“There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that childbirth is painful, it’s that women are strong.” Laurie Stavoe Harm
When most people think of the words ecstatic and birth in the same sentence they think that it is some trumped up myth by a bunch of hippies on drugs!
It’s not the reality of birth!
Currently, birth is surrounded by an aura of FEAR, propagated by media portrayals, reinforced by the authoritarian medical system and cultivated by global corporations profiting from current birthing practices.
Most adults alive today have been born through pain and struggle
The majority of modern women are rendered helpless, hopeless and powerless as the obstetrical machine assumes control over their births and triumphantly hands them their baby. Most people believe that they have no choice! Because of this, we have been programmed to distrust our own anatomy and fear the innate power that resides in every cell.
Many women are now reporting being left with physical and emotional scars after highly interventionist medical births. Consequently, the result is women who feel disempowered, manipulated and abused by insensitive and authoritarian medical professionals. So many women express feelings of loss, failure and a deep desire for more.
The incidence of post-natal depression is increasing, as are behavioural conditions in children such as autism, ADHD and excessive violence in our society. There are a number of scientists and psychologists who are suggesting that there is a link between traumatic birth experiences and these conditions.1
What is ‘ecstatic birth’ then?
Ecstasy or ecstatic is defined as an overwhelming feeling of happiness or joyful excitement and can involve an experience of mystic self-transcendence.2
Therefore it is an experience of birth that transcends a normal state; a physical and spiritual transformation, producing lasting sensations of joy, excitement and happiness. This indicates something more than just being relieved or happy to receive a living baby at the end of a traumatic medical birth.
There is a growing number of women and couples who choose to be the authority in the birth process
They avoid or adapt the medical model to birth naturally and ecstatically.
My first baby was breech. The system recommended a caesarean. I did my research and consequently decided that I could birth her at home with an experienced midwife. I will never forget the euphoria I felt at the moment of her birth, triumphing over the system and discovering my inner source of feminine power. My birth was transformational on every level. It was so incredible that I vowed that I wanted to help other women experience that ecstasy too!
Why are natural births ‘ecstatic’ and medical births not?
The physiological system of natural birth (no medical intervention) is exquisitely designed and balanced. There is a gradual development and intensification during labour that allows the mother to expand and open her body and for the baby to adapt and participate in the process.
Natural labour is divided into three stages:
- Expansion and dilation of the pelvis and cervix,
- Pushing and birthing
- Placenta delivery, uterus returning to size, blood loss stemmed
Each stage is augmented by the ‘cocktail’ of birth hormones that is gradually released into the mother’s bloodstream to produce the muscular contractions required, regulate blood flow and activate emotional responses in the mother’s brain. They also cross the placental membrane to benefit the baby. These hormones include oxytocin, beta-endorphins, catecholamines and prolactin. The production of all four types of hormones builds gradually in both the mother and baby during labour, peaking at the moment of birth.
The most significant of the hormones present during birth is oxytocin
This is vital during every stage for optimal functioning of all the components necessary for a successful natural, ecstatic birth. According to Professor Sue Carter, oxytocin is the hormone of love and is connected to the sensations of euphoria, ecstasy, well-being and security. Oxytocin levels are highest in humans during social contact, sex, orgasm, pregnancy, natural birth and breastfeeding.3 The beta-endorphins are the body’s natural pain regulators, providing relief for both mother and baby as the intensification of energy and sensations progressively increase.
The catecholamines, adrenalin and noradrenalin, are there to increase levels of excitement and muscular effort required to stimulate the foetal ejection reflex during birth. Prolactin, in combination with oxytocin produces the feelings of love, tenderness and protection associated with motherhood and is present in breast milk. According to Michel Odent, prolactin ensures that the mother will direct these feelings towards her baby.
The levels of oxytocin and prolactin remain high after birth in order to eject the placenta, contract the uterus, initiate breastfeeding and promote attachment and bonding between mother and baby.4
Therefore, the key to the optimal functioning of this cocktail of hormones is the balance, regulation and perfectly timed release during natural labour.
Unfortunately the medical model of birth interferes with this synchronicity
Consequently, it is unable to replicate this naturally occurring phenomenon.
Synthetic oxytocin, commonly known as Pitocin or Syntocinon, used to induce labour and to expel the placenta, does not produce the same effects as natural oxytocin. This is because it does not cross over to the brain to produce sensations of ecstasy and love. This is a result of it being continually administered by IV drip and hence cannot be regulated like natural oxytocin.
By suppressing natural oxytocin production and increasing the length and intensity of contractions, it causes both maternal and foetal distress.
If the mother is feeling unsafe or unsupported, her fear and anxiety levels will consequently increase, which creates tension in her body. Therefore this tension opposes the releasing action of labour, and pain is the result. This is known as the ‘fear-tension-pain’ syndrome.5 It can be triggered by fear of birth, moving from the security of the home environment to the hospital, encountering insensitive or too many medical personnel or being subjected to invasive or restrictive medical procedures.
In response the body will produce too much adrenalin/noradrenalin in the early stages of labour
In response, this increases muscular tension and reduces oxytocin and beta-endorphin production resulting in even higher levels of pain. Administering synthetic pain relieving drugs through IV or epidurals further inhibits the natural production of oxytocin, beta-endorphins and prolactin. It also restricts freedom of movement, causing discomfort and the inability to use gravity and movement to assist in the progression of the baby through the birth canal.
The natural system of birth is rendered useless by medical interventions. This results in the cascade of further interventions and the possibility of a caesarean section.
Why choose an ecstatic birth?
The benefits are numerous and long lasting.
- Your baby is welcomed in love, joy and excitement.
- Post birth recovery is faster, breastfeeding easier and as a result there are lower rates of post-natal depression.
- You experience the emotional and spiritual transcendence of a truly co-creative experience.
- The transformational experience of self-empowerment.
- The long-term emotional and physical health and well-being of both mother and child!
My 5 top tips to creating an ecstatic birth
1. Knowledge is power
The key is understanding and developing trust in the natural birth process and your own body.
- Research everything you can on ‘ecstatic birth’ or ‘natural empowered birth’ during your pregnancy
- Read natural birth guide books. Check out these authors:
- Dr Sarah Buckley, Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Sheila Kitzinger, Frederic Leboyer
- Read Childbirth Without Fear by Dr Grantly Dick-Read
- Read or listen to other ecstatic birth stories
- Attend informative seminars or retreats
- Watch empowered birth films
2. Release your fears
Attend workshops or have individual therapy sessions that are designed to release your fears about birth during your pregnancy.
- Guided visualisations
- Independent birth preparation classes
- Natural therapies; acupuncture, kinesiology, reflexology or NLP.
3. Prepare your body, mind and spirit
Preparation is the key to success. I recommend:
- Workshops and classes
- Breathing and visualisation techniques
- Pre-natal yoga and exercise
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Herbal supplements or homeopathic remedies
- Perineal massage
- Acupuncture, reflexology and cranial sacral osteopathy
- Rest and adequate sleep
- Sexual stimulation
- Affirmations and prayer
4. Surround yourself with enlightened support
Everyone who is present during the birth will cause an effect and positive, strong, enlightened support is essential. It is important to realise that it is challenging, although not impossible, to find the support you need within the traditional medical system.
I strongly recommend:
- Hire a doula or independent midwife.
- Choose supporters, including partner, who fully understand, trust and respect your wishes.
- Choose medical personnel carefully; ensure they support your choices! Know your rights!
- Choose the most supportive environment during labour for you to achieve an ecstatic birth.
- Use physical support such as birth balls, birthing pools, conscious breathing, hypnosis techniques or massage during the birth,
- Communicate non-verbally with your baby during pregnancy
- Listen in and communicate with your baby during labour
- Welcome your baby and treat them to skin on skin contact during their first moments
- Delay cord-clamping to allow the maximum cord blood transfusion for the baby’s well-being
5. Consciously co-create with your baby
Acknowledge that your baby is conscious and communicating with you during their interactions with you.
My experience and research has shown me that ‘ecstatic birth’ is not an aberration – it is the genetic blueprint and birth right of every woman. It is time to change the story! Let’s take the opportunity to create a new paradigm; ecstatic birth – a new future for birth and society!
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