Dr. Vijaya Krishnan

Rethinking the Birthing Environment and its role in ensuring good outcome

Ideal Birth Environment

I have always believed that an important factor in assuring that birth will proceed normally is the birthing environment. Where does the mother feel safe? With whom does she feel confident?

A couple of years back, I was talking with my neice who had just finished her 3rd year physiotherapy exams. She was feeling very exhausted and yet was not satisfied with her performance. She had studied very hard and felt that she had a good grasp of the subject matter, yet when she went to take her practical exams in Electrotherapy, she had been overcome by feelings of fear and anxiety. Although she did well in all the other exams, she felt she should have done better in her “practical”, and that the marks that she got did not reflect her knowledge of the subject fairly. I asked her why she had suddenly developed feelings of fear, and she told me that the testing site was a room she had not been in before, and full of equipment with which she was not familiar. There were about thirty others being tested whom she did not know, and the invigilator was a stranger. To top it all, the room was very hot!

How does Birthing Environment affect the outcome?

As she was talking, I felt like she could be describing the conditions that are present when most women walk into a typical hospital for delivery! No wonder so many women have “failure to progress” when exposed to an unfamiliar environment. Recently, I read a wonderful article about the functioning of sphincters and privacy – it is commonsense – we all know that our bowel and bladder sphincters do not open up and release in public; they need privacy. Why would the “cervical sphincter” be any different? The article reinforced my belief about calm, quiet and privacy and familiarity that are needed to “progress” labor and to give birth.

It has been my experience that when the mother is able to labor in an environment of her choice, with people surrounding her who make her feel respected, loved and safe, she feels empowered to give birth to her baby, rather than be delivered. I have read some wonderful birth stories written by midwives in Europe and US, of short, almost painless labors that they were a part of. Although I used to be somewhat skeptical of these birth stories, I am starting to believe that they are probably true. Belief, faith and spirituality are in equal measures important for the wonderful transformation of a woman into a mother. I am left wondering how much of an effect does my belief in the mother have in her final birthing outcome? The more I believe that “mothers birth their babies”, the more I am able to facilitate mothers to have a better birthing experience.

My musings for today….. feel free to write in your thoughts and experiences…

Dr. Vijaya