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by Marianne Littlejohn, Birthrite Midwifery

FILED IN: Children · Issue 20

As an independant midwife practitioner I support the biologically destined method of giving birth, natural vaginal birth. This is not to day that we don’t ask for medical help when a mother needs it. Caesarian sections are amazing life-saving operations. But when a mother is able and chooses to birth her baby normally I fully support her. Why is natural birth important?

• it is feasible for 85% of women — if not more — to give birth naturally. The process nature intended is a normal one for both the mother and the baby.

• mothers who choose to birth naturally are women taking responsibility for their lives and this often leads to thinking about the environment into which one is bring a new baby.

• mothers who are truly supported to give birth naturally, are encouraged and aspire to lead healthy balanced lives as they prepare for the birth of a beautiful human being.

• during labour, hormones such as endorphins and oxytocin are released to optimise the experience for the mother and get her ready to bond with her baby once it is born.

• her body heals quickly after birth and a healthy mother is often able to stand and walk within an hour after birth.

• the mother is fully awake and conscious when no drugs are used and therefore is empowered to make choices during the process such as where and how she will give birth and who will be present.

• she is able to hold and handle her baby the minute it is born and this gives her confidence as she learns to mother her baby.

• the baby born naturally learns to navigate a threshold experience i.e. being born, and is also infused by the release of natural hormones, which facilitate his adaptation to life, such as breathing, respiration and temperature regulation.

• undrugged babies are alert at birth and respond to the mother within a few minutes of birth, by calming and gazing into her eyes. This is a wonderful recognition for the mother of a task well accomplished!

• breastfeeding gets off to a good start when a baby is born naturally without drugs or intervention. This is empowering for both mother and baby.

Sadly, the rate of truly natural birth in South Africa is appallingly low. Women are disempowered to find their strength and take the lead in campaigning for birthing choices. The list of independant midwives in South Africa is frighteningly low. The support of obstetricians for midwives is similarly low and women are encouraged to opt for caesarian sections in private hospitals and do so often because they are unaware of the alternatives.

On the other side of the coin, women are herded into public health facilities where a woman’s privacy is not honoured and her fear is not appeased. The sounds of other women screaming during labour and birth add to the fear, turning the experience into a terrifying one. Midwives on duty resort to routine drug administration for pain relief in order to ease their work load and try to quell women’s pain. This is hardly a picture of empowering women. Women need to be individually nurtured when they give birth, by one-on-one care, and an independent private midwife offers a holistic midwifery model of care to the women she helps.

Preparation for birth is crucial and a good healthy diet, exercise, emotional support and a sensible understanding of what labour and birth entails are essential ingredients for a natural birth. The correlation between drugs given during labour and drug dependency later in life is well documented by research but mostly ignored by average birth attendants.

Some people may say that being able to choose a caesarian section is empowering and for a select few women it may be. I’m not talking either about the woman or baby for whom a caesarian section becomes necessary and urgent. Choosing an elective caesarian section for no other reason than to avoid the natural birth process seems to me to be a form of avoiding a normal life process and separating ourselves for what is potentially one of the most powerful events of our lives that of giving birth to humankind.

Natural birth is about knowing how labour works, about sharing the deepest most intimate moments with a significant other, about water and its healing immersive powers, about claiming our right to experience life at its most rich and rewarding. And in the quest for what is biologically sound behaviour we should be teaching our girls and boys about their bodies, their connection to mother earth and father sun and the power they have to create a new life that is qualitatively and quantitatively biofriendly.

Marianne can be contacted on 082 498 7622 or by emailing mlittlejohn@xsinet.co.za


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