Why You May Not Need to Push So Hard During Birth
I was recently explaining to a lady on an airplane about Fetal Ejection Reflex (also known as FER). She had asked me what the most fascinating thing about being a doula is and I told her "being able to watch the human body at work." It truly is fascinating to watch everything play out from head to toe, headspace to physical environment to partner support and the undeniable influence of a broken medical system; it's all just fascinating (and sometimes frustrating).
This conversation led to us talking about the fascinating things that the body can do that most people don't know. The problem with this is that out of all of the people who don't know about FER, so many of them will be directly impact (birthing parent) by this lack of understanding & knowledge. To add salt to the wound, many more will be impacted in a secondary type of way (non-birthing parent) so it's a benefit for people to know what this is. When birthing parents experience ongoing pain or feel insecure about how they're healing after a birth, it can certainly cause consequences in any romantic relationships.
When I said to her, "oh and another favorite of mine is Fetal Ejection Reflex!" She says, "never heard of it." I wasn't surprised actually. Rather, it just makes me so sad to meet another woman who had given birth and wasn't fully informed of what their body was capable if left undisturbed and appropriately supported.
So, What is it?
This is the idea that your body will actually eject your baby for you. It happens because of the surge of adrenaline and hormones you get at the end of labor. This hormone spike causes your contractions to actually do the work for you with minimal help from you. They are irresistible contractions that are three times more progressive than you straining and pushing with all your might... or that is what’s can happen and doesn’t mean this will be everyone’s story. Of course, it depends on everything leading up to pushing which is why it’s a good idea to take a childbirth education class and hire a doula.
You will get to a point where bearing down relieves pressure, but as far as working so so hard and exhausting and killing yourself with pushing, when approaching the pushing stage with a FER mindset, you would just continue to cope with contractions and know your body will push the baby out. I have actually seen a few mothers who have birthed with this mindset and they had minimal tearing. One even required only three stitches. So think about it, in those panda and kitten and giraffe (yes, I'm looking at you April the Giraffe) births that you've no doubt seen on Facebook, they just let their babies come out. Humans are the only animals that interfere with the birthing process. Sometimes with good reason and absolutely needed, but most of the time not.
Makes me think about hands and knees being my personal go-to. I believe so much in the power of really tuning in to our animalistic side in birth. I first learned of FER when I began to fall in love with Dr. Michel Odent. He speaks about an undisturbed birth and how women's bodies will physically take over to expel (gently) the baby if all conditions are right.
Listen to your body... don't push.
I was at a birth with midwives once and the birthing mom said she was getting urges to bear down. The midwife looked at her and said "Let your body do the work," and then she said, "Don't push." The mom asked what she meant and the midwife told her that her body would do all the work and that if she just embraced the movement her body needed, she wouldn't have to push very hard. I knew immediately what this midwife was doing. I remember reading a piece by Odent on how to support mother's who are "embracing those movements" and I began to help her by refocusing her attention to riding the contraction rather than focusing on the urge to push. Their baby slipped right out with minimal pushes. It was incredible.
The bottom line on FER
Know your options. You have a choice of how you are supported in the final stages of pushing. It can look like anything from step-by-step guided pushing to no verbal guidance at all. Sometimes, birthing people want no talking at all during this stage and that's 100% doable if that sounds pleasant to you. When you're choosing your birth preferences or thinking about how to intentionally choose your birth team, this is something to consider.
When I meet women with traumatic birth stories, I always wonder what their births might have been like if they were informed about their choices and educated on things exactly like FER and the proper way of pushing like in The TBH Approach. How can we rewrite your narrative? How can we change your story starting now?
Want to make sure you are prepared, mama?
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Want to make sure you are prepared, mama?