Birth, Pregnancy, Prolapse

No, I Don’t Want to Hear Your Birth Horror Story

*Update*
*This post is in no way suggesting that women who suffered from traumatic births have no right to share their story, that is not my intention at all. Telling your story of a birth that didn’t turn out as planned can be incredibly healing. I’m merely suggesting that sharing stories with the motivation of inciting fear is not appropriate, and sharing traumatic birth stories may not be the best way to prepare a pregnant woman for birth*

What is it with women today?

We seem to glory in sharing horror stories about birth. As if you one-up each other in who had the worst experience.

Why do we describe birth as this horrifying experience you just have to ‘get through’ because the baby is ‘worth it’?

What if I told you, you could enjoy birth?

That you could look forward to it, and actually want to do it again?

I know I do! I cannot wait to get the opportunity to do it all again!

I was recently talking to a friend who is very pregnant with her first baby. She told me she is ‘terrified of labour’. It made me so sad. I just wanted to reach through my phone and hug her, and say ‘No, no, noooo! Please don’t be terrified!’.

I think a lot of the root of the fear with labour & birth stems from us being so disconnected from our bodies. Our health system has trained us to fear discomfort. Any time something feels off in pregnancy, we back off. We limit movement, we stop everything. Life comes to a screeching halt as we know it.

I just read an article titled The Scary Truth About Childbirth.  The title alone makes me stabby. To summarize, the article suggests that vaginal (and ‘natural’) birth is over-glorified and it’s injuring women in the form of pelvic floor (PF) injury, prolapse, tears and pelvis fractures. It uses words like ‘horrifying’ and suggests that the natural childbirth movement is to blame. It offers up un-helpful solutions such as get induced early, and have an epidural.

No.

No. No. NO.

NO!

While I believe the intention of the article was to educate women about the risks of vaginal childbirth, which are rarely discussed at length (true). It’s shock & awe, fear-mongering approach is everything that is wrong with medicalized birth today.

Inciting fear into pregnant women is not the way to help the situation. Suggesting MORE interventions is not the way to help the situation. Describing injuries that thousands (millions?) of women suffer from as ‘horrifying;, ‘humiliating’ and ’embarrassing’ is not the way to help the situation.

So what can we do?

Well, first, maybe let’s stop approaching birth as terrifying. Fear increases pelvic floor muscle tension, which in itself is a barrier to vaginal childbirth. The PF muscles have to relax and release, and stretch up to 2.5x their length in order for the baby to pass through. This is not possible if the woman is too scared to let them go. This can result in prolonged labour, prolonged pushing, and ‘failure to progress’. A label as failure to progress usually leads to more intervention, such as instrument assisted birth (forceps or vacuum), which greatly increases a woman’s risk for prolapse and/or tearing (or cutting, depending on the care provider).

Let’s think about this from a different perspective. The hormones needed for childbirth are the same hormones needed to acheive orgasm. Oxytocin is released naturally in the brain when having pleasurable intercourse, and is the same hormone that triggers the uterus to contract. Now, if you were having sex, and you were terrified of an orgasm, do you think you’d ever get there? Uh, nope. Highly unlikely. If you were terrified of having sex, would it feel good? Nope, it might even hurt. Same goes for childbirth.

All this fear mongering, is contributing to traumatic births, which contributes to more fear mongering, which just continues in a cycle.

Just STOP.

There is no benefit to making a pregnant woman fear labour and birth. Yes, there are risks. Yes, she should be aware of them and educated on her options. Yes, she should be made aware of potential outcomes of vaginal childbirth.

But we can do it without scaring the shit out of her! We can do better.

If you tell someone you’re planning on running a marathon, people don’t bombard you with stories of how their sisters mother in laws grandmother ran a marathon once and she had a heart attack in the middle and died. No, they congratulate you, and encourage you, and ask you how you’re training, and get excited! Why can’t we approach birth this way?

How about when you get on the topic of birth with a pregnant mama, you tell her she’s going to do great. You tell her that birth is amazing and it’s going to be one of the biggest accomplishments of her life. You tell her that it’s going to be like climbing a really tall, steep mountain, but the views along the way and at the top are the most breathtaking views you’ve ever seen.

Finally, let’s educate women how how best to prepare their body for birth. Like I mentioned, it’s like climbing a mountain, or running a marathon, except we don’t know how long it will be or how steep the climb, or what barriers we may face along the way. So let’s train for that. Let’s encourage women to move their bodies, nourish themselves (as best the can) and get their mind right for the journey ahead. Let’s teach them activities and movements they can do now that will help them later. Let’s get their bodies strong and capable, so when the time comes they are as well-prepared as they can be. Let’s teach them to have an open mind, and be educated about as many of the potential outcomes as possible so they’re prepared to go with the flow of whatever their body and baby presents. Let’s help them be okay with the unknown, not fear it. Let’s share positive birth stories, and help them trust that their bodies are capable of giving birth, and trust that their care providers will have mom & babies best interests at heart. Let’s encourage them to get in tune with their bodies, so they know how to listen to those primal urges that go along with the process.

Birth is amazing, let’s remember that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you’re pregnant and wondering where to start with getting over your fear of birth, here are a few suggestions, things that helped put me at ease:

Watch Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & The Farm Midwives

Read Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth

Watch How to Have a Harmonized Childbirth

Read I Came Along, I Wrote A Song For You {The Birth Story Of Sparrow}

Watch Welcoming Theodore

Watch Waterbirth of Scarlett

Watch Birth of Sloane

i-dont-want-to-hear

fitness, pelvic health

Why the ‘Squat Challenge’ Didn’t Give you a Better Booty

You’ve probably seen all of those ‘squat challenges’ floating around social media, selling a better booty with more squats, right? You may have even tried them, hoping that it might help correct the flatness your bum seems to have acquired over the last few years. You squat, squat, squat and still have a flat butt… What gives? Well the problem just may be a butt wink.

What exactly is a butt wink?

Well when you are performing a squat, and you lower down to the floor, for a lot of people their bum rolls underneath them and tucks as they get lower into the squat, rounding the lower back. This is referred to as a ‘butt wink’.

Why is this a problem?

Well the problem is three-fold.

First and foremost, when your bum tucks under, your glutes are virtually knocked out of action (hence why doing squats didn’t fix your flat bum). They are unable to fire appropriately in this position to help push your body out of the squat. This is bad. This is bad because your glutes are supposed to be one of the prime movers in a squat and if you are taking them out of the equation then you are forcing more work onto the quads and the anterior chain, which is already tight as a result of our sitting culture. We want to squat in a manner than balances all of the muscles in the lower body, the quads, hamstrings, glutes and even the calves.

Second, when your sacrum and pelvis roll under in a squat, this forces your spine out of ‘neutral’ and creates extension in the lumbar spine. Now, our spines are designed to flex and extend, but when doing a squat, this is not the action we are intending to strengthen and can cause problems like disc and ligament damage. No one wants to knowingly cause disc and ligament damage in their spine.

Third, butt winking or bum tucking shortens the pelvic floor, and bulges the anterior core or transverse abs. It puts the entire core into a less optimal position which prevents it from functioning the way it should. Squatting properly can strengthen the core, and you want your core stability system working optimally, especially when you start doing things like adding weight.

So I challenge you to either get in front of a mirror or take a video of yourself and see how your pelvis performs in a squat. Especially if you are doing squats with weight on your shoulders, like a typical barbell squat, as this can accentuate any butt wink you may have. Your spine and pelvis should remain aligned throughout the movement, with flexion occurring in the hips, knees and ankles.

Next, work on correcting the wink. The first step is to identify at what point your butt tucks under. Sometimes all it takes is to be mindful of this, and consciously keep your bum and pelvis in the right position. Sometimes your physical anatomy is working against you, not everyone’s hips are the exact same shape. Some peoples hip sockets face forward, some out to the side, some are shallow, some are deep, some have long femur necks, some short and these all affect how we get down into a squat. Try playing with your stance, widen your feet a bit, turn out your toes a bit, and see if this helps. Very rarely it is due to muscles that are too tight to allow that depth of squat with a neutral pelvis, but this isn’t often the case.

The last reason may be that you’ve been squatting improperly for so long that you are now imbalanced between the front and back of your body, usually the quads overpowering the hams and glutes. To overcome this, you can try squatting either with the weight in front of you, like a goblet squat, or using something to hold onto, like a TRX handle or doorframe and focus on putting your weight into your heels and trying to keep your shins as vertical as possible. Doing squats aided in this manner will force your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings) to do more of the work, allowing them to strengthen and balance out the quads.

So next time you bring your ass to the grass, remember not to wink.

Your booty will thank you.

Why the