiology, that same baby will be born in less than five hours.” {Read more ideas at}

Jason Lander, through a Creative Commons license

Practical Principles for An Empowered Birth

As we reach hump day of Empowered Birth Awareness Week, how fitting that Step 4 of my Parenting for Peace roadmap is actually entitled “Empowered Birth”! The book is based on 7 principles, applied through 7 steps in time — beginning pre-conception and going through adolescence. In honor of EBAW, here is a collection (in 2 parts) of practical ideas of how to engage each of the 7 Parenting for Peace principles in specific ways to up your odds of having an empowered birth.

Principles for Empowered Birth: Part I

LaborWaterMeditativePresence – I can think of few more potent opportunities to discover and practice advanced dimensions of this principle than during labor and birth. Birth anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd, in describing how she charted a new rapport with presence during her second labor (a home VBAC), compares it to swimming a marathon, noting that the champions “don’t count the distance. They enter a timeless dimension, where this stroke is all there is. This stroke, and this one, and then this one. I am in that timeless world. I quit wondering eons ago when the baby will come out. There is only this contraction, and this push, and this pause, and then this contraction, and this push, and—Then the midwife’s Voice, summoning forth my consciousness from its burial in the depths of sensation.” {Read the rest at}

Jason Lander through a Creative Commons license

Empowered Birth: What Is YOUR Story?

My first birth didn’t feel very empowered. My OB seemed distinctly uninterested in having an empowered birthing patient. I felt meek and under his power. I evolved, my power grew, I switched OBs, and by Baby #2, I had what felt like a very empowered birth. Details in a moment.

When a baby is born, a mother is born. Even if she already has children, each birth experience unfolds new facets of a woman’s being, having to do with feeling powerful, capable, supported — or helpless, incompetent, insignificant. These primal feelings will weave their way through her ongoing life and her relationships — with her children, her partner, herself. Indeed, a mother’s experience of giving birth — whether it’s an empowered birth or not — leaves its indelible imprint, a faint yet distinct watermark on her soul. {Read the rest at}

Will You Keep Pace? Birth Technology That Goes “Ping”

knocked up HeigleFor centuries, birth has terrified us. Everything in our culture, including scenes from movies and television shows, portrays and reinforces our  fears, and then soothes us with the promise of salvation through birth technology — epidurals, Pitocin drips, fetal monitors, episiotomies, and C-sections. Ironically, our U.S. infant and maternal mortality rates are some of the highest in the developed world.[i]

The fear of mothers dying in childbirth is nestled deep in our shared cultural psyche, and right behind it is the fear of giving birth to a dead baby. Both of these do occur, but extremely rarely. Nonetheless, childbirth and death have been unjustifiably entwined in our collective unconscious for many centuries; just think of all the legends, fairy tales, and movies featuring “The mother died in childbirth.”

This fear of dead mothers and dead babies has been conflated into vague and not-so-vague fears of the birth experience itself, and in an age when we have eradicated so many other fears it would seem self-evident that we could tame our birth demons through research and technology. But we set off to do so with one gloved hand tied behind our back, so to speak.

The field of obstetrics rests on a younger foundation of research evidence than do other medical specialties. The gynecological territory of the female anatomy in general was the poor stepchild in the world of medical research a couple hundred years ago, and obstetrics was particularly neglected, since pregnancy was the awkwardly prominent evidence that a woman had <gasp> engaged in sex, which was taboo. We painted ourselves into a medically ignorant corner with our cultural sanitization of pregnancy (as in, “She’s expecting”).

Birth Technology Follows the Money, not the Mother (or Baby)

In the mid-20th century, atop our pretty meager understanding of birth physiology came the desire of hospital administrators for cost efficiency in tending to laboring patients. In 1955 arose the notion of “active management of labor” when Emmanuel Friedman developed the partograph — a chart that allowed obstetrical attendants to determine whether the progress of their patients’ labor conformed to an ideal mathematical curve: the infamous yet all-hallowed Friedman’s Curve.

Labors that lagged behind the ideal could be made to keep the prescribed pace with the use of oxytocic drugs (such as Pitocin, a synthetic form of the body’s own oxytocin, the hormone of human connection and contractions). Friedman’s Curve is designed to help physicians keep labor advancing along a “normal” route. A woman who fails to fall in step is considered to be having an “abnormal” labor, which can be made “normal” again with Pitocin. Feminist author Alice Adams sees this as chillingly similar to LaboringMonitoredMomthe “disciplined and docile bodies” in sociologist Michel Foucault’s analysis of military regimentation.

Electronic fetal monitoring (EFM), Pitocin induction, and cesarean section were designed for use in a very small number of cases, when extraordinary measures were called for (and they are indeed a blessing in this small percentage of cases). But once the equipment was bought, paid for and sitting in relative disuse, there came the irresistible impulse to begin using it routinely, for all pregnant women and in all births, which is where the trouble began.

Monty Python‘s send-up of this whole situation would be hilarious if it weren’t so eerily spot-on — not just the birth technology but the attitude to the mother, whose question, “What do I do?” is answered, “Nothing, dear — you’re not qualified.”

Routine use of the machine that goes ping (EFM) was begun in the 1970s, even though there was no proof of its clinical effectiveness. EFM has in fact never been shown to do what it set out to do, which was to improve birth outcomes. In 1987 the prestigious medical journal Lancet reported that the routine use of EFM “had no measurable effect on death or illness of infants or mothers” and even worse, that it “was associated with a higher rate of Cesarean deliveries, which increases surgical risks to mothers.”[ii]

Yet twenty-six years later, in the absence of any new evidence to contradict this damning conclusion, the vast majority of births in America involve electronic fetal monitoring. And in response to the obvious question, “If EFM doesn’t work, why haven’t obstetricians abandoned it?” birth educator and author Henci Goer notes that doctors and hospital administrators aren’t exempt from our cultural fascination with high tech equipment. They are as susceptible to slick marketing of the latest innovations as any other gadgetry enthusiast: “EFM is expensive, scientific, and complicated. It simply had to be better than putting a stethoscope or even a Doptone — the little hand-held ultrasonic device — to the tummy.”

So we as consumers need to ask ourselves if we are as enthusiastic about birth gadgetry. (I have to wonder how many of you — like myself when our son was born in 1987 — realize that the internal form of EFM requires that an electrode, in the form of a tiny screw, be stuck into your baby’s scalp?) Some think that our loving embrace of EFM taps into our 21st century delight over anything we can see on a screen or a monitor!

Finding & Honoring Your Own Pace

Whether birthing at home or in a hospital or birth center, it helps to understand what facilitates labor and what can arrest labor. Obstetrician and researcher Michel Odent suggests that the best way to join forces with birth is to remember that we are mammals, and the need of all mammals to birth smoothly and successfully is the same three things we (like other mammals) require to fall sleep: safe privacy, quiet, and low light.

The most common way to disturb birth is to do too much talking (even the most supportive “coaching” affirmations). When the neocortex (the area of the brain that processes language) is engaged, many aspects of the physiologically brilliant birthing process are blocked. Why? Because thinking actually requires adrenaline, which prevents the necessary levels of oxytocin required to dilate the cervix. How many cases of “failure to progress” (i.e., casualties of Friedman’s Curve) are caused simply by too much talking, even the most well-meaning of inquiries such as “How are you doing?”

I mean, imagine you’re trying to fall asleep, and your partner — even in the most loving, whispery, “supportive” way — were to start saying, “You’re doing really good, hon…how it is feeling, are you almost asleep?” Instead, a partner’s true task is to cocoon the laboring mother from phone calls, texts, tweets, visitors, and all other contact — anything that is characteristic of the “modern human” (especially lights and language). All such stimulation brings adrenaline to your system and can put the brakes on labor.

Your higher thinking centers need to be “excused” from the situation, and you need to be allowed to go to that inner space of your deepest primitive callings, where your bodymind’s instinctive knowing can do what it knows how to do — birth your baby!

If you do find yourself leaning into the siren call of technology, remember that the Parenting for Peace principle of simplicity presides over birth in a way that is evidence-based: the governing bodies of the professional obstetrical societies in both the U.S. and Canada have found that intermittent listening with a handheld device is as or even more effective than electronic fetal monitoring.[iii]

More Ideas for EMPOWERing Birth coming next…

EFM image by miguelb, used by its CC license

[i] Datablog. “Maternal Mortality: How Many Women Die in Childbirth in Your Country?”, The U.S. ranks an abysmal 41st on the World Health Organization’s list of maternal death rates, behind South Korea and Bosnia—yet we spend more money on maternity care than any other nation; Friedman, Danielle. “Why Are So Many Moms Dying?” Daily Beast,

[ii] Prentice, A. “Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring During Labour: Too Frequent Intervention, Too Little Benefit?” The Lancet 330, no. 8572 (1987): 1375-77.

[iii] Gaskin, Ina May. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. New York: Bantam-Dell, 2003.

Protecting a Woman’s Right to Choose…a VBAC

There is (rightly) a lot of buzz these days around the insidious, incremental erosion of a woman’s right to choose whether she will give birth to a child she has conceived, but virtually nobody is talking about the drastic erosion of a woman’s right to choose how she will give birth to her term baby. Who is talking about the shocking erosion of a woman’s right to choose a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)?


Birth in 4012


Mid-Pacific Conference on Birth & Primal Health

Michael Stark, Jackie Chang, Jan Tritten, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Sarah Buckley, Peggy O’Mara, Sara Wickham, Lesley Page

A panel of some of the world’s leading experts on birth shared the stage at the close of last month’s Mid-Pacific Conference on Birth and Primal Health. Their assignment? Offer a vision of birth in 4012.

Here sitting at one table were such folks as Peggy O’Mara, Sarah Buckley, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Michel Odent and other heavy-hitters in the birth world — including the president of the Royal College of Midwives, Lesley Page, and Michael Stark, president of the New European Surgical Academy and “father” of the Misgav Ladach method for Cesarean section. With a gathering like that,  you’re going to hear many intriguing ideas about how birth will evolve in the next two millenia.

Some visions of birth in 4012 were inspiring, some were challenging, one was utterly bleak. But the most stunning moment emerged when Laura Uplinger came to the podium. Laura is a world citizen who has spent most of her adult life devoted to sharing education about the power of prenatal life. (She had spent most of this conference in a booth tirelessly translating dozens of talks from English into Spanish for the large South American contingent of attendees.)

Laura closed the panel with a vivid portrait of the future of as if she were reporting from that future. (more…)

Vaginal Birth Triggers Brain Boost, C-Section Doesn’t: Part of Nature’s Plan for Intelligence?

Along with the cascade of benefits that most Mothering readers already know comes with vaginal birth, new research from Yale has identified yet another: vaginal birth triggers the expression of a protein in baby’s brain cells that optimizes development of the hippocampus — an area central to such “complex behaviors in the adult” as learning, memory, and stress response. C-section delivery may actually impair this protein’s expression.

I find it of interest that earlier this year another study came out linking early nurturing by mothers with larger hippocampal regions in school-aged children. And while the Yale study is very preliminary — using mice, not humans — to me it all points to a notion I hold dear: Nature has an elegant plan for the unfolding of optimal human intelligence (including the required brain structures to mediate that intelligence), and it involves such quaintly natural things as birthing through the birth canal and letting mothers closely nurture their young ones! {Please continue reading at}

Protecting a Woman’s Right to Choose… a VBAC

There is (rightly) a lot of buzz these days around the insidious, incremental erosion of a woman’s right to choose whether she will give birth to a child she has conceived, but virtually nobody is talking about the drastic erosion of a woman’s right to choose how she will give birth to her term baby. (more…)