December 6, 2013

Semetics of Birth

Semantics of Birth


Brittany Sharpe McCollum, CCE(BWI), CD(DONA)

Language has incredible potential to build community, strengthen concepts and definitions, and create empowerment. With these great strengths comes the conflicting  potential to to segregate, disempower, and induce fear. Just recently in a class I facilitated, an expectant dad brought up the hypocrisy of the term “natural birth.” As a class, we chuckled and briefly discussed what reality would be like if birth was the norm and interventions were not. People would be coming to class, heading to hospital labor rooms, preparing for birthing, actually interested in “birth” and looking to avoid “intervention birth.”

The way we discuss contractions as pain and tension, versus discussing waves as sensation and release are building a framework for how one approaches these challenges of labor. When asked what labor feels like, legendary midwife Ina May Gaskin states “Contractions are intense sensations that require all of your focus.” Pain brings on feelings of tension, the term contraction builds a tightness in the pit of the belly. When we open the mind to new terminology, we approach a new space of understanding, perspective, and, ultimately, ability.

When I practice visualization techniques with my clients, one of  my main goals is to help them recognize the control they have over their bodily response - the great impact the mind has to positively affect bodily function. We dive into green pastures, softly cresting and ebbing waves, and the rustle of leaves surrounding us but not before, first, thinking intently upon our favorite treat. Imagine warm, slightly fudgy, chocolate cake, layered with whipped dark chocolate frosting that careens down the side and forms soft peaks overtop. The smell of cacao that wafts up when the fork sets slowly through the pillow of cake and draws it upwards to the mouth. The sensation of chocolate and fudge blanketing tastebuds. The final tongue swipe that pulls the last bit of icing from the lips.  You may already have watering of the mouth which  is a bodily response showing how powerful language can be.

As a society, as a culture, if we are able to reorganize the language norms surrounding labor, we gain the ability to approach birth fearlessly, with empowerment, relaxation, and excitement.  Yes, birth is challenging,  and yes, birth can be uncomfortable.  Birth is not all roses, but discomfort is manageable. Tightness is temporary. And the ebb and flow is exhilarating.

Let’s say for a moment that larger society phrased things differently - midwives catch babies, women give birth, couples are clients. The empowerment, sensation, and potential that comes from the change in perspective that language can offer is astounding. When we discuss our births with our children and our friends and in our birthing circles, let’s talk about waves, and sensations, and challenges. Let’s leave behind contractions, pain, and tension. In doing so, we can further encourage women to embrace their births and their bodies, rise up to take back the fluidity of labor, and settling in to enjoy birth as an extraordinary rite of passage.

Keeping a Heathly Skepticism with Medical Procedures in Birth

Keeping a Healthy Skepticism with Medical Procedures in Birth

I have been involved with childbirth for many years now.  When I had my children, a cesarean was still an emergency and I didn’t hear much about induction of labor.  Even epidurals were rather uncommon.  I remember having an x-ray taken to see that my daughter was in a single footling breech presentation

Today this has changed. Cesareans have become more commonplace and are no longer always considered emergencies and inductions and epidurals are performed so frequently that women associate them as a way to give birth. And the risks of x-ray are well known and thus not used  in birth today, having been replaced by ultrasound. Ultrasound produces an image on the screen by moving sound through a liquid medium.  Sound is vibration and vibration has heat.  We don’t know the effects of these bursts of heat on the fetus.

As a physical therapist, I worked many years in the public schools with special needs children. I was also teaching BirthWorks childbirth preparation classes.  In both areas of work, in the early 1990s I began hearing about more inductions being performed.  At the same time, I also began hearing more about a rising incidence of autism and was treating more of these children in the schools as many had low tone and delayed gross motor skills.  I wondered if there was any relation between induction and autism.

If you go to Dr. Michel Odent’s primal health database (visit and click on primal health research, a number of studies can be found exploring possible connections between obstetrical drugs and medical procedures in birth and autism. One such example is the study from Japan titled “Autistic and developmental disorders after general anaesthetic delivery.” (Hatton R et al. Lancet 1991;337:1357-1358) The abstract of this study states that:

Children born in a certain hospital in Japan were more at risk of becoming autistic.  In this hospital, children were usually delivered by the “KitasatoUniversity method” which is characterized by a complex combination of sedatives, anaesthetic agents and analgesics together with a planned delivery induced by oxytocin or prostaglandins a week before the expected date of delivery.

Then just this past September, CNN announced concerns that induction and augmentation in labor may be associated with an increased risk of autism. They were careful to say that this is not cause and effect but only concern.  Here is what they said:

Pregnant women whose labors are induced or augmented may have an increased risk of bearing children with autism, especially if the baby is male, according to a large, retrospective analysis by researchers at Duke medicine and the University of Michigan.  The findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics on August 12, 2013, do not prove cause and effect, but suggest the need for more research, particularly as labor induction and augmentation have been used more frequently in recent years.  Expediting deliveries has benefitted women with health conditions that pose a risk to them and their unborn children.

In this study, the researchers looked at records of all births in North Carolina over an eight-year period and matched 625,042 births with corresponding public school records, which indicated whether children were diagnosed with autism.  Approximately 1.3 percent of male children and 0.4 percent of female children had autism diagnoses.  In both male and female children, the percentage of mothers who had induced or augmented labor was higher among children with autism compared with those who did not have autism. 

The findings suggest that among male children, labor that was both induced and augmented was associated with a 35 percent higher risk of autism, compared with labor that received neither treatment.

I maintain a healthy skepticism towards the use of obstetrical drugs and medical procedures used in birth today.  There are certainly good reasons for their use in very specific instances when the mother and baby are truly at risk, however their routine use needs to be decreased.  We simply know too little about the human body, especially a fetus, to completely understand how obstetrical drugs and medical procedures may affect the delicate physiology that composes the human body. We must remember that birth is sacred and a baby is a miracle and not interfere with a process thousands of years old, unless absolutely necessary.  

Childbirthing Class coming soon!!!

BirthWorks International is bringing a Childbirth Educator Workshop to Garnerville, NY!!!!

Dates: March 28, 29, 30, 2014

BirthWorks has been educating women and offering childbirth classes for over two decades and doula certifications and services for over one decade.  We place a high value on empowering women through the process of birth helping them to experience transformation into motherhood. 

Call 1-888-TO-BIRTH to sign up!