Mommy one-upmanship often runs high at baby showers and play dates as new parents recount the story of how they gave birth. The number of hours in labor, the time and location of birth, and the pain management strategy applied often play a large part of the story. But increasingly a central plot point in the story of a birth revolves around new birthing trends and fads.
People have strong opinions on the various ways to give birth and the variety of birthing options continues to grow. Advocates for the multitude of options include midwives, doulas, doctors, mothers, fathers, alternative birth practitioners and probably your next-door neighbor.
While some mothers opt for drug-based pain management options – which now includes patient-controlled epidurals and continuous infusion epidurals – others look for drug-free alternatives to manage pain and optimize the birthing process.
Breathing techniques like the Bradley Method, Lamaze and others are often applied. Some trends include homebirths and waterbirths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, home births (while still representing less than one percent of total deliveries) have risen 50 percent nationally between 2004 and 2011.
Expectant mothers and their families are confronted with a kaleidoscope of modern and ancient techniques for giving birth. Here are some of the newest trends to explore and research.
If you want a pain-free natural birth just hypnotize yourself, according to HypnoBirth practitioners. The Mongan Method of HypnoBirthing is both a philosophy and a set of tools for using self-hypnosis techniques. This birthing technique is supposed to achieve a focused awareness and level of relaxation that allows for a much more comfortable, easy birth. HypnoBirthing is based upon the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, a British obstetrician who believed that women’s fears lead to tension in their bodies (and in their uterine muscles), which increases pain during childbirth.
Lori Nicholson is a certified hypnotist, HypnoBirthing Practitioner, and mother of three daughters. She also holds a Masters of Public Administration degree with an emphasis on international health policy.
Nicholson believes if a mother releases her fears, the inner, circular uterine muscles relax and a pain-free birth is possible. “That’s right: there’s no physiological reason for pain during childbirth,” Nicholson said. HypnoBirthing focuses on fear release processes, along with breathing, relaxation, visualization, self-hypnosis, affirmation and deepening tools to allow a woman to enter her birth with calm and confidence, which is what leads to easier, gentler births according to Nicholson.
If you are a woman throw away your sex toys and give birth instead. Not only can women have multiple orgasms but they can have an orgasm when they give birth. Alas, this only applies to women who give birth vaginally. Twins anyone? Women who have caesarian births will have to find other alternatives for orgasms.
Many women who have given birth vaginally describe the experience as painful. Indeed, epidurals and other pain blocking medicine given in hospitals are common. However, the book Orgasmic Birth by Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro argues that giving birth can be a pleasurable and even ecstatic experience.
According to Nicholson “childbirth can be orgasmic.” She asserts that the same cocktail of hormones released during a female orgasm is also released during childbirth. ”I like to let all of my couples know this, because who wouldn’t want to experience orgasmic birth, right?!” Most people come to her birthing courses wanting to move from thinking about the pain of childbirth to a point of neutrality and relaxation. According to Nicholson, when a woman is relaxed during childbirth and is in the parasympathetic part of her nervous system (relaxed, calm, happy) it can actually feel quite good to give birth, like experiencing the “runner’s high.” This is all explained in a documentary called “Orgasmic Birth.”
“Don’t cut the cord” is the mantra of practitioners of Lotus Birth. This means leaving the umbilical cord attached from the placenta to the infant for three to 10 days after birth until the cord falls off naturally. This is considered a typical practice in many cultures, but it is a rather new concept to the United States.
The umbilical cord is part of the placenta, the lining in the uterus that among other things keeps the blood supply to the fetus separate from that of the mother. Before birth the fetus is attached to the placenta by the umbilical cord. The placenta comes out of the vagina after birth, with the infant still attached to the umbilical cord. Typically, the umbilical cord is cut or “clamped” immediately after birth, but Lotus Birth practitioners keep the umbilical cord attached to the placenta until it falls off on its own accord.
The philosophy behind Lotus Birth is that leaving the umbilical cord attached to the placenta is a natural extension of the natural physiological process of having a baby. When the cord falls off it disconnects the baby from the placenta. Until the cord falls off, Lotus parents keep the placenta in a bowl or basket near the baby. According to lotusbirth.net, it is best to wrap the placenta in absorbent material such as cloth. The covering is changed daily (or more often if seepage occurs). Alternatively, the placenta may be laid in a container and liberally covered with salt. The salt should be changed daily.
The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for “late cord clamping,” This is considered cutting the cord one to three minutes after birth. According to WHO delaying cord clamping allows blood flow between the placenta and baby. This may improve the iron status in the infant for up to six months. This could be particularly important for infants who don’t have access to iron-rich food environments. Early cord clamping, which is clamping the umbilical cord off less than one minute after birth, is not supported by the WHO.
Leave on the cottage cheese coating
More trends in birthing include leaving the vernix, the oily, cottage-cheese like coating that covers babies when they are born, on the skin for the first hour or two of life. This is so it can be absorbed into the baby’s skin. It is argued that the protective coating improves immunity. Typically most babies are “cleaned up” immediately after birth and have this coating removed.
Based on the reaction in the Yellow Scene office when we brought this up, a silent birth is easier said than done. Still, the folks who dreamed up the rules of Scientology made this tasty little nugget mandatory. You heard that right ladies – female Scientologists are basically forbidden from making any sounds while a human being is being squeezed out of their holiest of holy areas. Katie Holmes opted for this option, though you have to wonder how much say Tom Cruise had there, back in their happier days. If this doesn’t sound nonsensical enough, the hospital staff aren’t allowed to communicate information through the medium of, you know, speaking. So if they need something in a hurry, they have to – what? – write it down? As far as we’re concerned, loud breathing and some level of screaming and yelling are simply part of the deal.
Trends in birthing change over time but the basics remain the same. We can only guess as to the imaginative birth fads yet-to-come or be discovered. The future may bring technological advancements in birthing beyond our fathom. Humans endeavor to improve on this most ancient of propagations. However, for right now, it’s pretty basic: the sperm attaches to the egg, the fetus grows and is eventually released into the world. Voila! A baby is born.