Valentines Day: the Day of Love and Romance, or depending on your relationship status or celebratory preferences, the day before chocolate goes on a mega sale. I think it’s also safe to say that more than one baby is conceived on this special day, and it definitely goes without saying why.
It is a less known fact that love and romance not only play the central role of conception, but also in birth. Ina May Gaskin is one of the leading voices that has enlightened the world on this fascinating, age old concept, and here’s why:
Birth is sexual. This is a fact that has been known for centuries, but was downplayed as midwife attended births declined and the male dominated hospital model took over. Gaskin suggests that if the sexual component of birth is ignored, it will often work against progress in labor; if it is recognized it can help make labor much more effective and less painful. Oxytocin, the hormone that drives labor, is the same hormone that is released in loving relationships; during kissing, cuddling, and sex. Is it any surprise, then, that welcoming the ‘love’ component of labor into your birth will improve your experience?
Here’s what we suggest for bringing a little bit of V-Day into your Birth-Day:
Create A Loving Environment. This can be done both while laboring at home and the hospital. Set the mood for your birth the same way you set the mood for romance. Low lighting, soothing music, and a warm bath are all conducive to encouraging labor to progress (hold off on the bath in the earliest stages of labor). Your ideal environment should also include the people that you feel safest with. Birth is an intimate and private experience, and respecting this privacy allows your body to open to the waves of contractions. If your privacy is compromised or interrupted, it has been observed that labor can slow down or even stop. It is so important that you feel safe and free in the presence of whoever you welcome to linger inyour space.
Kiss, cuddle, and croon.
Your doula may suggest at some point in your labor that you find some space alone for intimacy with your partner. In Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, she discusses how relaxing your mouth and jaw into passionate and soft kissing in labor, is synonymous with the opening of the cervix. This, along with cuddling, loving, tender touch, and encouraging words, can also help with the release of oxytocin, the love hormone that encourages labor. Nipple stimulation is another effective tool for encouraging labor along, and while it can be performed by the mother on herself, it can be more effective if done by her significant other.
Get in touch with your inner animal.
If there was ever a time to let go of your neocortex – the newer, rational part of the brain, it is during birth. The primitive brain is the gland that releases hormones for birth, including oxytocin, endorphins and prolactin, whereas the neocortex can actually inhibit the release of these hormones by interfering with the primitive brain function. The primitive brain wants to let loose and make some noise – moaning and groaning and animal like sounds are no stranger to birth, in fact they help with pain management and in releasing the body and mind in labor. The primitive brain may want to sway, walk, or birth on all fours. What’s important is not what you look like or how you sound, but that you feel comfortable enough to let it all out!
Perhaps you don’t have a significant other joining you in labor or your relationship isn’t ideal for intimacy during birth. Oxytocin can be stimulated by any loving, tender care - from a compassionate friend, family member, or your supportive doula. Whatever your birth may be, we hope you can bring a little love in to it.