For most women, childbirth is the biggest thing they will ever do physically, mentally and emotionally and one of life’s most momentous events. However, we have unfortunately found ourselves in an
era where physiological birth is decreasing, where its normal to hand over our power and our bodies to care providers and in a place where we have forgotten that birth can be a profound and beautiful experience.
Birth in Australia has become over medicalised and it seems we are often overlooking the simple fact that birth matters. It matters to mothers, to babies and to fathers also. 1 in 3 women are now reporting having traumatic birth experiences, many with ongoing psychological issues. Discoveries are being made into the effects of birth on a child’s long-term health. So, it’s more important than ever to find the inspiration to consciously prepare for the most positive birth possible. In doing so, you will be reminded that women are not just physical incubating vessels, that labour pain is not insurmountable, and that birth doesn’t have to be feared.
By looking at birth practices and traditions around the world you can discover many ways to optimise your chances of experiencing birth as the sacred event it can be.
Most expectant mothers are referred by their family doctor to a local midwife practice. Obstetricians only intervene in high-risk cases or if complications arise. These women decide whether they want to birth at home or hospital with 30% choosing home. Only 10% of women use pharmaceutical pain relief and giving birth naturally remains the ideal with many preparing with prenatal yoga, breathing and relaxation techniques.
Midwives or Hebamme are also the norm and natural birth is encouraged and supported. Often, midwives will use homeopathic remedies or acupuncture to assist women in labour. It is not unusual for German women to believe that the event of giving birth is just as important as the outcome.
Most Japanese women strive to give birth without the use of painkillers. There is a belief that any pain experienced in labour is a kind of trial that a woman endures in preparation for the challenging role of motherhood. When birthing in hospital, fathers are only permitted to be present if they have attended prenatal classes and know how to support their partner. Some also birth in small clinics that have a peaceful and homely atmosphere. Traditional birthing styles are encouraged where labouring is done on a Tatami mat.
This culture believe that the placenta has a spirit of its own that acts as the child‘s guardian angel through life. It is given the utmost respect and reverence for the job it has done nourishing the baby and linking him/her to the mother. The parents bury the placenta in a special ceremony.
Childbirth is called Lutalo Lwabakyala, or women’s battle. Women consider the pain of contractions to be normal and natural, believing they can transcend it.
This country has one of the lowest C-section and infant mortality rates in the world. Birth is seen as an intensely fulfilling and personal experience. Unlike in some Scandinavian countries, where medications and interventions in labour are discouraged, Swedes value ‘informed choice’ and women are educated in an unbiased way about the risks and benefits of all their options, so they can decide for themselves.
Women give birth encircled by their female relatives and friends who assist them physically and emotionally. They use their hands to apply pressure to certain parts of the body to help ease contractions and tell their own birth stories to encourage the mother as she labours. Women are very active, moving around or holding onto poles or ropes. They place a high importance on moner shahosh (mental strength) and shoriler shakti (physical strength) during birth. Muslim women recite verses from the Koran for comfort and inspiration during labour.
This culture believes the pregnant mother’s thoughts and experiences have a direct effect on the baby, so they need to feel as much positivity as possible. Koreans value stoicism and instead of pain medication they tend to use natural methods such as aromatherapy, acupressure and music. After the birth, they have a lying-in period called San-ho-jori, often at their mother’s home. For 21 days the new mum rests, sleeps, eats and breastfeeds while relatives cook, clean and shop so she can recover and bond with her baby.
This culture also place significance on the postpartum period and supporting the new mother. She is brought nutritional, healing foods and given daily massages and baths for weeks after birth.
When a woman goes into labour, her husband ties a sash to a log or pole inside the home. The sashes are red, white and green and adorned with deities. She wraps the sashes around herself to labour upright, helping baby descend with gravity and labour to progress smoothly. He then stands behind with his arms embracing her to show his love and support. Often an ancient Blessing Way ceremony is performed which includes chants and songs for the safe arrival of the baby. Giving birth in this culture is seen as something a couple do together and is serene, private and full of ritual.
Surrounding yourself with positive messages about birth will leave you feeling inspired and help you find your own birth power! It will provide the motivation to take control, get informed, be prepared and discover what is important to you in the birth of your children.
Yvette Julian-Arndt is a mum to two gorgeous boys and with her husband, loves living on the Mornington Peninsula. As a childbirth educator and the owner of Project Birth, she is passionate about educating and inspiring couples for this life changing event. Find out more at www.projectbirth.com.au or join her on Facebook and Instagram for more great labour and birth tips.