Oh. My. God!!
I’ve recently been watching old episodes of Friends on Netflix. I still love it and it just never gets old (although it makes me feel old realising that it finished a whole 15 years ago whaaat?!)
Anyway, I found myself watching the episode where Ross and Rachel have a baby and wow did it stress me out. Now, I know that it’s not real life (a fact that my partner had to repeatedly remind me of as I shouted at the TV) but it’s shows like this that have contributed to us having so many misconceptions and anxieties about giving birth.
So, I thought I’d do a little blog to highlight exactly what is going wrong in Rachel’s birth environment and the reasons why it might have taken forever for her to dilate!
1. She is SURROUNDED by strangers.
Now – this isn’t really a true reflection of how things happen here in the UK, but in order for a mother to labour effectively she needs to feel safe and unobserved. Being in a room with people constantly coming in and out will cause anxiety, raising adrenalin and stop her body from working as it should do. It’s our body’s way of protecting our babies, if we don’t feel safe, labour can be a whole lot harder.
2. She is lay on her back.
In the UK 83% of women still give birth on their back. Granted, some of those need to be in that position for medical reasons but many many do NOT. Being on your back means baby is working against gravity and has to make an uphill movement through the pelvis. It is not good for a smooth labour and the second stage can take longer in this position. Remember the acronym UFO – Upright Forward Open. Let gravity help your baby to emerge and move around as much as you can. Listen to what your body is telling you.
3. Ross is pretty useless.
I know, I know, we all love his bumbling awkward humour but in a labour situation he is really pretty unhelpful, especially considering he’s done all this before. You need a birth partner who can support you, liaise with caregivers for you, protect your birth space, remind you to relax, stimulate your oxytocin production, be there in quiet confidence to assist you if you need it – not faff around with stirrups and constantly leave the room!
4. The room is soooo brightly lit.
As mammals, we give birth best in dimly lit environments, just like all other mammals do. Dim lights help you relax, increasing levels of oxytocin and endorphins, all the magic hormones we need for a gentle and smooth labour. Bright lights can make you feel exposed, observed, unsafe and also stimulate your neocortex – which brings me on to my next point…
5. People keep talking to her!
Again, I know it’s not real life, but conversation and questioning in labour is a total no-no where possible. A mother needs to be able to switch off, to calm her mind, to completely surrender to the incredible power of her body. An undisturbed mother can tap into her primal instincts and focus on her body alone. Too much disturbance interferes with this, stimulates adrenalin release and slows labour down.
6. Coached ‘pushing’
She is told when to push, how long to push for, and how soon she will need to push again. She is shown straining, her knees up by her ears, her face contorted. This is NOT how to have a baby. I could go on and on about this point but suffice to say we all as women possess what is known as the ‘fetal ejection reflex’. In the majority of cases baby will come out, when our body is ready and when they are ready, and there is not a damn thing that we can do about it. We do not need to be straining, forcing energy towards our abdomen. We need to listen to our body, breathe baby down and allow our body to do the work. Coached pushing increases the chance of tearing and can exhaust the mother meaning she requires assistance with the baby emerging.
So there we have it. A little summary of my thoughts on that particular episode (minus the fact that Emma didn’t seem to have an umbilical cord and WHERE was the skin to skin?!) I’ve used it as an example as I watched it so recently but sadly it’s indicative of so many portrayals of birth in the media. It absolutely positively does not have to be that way. You are capable of giving birth gently, smoothly, confidently and with joy.
For more information on how incredible the process of birth is, how you can prepare for it and how to have a positive birth then please do get in touch.
Don’t give birth like Rachel, give birth like you.