Friday, 30 May 2014

Hindrances to Natural Birth #52 : Tickets

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman /
I'm pretty sure that if I were to ask you about some of the top hindrances to natural birth, 'tickets' would not be high on your list. Pitocin, lithotomy position, hospitals, a medical model of care, our culture of fear around birth: these are all pretty obvious. But I believe some of the real hindrances to natural birth may be somewhat more banal.

Labour is a shifty thing sometimes. One of the hormones that keep labour going - oxytocin - is considered to be a 'shy' hormone. It is not easily released under pressure. It is the hormone most intricately involved in lovemaking and released during orgasm. It is also the hormone that causes 'let down' or a fast flow of milk when breastfeeding. In short, oxytocin is the hormone of love, labour and lactation. 

Couples struggling to get pregnant who have to do the 'baby dance' on a particular day or even at a particular time will often attest that being 'forced' to make love on schedule kind of kills the vibe. 

Let's take it a bit further. Imagine you are in the middle of lovemaking and someone knocks on the door, peeks around it, and switches on the main light, just to check how you're doing. Are you there yet? Shall we check to see how far you've got to go? It seems to be taking some time. If you're not done in x amount of time we may need to help you along. I'll be back shortly. As you were. Toodles! 

Vibe. Officially. Dead.

Now that sounds ridiculous when applied to lovemaking, but the same hormone, oxytocin, is what induces and keeps labour going. 

So imagine: you are at the end of your pregnancy and your mom has booked her ticket from across the country, or across the globe, for the day before your expiration due date. She only has three weeks off work. The pressure is on. The clock is ticking.   

The thing is, when a pregnant mom has a perceived time limit within the labour process, her body is far less likely to release sufficient oxytocin to keep labour going effectively. On a larger scale, when a mom feels under pressure to go into labour to begin with, it actually makes it much harder for her to do so. 

And so she starts looking at induction options. Inductions can be helpful when there is a genuine medical need for them, but often then lead to a cascade of interventions as illustrated below.

There is lots I could say about inductions that would give some evidence for the diagram above - but that is a whole other post on its own! Let's rather look at some solutions to avoiding inductions altogether. Firstly, let people know that 'estimated due dates' are just that, estimates - there is about a 4-6 week window of 'normal'. I've got another post in this series looking at the notion of due dates as a hindrance to natural birth. I'll link to it here once it's up.

I know you get better prices if you book tickets long before the time and I know grannies-to-be would love to be around at the when babies are born - but I would really encourage you to find a way to not have time pressure around the time of your birth, especially if you are aiming to have a natural or low intervention birth.

Do you have creative ideas on how to avoid time pressure around your labour day? Please share them with us!