Jeanelle Leclair, CLD
It’s no secret that the thought of childbirth frequently raises fear in people’s minds… but what if I told you that this is all due to a false facade that our society has placed in our minds? What would you think if I said that for some people, childbirth is NOT painful? Or does not always risk your life? Or is, dare I say, enjoyable? You would probably call me a liar, and I really don’t blame you. There are many, many movies that try to tell you that birth is this awful curse mother nature has placed on humans and many, many people who can’t wait to share their traumatic birth stories with you (sometimes these people aren’t even people you know!). Well I’m here to tell you that perception is key when it comes to childbirth – and through proper education, you can change your perception into one that doesn’t involve being scared silly!
In our day and age, childbirth is known to be one of, if not the most painful experiences a person can encounter, and this thought alone is what makes up a huge portion of the general public’s misconception of what birth really is. Any person who hasn’t taken a childbirth class and even some who have would just think, “how does a HUMAN come out of that (seemingly) tiny passage without wrecking the person birthing him/her?” I get it, that was definitely me before the birth of my first child and let me tell you, the things I saw in the movies, in commercials, in the media, etc. really didn’t help matters. We can all name at least one flick where a birth scene is depicted by a woman’s water breaking while shopping or walking down the street (which by the way, happens for roughly 10% of us only). They then flip right to a scene of a mother being rushed down a long hospital floor, screaming in pain, while the doctors and nurses bear a look of sheer panic and boom! Baby comes shooting out and all is well. How is this suppose to make us excited to birth a child? So then, when we think we can’t get anymore freaked out, we tell the cashier at the grocery store that we’re pregnant and hear her recite her near-death-experience during childbirth where she almost lost her baby and it was a pain she could never have prepared herself for, and so on. I look back at my younger self, preparing for the birth of my first
child, and I don’t know how I wasn’t a blubbering mess as the days of my daughter’s birth approached… I had nothing but scary, awful stories to try and relate to! If I could only have told myself at that time that fear itself causes so many of these traumatic experiences and childbirth does not have to be scary.
You see, fear is a really nasty thing. According to Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, fear is the start of a nasty cycle known as Fear-Tension-Pain syndrome. Basically, fear leads to tension, both physically and mentally, which actually inflicts more pain. Fear causes the brain to produce adrenaline, which is a stress hormone, and when an over-production of adrenaline occurs your body will enter a “fight or flight” state. In terms of childbirth, this was set in place during human primal years to ensure that if a female mammal was under attack by a predator, she could essentially stop the birth of her child until she was in a safe space to continue. So this would have been great if we’re for some reason in the middle of the forest when we went into labour and threatened by a bear attack…however most of us don’t find ourselves in this situation. For most of us, we are just simply scared by the negative image of childbirth that has been cultivated over the past 10 months, and so instead of remaining relaxed, which can allow our muscles, joints and ligaments to function properly in order to bring baby earth-side, we are super stressed! This stress causes more pain and can actually stall or halt labour until we can calm down. Usually when this happens, in a hospital setting medical interventions are used to kick labour back into gear but unfortunately, this increases our risk of further interventions, potential harm on mom and baby and ultimately, increase our need of a cesarean birth (which has a pile of risks in itself and bears a more difficult and complicated recovery). So yeah, fear really sucks!
Now let’s talk about how YOU can take control and reduce the risk that fear will add to your birth experience. First and foremost, education is key. Stay away from Dr. Google! Find yourself a good quality Edmonton prenatal class, one that is comprehensive and offers evidence-based information on all facets of the birth experience. When you’ve completed your Edmonton childbirth class, don’t expect to be a childbirth expert, but you should know all of your options in the many different scenarios that may or may not occur, and feel confident in making the right decisions for you and your family (this is, after all, the start of a journey where important decisions arise everyday – time to practice!). You definitely don’t need to stop watching all movies and TV shows that depict birth, but you do need to take these scenes with a grain of salt. Remember, movies sell because of DRAMA… so of course they are going to make childbirth seem soooo much more dramatic than it actually has to be. Finally, learn the true meaning of relaxation and what that looks like for you. Being relaxed during childbirth is so crucial to avoid unnecessary pain and to allow the beautiful cocktail of natural hormones to do their job in bringing your baby to you. If you’re concerned with staying calm and relaxed, even with your partner’s help, hire an Edmonton birth doula! We are experts on getting you through the marathon that is childbirth and we help to enhance your experience and make it one that you can cherish, rather than cringe over.
I will leave you with one final thought, and that is that your birth paves the way as your entry into motherhood – you owe it to yourself and your baby to do everything in your power to make this experience a positive one!
Dancing Doula offers prenatal classes as well as Birth Doula Services. Get to know Jeanelle on Facebook and Instagram!
Bump and Baby is a resource to connect new moms in Edmonton, Alberta and surrounding areas (including, but not limited to, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, Leduc and Beaumont) with local childbirth classes and education, as well as Doulas offering a variety of prenatal and postpartum services.
Image provided by: Dancing Doula