Rachel McEvoy Doula

How Can a Doula Help With Birth Physiology?

The Mitchell Hill Clinic is home to the Cornwall Natural Fertility Centre and we’ve brought together a fantastic team of skilled practitioners to help at every stage of your journey.

Rachel McEvoy (pictured left) is a qualified Doula (for more information, please see What is a Doula and How Can They Support You?) and this month she shares her experience in Birth Physiology.

“As a Doula I work with clients helping prepare them for an empowering and positive birth experience and a large part of the work I do in antenatal sessions is discussing and exploring Birth Physiology which, put simply, is how the human body births a baby. I am fascinated by the human body and really enjoy exploring this aspect of childbirth with clients.

It is very important to realise that birth is not a procedure but a process and this process is pretty unpredictable and variable. No two birth experiences are exactly the same, but the process our bodies go through are the same as that of our ancestors and it all comes down to understanding body chemistry and the factors that drive labour and the factors that can stall labour.

Chemicals / Hormones are so important in a labouring woman and the organ that controls this process is the brain, but it is important to know there are positive and negative hormones released during labour and to get a positive birth experience you want high levels of positive hormones and none of the negative ones.

It is the hypothalamus and pituitary gland that are responsible for secreting positive hormones and these hormonal agents originate in our OLD or PRIMITIVE brain. Oxytocin is called the hormone of love. It makes us feel good, triggers nurturing behaviour and is a potent stimulator of contractions.

Endorphins are a natural morphine like substance produced by our bodies when in pain. Endorphins have a calming and pain relieving affect that when in high enough levels produce an altered state of consciousness in a labouring woman allowing her to be free of inhibitions, flow with the labour and let go!

On the flip side is Adrenalin which is a negative hormone during labour. It originates from the NEO-CORTEX or THINKING brain. Adrenalin is often called the fight or flight hormone as it is produced by mammals to ensure survival. When a labouring woman feels scared, frightened or is interrupted she produces high levels of adrenalin which slows down or can even stop labour.

Once women and their birth partners understand this concept we can then look at how they can reduce the thinking brain activity of the labouring woman. An important role of a birth partner is knowing the factors that increase this brain stimulation and them then aiming to reduce this accordingly.

These factors include:

Language – communication stimulates our thinking brain so it is important that all birth attendants keep a low profile, are quiet and leave the woman alone as much as is possible.

Bright Light – visual stimulation influences brain activity so keeping lights dim in the birth space reduces this stimulation. Think about when you go to bed, what do you do? We tend to turn off the lights, close the curtains and shut our eyes, therefore reducing our brain activity.

Being Observed – we all feel different when we are being observed or watched. Privacy reduces brain activity so it is important for birth attendants to be there but not in the face of a labouring woman. I ask my clients to think about a cat giving birth – she doesn’t give birth in the middle of a busy kitchen or lounge where there is lots of people, noise and activity. She takes herself off to a dark, quiet space where she knows she will not be disturbed and easily and naturally allows her body to birth her babies. Humans deserve and need that same feeling of privacy.

Security – a woman needs to feel safe and secure to give birth more easily. She must not feel observed or judged by anyone with her.

Baking a cake is a good analogy for Birth Physiology and Labour – You need the correct ingredients and a specific method for the best outcome be it a cake or a baby.”

Please contact the Clinic on 01872 274774 to get in touch with Rachel or visit her website for more details about her Doula service.

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