Posts Tagged ‘Oxytocin’

If you don’t pee in front of your partner, think twice about having him at the birth of your baby.

July 21, 2016

 

We are on a girlie week-end, climbing hills in the Derbyshire dales, and staying in a bed and breakfast. We are all escaping motherhood for a day or two. Over breakfast one morning, a conversation begins about peeing in the company of our husbands. I am surprised to hear a few women say they have never had a pee with their husband in the room. It turns out they have never broken wind in front of him either. I kind of think this is an awesome feat of bodily control that I wouldn’t be able to achieve!  It reminded me of how different we all are.

But it got me thinking, that if you feel embarrassed to go to the loo with your partner in the room, what must it be like to try to have a baby with him in the room? Having a baby is not particularly alluring, it involve body parts, it involves smells and noises, it is not “lady like” particularly, or “sexy”.

I have been thinking these things for a while, but not had the courage to write them down. There is something, even in our modern day liberated lives, that is not okay about writing about women’s bodies as functional rather than objects of desire. So, as you read this, notice any discomfort you might feel, and ask yourself “why is it not okay to read about my body in this way?”

Dbirth stool labouro you pee in front of your husband? Do you change your sanitary wear in front of him? Do you break wind in his presence? Do you orgasm freely and loudly with him? If so, birthing in front of him might be easier. Because birthing is about your body parts, and it is about things coming out of your body, and it is about letting your body be released from your mental inhibitions.

To orgasm freely, we need to feel uninhibited. We need to feel that we are not being judged or watched, to not feel self-conscious. Birth is the same. I’m not talking about orgasmic, hippy dippy births (yes, orgasmic births actually exist). I’m talking about all births without drugs, or knives. Because your body needs the hormone “oxytocin” to birth without a drug or a knife, and oxytocin disappears if we feel judged, self-conscious or worried.

So, it stands to reason that if you get very self-conscious at the thought of your partner seeing you being anything other than sexy and alluring, you might struggle with his presence at the birth. You might not want him to see you grunting or sweating. You might not want him to see you breaking wind, weeing, or even letting out a little poo. Having some-one in the room, who makes you feel anxious or inhibited is not good for birth. So think very carefully about your partner’s presence, and if you’re not sure, then  my advice is to address it, discuss it, think about it, as part of your birth preparation. Sophie Fletcher, in her book  Mindful Hypnobirthing, is one of the few birthing books to even talk about the fact that he doesn’t have to be there. It is a choice. If you know that you do want him there, prepare for that. The Mindful Mamma classes spend a lot of time of partners’ role. Learn how he can help you to elicit and release your oxytocin via his connection and love. Mark Harris talks about this in his book “Men, Love and Birth”. Ina May Gaskin maintains that the kissing that got baby in there, can get baby out too 🙂 Michel Odent argues that men’s presence in the birthing room might account for the rise in intervention. There’s no right and wrong. As I said at the beginning, we are all so different. But if you’re preparing for your birth, don’t prepare without addressing what it’ll be like for you to have him there, and what role he is going to play.

Mia Scotland

Birth Doula and Mindful Mamma hypnobirthing practitioner

http://www.yourbirthright.co.uk

My All Time Top 5 Tips for Birth Preparation

April 13, 2016

mia brochure photoAfter over 10 years of teaching birth preparation classes, and having taught over 1000 couples, here are my definitive five top birth preparation tips:

1. Get the birth companion prepared too. As a mother, you have the benefit of birth hormones to help you go into the zone, and to help you forget the pain. But your partner doesn’t have this lovely little tool kit for birthing. Because he wasn’t designed to birth a baby. There is a teeny weeny chance that he might get a rush of adrenalin, and try to help with “action man” bravery, when what you need is stillness and calm. If he is going to be there, he needs to prepare for this.

2. Release your fears and negative assumptions about birth. Our society has soaked you in a culture of presuming that birth is a horrific ordeal. You need to let that conditioning go, so that it doesn’t affect you too much on the day. This is true for a zillions of different reasons that science has demonstrated, but that I haven’t got the space to go into right now. One little example is that if we expect pain, our brain actually creates pain. Another is that if you are scared, your labour lasts longer.

3. Take your environment very very seriously indeed. I cannot sleep in a busy security queue at an airport. I can sleep very quickly, tucked up in my own bed at night. Birth follows the same principles (there are so many ways in which birth is similar to sleep – to0 many to go into now). Prioritise your birthing environment to create a spa like feel in the very special room that you are going to meet your baby in.

4. Condition your body to be able to respond with an automatic relaxation response to specific triggers. In NLP, this is called anchoring. In psychology, it is called conditioning. It is the basic technique that all good advertising is based on, and it works. It is so easy, but so effective. Hypnotic relaxation PM3s are perfect for this. You can also anchor yourself to a smell. Or a touch. You do the anchoring in your pregnancy, and then on the day, you generate the trigger, and your body will respond automatically.

5. Know your rights. So many second time mums say “I didn’t realise I had a choice” or “I didn’t know what they were doing” or “I know I don’t want to do that this time”. You know what? The NHS is your servant. It is there to support you, offer you advice, and listen to what your preferences are. They literally can’t touch you without your consent. You have the power to always say “not yet thank-you, I want to have a think about it first”.  Whether it is a blood test, an induction, a sweep, having your waters broken, seeing a doctor instead of a midwife, you choose. Birth preparation is about empowering yourself to enable the midwives to help you to have your choices and needs met.

These are the five things that we have prioritised in our  Mindful Mamma hypnobirthing class. It is one day, but it is packed full of all the above. There is the wonderful Mindful Hypnobirthing book which you receive when you book your place. There are 9 MP3s to help you release your fear, build a positive mindset, and anchor relaxation. There is exclusive access to a website with handouts, infographics and bonus MP3s. I run the class near Nottingham and Leicester, in a lovely venue in Melton Mowbray. There some of the testimonials and birth stories from people who have done my class here. Enjoy 🙂

Mia Scotland

Clinical Psychologist, Hypnobirthing antenatal teacher, Birth doula

www.yourbirthright.co.uk 

 

Pass The Bomb: who is going to contain your anxiety when you are with your newborn baby?

January 26, 2016

iStock_000064471321_SmallNew parents are anxious. And according to research, they are getting more and more anxious. I often hear cases of mums unable to sleep because they are terrified. Terrifed that their babies aren’t breathing. Terrified that the room is too hot. Terrified that baby hasn’t fed enough. Terrified that they will damage their baby. Dads are getting postnatal depression too, at rates almost as high as for women. They are scared too. I want to talk about a psychological piece of gold, that can ease anxiety, but that new parents are lacking in our modern lives.

Containment is a psychology term that basically means; the process of stopping anxiety from bouncing around the room.  Containing situations and emotions is something that all good parents do (and therapists too). It’s not easy to explain, but I’ll give you an example of when containment is NOT happening. My son may come to me in a flap because his friends have said to him (in a flap) that he has to start job hunting now, because a teacher said to his friends (in a flap) that jobs are very competitive and they need to take this seriously and start job hunting now. I can continue the flapping by saying “what? Are you serious? Now? That’s crazy. Can it really be that bad? Oh my goodness, I don’t know what we are supposed to do with that information, it’s a crazy world out there”. And in my exasperation, I tell my friends, who are also parents, and pass the flapping on. The anxiety continues down the line, because no one has contained it.

Or, as a parent, I can provide some containment. In doing so, the anxiety disperses. I do this by “containing” my own feelings of exasperation or anxiety, and I can calmly and warmly say “honey, that sounds very pressurising, I can understand that you’re worried (empathy). But you know what? It’s going to be fine, because you have at least a year before you need a job, you’ve already got a great CV, and I’m going to help you get yourself sorted. Shall we take a look this week-end?”  He relaxes, and the “containment” goes back down the line, because he tells his mates “actually, we do have a year, and we’ve got our CVs done already, and I’m not worried about it” and so on. Containment kills anxiety.

I was watching an episode of the British Sitcom “On the Buses” recently. It’s an amazing watch, because it is a rare glimpse into social history. It is set in working class London, in the early 1970s. It is clear, watching this, that it was normal to go through your first pregnancy, birth and babyhood, whilst still living with your parents. This was common before the 1970s, because newly weds couldn’t afford their own house. In one particular episode, a pregnant woman and her mother were chatting about the baby in a tiny kitchen, which serves as a wash room and a living room all in one. The pregnant woman was expressing anxieties about becoming a mum. The mother’s mother responded with something along the lines of “I’ll be ‘ere anyways, so you ain’t got narfin’ ta worry abart” (I made that bit up, I can’t remember exactly what she said). She was replying with reassurances, in a tone that kind of said “I totally get why you’re anxious, because I was” (empathy) and added “but really, it is so easy to look after a new baby, that you have nothing to worry about”. She was nonchalant, but empathic too, and containing.

Nowadays, new parents go home to their own house when they have their baby. And they don’t really want the mother in law around too much. And they don’t want her advice, because advice has changed so much. So they go home and do it themselves. Here-in lies the danger: What they don’t realise is, they have no-one to contain the anxiety. This is critical, but overlooked. Hazel Douglas defines containment as being “when one person receives and understands the emotional communication of another without being overwhelmed by it, processes it and then communicates understanding and recognition back to the other person. This process can restore the capacity to think in the other person.” Thus, it is a powerful tool for helping the person become unstuck from paralysing anxiety, to help them become functional again, to “think” again. Because, you know what? Working out what to do when a baby cries, learning how to pick up a baby, rock a baby, feed a baby, change a baby, keep it alive, is quite a big task when you are new to it.

And when there is no-one around to contain the anxiety in the middle of the night, it all gets a lot more stressful. And if you are scared and anxious, you are passing that on to your baby. Your baby picks up on “something is the matter”. So your baby is more likely to cry. So it gets worse. What you need, is someone to come in and contain the situation. Some-one who has done it before, who can calmly, empathically and warmly turn the situation around with one look and one smile. She sprinkles magic fairy dust into the room, just like a real life fairy godmother. Who is going to do that for you? Traditionally, it would have been mothers, sisters, midwives or aunties.

Nowadays, fathers are courageously trying to fill this gap. They are mucking in with the night time nappy changes and the job of caring for the baby. That, in itself, is a big job if you’ve never done it before. But dads, you have an extra job. You are also there to support the mother, so that when she is crying on day three of the baby blues, you can hold her in your arms and tell her that you love her. All very well, but can you tell her, knowingly, that it’ll be okay? Can you tell her, from experience, that it’ll pass? Can you tell her, and feel, that you are calm and strong and capable of handling all of this? Can you contain the situation?

Probably not. Because you have never done this before, either. You are tired from the birth too. You are on unknown, scary territory. You haven’t got the benefit of wisdom and experience on your side. You need some-one to come in and say to you “it’ll be okay, hold her in your arms, tell her you love her, let her cry all over you, you are doing an amazing job by just being there for her”. Dad needs containment too, so that he can be there for the mother. The mother needs containment so that she can be there for the baby.

So, how can you build in the psychological gold nugget that is “containment” into your postnatal birth plan? Well, you haven’t got time to wait for the NHS to provide it in the form of regular midwife visits postnatally with continuity of care, so you need to do it yourself. Think about which members of your family help you feel safe, nurtured, and cared for. Bring them in to help. Ask them to move in! If no-one is available, think about paying for this kind of help. Lactation consultants, postnatal doulas, night nurses, private midwives, all do a fantastic job. Postnatal doulas are not expensive. They are trained in all aspects of new parenthood, and they are exceptional at taking care of your needs so that you can take care of your baby. This will take the pressure off the father too, so that he can remain strong, and enjoy the process.

Think twice before you spend your money on a travel system, or on pretty wall paper with matching bedding. Think about your emotional wellbeing before your physical wellbeing, and you, your partner and your baby can thrive as early as possible in your incredible journey as that most precious thing in the world: creating your very own family.

mia brochure photoMia Scotland is a Clinical Psychologist and author specialising in the Perinatal Period. See her website at www.yourbirthright.co.uk or buy her book, Why Perinatal Depression Matters from Pinter and Martin.

Why Giving Birth is not like running a marathon, part one.

July 1, 2014

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When I was pregnant with my first baby, I knew I wanted a natural, drug free birth.  I had heard that giving birth hurts, and that it is hard work, so I prepared for my birth like I was preparing for battle.  I thought I needed to tough it out, be strong, brave, and prepared.  During my labour, I fought hard.  I puffed and fought my way through this thing that I had prepared for as if it would be an “ordeal”.  And it was.

I had kind of taken on board the idea that I often hear people still talk about 15 years later – that giving birth is a bit like running a marathon.  People say “you wouldn’t run a marathon without preparing properly would you?”  A marathon is hard work for your body, and you need to look after it.  People think it is the same for birth. You need to prepare for birth, train your mind and body, be strong, resilient and tough.

But I disagree.  Not only do I think it’s a bad analogy, but I think we are treading on dangerous ground. Let me explain. If we say that birth is like running a marathon, we are suggesting that you can “tough it out” and that you can push your body further than it actually wants to go.  We are suggesting that you can “fail” and that if you do “fail”, it’s because you did something wrong – you weren’t prepared enough, or strong enough.  You just didn’t cut it somehow. There is one thing that I have been thinking about for a long time, and that is: why do women feel like they have “failed” if they end up with intervention?  And what have they “failed” at?  Being a woman?  Toughing it out?  Preparing properly?  When things go wrong, and intervention happens, the marathon analogy puts the blame on the woman herself.  I’ve worked with enough women to know that this feeling of failure is so damaging, it runs very deep, and it can be devastating.   It is bad enough that she is grieving for the loss of her lovely oxytocin fuelled satisfying and fulfilling birth.  To then feel that you were some-how responsible is and unhelpful and unjust double whammy.

As well as being at risk of placing the blame for intervention at the woman’s feet, the marathon analogy is also a poor analogy for birth.  Giving birth is not like running a marathon.  It is more like recovering from flu.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  The process of giving birth is analogous to the process of recovering from flu.  How might that be?  Comments welcome below.  Part 2 of this blog, “why giving birth is like recovering from flu” will follow, but I’d love to hear your comments first. 

ImageMia Scotland, http://www.yourbirthright.co.uk. 

Keep the Love Flowing this Valentine’s day: Plan a Natural Birth

February 12, 2013


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Valentine’s day.  A time for romantic love.  Just the two of you, together, with soft music on in the background, candle light, and a meal for two. It’s not a coincidence that Valentine’s day is associated with candle light, food, and calmness.  Romance, and all that lovey dove-iness is mediated by the love hormone, oxytocin.  Oxytocin is released when we kiss, cuddle, look into each other’s eyes, and even when we eat food together.  Oxytocin is a bonding hormone, it facilitates a sense of calm, peace, wellbeing, interconnectedness, love, trust and mutual dependence.  For more about this, see Kerstin Uvnas Moberg’s wonderfully easy to read and fascinating book, The Oxytocin Factor: Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love and Healing.  Until very recently, the human race could not exist without oxytocin, because it is totally impossible to birth a baby and breastfeed without oxytocin. No mammal on this planet can have a baby without the help of oxytocin, unless she has a planned caesarean section.  Nowadays, Caesarean sections are a pretty common way to have a baby.  Each time a women has a caesarean section, her body has “skipped” the biological act of releasing abundant amounts of natural oxytocin into her brain and body.  The baby has missed it too.  Each time a women is given a drip of Syntocinon (the synthetic version of oxytocin) to induce or speed up her labour, her body is denied the chance to release abundant amounts of oxytocin into her system.  And the baby misses it too.  Each time a woman is given a Syntometrine injection to “help” the placenta out, her body’s natural release of oxytocin is interrupted.  The question is, what are the long term effects (or even, short term effects) of this dramatic, swift, and very recent biological change in the human race?

Nature didn’t overlook the fact that it is very important for a new mother to fall in love quite quickly with her baby, so birth and love become intertwined at birth, via oxytocin.  Maybe nature also takes into account, that if we flood a new-born baby’s body and brain with oxytocin, that baby becomes endowed with the building blocks to live a life of peace, calm, safeness, trust, interdependence, love and bonding.  Maybe, if we interfere with nature’s way,  and deny the baby this flow of oxytocin into the brain and body, we increase the cases of aggression, anxiety, autism, isolation (depression) and self harm (suicide) in our population.  Given the alarming increase in rates of mental health problems in childhood and rates of autism, this is an important question to answer.  A second issue is this: maybe, if we keep interfering with women’s natural release of oxytocin, then women will literally lose the genetic ability to release it naturally, quickly and easily, every time they go into labour or breastfeed.  Michel Odent, an eminent obstetrician and natural birth guru, believes we are seeing the effects of this already, by the fact that labours seem to be longer and more problematic now that they were fifty years ago.  With regards the effects of oxytocin on the baby, he has a whole online library of correlational evidence demonstrating a relationship between the behavioural problems outlined above, and the manner in which a child was born.  But no one is asking, except for him.  Somehow, the medical community just plows on, (lining drug companies pockets), by giving women syntocin or syntometrine or an epidural (which also interrupts her natural hormones) or a caesarean section without pausing to seriously question the long term consequences.  Last year, I heard a midwife try to persuade a mum to have syntocinon to speed up labour.  She said “it’s nothing to worry about, it’s just like a little bit of lucozade to re-energise you”.  I disagree.  We need to stop handing out these drugs as though they were sweets.  They are costing the NHS a fortune at the point of delivery (excuse the pun), and I dread to think what they are costing the NHS in the long run.

So, if you are planning a natural birth this Valentine season, don’t be dissuaded by people who think you are better off with an epidural or a caesarean section.  Keep the love flowing; plan a natural birth.

Addendum:  I would just like to say, that this blog is based on theory and statistics, and that means that research which shows a correlation between two things, does not mean these things apply to you, as an individual.  For example, research might show that “short people have more fun”.  But this is a huge generalisation, it does not mean that if you are tall, you won’t have fun, and it does not mean that if you are short, you will have fun.  It just means that out of a LOT of people, on AVERAGE, some had more fun. If you birthed without natural oxytocin, this does not tell us anything about your baby, your bonding and your child’s mental health.  Oxytocin is not just released via birth, it is released through skin to skin contact, holding, massaging, eye contact, and lots more.  If you did not have a natural birth, you will have bonded via other love producing means.  Humans and babies are very flexible and adaptable indeed.