How many times have you been told, or felt, you are selfish or unreasonable for seeking a positive birth experience? Perhaps because you are planning a home birth or a water birth. If you're labelled 'high risk' you can particularly feel as if you are being awkward, or even unsafe, when you try to keep birth as normal as possible, perhaps by declining continual monitoring, or asking to be on the midwife led unit. Hiring a doula, using hypnobirthing, putting up fairy lights, or just refusing to get on the bed, can result in turned up noses or worse. (Not always mind!) The attitude is that women are doing this for themselves, for their own purpose and that this is in conflict with what's best for baby.
Let me tell you now, a positive birth experience is important to your baby too. A positive birth experience results in a happier, healthier baby. What is good for mum is good for baby.
I spent yesterday at a wonderful conference entitled 'Sentient Birth', organised by the Midwifery Society at the University of Hertfordshire. We listened to a range of speakers, including the world renown obstetrician Michel Odent, talking about the effects of birth on the baby - physiologically and emotionally.
You are right to want to avoid induction: artificial oxytocin reduces the levels of actual oxytocin in the baby's brain, and in yours. This has an impact on breastfeeding, bonding and the alertness of the baby at birth. (And has a knock on effect on the birth process.)
It is reasonable to go for a vaginal birth after caesarean (vbac): babies born by planned, pre-labour caesarean don't have melatonin in their blood (compared to all other babies). Melatonin supports the immune system, is a protective factor against oxydative stress, and helps with calm and sleep. These babies also have a reduced sense of smell which can effect breastfeeding.
Michel Odent suggests that for the baby's sake, planned caesareans should take place after birth has started. The stress of labour has many benefits for babies, including preparing the lungs.
Planning a home birth? Great idea. Among other positive benefits of home birth, babies born at home have a wider range of familial bacteria, compared to babies born in other settings, especially those born by caesarean. The growing research in this area shows that early colonisation by friendly bacteria protects again allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders. Michel Odent was saying that this will have a direct impact on the survival of the human race.
I also listened to midwives and therapists who work with babies, children and adults dealing with traumatic events at their own births. A lovely midwife described the need to listen to babies when the cry, as they tell their story, to help them get over the birth. A therapist talked about the archetypal thoughts that result from negative birth experiences for babies.
When birth is positive, when it is oozing with love and wonder, not choked with fear, when babies are greeted by warm arms, kisses and the breast, and not cold instruments and lonely cribs, there is a visible difference in the babies.
So, pregnant mamas, keep the faith. Search for positive stories and positive people. Ask for what you and your baby need. If you would like support in your birth options, or are trying to find research to back you up, please drop me an email or message.
If you would like to find out more about these topics. Here is the link to Michel Odent's website Womb Ecology and his Primal Research Database and an article by him about the effect of 'stress deprivation' during birth (i.e. by pre labour caesarean).
Here's a trailer for the film 'Microbirth' about the effect of different types of birth on the human microbiome.
This is the website for the lovely midwife Mary Jackson.
Read about 'Ecstatic Birth' by therapist Binnie A Dansbury, and learn to turn the fear of birth into positive expectations and outcomes.
And if you would like to talk to me about any of this, whether you are a mum or a doula or a midwife, I would love to hear from you. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org