Updated: Mar 19, 2019
Everyone wants to have a great birth experience.
At least, i'm yet to meet a woman who isn't planning for her best birth possible.
So today's post is about something that just isn't discussed nearly enough amongst women and parents-to-be. And that, is the brains role in birth and how we can use it to our advantage & increase the chance of a great birth experience.
Our brain functions in either 'on-the-go', stressed and busy mode (aka. Sympathetic function) OR in calm, relaxed, healing mode (aka. Parasympathetic function). During labour and birth, it's ideal for our brain to be in parasympathetic mode.
Let me explain...
Sympathetic Function is all about being ready to fight, freeze or fly. We're primed and ready to go. Our blood flow is directed to the skeletal muscles and heart, preparing us to run and pump blood faster. It prioritises our ability to see and hear potential danger over things like digestion and reproductive functions (which are not so important while we're running from bears).
Parasympathetic Function is where our bodies get to rest, repair and think about things like, immune function, digestion and most importantly, birth.
How does this look during birth??
What we know, is that a birthing environment with bright lights, loud noise, unfamiliar faces and intimidating terms and language, all switch our nervous system into Sympathetic mode, making it difficult for mum to get 'primal' and focus on the birth of her baby.
Increase in sympathetic function can have adverse affects during pregnancy, contributing to low foetal birth weight, premature delivery and delayed foetal development. It also has huge effects during birth, causing an increased perception of pain AND increasing the likelihood of intervention being utilised. In other words, higher chance of cesarean, forceps or vacuum extraction when we're stressed.
Pretty important right??
So how do we help our brain de stress and get into parasympathetic mode?
Dim the lights: We know that bright lights wire up our nervous system and have us raring to go (this is why we struggle getting off social media ladies!). So carefully choosing to use lamps or have lights dimmed where possible can have a soothing effect on the brain.
Choose your support team: We cannot stress this one enough. Ensure you have a support team. People you trust, who know and understand your wishes and goals for birth and who are able to focus on helping you birth the way you want.
Music without words: Music without words is a right brain activity, meaning we get to switch off our analytical brain and delve into primal mode even more.
Controlled temperature: Many of your prenatal educators will talk about this. Being too hot or too cold can again remind our brain of our surroundings and make it tricky for primal mode to excel.
Essential Oils: Lots of women love essential oils during birth as we know that particular ones have calming effects for the brain, again, enabling that primal mama to surface.
Freedom to move: This is a big one. Freedom to move is SO important as often your baby and your body know where they need to be for an efficient and effective labour and being restricted by protocols can make it very hard to do so. Check with your birth centre or hospital as to their policies surrounding this.
Enlist a decision maker: Sometimes the best decision maker isn't your partner or mum. They love you more than anything and want the best for you, so inadvertently, can make it easy to bow out when you do experience transition or a crisis of confidence and doubt your ability to birth how you planned.
Often the best person for this role is a Doula and Private Midwife as they are experienced in advocating for women during their birth and can recognise when intervention may really be the best option.
Book a babysitter: If you have older children, it's a great idea to book a babysitter. Many times i've heard mums say they struggled to 'switch off' mum brain and get into the birth zone while they have their older children present.
Having your older children at the birth?? Great! A good idea is to have a trusted friend or family member to be a support person for them. Then if they need to check out for a while or choose to be present for the birth, you don't have to be the one thinking about them.
Practice breathing: Taking slow controlled breathes can help switch the brain from stressed/ sympathetic mode to relaxed/parasympathetic mode. Get good at this BEFORE your birth.
There are also plenty of positions we can utilise during labour for an efficient and active birth. Check them out on our online workshops.
- BBB x