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labor techniques

How To Manage 'Pain' of Normal Labor at Home

Anne discusses the concept of labor pain, how mindset places a role in the perception of pain, how the body naturally assists with the healthy sensations of normal labor and shares her own personal story of her first natural birth after giving birth twice while anesthetized with an epidural.

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“Undisturbed birth does not imply that birth will be pain-free. The stress hormones released in birth are equivalent to those of an endurance athlete, which reflects the magnitude of this event, and explains some of the sensations of birth. And like a marathon runner, a woman’s task in birth is not so much to avoid the pain – which usually makes it worse – but to realize that birth is a peak bodily performance, for which our bodies are superbly designed. Undisturbed birth gives us the space to follow our instincts and to find our own rhythm in an atmosphere of support and trust, which will also help to optimize our birth hormones, aiding us further in transmuting pain.” – Sarah Buckley, MD., Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering. (link to Sarah’s blog here: http://sarahbuckley.com/category/blog)

You may have had a similar experience to the one I share: Being given Pitocin to make my labor progress more quickly, and then an epidural– as I could not take the pain of the stronger sensations from the medication, lying on my back, attached to continuous monitors and intravenous fluids, without any labor support or doula.  I was in my early twenties back then.  I didn’t ask many questions and assumed this was standard procedure when bringing life into this world. And I was an obstetric nurse on the unit where I was laboring! This was what I saw and thought was routine.

Also, statistically, these are very common practices. However, no one shared with me the opportunity to have a natural, undisturbed, well supported childbirth. There was no online information or many books about it available to me back then, and because I didn’t have anyone in my life talking to me about intuitive pregnancy and birth as a normal physiologic process, I thought I was covering all my bases when I was eating healthy, exercising, attending all my check-ups, tests, screenings, and taking Lamaze.

They say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears….

…and perhaps I was not yet ready to dive into myself…. And let go…. I was so young, and scared by what I saw in the hospital and heard from others.

This blog post focuses on the mindset around ‘pain’ during labor and childbirth, as well as my perspective on managing it in an out-of-hospital birth setting.

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Photo by @alwaysmatilda_katie

What do you do at home if a mom can’t take the pain of labor and wants an epidural? How do you manage pain at home?

In all my years as a homebirth midwife I have not once had to transfer a mama to the hospital for epidural or pain meds because she could not cope with the sensations of normal labor. Not once.

It is not because women who have home births have different bodies and no intensive sensations. It is largely the mindset, the language we use, the attitude, the preparation in advance, and how the mamas are cared for and supported in labor.

I was always terribly frightened about pain after my experience giving birth to my first two babies on the obstetric unit where I worked as a nurse - one in the operating room while I was waiting alone for over an hour, waiting for the assistant surgeon to come perform an emergency cesarean because my baby’s heart rate dropped dangerously from the medications. My baby was miraculously fine (so much for the accuracy of the monitoring, as there was no emergency after all; so much for feeling safe in a hospital that took over an hour to rescue my baby from the emergency stress they allegedly caused), but I was not fine. That and my similarly handled second birth were the most traumatic experiences ever.

When I woke up and went to midwifery school and began to heal from my own birth traumas, I was still petrified of the pain and wanted to see if the wimp I considered myself to be could do it without an epidural. I wanted midwifery and natural birth to work for me to be authentic about providing that kind of care.

I told my fears to my midwife and she validated me. She also reassured me she was confident I could do it naturally as I was now with a midwife and my care will be very different - I would be eating and drinking, upright, moving and vocalizing freely, and would be more empowered, supported, and encouraged to trust my body’s ability to give birth; She was sure I would surprise myself.

She was so right. I felt so healed and like a superstar after my next two babies were born without epidural or any pain meds, just loving excellent midwifery care and encouragement to tap into my own capacities and strength as a woman.

Being in the water helped. Movement and moaning helped. But a complete shift in mindset and perspective was key, as was my preparation.  I learned to use different language for the sensations of labor, instead of pain which implies illness and something that needs to be remedied, and to see them for what they were. I learned to use other words for contractions, which imply tension and negativity, and the word contraction is not empowering, and does not fully explain what is happening.  Yes, the top of the uterus contracts so the birth canal can open and expand, as well as push out my baby. So expansions are also happening in labor – that is really the goal of what I am doing – expanding so my baby can emerge from my womb to the outside world, and we can both be birthed as a new mother and baby.

Suffering is a choice. And I chose to embrace my intense sensations for what they were, as healthy signs, what was needed to birth, what my baby needed to transition earth side - not that anything was wrong.

They came in waves with a delicious rest in between and I kept staying in the now. My yoga and mindfulness helped me calm myself, witness and get curious about the sensations, to release and dive right into them without fighting them, and notice that most of my body actually felt fine.  I also noticed that when more relaxed, the labor was easier and the sensations were less intense, easier to deal with.

I could do anything for 60-90 seconds, every few minutes at the maximum. I also felt confident with the support I had - and the peak intensity was only at the peak of the wave in later stages of labor, when the waves are at their most intense, closest interval and longest duration. Prior to that, they are shorter, less frequent and not as strong – so even more manageable. Later labor I knew was a relatively short period of time, and as indication that my baby would be born soon. So, that's the kind of care I provide and encourage others to provide.

Natural hormones for management of labor sensations

“In labor, such high levels [of beta-endorphins] are released and help the laboring woman to transcend pain, as she enters the altered state of consciousness that characterizes an undisturbed birth. In the hours after birth, elevated beta-endorphin levels reward and reinforce mother-baby interactions, including physical contact and breastfeeding, as well as contributing to intensely pleasurable, even ecstatic, feelings for both.” – Sarah Buckley, MD.

These natural pain-killers are programmed perfectly to release and work with a woman’s body and her baby as she progresses through pregnancy, labor and after-birth.

Beta-endorphins work with another hormone produced naturally, oxytocin, the love hormone, to contract the uterus before and after the baby is born. Physiologically, a birth in which a woman feels safe, heard, supported, loved and undisturbed, a woman’s body is a divine machine that was designed with miraculous and purposeful intent.

Although epidurals and other interventions have their place and are beneficial when necessary, routine use of them interferes with the natural tendencies and process of labor, as well as birth and the after-birth period where breastfeeding and bonding between mother and baby are so important.

Can labor and birth actually be pleasurable?

Many women who I have cared for in my practice have used the word “ecstasy” to describe it! I have helped mamas dance, laugh, sing and sensually release their babies out.

Photo by @seasonaldoc.

Photo by @seasonaldoc.

Just as I have compared some of the experience of labor and birth to that of a marathon runner, feelings of ecstasy can be compared to something similar to a runner’s high. Although birthing your baby is a much more powerful, peak-like experience as you can imagine, this is an experience a woman may only have once or a few times in her life.  

“I never thought I would see the day that anyone other than me would describe childbirth as total ecstasy! I know exactly what orgasmic birth is – I have experienced it myself. There is absolutely nothing else on earth like it. There is no moment in a woman’s life when she feels stronger, more capable, more an embodiment of the Divine than when she pushes her child into this world.” – an excerpt provided by Christine B., included in Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro’s book, Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience (link to Debra’s blog here: http://www.debrapascalibonaro.com/blog/). 

Oxytocin is released both during love-making and during labor. There is a deep connection between the love that put baby there and the love that helps baby come out.  It’s the same sensual energy that is needed, in an atmosphere and mindset conducive to it flowing organically…as in making love, as in giving birth.

A woman’s relationship with her body, both sexually and sensually, can be an integrate part of experiencing labor. The contractions and expansions that occur during labor and childbirth are comparable to those of orgasm.

Art of an actual woman after birth by Amanda Greavette

Art of an actual woman after birth by Amanda Greavette

Most of us have grown up with a belief about labor and childbirth, one in which it has to be painful. We hold a vision in our mind of a pregnant woman, screaming in pain, wearing a hospital gown, with her legs up in the air, an obstetrician and nurses taking over – doing all sorts of emergency care on the laboring mother. That is what we are told by many others who have given birth in many hospital settings for the last few generations.

Even if it’s just something we’ve seen in the movies, it would lead anyone to sign up for an epidural without question.  No wonder there is a prevalent fear and lack of self confidence.

However, it is possible to embrace and lean into the sensations of labor, rather than fear them or try to escape them. It is possible to birth with joy, and even sensual pleasure.

When a woman prepares for this process, she can feel the momentum that labor provides. She can be guided by her own intuition and the trust of a supportive team around her. Mindset can shift to a positive perspective about the sensations of birth and it’s fully possible to have a birth that leaves a woman feeling empowered, strengthened and deeply satisfied. It is possible for her to feel a sense of bliss like no other, despite the intensity and challenges she may face.

To learn more about ecstatic birthing women and other birthing resources, check out some of the books and movies I love!

Also, this outstanding documentary, Orgasmic Birth here is a must watch!  And I was honored to be in it!

Orgasmic Birth
Starring 11 Mothers, 12 International Experts

Let Me Help You Create The Happiest Birth Experience Of Your Life...

Whether you're a first time or experienced momma,

Or a midwife, doula, or birth professional guiding mommas..

Regardless if you are planning a birth at home, a hospital, a birth center or need a cesarean section, or if you are taking another childbirth education class…

You Really Can Create The Delivery Of Your Dreams.

And have a blissful birth wherever you are.

More Precious Than A Wedding...A Birth Should Be A Celebration!

Let me show you how to…

  • Understand the sensations of your body and connect your intuition with how your body is communicating and leading you towards what to do during labor
  • Tap into your inner calm to deeply relax yourself, letting go of busy, stressful and fearful thoughts on demand for the health of baby
  • Speak your truth from your heart in a way that deepens your relationships, sets clear boundaries, and has people listen to you and support you before, during and after pregnancy
  • Trust yourself, connect with your body wisdom and communicate with baby in belly
  • Connect with natural time and sync your body and mind up with your unique biological clock for ease from pregnancy to postpartum
  • Reprogram negative patterns, stories, and beliefs that undermine your confidence, strength and self trust so you can rock your birth

Physicians and midwives around the world recommend my teachings to their pregnant clients and many Doulas across the country learn the secrets of blissful birthing from me to supplement their Doula Training & Certification process!

To learn more, visit:  LOVE YOUR BIRTH Online Childbirth Course!

It is based on my years of experience, as a midwife and yoga teacher, helping thousands of women tap into their calm and live and birth from a place of grounded relaxation and joy. 

  

Get a 10% discount on your Sleepod purchases at askrembla.com -use the code SWEETHOME to get your discount. 

Get a 10% discount on your Sleepod purchases ataskrembla.com-use the code SWEETHOME to get your discount. 

 

 

What's a Doula and Why I Recommend One

Art by Amanda Greavette

Art by Amanda Greavette

Happy WorldDoulaWeek! This is a week initiated by a doula in Israel to empower and support doulas around the world to improve the emotional and social health of birthing and postpartum women and their families; this is so needed in modern times, with the breakdown of community and resulting lack of sisterhood mothering, along with the prevalent fear and lack of exposure to birth, and the medicalization of childbirth. Says Dr. John H. Kennel MD, "If a #doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it."  When I think of the many #doulas I have been blessed to work with, I am reminded of strong, beautiful, kind, passionate, dedicated, fun-loving women who have found their calling supporting other women - these women rise by lifting others. Hug your doula this week; and if you don't have one, find one to hug, and research the many proven benefits of having a doula, especially if you are giving birth for the first time. 

I do love my vintage office bumper sticker.

I do love my vintage office bumper sticker.

What is a doula is and why do I recommend one when you don't have that kind of support around you?

A doula or a labor support person like a doula is must - someone calm and nurturing to mother you, who knows how to help mamas in labor, birth and postpartum and trusts the process. Women were surrounded by homebirth and supported other women in labor through history and around many parts of the world still today. In the US and many parts of the modern world today, many mamas don't have this, and it negatively impacts their birth and postpartum. My transfer rate is ~ 7% and it's mostly first time moms with prolonged labors, exhaustion and with a common theme - they did not set themselves up with doula or doula like labor support, despite what I said, now documented by solid research. I want mamas to optimize their chances of having an empowered, deeply positive and healthy birth experience. See if your midwife knows great doulas with a sliding scale. An awesome one is worth every penny.

I could talk for hours about this, but here are the main reasons I believe pregnant moms, especially first timers, those planning to VBAC, and those who have an obstetrician as their provider, should hire a doula. Doulas and midwives compliment one another even in out of hospital birth settings, and preserve rather than interfere with partner & family support & privacy.  Often dads are grateful they do not have to learn to be a labor coach.

In many cultures today, and throughout history, until relatively recently, when birth was moved into the hospitals in the 1920s to 1940s, and people dispersed away from their villages, women supported women through childbirth and postpartum. Doulas fill this void, and are trained to provide emotional support, comfort measures, reassurance, encouragement, empowerment, advocacy, and basically mother the laboring and postpartum mother. Most doulas go through a short training and certification process, although many take continuing education and serve childbearing families in other ways such as facilitating pregnancy and postpartum support circles, doing birth photography, creating mother blessing ceremonies, encapsulating placentas, and becoming childbirth educators to teach childbirth classes. Doulas are not medical providers like midwives and obstetricians, responsible for the actual maternity and newborn care - although midwives are more likely to provide doula like care which is integral to authentic midwifery, that is not their main role.

There is an impressive body of research on the many benefits without risks, of the continuous support of an experienced doula during labor, such as improved coping, self confidence, esteem and empowerment, enhanced satisfaction and positive feelings about their childbirth, shorter and easier labors, an easier time adapting to motherhood with enhanced skills, longer breastfeeding, more positive feelings towards their baby and even improved relationship with their partner! Scientific evidence from gold standard medical studies also reveals less pain and fear, less childbirth interventions including cesarean, vacuum and forceps deliveries, less episiotomies, medication for pain and stimulating labor, less babies in poor condition needing intensive care and longer hospital stays, and all the associated risks to of above interventions, and less postpartum depression. This is HUGE! It's having a personal coach so that you have the most healthiest, wonderful experience possible. All successful professional athletes, performers and most leading businesses and entrepreneurs have a coach of some sort.

Photo by Julia Sywers.

Photo by Julia Sywers.

This is doula love, given by my amazing birth assistant, doula and childbirth educator, to a superhero mama having her second homebirth. "The wisdom and compassion a woman intuitively experiences in childbirth can make her a source of healing and understanding for other women." - said the beloved Steve Gaskin. I want to honor all doulas this happy world doula week, and all superhero mamas who have given birth anyhow, anywhere.  Photo by Julia Sywers.

For personal questions and need for individual guidance you can schedule an online consultation with me- this is one of passions and areas of expertise. Many mamas ask to consult with me about their personal fears and concerns and what to do about them. I love helping mamas in person, and now with this global IG community, via Skype or phone conversation. You can also take my unique online ROCK and LOVE YOUR BIRTH course, which basically guides you through your pregnancy to birth and postpartum journey, as I guide the families in my midwifery practice - without the hands on care, to prepare and plan for an experience of their dreams.

Do you need supplements for preconception and pregnancy? Here are some of my favorite I recommend to mamas in my practice, along with my favorite herbal tea recipe for your journey. 

Flora

Make your Red Raspberry Leaf and Nettle herbal infusion.....rich in needed nutrients and specifically nourishing for pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Place 1 oz of dried red raspberry leaf, 1 oz of dried nettle leaf in a quart-sized glass canning jar with strainer, fill it with boiling water, cover and steep for at least 2 -4 hours at room temperature. Strain and place in a covered pitcher. You can make it in larger quantities and store in the fridge. For taste, dilute with water or steep for less time (but no less than half an hour), add lemon or lime juice, mint leaves or a teaspoon of honey. Drink 1-4 cups daily hot or cold.

I am passionate about changing lives. This 44-day course is changing lives. Vital Mind Reset is a program that will hold your hand and help you heal your life without a prescription. It will also introduce you to a community of people just like you – all working to transform their lives and revive their power and joy. Be a part of this community. Be a part of something greater and get yourself back! This course is a must, by renowned holistic psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan, author of NY Times best seller 'A Mind Of Your Own', a dear friend and trusted colleague I can vouch for personally and support whole heartedly.  

Get a 10% discount on your Sleepod purchases at askrembla.com -use the code SWEETHOME to get your discount. 

Get a 10% discount on your Sleepod purchases ataskrembla.com-use the code SWEETHOME to get your discount. 

Below are some supplies to help you Rock your birthing experience! For more details check a recent  blog I specifically devoted to my recommended top 10 must haves for your birth - to make it easier and so much more wonderful.

Our Gentle Home Water Birth

Our baby’s birth is an answered prayer.

I was in great physical pain for days but, incredibly, there was never a doubt in my mind. I had faith that we could do it.

I was at home, surrounded by my family – the people who love me most, by caring midwives dedicated to give me a safe, gentle, positive birth experience, and a sweet lady who documented the whole thing in these beautiful photos.