I believe that everyone should know basic birthing skills, to safely and confidently support a laboring woman to birth. In case you are ever in a position to be with a women giving birth, it is essential know how to support a natural birth and delivery with the best outcome for mother and baby. Having basic knowledge of how to assist a natural birth can turn a potential emergency into the most amazing experience of one's life.
Birth is a witnessing of the emergence of a new being - ideally in peace, rather than a frantic fearful event. No matter when and where birth happens, knowing basic skills will facilitate all to be calm, supportive, healthy, and prevent unnecessary intervention or complications.
Increasingly women are desiring natural birth, but the skills of family birthing have become a lost art as several generations of women have birthed in hospitals veering from our ancient ancestral heritage of birthing at home or in sacred birthing sites. In traditional cultures women were taught basic birthing skills when growing up, and were prepared to know how to give birth unassisted should need be, though most women birthed with the support of midwives when available. Midwifery has now been suppressed worldwide resulting in a global shortage of qualified midwifes and birth attendants. Doctors have largely abandoned the basic skills of birth, as palpation with the hands has been replaced by ultrasound and how to facilitate a natural breech birth has been replaced by surgical delivery, to name just a few lost skills. Obstetricians are well-versed in pharmaceutical drugs and surgery, but how to support a natural non-intervention birth is absent from their training, education, and experience, thus there are numerous traditional birthing skills that have been lost and are endangered.
Just as people gather food, grow food, develop homesteading crafts, and learn basic survical skills, knowing how to support a birthing woman and infant baby is essential human wisdom for health, vitality, and the continuation of the species, as well as the evolution of humanity. In case of natural disasters, epidemics, or other social disruptions, access to hospitals may be limited and unsafe. In countries around the world, this is a regular experience for flooding, earthquakes, and violence in the streets to limit women's access to midwifery or medical assistance for their births. In some cases, impending obstacles to hospital access may be used to encourage women to schedule c-sections, to avoid "accidentally" giving birth at home. If all people were to learn basic birthing skills, especially mothers and fathers to be, extended family members, and more community midwifes and birth educators were trained, than this fear could be easily abatted, as confidence grows in the ability and ease of birthing naturally at home and even without assistance.
Many women are choosing to birth unassisted without a midwife or doctor present, usually with the baby's father, some family, and sometimes alone in desire of a family-centered autonomous birth. Some woman have fast labors, and may not be able to make it to a birth center or hospital in time before birth. I have even known people to birth in hospitals without a nurse or doctor having made it into the room! Other times, a homebirth midwife may not have time to make it to the home in the case of a precipitous (fast) labor. Whether planning to birth unassisted, at home, a birthing center, or hospital - know the basics of birth and you will feel more confident and be at ease. In the case of emergency or loss of care in your community by medical and midwifery providers, knowing basic birthing skills could save the lives of a family member, friend, or neighbor.
8 Steps to an Awesome Birth:
Mom's Body Knows What to Do, Don't Interfere, and Be Reassuring.
The most important skill to have in attending a birth is to stay calm. The mother's labor will halt if she is stressed and anxious. If anyone around her is fearful and creating stress she will pick up on that energy. Relax, birth is normal and natural, and best left alone. Calm down, breath deeply, stand back, and let the mom and baby do what they instinctively know to do.
Support Birth Dynamics:
Gravity, Movement, Toning.
Allow the mother to be upright, active, moving how she wants to, and encourage toning or making low sounds with the contractions to help her move through labor with the support of utilizing gravity, the movement of her own body, and her own natural sounds.
Just like All Mammals Women Need Quiet, Low Lighting, Privacy, and Patience for Instinctive Safe Birth.
Keep the crowds away and help the mother find privacy to give birth. Do you know how cats like to find some dark tucked away place under a bed or in a closet to give birth, and how many barnyard animals birth in the middle of the night in the dark quietly? This is the same with women, who can relax and comfortably give birth with dim lighting, quiet, and few attendants. Birth is normal and only requires the mother.
Listen, Observe, and Ask the Mother, Let Her Push When She is Ready.
Here is my generalized labor assessment (though of course, each woman is unique): If the mother can have a conversation with you during the contraction, she is probably in early labor, perhaps less than 4 cm. dilated. If she can have a conversation with you between contractions, she is probably in active labor 4-8 cm. If she doesn't want to talk to you at all, then she is probably in transition, 8-10 cm. If she is grunting or pushing, then get ready for the baby! There is no need for cervical exams, in fact, vaginal exams can lengthen labor, cause swelling, or infection. If the woman feels the urge to push, then she should allow her body to birth the baby, and not force pushing or hold her breath.
Welcoming the Baby:
Gather Clean Soft Blankets and Towels for Birth and After. Don't Pull on the Baby!
The mother can receive her own baby and bring the baby to her chest or belly, skin-to-skin, when she is ready. You can make sure the baby doesn't fall anywhere by helping her get low and squat over towels or be in a tub. Labor will be easiest for her if she is in a squatting position, or with one-knee down. If she is tired, then side-lying is a good position. Lying on her back is the worst position, besides being dangled upside-down, as it reduces the pelvic diameter 30%! Birthing in warm water is great, and wonderful for mother and baby. Make sure the environment is warm, quiet, clean, and there are some towels under mom for the baby to land on if needed, and a blanket to cover the baby on mom's chest after birth.
Skin-to-Skin Contact & Breastfeeding
Skin-to-skin contact with mother's body is necessary for the baby to regulate it's system, temperature, and prevent complications after birth. This will also help mother avoid excess bleeding, release her placenta, prevent complications. Baby on mom's belly allows baby to crawl to breast to initiate breastfeeding - essential for baby to colostrum for immunity to not have any other food. Keep mother and baby together skin-to-skin and warm.
Delay Cord Clamping and Baby Receives Essential Blood with Stem Cells from the Placenta
Don't cut the cord. Keep oxygenated blood flowing to the baby. Allow the transfer of stem cells and blood. Mom can squat or push to birth the placenta. Clean and inspect it to make sure it is whole. Wrap up in cloth or put in a bowl near the baby. Later you could burn the cord if desired which is a traditional way to sever the cord and will cauterize it. You can treat the placenta with salt or herbs that are antibacterial such as rosemary, lavender, or cedar. You can leave the placenta and cord attached to baby for a "Lotus Birth" and the baby will release the cord from the naval between 3-8 days.
Mother and Baby Together, Breastfeeding, and Resting
Keep mom and baby together in a warm quiet place. Make sure mom pees regularly and has warm fluids to drink. If mom is bleeding a lot she can put a small piece of placenta in her cheek and suck on it and it will stop bleeding through the action of the hormones to stimulate the uterus. Support breastfeeding. Nurture mama with warm foods such as soup, teas, oatmeal, porridge, and steamed veggies.
How to Revive the Art of Gentle Birthing
Preserve the sacred knowledge of birth and support the evolution of humanity. Study birthing arts for your personal knowledge, and if you feel passionate about this material please continue studying to be a birth educator, assistant, or midwife.
Also, sign up for the Awesome Birth Teacher Training - my multi-media, global online educational program that is designed to empower you as a leading birth educator, mentor, and advocate. The next 12 week online intensive program starts in early 2015, and you can sign up for my newsletter below to find out when enrollment is next open.
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