As both a midwife and a mother of many years I have long seen how the mind and body are strongly interconnected.
Our thoughts affect our body, and our body affects our thoughts.
In addition to this, we are affected by what our mind and body detect in our environment – do we feel safe?
In labour women need to feel safe, but at the same time unobserved. Years ago, when the majority of women birthed safely at home, there was the phenomenon of the ‘knitting midwife’, who would sit in the corner of a softly lit room. The midwife was calm, silent, focused on her knitting, but with ‘half an eye’ on the labouring woman, ensuring all was well. The midwife’s position in the room and her behaviour signified her faith in the woman to birth her baby without the need to constantly ‘hover’.
Being observed, talked to, asked questions, exposure to noise, bright lights, intrusions to privacy and feeling unsafe – these things effectively ‘switch off’ the hormones of labour until the conducive environment is restored.
Within the birthing room I have seen many expectant fathers expressing concern about their partner in labour when all is in fact well with mother and baby. She in turn worries about him and tries to protect and support him. This inadvertently places the woman in the wrong physiological state to best be able to labour and birth her baby. The calm presence of a supportive, understanding birth partner is a key ingredient in facilitating physiological birth.
These three individuals – woman, birth partner and midwife – together form a strong foundation and team that underpins a positive experience, and optimal labour and birth. Understanding, and holding firm, that key understanding of how the body and mind are inextricably linked, plays a vital role as a couple experience labour and birth their baby.