16 January 2010

Why a Water Birth and Assembling the Birth Pool.

The births of my first two children were traumatic experiences!  I still have to write their birth stories, but for now you can believe me, I never ever want to experience it again.  Both were in hospital, an over-exposed, public place, with many distractions and stresses, due to electronic fetal monitoring devices, results in less effective labour. Now in retrospect,  it isn’t difficult to understand why I needed the assistance of oxytocin drugs to stimulate (in CJ’s case) and induce me (in Heidi-Mari’s case) in labour, and an epidural to block the pain and an instrument assisted birth (CJ).  Praise the Lord that in my foolishness He protected me with CJ and Heidi-Mari from caesarean sections!

Giving birth is a very basic involuntary primitive instinct, controlled by the hypothalamus (the most primitive part of the brain) rather than controlled by the mind.  A successful, natural birth is all about the highly sensitive balance of hormones and it was only after I’ve understood this sensitive balance between birth hormones, that I could help my body functioning optimally to bring on labour and have a ‘relaxed‘ birth. 

God designed our bodies so amazingly!  
“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.”
Ps 139:14

If we would only listen to our bodies and allow our bodies to function the natural way, God’s way.  One of the biggest drawbacks of unnatural (evolution based) medicine, specifically in labour, is that it works against the natural workings of the body. This is the reason it’s called allo-pathic medicine - meaning against the natural body.

This is also part of the reason why I, ever since those first births, now choose water birth.

The Birth hormones are Prolactin - the ‘mothering hormone’; Endorphins - natural morphine-like chemicals that bring pain relief in labour; as well as Oxytocin - the main birth hormone.

It is very interesting to know it is the baby that decides when it is time for his/her birth! As I’m currently getting closer to my due date, my body is automatically increasing the secretion of oxytocin, the main birth hormone, preparing my uterus for contractions (I’ve already experienced this numerous times over the past few weeks!) by triggering the release of estrogen, while prostaglandin softens and ripens the cervix. 
But it is ONLY when the baby’s lungs are fully matured and ready to breathe, that they produce a hormone that reaches the mother’s bloodstream and sends a message to her brain that it’s time for labour to start.   This message has the physical result of more oxytocin, released in pulses into the mother’s bloodstream - each pulse resulting in a contraction. 

Emotionally, the effect of high levels of oxytocin during labour, is to make the mother draw deeply into herself, as she concentrates her energies on the overwhelming sensations she is experiencing.  During this stage it is extremely important to protect the laboring woman from disturbances such as bright lights, talking and asking questions or giving her a feeling of being ‘observed’.  When the mother is disturbed, feels anxious or becomes afraid, her body is likely to produce adrenaline, the ‘fight of flight hormone’.  During labour adrenaline counteracts the release of oxytocin and can therefore slow or even inhibit labour.  We should aim to keep the level of adrenaline as low as possible during labour, by giving the mother a protective, intimate place of birth.  Woman in labour have a need to withdraw and cut themselves off from the world of ordinary events, and one can tell that a labour is going well when this is observed. 

In a modern hospital setting and sometimes even at a home birth, adrenaline is likely to be released in response to too much noise and activity, emotional stress, unsympathetic surroundings and in more extreme cases fear and distress.  In this situation, the halting or slowing of contractions may lead to the need for a arsenal of medical interventions to deliver the baby.  

Towards the end of labour, there is a sudden shift in the mother’s hormonal balance as the birth approaches.  A kind of ‘hormonal storm’!  I’ve experienced it every time just after full dilation of the cervix. It may also happen just before or at the time of full dilation.  The high oxytocin levels produce long, intense contractions with only brief intervals between them.  At this point a high level or rush of adrenaline is released, which now, paradoxically, has the dramatic effect of stimulating contractions instead of slowing them down, as would have happened earlier.  As a result of this, you might notice a new restlessness in the mother in contrast to the relative passivity of late labour. In my case I experienced my body going in a spasm.  Christo then normally supports me from outside the pool, allowing me to float in the water. The rush of adrenaline, combined with the mechanical pressure from the baby’s descending head on the pudendal nerves deep inside the pelvis, has the effect of stimulating the rapid birth of the baby.  

But a rapid birth, due to adrenaline rush, doesn’t occur in all labours.  In particular, when there is too much well-meaning ‘support’ for the mother, the necessary primal anxiety is suppressed.  In this case the mother need to consciously make the efforts to ‘push’ the baby down the birth canal.  Christo and my midwife help to make the birth as easy as possible for me and baby by minimizing disturbances to help along a spontaneous birth.

And this is the main reason why I prefer a home birth.  I need to feel secure during labour, spontaneous and uninhibited, dominated by my involuntary primitive instincts, rather than controlled by my mind, afraid of what people might think.

Since I’m a very private person, the birth pool gives me a sense of privacy.  I feel enclosed in my private space, protected by the gentle barrier of the water and secure from unwanted contact and more in control of my body.

The warm water helps me cope better with the pain during labour.  The water has a relaxing effect on my heavily pregnant body.  The buoyancy of the water supports my weight, enabling my body to relax.  The warmth of the water also has a relaxing effect on the muscle fibers, helping to dispel tension throughout my body.

I also experience a huge sense of relief when I enter the birthing pool.   The birthing pool is designed to hold sufficient water to provide buoyancy to support me comfortably and effortlessly in whatever position I choose, providing a feeling of weightlessness.  Since I’m free from the effort of supporting my body’s weight, the buoyancy also helps me to conserve energy so that I’m less likely to become exhausted.  The support of the water allows total relaxation between contractions, which are blissful and restorative.

While in labour I want to move my body spontaneously into the most comfortable and beneficial position at any given time.  In water, mobility is much easier to achieve and involves much less effort.  I am free to find the positions that alleviate pain, whether lying, floating or kneeling leaning forwards.

These are only some of the many reasons why I choose a water birth.

This weekend Christo and the boys assembled the birth pool. I periodically have heavy contractions, so Christo thought it safe to assemble the pool just incase the contractions become the ‘real thing’ and he doesn’t want to be caught off guard and cause extra stress on me.

CJ and Josua helped Christo fit the 4 fibre glass panels together to form the structure of the birth pool.

The pool doesn’t have a glass fibre bottom, only a piece of foam rubber inside.

They also checked the warm water urn and it’s placement.  Boiling water from the urn is necessary to regulate the pool temperature, after it had been filled with warm water out of the geyser. This size pool needs two fillings of a normal household geyser. 

I normally get into the pool when dilated 6-7 cm and then it takes about 2 hours before I’m fully dilated and ready to give birth.  The temperature of the pool needs to be exactly the same as body temperature for baby to be born safely.  Thus the need for boiling water to heat up the pool, incase the temperature had dropped under 37 degrees C, during the second stage of labour.

Oops!  They forgot to put down the plastic, to protect the carpet from spilled water, underneath the pool.

Building me a comfortable ‘chair’ inside the pool.  I’m a very strong believer in immediately after giving birth, finding a comfortable position in the pool to put my baby on my breast.  Baby’s first contact with the breast or first sucking, minutes after birth, stimulates more oxytocin secretion, as do all the interactions that happen between me and my baby at this time - me falling deeply in love with my baby!  This results in massive contractions that ensure the delivery of the placenta, the retraction of the uterus and the sealing of the blood vessels at the placental site.  Thus being in a comfortable position, having my baby at my breast, adoring his/her small fingers and toes, is part of the natural way to prevent hemorrhage and ensure the safety of my baby and myself.  We never allow the injection of vitamin K to prevent hemorrhage.  God put everything in place for a healthy body to ensure it’s safety and I don’t want to interfere unless otherwise advised by Christo or my midwife. 

‘Testing... testing...’  Don’t let the smile mislead you.  This is normally a very traumatic moment for me - getting into the pool to test the comfortability of my ‘chair’.  This is the moment when I’m confronted with the reality. There is now NO turning back. In here, I will go through the biggest trauma, as well as the biggest joy, of my life - giving birth and holding the baby I’ve carried for nine months under my heart!

Christo and the boys put the plastic cover inside the pool structure.  Only now the pool is ready to be filled with water.

Inside the pool, you will see another piece of blue plastic. This is special bubble plastic that will keep the temperature of the water, while I’m not ready to get into the pool yet.  If you get into the birth pool to soon, in may case before 6cm dilated, the soothing effect of the warm water can cause contractions to stop. 

The birth pool ready to be used.  The pool will be filled with the hose from our bathroom, as soon as I’m sure I’m in real labour. 

One of the biggest benefits of a water birth is the gentle welcome effect on my baby.  A water birth results in a gentle and sensitive entry into the world and thus a calmer, less stressed, more settled and content baby.  

I have no words to describe what it is like when my baby is born from the water of the womb through warm water into the world, and then gently lifted up and put into my arms. Every time I brought my newborn to my heart, tears of joy ran down my face.  All this, in a matter of a few seconds, seems to happen in slow motion.  These were the most moving moments in my life and I’m in so much anticipation to experience it again.

With every pregnancy I experienced roller coaster emotions during the last two weeks - emotions of fear and impatience.  Starting this pregnancy I promised myself to be patient and not to allow these emotions to spoil the last few days of my pregnancy.  But now I’ve realized it must be hormonal, I just can’t help it.  I’m ready to give birth, I want to hold my baby and it has nothing to do with impatience!


Huisvrou said...

Ek wens....
Maar ek wens jou alle seën en voorspoed (en spoedige) met die geboorte.
My grootste droom was 'n watergeboorte ... nog nooit gebeur nie.
Sterkte vriendin. Ons is almal al nuuskierig om in daai nuwe gesiggie te kan kyk.

Sonja said...

Dit was nou baie leersaam!Ek wens ek het al hierdie goed geweet lank terug!
Sterkte vir die geboorte!Ons almal is in afwagting!!

Margeret said...

Wow Linnie! that is a very pretty birthpool, I am sure you are going to enjoy it;-)

Linnie said...

Liewe Marelize, ek kan darem self nie meer wag om hierdie gesiggie te sien nie! Was Saterdag nag oortuig ek is in kraam en toe teen 4uur is alles weg...
Geduld, O geduld!

Liewe Sonja, die liggaam is darem net wonderbaarlik aanmekaar gesit! Dankie vir jou boodskap

Thank you Margeret, it is a pretty pool and very comfortable, the enjoy part... definitely with baby in my ARMS!

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