What does "Trust Your Body" and "The Body Knows" kinda language really mean?

Hi,

I'm somewhat new here and only recently started getting more into reading discussions. I have seen the movie/documentary and I like the idea of a 'natural' birth but at this point I still have a regular 'ol OB and plan to keep him, knowing he may or may not deliver my baby himself. I also would be very happy if I can go without meds...hope I don't have need for a C-section, etc. Natural sounds GREAT...but I'm not married to the idea.

Anyway, it seems that whenever I read information and pro-natural birth stuff I read things like "trust your body" and "the body knows how to birth" and stuff like that. I am not clear on what that means. I agree that the body of a woman more or less is programmed to make birth happen and there are hormones, processes, etc that work together in harmony to get the job done. But in my gut...I don't "trust" my body. All bodies are NOT perfect. Things go wrong...people get cancer, diabetes, lupus, etc. The human body sometimes (often) has flaws and sometimes doesn't do things as planned. So how far do you all take this notion of "trusting the body" as if it can not go wrong? I, personally, can only trust so much and tend to think that experienced nurses and docs can't be SOO FAR out in left field as to be 'dangerous' for the average delivery.

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You CAN do it. You can, really!!!! If you think you might run out of steam in childbirth, boy you are in for a surprise for the exhaustion you are going to feel for months (maybe years?) after. Being a mother is exhausting 24/7 and labour and delivery are a drop in the bucket! And, recovery from a c-section (I am told by friends/family who have had them and also had natural vaginal births) is much more difficult - think about it, you've just cut through your abdomen, muscles and all. Why would you want to do this if it is not medically necessary?

YOU CAN DO IT!
I wasn't sure about the trust your body. I have a really low pain threshold. I didn't really know what to expect. However, I did know that every women gets to a point where she wants it (labor, pain, etc) to stop and would love an out, whatever that is - remove my arm, not have a baby, ok!!! That moment does not last forever. In fact, it typically happens just as things are about to get better adn your about to have your baby.

So decide what you want, get people around you that really support what you want, know what can go wrong and the options for escalation that you have and want, and then take it one step at a time. Most people just say, well, whatever the doctor says. That's not an educated decision, that's letting someone else decide. But if you learn about what is normal and not, then at least you understand and are accountable for what happens. Beats being a victim or feeling like one.
As a health care provider, the docs and nurses who care for you in the hospital DEPEND on what you tell them you are feeling through the process. We have our monitors, our tests, etc, but detecting diseases like Cancer, Diabetes, Lupus, a heart attack or stroke, DEPEND on the individual FEELING something different in order to seek diagnosis in the first place. I worry when you say you can only "trust so much" when it comes to your body. No, the body isn't perfect. But we are engineered in a remarkable way that when things aren't normal, our body tells us. Our immune system recognizes disease and starts fighting it well before any doctor or nurse tells you you are sick. Also, for as many doctors as there are in one specialty be it cardiology or OB/GYN, you will find a vast array of methodologies. It is our job as health care providers to educate you about your options so you can make the best informed decision. Unfortunately, in part because of the high litigation potential of OB/GYN, these choices are often stripped from women when they walk in to the hospital to have a baby.

A friend of mine was prepped for a C-section on her first baby because she "wasn't dilating fast enough". after 16 hours of labor, she maxed out at 4 cm and her OB/GYN told her they would give her one more hour to show some progress or they would do the cesarean. My friend had 3 failed epidurals during the process and no one guided her, not her nurses or her doctors, to try different positions and to get off her back (which is a terrible place to labor, by the way). So when she was "threatened" with a c-section, she "Listened to her body" and did what felt right. She got up and walked. She got on her hands and knees. She rocked her hips back and forth. She squatted. And guess what? When they checked her in an hour, she was 9cm dilated! Not because of what the doctors did, but because of what SHE did. She avoided a cesarean precisely because she "listened to her body". Now, would her life have been threatened if she had a cesarean? Probably not. Would she have taken longer to heal? Yes, most likely. Would it have been more expensive? Yes, definitely.

We are not "out in left field" as doctors and nurses nor are we infallible. We can be wrong. We are human, after all. But you will only be helping your doctors and nurses do their job better by "listening" to your body. We are not at odds here. We need your input to do our job the best. And if you have a provider that doesn't listen to you, my advice is to run! Be it an OB, a midwife, a PCP, surgeon, etc.

I was not "married" to the idea of a natural birth when I became pregnant. I thought I would be an epidural momma all the way at first. But as I did my research as a mom-to-be, I became committed and delivered a beautiful baby girl in the water at a natural birth center in the most transforming experience of my life. I will tell you, if I had been in the hospital, I would have been begging for an epidural at one point, and they would have been happy to give it to me. Maybe that would have slowed my labor. Maybe that would have prompted them to start pitocin, maybe they would have had to pump up the epidural, maybe my baby would have been stressed out by all that and off to OR for an emergency C-section. So, sure, there was a point when my MIND said "you can't do this", but my BODY kept doing it and I had a support system to cheer me on. Therefore, it is my conclusion that in the intervention-happy environment of the hospital, if you want to go natural, you better be MARRIED to the idea!

Okay, that is the end of my soap box. If you do want to go natural, ask your OB how he supports that decision. Some are more supportive than others. And never feel like you are stuck with a provider. I switched from an OB to a midwife at 37 weeks! Not because I didn't like my OB, but because my midwife was better equipped to serve my needs.

Good luck!
Here's my 2 cents.

After two births of my own, when I tell a client, friend, or anyone else, that they need to "trust their body" it comes from a place of knowing what it feels like to have an amazingly complicated process, like birth, occur completely out of my control. I don't know when I'll start birthing, but I know I will. From that point everything that occurs is not something I have any jurisdiction over. Experiencing that kind of surrender to a natural process brings about the attitude to trust your body. Once you've experienced it, it will probably make more sense. (I'm assuming that this is your first birth)

Trying to fight a process like giving birth would be like trying to fight sneezing. You might be able to delay it, and wait till you have a tissue, or are in a "better place", but it will happen if your body needs it to. It would also be equally fruitless to live in fear that your body might not sneeze correctly, or that the next sneeze might hurt. Granted, sneezing is far less complicated than birthing, and no one dies from sneezing complications, but I feel that if people relaxed about it more, and didn't worry so much, these "incidents" would be much less common. It feels SO GOOD to surrender to the urge to sneeze, and it feels just as good to surrender to your body during birthing.

I think the most successful way to give birth is to start by trusting that your body is equipped to under go this natural and unavoidable process. This will lead to relaxation, and relaxation allows for less tension. Less tension allows for not only less pain, but less physical signs of stress like high blood pressure. Less pain and physical developments of stress, allow for less interventions and so on.

Good luck on exploring this process and finding out what is really what YOU want to get out of your birth. A positive birth experience makes a confident mother. IMO that's really the bottom line. Find out what you and your partner want. Release you fears and expectations of yourself and each other, and in this way, you will trust your body.
Hi Adina!

This is an AWESOME question because far too many women don't even trust themselves and natural birth communities tell you to TRUST YOUR BODY when you have no idea how to even begin to trust yourself!

Well here is my take on this.

While positive attitudes are helpful they cannot prevent the inevitable. To have a natural birth from a strictly mental point of view has many risks in the eyes of OB/GYNs because you must let go of every thought and presumption and "allow your body to birth" without giving in and quitting. That is not the ideal situation for an OB because they are trained surgeons. These surgeons would honestly rather see you put your trust in THEM than in yourself!

From an OB perspective you aren't quitting but you are doing what is best thing for you and the baby. But the truth is SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH has proven that woman who labor at home with a midwife and doula will have better outcomes in pursuing a natural birth than women who think that they are safer and better off going to the hospital.

While your low pain tolerance seems as if it may get the best of you, instead of thinking of the word TRUST think LET GO. Birthing is letting go to allow your body to do what it was created to do without interventions. If you have done everything with the support of a midwife at home to pursue that, you won't need to be transferred unless a REAL emergency arises. If you can already invision yourself giving into the pain, then it is likely that you are not committed to the "idea of natural childbirth --Grinning down and bearing all to bring forth new life in the most natural and safe way--AND THAT IS OK.

Not everyone is...even I was shouting "Why didn't I get the drugs!" when I was coming very close to pushing. BUT your natural oxytocin - will and does kick in and give you the relief you will need to take on each and every contraction!

Use Castor Oil to induce yourself naturally - If the doc says you need to be induced. If you end up on the epidural you can still practice focused breathing through every contraction to try to birth under the influence...but what you will NEVER forget for the rest of your life is what exactly happened between you and your baby in the few minutes after he/she was born.
If you have seen hospital videos of birth you will notice that in most cases the first day of baby's life isn't even spent with the parents! Some hospitals use protocol to not allow the baby to sleep in the same room as mother. There are TONS of things you should be considering with birth in mind other than primarily the pain.

BirthCO.org helps Birthing Communities better connect, communicate,...
Hi Adina,
You have asked a good question. I would refer you to 6 principles for a safe and healthy birth that have been developed by Lamaze:
1. Let labor begin on its own. (Don't let your doctor talk you into induced labor unless there is a clear medical reason to use medication to start labor.)
2. Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor. (Request intermittent monitoring)
3. Bring a loved one, friend or doula for continuous support. (Your nurse will be in and out--might be taking care of another patient as well. Your support person will know you and give you emotional support.)
4. Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
5. Avoid giving birth while laying on your back. Follow your body's urges to push.
6. Keep mother and baby together. It's best for mother, baby and breastfeeding.
All these points have great research to back them up also...so they aren't just pulling them from the air.
You got a lot of good stuff here. How many weeks are you? Good luck with your birth and I only hope that you're completely happy with your experience. That's so important.
Hi Adina! I'm coming in on this discussion kind of late and you've gotten some great answers, but I thought I'd put my 2 cents in. I think "Trust Your Body" and "The Body Knows" doesn't mean have blind faith that everything will be perfect and ignore signs that something is wrong. I think when someone says "trust your body" its more like "trust your instincts". Your body will actually tell you if something is wrong. Our body always gives us messages when something is wrong and we don't even question it in other circumstances. When we have back pain we go to the chiropractor and get it checked out. When we have a fever we may call the doctor and have it looked into. But because we've never given birth (well, I have now, but I remember before I had and I didn't know what to expect) we don't realize that we have all the knowledge we need to have a baby. Its hard to explain....its like your body just kind of takes over. What becomes dangerous is when we don't listen to those instincts that are bodies are giving us. When we know something is wrong and we tell our care provider and they say "oh the monitors show you are fine" and we trust THAT instead of ourselves....that's when things get dangerous.

In my first birth, I had a placenta abruption, very rare....I was not at risk for that at all. Looking back, I knew something wasn't right. I never had early labor. My water broke and threw me full throttle into active labor and little to no dilation. However, even though that birth didn't go according to plan, I don't feel that my body failed me. It was what it was and my son needed to be born surgically and then I went on to have two more born naturally (in the hospital, by the way) and each time I've learned more and more that I can trust my body to tell me what is happening.
Wow you sure have gotten a lot of replies; many of them good. I'll be blunt, but know I'm not intending this to sounds mean :^) With the way you wrote up there and your reply, you're not going to have a med free birth. That's OK! My first birth was as medical, short of a C-section, as you get. I almost died and I was very grateful to have the intervention I did (and might I say a slew of miracles that prevented a C-section). I had toyed (as you are) with the idea of a natural birth, but I really wasn't convinced. I thought it sounded nice, but what if it was really aweful! So two years later, second pregnancy was here and was going well - no signs of complications. I started with a normal OB like last time. But then I saw BOBB. At that point I realized a natural birth was something I REALLY wanted. I wanted it for me. I wanted it for my child. So I sought out a local midwife group that delivers in a hospital, and I also started taking Hypnobabies (fabulous) and reading a ton of books. Knowledge is the key. You truely have to prepare yourself mentally and physically for a natural birth because it isn't easy, but it is definately worth it if you are able.
I'm not intending to be long winded, but one more thing. Talking about "trust your body," I had done so much prep to handle the discomfort of labor, when it came to pushing I had no idea what to do. When I got all set up at the hospital I was fully dialated and the midwife said push when I was ready. Well I was ready to have the baby OUT so I tried to start pushing. It was totally useless. I struggled along untill the sensation really did hit and oh boy when they say you have the sensation to push, that is an understatement! I realize now if I had waited, the pushing part of my journey would have been much smoother. Oh well, next time right? Whatever you decide, just make sure you educate yourself. A great book is, "Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn" by Simkin. It doens't advocate any particular type of birth, but is so much better than most childbirth books suggested to moms these days! Good luck!! Oh and I have flat nipples (or had - after two babies...). Don't let anyone put anything between you and your baby's mouth. You may have to squash your breast a little to get it in their little mouth, but shields can really cause issues when moms become dependent on them (i've seen that too many times). A great lactation consultant (preferably independant of the hospital) is key.
Once I had a co-worker who was anti-natural birth. Her argument to me was, "I wouldn't have a root canal without anesthesia just because it was more natural, so why would I opt for no painkillers during one of the most painful episodes of life." Upon reflection, here's what I've come to. A root canal, headache, cancer, diabetes, lupus, those are indicators that there is something wrong with your body. It's not "natural" to have them. Uteri, placenta and baby, those are natural. Labor is the natural conclusion to pregnancy. A root canal is not a natural conclusion to teeth. A root canal is an unfortunate end to poor dental hygiene. In the same way, a cesarean is not a natural conclusion to labor. It's an unfortunate end to either A: a poorly managed, unsupported labor. Or B: a medical emergency.
So, if in your gut you don't "trust" your body, maybe you need to work through that with somebody. Because to me, that's bigger than labor and pregnancy. That deep seated fear or feeling of inadequacy could overshadow and undermine an otherwise normal labor. In the book Spiritual Midwifery, there are stories of stalled labors happening because of underlying fears. And once they were voiced and put to rest, the labors progressed normally.
Pain in labor is also different because it can be an indication of what we need to do. If we pay attention to our body and our pain, then we can tell sometimes what position we need to be in to better facilitate birth.

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