Birth Is Natural But....

The female body is designed to give birth – the shape of our pelvis, we have a uterus, the hormones – but this natural phenomenon is becoming increasingly un-natural with medical interventions, a technology-driven society and the rise in high intensity exercise.

Together these influences are wreaking havoc on the female body and interfering with what should be a normal physiologic process.

Birth is a normal physiological event that should begin on its own. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly common for labour to be induced using synthetic oxytocin.

Maybe the due date has come and gone …. maybe mom is becoming increasingly uncomfortable and just wants to be ‘not pregnant’ anymore …. maybe she wants to ensure she gives birth with her doctor, and not someone new.

There are a host of reasons why a medical induction may occur, but women need to understand that synthetic oxytocin is vastly different than our own oxytocin and that labour needs the natural kind and a whole ‘cocktail’ of hormones to make it the most effective.

The uterus also needs oxytocin receptors, which activate once labour begins, and they take time to be activated.

When labour is induced with synthetic oxytocin it means labour is being artificially started before the body/baby are ready and before the receptor sites are activated. It also requires continuous fetal monitoring and in a recently updated review (2013) featured in the Cochrane Library, it was again concluded: Continuous monitoring was associated with a significant increase in caesarean section and instrumental vaginal births.

It is also important to note that synthetic oxytocin does not cross the blood/brain barrier and does not offer the same benefits that natural oxytocin does. And finally, inductions don’t always work – failed inductions can be because of the lack of receptor sites and lack of time, which then necessitates the need to try again with a stronger dose or progress to an emergency caesarean. Unless there is a medical need to induce, it is highly advisable to let birth begin on its own, naturally, without ‘technology.’

Our high tech society has generated some amazing advancements in health and medicine. Unfortunately, birth is not an aspect of health that has benefited from these advancements.

Using technology to artificially commence labour is one aspect, but let’s look also at the body itself and the use of technology as we do on a daily basis. Computers and cell phones are the technology I am referring to and the fact that we sit the majority of the time that we use these pieces of technology. This affects our posture and overall body alignment, which in turn affects our pelvic floor and abdomen – 2 parts of the body that are heavily involved in pregnancy and birth.

A body that sits the majority of the day is more prone to a hypertonic (too much tone) pelvic floor and an abdominal wall that ‘shuts off’. During birth, we need a pelvic floor that has tone, but that can relax and yield to allow space for the baby to emerge from the pelvic outlet.

Increasingly, babies are meeting resistance in the form of a pelvic floor that is unable to relax, which can then lead to ‘failure to progress’ ….and we all know where that leads. Women are pushing harder and longer against that resistance and ending up with birth injuries well beyond the normal superficial tissue damage. Injuries such as organ prolapse and perineal tearing.  Low tone abdominals are also a cause for concern in that this can impair a woman’s ability to push. A natural phenomenon in an un-natural world is cause for concern as it is leaving women with what they themselves call ‘broken bodies.’

After performing an amazing feat of mental, physical and emotional strength, many new moms feel weak instead of strong. They wait for the proverbial ‘green light’ and then seek out the most intense activity they can – the exercise that will help them feel strong again and get their body back. The fitness industry pumps out more intense activity each year at the detriment to these new moms.

Bootcamp style workouts are typically what they are attracted to – hard, intense and full of killer crunches, burpees and jump squats. Society as a whole seeks out these intense activities to make up for the fact that we are more and more sedentary every year and more and more busy – we want the hardest, fastest bang for our buck, but this is the last thing a healing postpartum body needs. The changes that have affected the body – namely the pelvis and the abdomen – are numerous and when you add poor posture and alignment going into the pregnancy and then the birth itself, the after baby body is lacking support and stability that can’t be regained with crunches and burpees.

I am on a mission to help shift the paradigm of fitness and body function during pregnancy and birth: supportive core building preventive exercise, education and information for birth and restorative healing practices once baby is born. Recovering from pregnancy and birth starts while a woman is still pregnant – I could argue even before conception. The current practices of getting pregnant, continuing to workout and run and jump coupled with a high likelihood of ending up with a medicalized birth followed by mommy bootcamp are just not cutting it.