What is it?
Most animals in labour will separate themselves from other animals and labour alone, often somewhere quiet and dark. Many animals will birth during the night. We often forget this, but human beings are animals too and we share similarities with other animals. It's often found that women labour best when they are warm, in a darkened, quiet, peaceful and private setting. Like home.
How does privacy and isolation contribute to easier and less complicated labour?
We know from animal experiments that when mice are moved into an unfamiliar environment in labour, their labour is more difficult and longer. Observing the mice also made their labour longer and more difficult. What do we often do to women in labour in hospitals? We observe them in an unfamiliar environment ... and wonder why their labour slows. The scenario is compounded when the woman is cared for by unfamiliar staff whom she has not met before, and whom care for multiple women at the same time.
Anything that disturbs a birthing woman’s sense of safety and privacy has the potential to disrupt the birth process.
This is because the hormones that are involved in birth are secreted by the brain, and these hormones need to flow unopposed by hormones that peak when we are fearful, tense and anxious. Anything that inhibits this flow of hormones such as bright lights, unfamiliar sounds, a cold room, beeping, unnecessary conversation, observation and expectations of behaviour – will very likely interrupt the natural birth process, making it longer and more painful.
Ultimately, home is the best environment for promoting a safe, calm, relaxed, peaceful, warm and safe feeling. But not every woman wants a home birth, and not every woman is considered to birth at home (eg with twins, a breech aby, high blood pressure and so on). So the challenge is to recreate the optimal environment in the birth unit. It's entirely possible! Soft music and lighting, bean bags, floor mats, baths, showers and continuity of midwifery care through pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period are a good place to start!
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