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Birth Positions | How Do Labor & Birth Positions Result In Less Pain & Faster Labor? What Many Birth Classes Never Tell You…

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(With Barbara Harper, R.N., Midwife, Founder of Waterbirth International, Author, Educator) 

If the best available medical research & evidence suggested a way to birth and have less pain {which moms back-up with their own labor & birth experience} & to labor more efficiently (faster labor also with less pain)- wouldn’t you think it’d be taught in every birth class? 

It’s not.

Have you seen our FREE podcast in iTunes – Sarah interviews Cindy Crawford on “How I Managed Pain in Birth” … you’ll be inspired by what Cindy shares! Click here to see the Podcast (if you like the podcast, it would really help us if you left a 5 star review… thanks friends! xoxo Sarah)

If you want to know how to have a faster labor & less painful labor…watch this interview.  Barbara Harper describes in detail, not only which birthing positions  are the best for giving birth, but teaches us WHY.

She shows how you & baby are working together, as an amazing team, towards the same goal. Barbara even busts out her “practice pelvis” & “Baby Lucy” so you can understand & see exactly how & why YOU can have a better labor & birth experience. Visual learners- this one is definitely for you, watch below.

You’ll Also Learn:

  1. How the uterine muscles work during contractions- and how your labor & birth positions affect them.
  2. Why Barbara advises mamas to  be creative with the bed (during labor), just as you are creative with the bed sexually (oh yeah, she went there).
  3. And why she suggests “letting the baby out instead of getting the baby out”. 
 

Some birthing classes never share the things that matter most- the how, the why & what you can easily do to have a better birth.    

Question…so if the best medical research & evidence on labor & birth positions supports giving moms the option to move around (if desired), why do hospitals traditionally want us laboring & birthing lying down?

Learn more about labor & birth positions here. If you liked this interview, you’ll love our Interview with Barbara Harper about water births.

What one take away did you get from this interview? The more we share, the faster we learn…please share in the comments below. 

If you’ve used different labor & birth positions…what was most helpful for you & why? Please share in the comments below.

Who is Barbara Harper?

Barbara Harper is one of the world’s leading experts on childbirth. She’s a renowned & sought after expert all over the globe. She’s been called “the Billy Graham of waterbirth”, we’d venture to say she’s “the Billy Graham of birth education.”  She’s traveled to more than 43 countries training doctors, nurses & doulas in pregnancy & childbirth approaches.  She’s been interviewed in hundreds of journals, publications and TV programs.  She is the Founder & Director of Waterbirth International, authored “Gentle Birth Choices” & is currently working on two new books.  She’s a registered nurse, midwife & she has 3 children and 1 grandson. Fun Fact…Barbara, at the tender age of 60 years old, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah. A Jewish coming of age ritual.

Barbara’s book is Gentle Birth Choices & her site is Water Birth International

Watch the Lesson (Download MP3 Part 1Part 2, Part 3)

Part 1

 Part 2

 Part 3

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Transcript

 

Barbara Harper-Birth Positions-Part-1

 [0:00:00]

Sarah Blight:               Hi, this is Sarah Blight with your Baby Booty Interviews where we cut through the fluff and give you the information that you want to know and need to know about pregnancy and childbirth and parenting so that you can make the best decisions for you and your family.

 

                                    Well tonight, we’re chatting about birth positions. What are the optimal positions to give birth in and why? Well here to lead us through this topic is Barbara Harper. She has been called “the Billy Graham of waterbirth”. She’s very evangelistic about waterbirth and she’s so knowledgeable. She’s travelled to over 43 countries lecturing and training doctors, nurses, medical staff, midwives on the ins and outs of waterbirth, but she also has been a midwife herself. She is a midwife herself and her grandma, I believe, yeah, her grandma was also a nurse and a midwife for 47 years. Barbara is the founder and director of Waterbirth International and she also is the author of the book, “Gentle Birth Choices.” So we’re very blessed to have Barbara here with us today. Thanks so much.

 

Barbara Harper:         Thank you. It’s a pleasure to join you here on Baby Booty.

 

Sarah Blight:               So –

 

Barbara Harper:         So let’s just get right into the topic of birth positions so ask your questions.

 

Sarah Blight:               Yes. Okay. So my first question is I think typically and stereotypically when women see birth portrayed in the media or maybe what they know from their own family, it’s the woman lying on her back, spread-eagled giving birth. Is this the best position to give birth? Why or why not?

 

Barbara Harper:         You mean the stranded beetle position?

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         You know, when you’re a kid and you see a beetle on the ground and it’s turned over on its back and its legs are waving and it can’t do anything?

 

Sarah Blight:               Yeah. I like that. That’s a good –

 

Barbara Harper:         Yeah.

 

Sarah Blight:               That’s a good analogy.

 

Barbara Harper:         No. It’s the worst possible position for many reasons for both mother and baby. Let me go into the best positions for mother and baby and then we’ll backtrack and give the reasons why you want to advocate to be upright.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         There was a study done at the University if Jerusalem and forgive me I don’t have the year–

 

Sarah Blight:               It’s okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         — that it was done, but it was within the last 25 years. I did a lot of research and reading when I wrote, “Gentle Birth Choices” and “Gentle Birth Choices,” even I have a reputation about waterbirth, it’s about all things birth, whether it’s home, hospital, birth center, whether it’s in the water on porcelain self-cleansing birthing stool, i.e., the toilet.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         Or in your bed or on the floor, wherever it is. So I read this in passing and I don’t have the exact –

 

Sarah Blight:               Reference.

 

Barbara Harper:         — quote on it.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         Reference thank you. But it was at the University of Jerusalem and it was two anthropological researchers that wanted to verify or claim, prove to modern medicine how Jesus was born. So they did a search of all the literature 300 years before and 300 years after and this was Aramaic, Green, Latin, Persian, the other languages in the area to see what women of that era, that 600-year period did in childbirth. It’s interesting that when I was in both Greece and Crete, I did look at a couple of different places where in houses of that era, there is built in to the wall a niche, a place where it looks like you could have a vase or something or a vase sitting. But if you look at very closely those places that were built into the houses were actually birthing stools.

 

Sarah Blight:               Hmmm.

 

Barbara Harper:         We didn’t have porcelain self-cleansing birthing tools, i.e., toilets back then 2000 years ago, but conclusion of their research was that women either squatted or knelt. It was most likely that they knelt and it was common practice to put a bed of straw down just like Mary and Joseph in the crèche would have done and kneel on the straw, on the bed of straw and just basically drop the baby on the to the straw because it would have been very soft.

 

[0:05:09]

Sarah Blight:               Hmm.

 

Barbara Harper:         When I’m training women in preparing for waterbirth, yesterday I taught a workshop for some midwifes and doulas and we practiced different positions in the tub. In the tub, one would think that, oh, you’re just sitting back relaxed like you would in a bathtub. But the majority of women will lean over the side of the tub or be upright on their knees leaning over their partner or if the midwife is outside of the tub or the doula is outside of the tub, sometimes the women will lean over the midwife or doula as well. So the most common around the world practices are upright unless American medicine has infiltrated the training of doctors and they have started using things to keep women immobile such as epidurals and things like that.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         Just one small irony about that scene that I painted with Mary kneeling and dropping the baby on the bed of straw was a very popular cartoon in the late 1980s, early 1990s that was put out by the Complete Mother Magazine.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         I don’t know if you’ve ever seen. But is showed Mary and Joseph in the manger and holding the baby and the star above and this whole line of medical people at the doorway to the manger. The first one who’s carrying the IV pole turns to the next one who’s got the monitor who turns to the next one who has the tray of surgical instruments who turns to the next one who has the basinet and the isolette and all of that. The first person turns around and says for Christ sake they don’t need us.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         You know that’s the way a lot of people feel when women take control over this situation. There’s a hospital in San Francisco that welcomed some midwives in and the midwives, in particular one midwife Yeshi Neumann, she came in and she would bring a futon with her. She would bring incandescent lights, lamps. She would bring a birth pool into the birth room and had women kneeling on the futon and/or she’d tie a rebozo or a cord over the futon and women could pull on it in over a period of about three years and she called it home-like birth, home-like birth in the hospital. It got very, very popular and little by little the nurses got used to getting down on their hands and knees to listen to the baby’s heart rate with the Doppler to handing things to the midwife as the midwife would catch the baby with the woman in a full squat or a supported squat.

 

                                    You know, my very first birth that I saw outside of an American hospital was in Pithivier France and I went over to a research waterbirth. But what I saw was an upright birth with the father holding the mother under her arms from behind and the mother let her knees go and the midwife, guess where the midwife was in all of this. She sat on the floor in front of the woman and I was in the corner behind the midwife watching this.

 

Sarah Blight:               Hmm.

 

Barbara Harper:         The baby simply emerged and the midwife put out her hands and she caught the baby. She didn’t cut the cord, she didn’t put the baby in a bundler or in an isolette, she put the baby on the sheet that was covering floor and sat back. The mother sat down behind the baby with the cord still attached and started petting the baby like a little kitten and the baby started meowing like a little kitten. Like, [meows]

 

[0:10:02]

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         I’ll never forget. It will be blazoned into my memory until my last breath as the mother picked up that baby and looked into the baby’s eyes with it basically still dripping and I got to see the mother’s eyes and the mother’s face was like, oh my god, you know, right there is a baby. So I had only seen at that point births in the hospital and in the days in my nurse’s training, it was knock them out, drag them out.

 

Sarah Blight:               Hmm.

 

Barbara Harper:         Women had to be on their back in the bed because they would have fallen because they were drugged completely. They were drugged with Demerol. They were drugged with full anesthesia. All the births that I saw took place in the delivery rooms and things have changed.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         But physiologically for both the mother and the baby and maybe we can go on to talk about that –

 

Sarah Blight:               Yeah.

 

Barbara Harper:         — are the reasons why upright should be required and/or necessary.

 

Sarah Blight:               Yeah. So let’s talk about that. Why? Give us the why behind what’s going on for baby and for mama when you’re in the upright position?

 

Barbara Harper:         Well let’s start with the uterus first.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         The uterus has muscles that go crosswise and it has muscles that go up and down.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         The work that the birth process is going through in the uterus, the crosswise muscles will help to pull open the cervix. I like to call them expansions instead of contractions so I might use that word –

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         — along the way.

 

Sarah Blight:               Sure.

 

Barbara Harper:         But as these muscles worked, they opened up the cervix. They helped to open up the cervix. They expand the possibilities for the baby to come out and the other muscles are pushing down and helping to move the baby down. When a woman is on her back, those muscles are not working as efficiently as they are when she is upright. When she is upright then her body also besides experiencing more efficiency, she’s experiencing less pain because lying in the bed is like a charley horse in your uterus and being upright it’s like the difference between trying to run stationary or you’re going full tilt.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         Okay? That’s just the musculature. That’s just the muscles going. And then we have the pelvis to consider.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         Hang on one second while I grab my pelvis.

 

Sarah Blight:               Sure. Oh, good. [Laughs] You go ahead and grab your pelvis, Barbara. [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         I have it right here.

 

[0:13:20]                      End of Audio

Part-2

 

[0:00:00]

Sarah Blight:               I love that.

 

Barbara Harper:         Along with my placenta and my baby.

 

Sarah Blight:               Oh, perfect.

 

Barbara Harper:         All right. Here we go.

 

Sarah Blight:               Cool.

 

Barbara Harper:         So one of the most important parts about this, here’s the human pelvis.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         And this is a life-sized one and we have an opening here that’s called the pelvic inlet.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         And then on the reverse side we have a second opening, which is called the pelvic outlet.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         Now if you see this little bump right here, the coccyx.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         This is part of the sacral plane and the sacrum if you feel in your back is that place that comes down to this pointy thing, which is the coccyx.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum. Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         And it has these little holes and you can feel that and a lot of women will feel the pressure of the baby coming through and when they’re lying on their backs, that pressure is much more difficult for both the mother and the baby because this needs to move.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         It actually moves six ways. It moves up and down.

 

Sarah Blight:               Wow.

 

Barbara Harper:         It moves side to side and it moves back and forth. It’s kind of like a teeter-totter. And this for the mother is also connected to her cranium as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of craniosacral therapy.

 

Sarah Blight:               Yup.

 

Barbara Harper:         C-R-A-N-I-O-S-A-C-R-A-L, craniosacral. But this needs to move and her head needs to move as well. And when I say the head it’s the brain, the brain needs to breathe. When she’s lying on her back, it impinges the ability for the sacrum to move. As a matter of fact, I have pointed this out to physicians when I get mothers upright in the hospitals whether they be laboring by the bed or in the bath, but I’ll point out that as the baby descends through the pelvic outlet, here’s my baby named Lucy.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         And as Lucy descends now watch the coccyx, it’s going to move out of the way. It’s going to –

 

Sarah Blight:               Oh, yup.

 

Barbara Harper:         Do you see the baby puts pressure on this and it’s going to move.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         She’s not in such a good position at this point.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         But that’s okay. Here we’ve got to hold her up. But when you’re with a woman, you can actually see this bump on her back. You can feel it and you don’t have to do a vaginal exam to know that the baby has already descended into and through the pelvic outlet.

 

Sarah Blight:               Huh.

 

Barbara Harper:         So much is dependent in modern obstetrics of testing and relying on information that’s outside of the woman when all you really need to do is observe the woman and see what’s going on. So prior to the birth process beginning, when you have a pelvis that is well set and a sacrum that is moving well like this and this happens through craniosacral treatments prior to the birth, it can also happen with good chiropractic and/or some other way of ensuring pelvic mobility.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         The pelvis has to be mobile

 

Sarah Blight:               Do squats help with that too?

 

Barbara Harper:         Exercises, yoga –

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         — all of those things help prenatally absolutely.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         Squatting is a little bit overrated.

 

Sarah Blight:               Really? Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         I prefer — yes, only in the sense that there’s other things that you can do such as yoga positions and like cat-cow and things like that that can help, hands and knees. When you’re in labor, squatting outside of a birth pool takes a lot of effort.

 

Sarah Blight:               Yeah.

 

Barbara Harper:         And you have to understand also the dynamics of the pelvis as the baby is moving is moving through and let’s talk about the baby for just a minute.

 

[0:05:01]

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         The baby has a number of reflexes that are enacted by pressure that’s started by pressure on the cranium itself.

 

Sarah Blight:               Hmm.

 

Barbara Harper:         And the cranial bones there’s 22 cranial bones and the cranium is going to move. The plates of the cranium are going to move either over or under each other, it depends on how the baby is positioned, in order to get the head in the smallest diameter so that it can drop down and move through the pelvis.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         One of the things that — let me refer you to a really good book that is on my bookshelf and I use and it’s called the “Hands of Love.”

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         “Seven Steps to the Miracle of Birth” and the author is Dr. Carol Phillips.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         You can look at that right there. She has the book and the DVD and the DVD gives you a step-by-step process of how the baby descends, rotates and moves and expresses the four primitive reflexes as its coming out. Over the many births that I’ve observed when a woman is upright, the baby has an easier job of getting through to that pelvis. I should have printed out some handouts or graphics to show you, but just imagine a dryer vent, okay?

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         Do you have a vent that goes from your dryer to the outside –

 

Sarah Blight:               Yes.

 

Barbara Harper:         — where the lint goes out?

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         Okay. Just imagine a dryer vent, it has to be straight, okay?

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         Now let’s talk about this. This is the dryer vent and right here is the pelvis, and what doctors would have us do is like this. So the dryer vent goes this way and then it comes to this, halt here and the baby has to make a turn and go up instead of straight down. So it’s a hazardous course for the baby and that’s why women have to add more pressure to it by pushing and working on getting the baby out. Women in upright positions have much faster births. Women in upright positions have as I’ve already mentioned less pain or less perception of pain and this is because they’re working much more in tune with the baby. Now I don’t want to go completely into detail about all of the actual, what the reflexes are and what they do.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         But let’s just talk about one of the reflexes.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         The asymmetric tonic neck reflex is the one that helps the baby get into position and drop down into the pelvis. When the woman is lying on her back, yes it does happen, but in a scheduled C-section it doesn’t happen necessarily. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But that causes something. If the baby doesn’t express reflex, it’s then called a retained reflex, and the baby needs to go through those reflexes of birth in order to accomplish simple things like crawling, walking, handwriting, reading, and many of the things that our doctors and physical therapists and craniosacral therapists today that will relate ADHD and learning difficulties, behavior problems. Sometimes pediatric illnesses that we consider normal, they will relate them to missing the expression of these reflexes. In other words, vacuum extraction, pushing the baby through and not allowing the baby the time to express these reflexes during the birth process. So that opens up a whole another world and you say I’ve never heard of this.

 

[0:10:08]

Sarah Blight:               Right.

 

Barbara Harper:         I had no idea about it. But we also have books “Brain Therapy for Children and Adults” by Dr. Barry Gillespie and this is for craniosacral, dental and fascial trauma and some of those things can come from the birth process. Many of them are related to these unexpressed –

 

Sarah Blight:               Reflexes.

 

Barbara Harper:         –reflexes. And he’s also written one called the “Brain Score Approach: Neurological Evaluation and Treatment for Lifetime or Newborn Evaluation and Treatment for a Lifetime of Neurological Wellness.” I’ve trained with Dr. Gillespie and the insights that I received from his training course reassured me that women need to be off their backs to give birth. The water certainly makes it easier, but if they’re upright, if they’re on the toilet, if they’re on their hands and knees, as I mentioned the study that said women of ancient times either squatted or knelt.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         Kneeling upright, having somebody behind you. The Native American Indians, I’ve worked at the Zuni Indian reservation to teach water birth there and I met with some of the elder midwives and they called them pressers. But in the Navajo tradition, in the Zuni tradition, there can be as many as six midwives at one birth holding women up, helping them to stay upright. In Mexico, the donas, the native women will tie a rebozo or a blanket over a beam and the women will hold on to the beam and just let her bottom drop that way. All of these things aid the baby in its process. So what I’m telling is not just for the benefit of the woman, but if we think in the long term of the expression of these reflexes in the child then perhaps by birthing upright or birthing upright in water, we’re preventing neurological difficulties for our children that we didn’t even know were related. This information has to get out there even more. So I see the questions between your eyebrows.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs] I know my eyebrows, my little brain is like the hamsters are working overtime with what the information is. Okay so if mamas want to learn more about these reflexes, are there sources or resources either you can give them to me later if you don’t have them at the top of your head, I can refer mamas to?

 

Barbara Harper:         Well they’re going to have to read some textbooks in neurology.

 

Sarah Blight:               Wow, okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         And one of my favorite books is not a textbook in neurology, but it was written by Sally Goddard and it’s called, “Reflexes, Learning and Behavior.”

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         This will talk to them a little bit about some of the specific reflexes. But I’ve followed her work for a number of years and she teaches workshop mostly to practitioners but also to parents.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         And the Gillespie approach and his clinic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, they have people coming in from all over the world with, you know, they can’t find a cure for this or the doctors gave up and they’re talking about autism and ADHD and things like that. They actually train the parents how to help these children get these reflexes back. We call it unwinding the babies. The babies get tense because they haven’t expressed these things and they’re stuck, they’re just stuck with it.

 

[0:14:50]                      End of Audio

Part-3

 

[0:00:00]

Sarah Blight:               So also one of the things I wanted to ask you was I mean gravity is kind of the unmentioned elephant in the room as well, you have that working with you. But also is it easier for women to relax if they’re — well I would say water would help women relax for sure but are upright positions is that easier for women to relax and kind of open up?

 

Barbara Harper:         Well as I mentioned, the birth will go faster because the baby gets into a better position. You have more control over your pelvis and when you’re in a good position, the baby gets in a good position. Double blind studies if we look at the research, labor contractions are actually more efficient and the intensity is better so labor progresses better. But women will ask for medication 50% less in the upright position. They can handle it better and gravity yes, you’ve still got gravity in the pool.

 

Sarah Blight:               Yeah.

 

Barbara Harper:         But just being in that upright area, I really think it has to do with the relationship between the baby and the pelvis. The only position to do a breech birth is in an upright position, with baby’s feet and butt dangling. There are some hospitals in Europe where a water birth is an indication or a breech position is an indication for a water birth. If you’re breach, it’s like you can have a Caesarian or you can have a birth in the water. But there are many midwives, Maggie Banks being one of them in New Zealand, her website talks about only doing breaches in an upright position at all so.

 

Sarah Blight:               Let’s talk for a second about pushing. Is it necessary to push if you’re in the upright position or does baby eventually come out?

 

Barbara Harper:         [Laughs]

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         That’s a good question. The baby has a biological program. It’s been biologically programmed and it’s innate and it’s running and it’s really the baby is the driver and the mother is the vehicle. The baby is driving the birth, the baby is driving the labor and the birth process. If the mother gets out of the way, the baby does everything. Why do we push?

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         Because we’ve been enculturated to push. From the time that we’re two years old on the toilet, our parents make us go push to evacuate our bowels and we’re thinking well if we push when there’s pressure then we can evacuate the vagina the same way, but it doesn’t work that way. Yes, babies do come out faster, but in studies where they do a comparison, the mother has to work twice as hard. She exhausts herself and the baby will come out between six and ten minutes sooner than if you do absolutely nothing.

 

Sarah Blight:               Wow.

 

Barbara Harper:         In other words, just throwing your head back like you just did and you know what happens when the baby — I’m going to bring my pelvis up here again. When the baby comes through and hits the pelvic floor muscles, this signals the mother to throw her head back like this and open her pelvis just a little bit more. If she’s lying on a bed that’s very hard to do. If she’s upright, she does that. In somatic psychotherapy, it’s called the orgasm position and your jaw drops and you go aaahhh, you know, aaahhh because that shortens the paraspinal muscles on either side. This is in response to the baby stimulating your pelvic floor.

 

Sarah Blight:               Ha.

 

Barbara Harper:         If you have an epidural, you’re not going to feel that.

 

Sarah Blight:               So why do women feel the uncontrollable urge to push if they’re not supposed to?

 

[0:05:06]

Barbara Harper:         It’s not that they’re not supposed to.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         Okay? Let’s erase the words have to, supposed to, could to, would to –

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay, should, okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         No shoulds.

 

Sarah Blight:               No shoulds.

 

Barbara Harper:         Or coulds at this point.

 

Sarah Blight:               Okay.

 

Barbara Harper:         That urge to push is your body working with the baby and you feel that extraordinary pressure and I know when I felt it with my second baby, with my first baby I was lying on my back and I had Demerol on board and I was strapped down. I think I told you about that before.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         But with the second baby, my body started vibrating and literally vibrating. It was aaahhh. I opened my mouth and I went haaaaaaah to match the vibration of my body and as my body vibrated instead of pushing, I went aaaahhhh and it matched it, and then the contraction stopped. With the next one, I did the same thing, uuummm, uuummm, uumm and it matched it and my body did the work instead of me, my baby did the work. My baby expressed those reflexes that he needed to express and part of it is like I said the enculturation that we’ve had. When I’ve taught these classes, I’ve had women come back to me and say I tried that on the toilet last night and oh my god, –

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         — it just comes out, you know?

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         It just does. When they let the voice out, there’s a wonderful midwife that I met in Japan named Haikado Suzuki and she claims that even for first-time mothers she never has attended a labor longer than two hours. Why? Because she trains women to sing in labor.

 

Sarah Blight:               Huh.

 

Barbara Harper:         They pick a piece of music, in each prenatal, they practice the music and it could be a piece of opera, it could be Pache, Pache.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         It could be often Bach [0:07:46] [Phonetic].

 

Sarah Blight:               Andrea Bocelli is one of my favorites. [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         Exactly. So put Andrea Bocelli on the stereo and sing along with him as the baby comes out. Honestly, I’ve heard mothers sing halleluiah and at the peak of the contraction, your body is vibrating with the baby and going haaaaahhhh, ahhh.

 

Sarah Blight:               So it sounds like it’s more of a subconscious thing that your body is doing. The urge to push is when we engage our minds we kind of can screw it up because then we assert our own force or our own need to like bear down. It sounds like your body is still pushing but you’re kind of getting out of the way and letting it push with as much force as it needs to without thinking about it, sounds like?

 

Barbara Harper:         Your body and the baby are working together. What mother needs to do is like what you just said, is get out of the way, stop thinking about it and start feeling.

 

Sarah Blight:               That’s good.

 

Barbara Harper:         Stop thinking and start feeling and allow the baby to be the driver. Let the baby do the driving, it’s a wonderful ride.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         [Laughs] This is going to accomplish several things. It’s going to prevent a shoulder dystocia. It’s going to prevent tearing. You won’t tear this way. When you push, when you forcefully push, you bring the shoulders down in a way that we’re not meant to be. Yes, it might take six to ten minutes longer maybe even 20 minutes longer and most women — well the team comes out, okay. Just because a woman is 10 cm dilated does not mean that she has to push. As a matter of fact, the National Institute for the Clinical Excellence in England, NICE, you can look it up on the web, NICE guidelines have now put second stage into two parts.

 

[0:10:05]

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         The first part is passive and that’s from 10 cm to baby hair on the perineum. So you start seeing, the baby starts crowning and you’ll get bulging of the perineum or bulging of the anus, that begins real second stage and it’s called active second stage. That whole time that the baby is descending and getting into position and expressing its reflexes what are you doing? You’re breathing or you’re singing or you’re umming, you’re letting the baby out instead of getting the baby out. Yeah. So I did write that in “Gentle Birth Choices,” because I saw it over and over and over and over again. I had some very good teachers to attend births and some doctors that just basically said sit back and knit and let the baby do the work.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         Yeah.

 

Sarah Blight:               So –

 

Barbara Harper:         Become a photographer.

 

Sarah Blight:               So for women who are watching this right now and are thinking wow, this is really fascinating, this is amazing, however, I’m not planning on having a home birth, I really would feel more comfortable in a hospital but I really want to have this experience. What kind of advice can you give them so they can still have this experience as you were talking about with that midwife in San Francisco?

 

Barbara Harper:         Well –

 

Sarah Blight:               Without the futon and the maybe in the water birth.

 

Barbara Harper:         Yeah. Well own your birth, be responsible because once you know the information, once you do your research and know what you want and don’t compromise. This is why in the 1970s we started handcuffing ourselves to the hospital bed because we knew we did not want to go to the delivery room. There was a huge surge of information and taking responsibility. That was without the internet mind you, okay?

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         When I wanted to meet Suzanne Arms, I wrote her a letter and asked her questions after reading her book and people used to write me letters. I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters–

 

Sarah Blight:               And I’ve heard you’re a great letter writer so.

 

Barbara Harper:         I am still. I write letters every day.

 

Sarah Blight:               That’s cool.

 

Barbara Harper:         And put stamps on them, I mailed one today.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         But yes take responsibility because you’re not responsible until you’re responsible. The things that you can do is to go into that hospital room not a militant but just it’s always good to have a doula who understands this and I call them guardians. They can be a doula, they can be a midwife, they can be a physician. I’ve met them all. They can be a 12-year-old but as long as they set up an environment around you. I used to take in LED lights, candles and put them by the bedside. I’ve even bargained with hospitals to put up Christmas lights in the room [0:13:34] [Indiscernible] clock and things like that. There’s things that you can do to be in charge of the environment that don’t hurt anybody and don’t cost any money. But the biggest thing is to put your head in the right place, understand how your body functions, what is working for you, and to give yourself the time and the patience to connect with this baby. Because the more you’re connected with the baby, you know why I like the kneeling position the best? Because you can touch yourself, you can hold your own perineum. A doctor doesn’t need to hold it, a midwife doesn’t need to hold it, you need to hold it. You need to put your fingers inside and meet the baby and tell the doctors, oh, the baby is two knuckles away.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         I can feel the baby moving down and sing your heart out. Bring a hymnal with you and have everybody in the room sing your favorite hymn if you want.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         It’s not the exception, it can be the rule, it really can. Use the bed as your friend. If they say, oh, you have to be on the monitor and you have to be on the bed, well then lean over the back of the bad. Use the bed in different positions. You’re creative with your sexual life so be — you should be.

 

[0:15:06]

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         So be creative with your birthing life, it’s just part of your sexual life anyway so. So honestly take hypno birthing or hypno babies or work with a medical hypnotist. There’s a great birth website HaveTheBirthYouWant.com, that’s my friend Nadine Romain. She’s a Ph.D. and a certified medical hypnotherapist. She works with women in issues like this to prepare them for going for the gold so to speak. Then my guardian training, the Gentle Birth Guardian Training is for midwives and doulas and once you become a guardian you know how to hold the space and you help the women to hold the space as well in connecting with the baby, listening with your — you know, stop thinking and start listening, start feeling and it will work. But if you have the opportunity to even be in the shower and do it, be in the bathtub, yes that is the best. So what other questions do you have?

 

Sarah Blight:               Well so my last question is how can women — so you have Waterbirth International which is you have amazing resources, how else can women connect with you and what you’re doing especially well with water birth but with all the education that you do?

 

Barbara Harper:         Well they can email me info@Waterbirth.org.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         They can check out Waterbirth.org, absolutely there’s a way to send an email right from the website. If they’ve had a birth they can register their baby at Waterbirth. We’re up to over 6000 babies that have mothers who’ve registered their babies and I want to hit 10,000 by the end of 2012 so –

 

Sarah Blight:               Cool.

 

Barbara Harper:         — come on water birth moms.

 

Sarah Blight:               All right.

 

Barbara Harper:         And then I am coming up with two books in the near future, “Embracing the Miracle: How Pregnancy Birth in the First Hour Influence Human Potential” is one that I’ve been working on for two years.

 

Sarah Blight:               Wow.

 

Barbara Harper:         I’ve decided to set that aside for a couple of months while I complete the manuscript that I started three years ago on water birth. But I’ll tell you, I’ve learned so much about water birth in the last three years even from all of the women who are sharing their stories and a big part of that manuscript is it’s called in mother’s words.

 

Sarah Blight:               Cool.

 

Barbara Harper:         It’s in mother’s words and father’s words and grandmother’s words and it’s stories about water birth and those are sprinkled all over my website as well. But that manuscript I have six weeks to finish it so.

 

Sarah Blight:               [Laughs]

 

Barbara Harper:         The working title is the Complete Guide to Water Birth but I’m going to hold a context on Facebook –

 

Sarah Blight:               Oh, cool.

 

Barbara Harper:         I have my personal page on Facebook, I have a fan page on Facebook and Water Birth International has a fan page on Facebook and we’ll post it on all three places. But to retitle it from The Complete Guide to Water Birth to whatever the title is going to be.

 

Sarah Blight:               Cool.

 

Barbara Harper:         The person who wins is going to get at least a free book out of it.

 

Sarah Blight:               Cool. Well thank you so much. I know you’re so busy, your time is precious and we really value having you share so much of your wisdom, experience, knowledge with us, yes.

 

Barbara Harper:         Right. Remember your pelvis and that the baby knows how to get in and out.

 

Sarah Blight:               Uh-hum.

 

Barbara Harper:         It’s been programmed and the baby has also been programmed to crawl to the breast and the next time you have me on it’s to talk about skin to skin.

 

Sarah Blight:               Yes.

 

Barbara Harper:         And all of that information.

 

Sarah Blight:               Yeah, I would love to chat with you. I can’t get enough. I love chatting with you, Barbara. To all the mamas who are watching, if you have any questions or comments about this amazing topic of birth positions, I know I’ve learned a lot tonight, I’m sure you guys have as well, please give us your feedback. We’d love to chat with you and have a conversation with you below. Also, be sure to check out the links, I’ll have links to the books that Barbara talked about to her own book and to her websites as well so you can connect with Barbara and follow her as she goes around the world and teaches other people about water birth and about birthing choices. So thanks so much everyone again for watching. We will see you very soon.

Barbara Harper:         Thank you.

 [0:19:59]                      End of Audio 

 

  • Mary

    It is alarming to see non-evidenced based information promoted. I disagree with your false statement:

    Most birthing classes never share the things that matter most- the how, the why & what you can easily do to have a better birth. Instead, they often have you watching some “live birth” video from 1982. Awesome.

    Do you have any basis/research/evidence to say MOST? Or the 82 video comment? It’s been standard for labor and pushing positions to be a focus in childbirth classes for a long time by ALL the childbirth education certification organizations. To make such an inflammatory statement without citing your source makes me question the validity of other information on this site. Is the goal of this site to encourage women not to take childbirth classes?

    • yourbabybooty

      Mary,
      Thank you for writing, we appreciate & respect your thoughts.

      You’re right. We need to be careful about making blanket statements. We can understand your questioning the validity of the information without references. The evidence is the moms themselves. Having talked with 100’s of moms across the country, the vast majority we’ve connected with said they were not taught all their options (from their class).

      We encourage new parents to find a class that will teach them the How, What, Why, the Evidence & all their options. All birth education classes are not created equal. Some are off the charts amazing & others are not (like any class).

      Having just launched this site & being really impassioned to help moms have better births…we’re sure we’re gonna make some mistakes along the way. We’re sure this won’t be our last mistake, but we’ll do what we can to fix them.

      Thanks again for your time and thoughts. Your constructive criticism helps us improve the site & most importantly…help expectant moms! Our best…Sarah & Steve

      • Mary

        Thank you for editing your comments from most to some. I think you will find most childbirth educators “really impassioned to help moms have better births”, just like you. They certainly aren’t doing it for the money.

        • Sarah

          Absolutely. It takes everyone working together to help mamas get the empowering birth they deserve! Thanks Mary!

  • L.Frye

    I still don’t understand WHY all the hospitals and doctors would have women laying on their backs if it didn’t help?

    • yourbabybooty

      L.Frye, that is the million dollar question, check out our Resource 101 Article on The Best Birth Positions…it’s chock full of great evidence based info! Hope that helps!
      http://yourbabybooty.com/resources-101/what-are-the-best-labor-and-birth-positions-to-have-less-pain-and-a-faster-labor/

      • L.Frye

        Read that article. Yes I thought “birthing upright” sounded really weird too, gotta admit. Wow- super educational. Especially about using gravity in your favor (instead of against you), how your pelvis can actually open up 30% more & because of all those other reasons…contractions are more efficient. I hadn’t learned any of this before. I’m gonna have to watch this again now :) . Thanks!

        • yourbabybooty

          Isn’t it amazing how our bodies are created to open and let our babies out? It’s so empowering to learn how our bodies work so we can get out of the way and let them do their thang:)

  • Niki Belmont

    Interesting. I always assumed I would be lying down & the only way my baby would come out was if I pushed “hard” enough. I never thought about mom & baby working as a team. I’m still not quite sure how the “team” part works, but my takeaway was that by mom being able to move around, that helps her body get into a position that enables her pelvis to open up to the most advantageous position, which then helps baby move down the birth canal?

    I have a lot to learn. I never knew I had the option to be doing anything but be lying down. But that depends on if you get an epidural right? If you go natural, you can be “upright”. If you get an epidural, you need to be lying down in bed b/c of the IV, blood pressure, & whatever else? #learning :)

    • yourbabybooty

      Yes Niki…it sounds like you are on the right track and are gettin’ this stuff down! You are correct in saying that your birth position largely depends on if you’re getting an epidural. For most women, the epidural makes them numb from the chest down, so it’s impossible to move (much less stand and deliver baby). There’s also continual monitoring when an epidural is given which means you’re hooked up to machines, while not impossible to move with those machines attached, it certainly makes it more difficult. Let us know if you have other questions! We’re excited that you’re on this journey of discovery!

      • Niki Belmont

        Why didn’t I learn any of this in the class I took. That’s what I want to know. I saw your comment below to @725bf9000280722d7ae21279b6ef760b:disqus, I’ll check out that Resources 101 Article after work. Thanks bunches.

        • yourbabybooty

          You’re welcome! Unfortunately many birth classes teach you how to be a good patient at the hospital and not how to cope with and deal with pain.

  • Muralist

    You have great videos on your website. My nurse/ hospital and the classes I have been to do not talk about much of this. They are open to discuss if you ask, but I notice they are very careful in what they say. A midwife at my hospital even mentioned that they can get into trouble, get fired, or even sued if they say the wrong thing. I totally believe her because this woman got offended when she said breast feeding is better. This woman disagreed and would not listen. Anyway, I think people need to listen to these videos and use their own judgement. I think that everything makes sense. If you look at how other animals are born. It’s very easy and mostly seamless. They don’t do any classes, it is so natural. Why have we gotten away from natural things so much?. Upright position, makes total sense. Natural birth, total sense, breast feeding……all of it. I’m not educated in any of this, but I see it and my brain understands it. The more I read the more I want to know. I do find it hard to believe there are so many against these natural teachings. Shouldn’t we learn from the thousands of birth years in the past and watching other animals give birth so easily? Seems that so many problems we have are all new, there has to be a connection.

    • yourbabybooty

      Thank you! You are so right. Why do we make things so complicated? It ends up getting us in the end doesn’t it? Please feel free to share this with anyone you feel would benefit. Thanks for your thoughts!