“ When you give birth to a baby, you give birth to a mother as well. ”

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Not Just Breathing Techniques

NOT JUST BREATHING TECHNIQUES - Approaches in Childbirth Education (adapted from GIVING BIRTH: How It Really Feels by Sheila Kitzinger)

Many women look ahead to labor worrying that childbirth pain will prove too much for them, and that they will somehow “give way” and reveal their true selves. The implication is that our “real selves” are nastier than the images we ordinarily present to the world and that we require a mask to hide the unpleasantness of our inner nature. 


But she will not behave in a way different from her normal personality. If she quickly gets impatient, or anticipates trouble long before it occurs, or becomes easily flustered when things happen for which she is not prepared, these aspects of her personality will find expression. If she is unassertive in her everyday life, she may find it difficult to make choices or say ‘no.’ If she is concerned about always doing the right thing, she may feel that she must be a success in labor. She may try to gain control over her labor, becoming disturbed when she discovers that the sensations of childbirth sweep through and involve one’s whole body, and cannot be isolated in the brain or completely controlled by the intellect. {MY NOTE: good childbirth preparation & education can influence this!!)


We need approaches to childbirth which are fluid enough to adapt to different women’s personalities and the choices they make. Some women will want to ‘not be there’ - to go to sleep and wake up with a baby. If there was a truly safe method (which there is not) then she should have the right to make this decision. Other women will say “just let me do it myself” and become wrapped up in the task of giving birth, hopefully receiving the encouragement and emotional support that they deserve.


In one sense preparation for childbirth is medical, involving physiological stages, which are assisted when necessary. But in another sense preparation is working through feelings, concerning emotional aspects of adjustment to a phase of life, a different image of the self, and a different social role. What both partners really need is to learn how to adapt  themselves to changed roles vis a’ vis each other, how to navigate this next transitional phase of their lives together. A series of changes await them, in which the identity of each partner is transmuted by the processes of birth and development of children, the new stresses involved in changing relationships in family life. Teaching only about labor and its challenges does not help with the developmental experience that is facing the expectant parents.


Childbirth education is really a new profession, enhanced by knowledge of psychology, sociology, and social anthropology. If restricted to mere anatomy & physiology, relaxation drills, and breathing techniques, it is sorely lacking.  An educator needs a specific combination of skills, special qualities of personality, and probably a certain sort of previous experience. Great flexibility in approach and techniques is necessary if a woman is to have the best opportunity of adjusting to any sort of labor.




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