Monday, April 14, 2014

Why the "Evidence" Sometimes Gets in the Way of Having a Natural Birth

This is a post I've been thinking about for weeks now. I am conflicted about writing it, which is probably why it's taken so long. Last week I wrote about reasons that women chose to have a natural birth and some of the reasons given were somewhat evidence-based. A couple of weeks ago I asked the following question on my BFBS Facebook page:

From your childbirth class, what helped you the MOST in having an unmediated birth?
1. The "evidence".
2. Labor rehearsals.
3. Relaxation practice.
4. Your doula.
5. Your cheerleaders (I did it, so can you!)
6. Finding the perfect care provider.
7. Getting your head in the game (sorry, I LOVE High School Musical).


The overwhelming majority answered #7 is what helped them the most, which is exactly what I expected. 

Being the founder and President of a childbirth education company, Birth Boot Camp, I am obviously a fan of evidence. It is super important in what we do as educators. We need to know our stuff and be able to back up much of what we talk about in class. The Birth Boot Camp Instructor training is intense for this very reason.

Many people come to class because they've done some research, enough to know that natural birth and midwifery care is a healthy alternative to having their labor medically managed with drugs and interventions. The evidence got them there -- and they will continue to learn more while in their class -- but now they need to learn how to have a natural birth. Well, some of that process includes following the evidence and asking the right questions of your care provider and birth place. Not just the right questions, but learning the translation of what they are actually saying when they give you "answers". 

Labor is not a left-brain act. The left side of the brain is analytical and logical. It reads/hears/analyzes the evidence. It is totally used during childbirth classes and making decisions about your care provider and interventions you would like to avoid. But when it comes to the actual act of labor and birth, the right side takes over. Birth is very primal. My midwife with my last baby, Barbara Pepper, always encouraged me to let go of things I knew, and just feel. The right side of the brain is known for being the creative side, but it's also the side where intuition and reading emotions happens. 

I believe the left side of the brain can seriously get in the way of labor. Take vaginal exams for example. You get a number -- now what? The left side of the brain often starts doing "labor math". For example, "It took me 15 hours to get to a 5... I can't do this for another 15 hours to get to a 10!" 

In Birth Boot Camp classes, we offer lots of ways to help mom (and dad) through labor, encouraging him to do the left-brain work and letting her do the right-brain work. At some point, letting go of "the evidence" needs to happen in labor. It's that moment where you are in the moment, listening to your body, moving the way you need to, and making sounds that keep you relaxed. It's truly "getting your head in the game" and sometimes that takes as much work during pregnancy as learning the evidence! Evidence in-and-of-itself isn't what gives someone a great birth experience. It's a tool, but preparation -- physical, mental, and emotional -- is essential for both partners. 

1 comment:

Kaitlyn said...

This is really interesting. I never thought about labor in terms of left brain/right brain. For me I am a total left brain person. I love math and being analytical. However, reflecting on my birth experience I wasn't this way at all. I feel like giving birth was one of the only times in my life that I "stopped thinking" and just let my body do what it needed to do. I really wanted to have a natural birth and went in with the mind set that it was what my body was meant to do. I also did a ton of research about labor and delivery and read a lot of birth stories. I don't really know how I was able to not use my left brain during birth, but I am certainly glad I did!