Home Birth – Why it’s Necessary

November 29, 2010

Here is an exerpt from an article by the Guru of midwifery, Ina May Gaskin. She writes about the importance of passing on the legacy and knowledge of natural, non-interventionist home birth. The birth process was perfected over millions of years of evolution: if it didn’t work, humans wouldn’t exist. I always tell my hypnobirthing couples that they are the perfect biological result of millions of Grandmothers, Great-Grandmothers, and Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmothers, all of whom were able to birth successfully, or they wouldn’t be sitting in front of me. Your body knows how to birth. Your conscious mind may not. The mind must be taught to surrender to the ancient instincts of your mammalian body; what Ina May calls, “Letting your monkey do it.”

Home Birth—Why It’s Necessary

By Ina May Gaskin, CPM

Originally published by Ina May Gaskin Productions, 2007-01-14

Simply put, when there is no home birth in a society, or when home birth is driven completely underground, essential knowledge of women’s capacities in birth is lost to the people of that society—to professional caregivers, as well as to the women of childbearing age themselves. The disappearance of knowledge once commonly held paves the way for over-medicalization of birth and the risks which this poses. Nothing in medical literature today communicates the idea that women’s bodies are well designed for birth. Ignorance of the capacities of women’s bodies can flourish and quickly spread into popular culture when the medical profession is unable to distinguish between ancient wisdom and superstitious belief. To illustrate, I would cite a National Geographic article (1) which states that, “…we [humans] can give birth to babies with big brains, but only through great pain and risk.” The writer, depending upon the work of two U.S. anthropologists, explains that the fact that our species walks upright causes inevitable pain and risk during birth, forgetting how easily we can go to our hands and knees if need be.

I would have had no way to know how well healthy women’s bodies can work in labor and birth had I not experienced a rediscovery of women’s capacities in birth, along with several hundred other people, as we established a midwifery service in our newly founded community in 1970. Most people would have predicted that my diving headlong into attending home births for friends and then training a group of midwives to work with me would have ended in disaster, given that I came into midwifery only with the training afforded by two degrees in English literature. What happened instead is that I received timely and essential help from a few generous, wise physicians, and our service was able to help the first 186 women give birth vaginally (without instruments or other medical interventions) before our first cesarean was necessary. It was not until birth #324 that the second became necessary. All of this was accomplished without negative consequences to mothers or babies […]

Another extremely important concept that arises from home birth practice is the recognition of what I call “sphincter law.” This concept describes the common phenomenon, which occurs often in women’s labors, in which stress sometimes causes the cervix, once dilated in labor, to suddenly close, or for labor to stop. Having first observed this phenomenon in the early years of my practice, I found that other midwifery colleagues working in and out of hospitals and many labor and delivery nurses were also familiar with it. We found that such cases could safely resolve themselves, without medical intervention, by waiting for labor to resume in less stressful circumstances. Looking deeper into medical books written during the period when home birth was the norm, I found many 19th century authors who had also documented this physiological phenomenon, which is dependent upon an imbalance of maternal hormones during labor which can take place when the woman feels greatly stressed during the birth process. If current medical knowledge included these concepts which it once did, fewer women would be subjected to the risks of induction drugs, the use of which has increased sharply over the last fifteen years—not always with good results […]

Read the full article at inamay.com.

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