The physical and emotional changes of pregnancy and, then, the experience of labor, birth, and breastfeeding play vital roles as women make the transition to motherhood.
Nature intends that the physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy insure the growth and development not just of the baby but of the mother. The physical and emotional changes of pregnancy and then labor, birth, and breastfeeding play vital roles in guiding women on the journey of becoming a mother. Standard prenatal care and medicalized labor and birth interfere in powerful ways with nature's plan and, consequently, women's ability to negotiate this journey.
Rubin's (1984) and, then, Mercer's (1995) research identified the tasks that women accomplish during pregnancy, which are critical as they make the transition to becoming a mother. The physical and emotional changes of pregnancy are not just unfortunate side effects of changing hormones and an enlarging uterus. They are changes that help women make the transition to becoming mothers, not just physically but emotionally and psychologically. The hormonal orchestration of pregnancy is as exquisite and deliberate as that of labor, birth, and breastfeeding. High levels of estrogen and progesterone and their complex interaction with each other and with less well known hormones contribute to the pregnant woman's increased sensitivity and emotionality, the tendency to be fearful, and heightened concern for her own safety and that of her baby. These changes propel the pregnant woman to seek safe passage for herself and her baby, foster her attachment to her growing baby, and, ultimately, guide her through the important process of giving more and more of herself during first her pregnancy, then labor and birth, then breastfeeding and care of her baby
Traditionally, across time and cultures, pregnant women have been surrounded by knowledgeable women, family, and close friends, who supported the transition to motherhood with affirmation and great excitement. Pregnant women were treated differently, given the best food, and protected as much as possible from stress and overly hard physical work. The woman knew she was pregnant when she noticed physical changes: a missed period, sore breasts, darkened areola, nausea, aversion to certain foods, fatigue. Her due date was determined by noting the start of those signs and, then, the timing of first movements of her baby. She got to know her baby through his movements. The pregnant woman was considered the expert in her pregnancy. She was encouraged to pay careful attention to her changing body, heart, and mind, and to her growing baby. Family rituals insured support during pregnancy and labor and the postpartum period. Pregnancy and birth were family events, and the care and support the pregnant woman received were from people she knew and who knew her well. Although pregnancy and birth carried more risks than today, women developed strong attachments to their unborn babies and worked with family, friends, and caregivers to insure safe passage of their babies.
Today, pregnancy and birth are treated as medical events rather than as normal life events. Women take commercial, at-home pregnancy tests to find out if they are pregnant and, then, anxiously visit a care provider to confirm the fact of the pregnancy. Right from the start, the pregnant woman affirms that the obstetrician is the expert who must be consulted to find out every detail of how things are going. Because of this, women typically worry from one prenatal visit to the next that everything is “okay.” “Expecting trouble” has become the hallmark of contemporary prenatal care. Kitzinger (1992) states, “The undermining and systematic disorientation of women who are becoming mothers starts with prenatal care”. Routine lifestyle restrictions, routine prenatal testing, and exaggerated concerns for safety undermine women's confidence in their ability to grow their babies and hurl women into a maze of escalating fear.
Women are told to take prenatal vitamins, no evidence supports the value of routine vitamin supplementation for pregnant women; women are told to eliminate all alcohol during pregnancy, although consuming moderate amounts of alcohol during pregnancy has not been associated with adverse perinatal and infant outcomes . There is no evidence that dietary restriction of any sort confers any benefit to pregnant women or their babies (Enkin et al., 2000). Most disturbing is that routine and excessive lifestyle restrictions contribute to the escalation of women's normal, natural fears during pregnancy and to the deterioration of women's confidence in their inherent ability to grow and nourish their developing babies.
Long days of a few simple prenatal tests. Routine sonograms, sometimes done at every prenatal visit, and an ever-increasing number of routine screening tests are considered standard prenatal care today.Particular concern are screening tests that lead to large numbers of “positive” results. In most cases, a positive screening result does not mean that there is a problem; in fact, there probably isn't one. The way to find out is, of course, to do more tests, and these further tests become increasingly invasive and risky.
Although better maternal nutrition, improved hygiene, and the availability of antibiotics are responsible for the dramatic decrease in both infant and maternal morbidity and mortality in the what have made birth safer for women and their babies. As a result, women seek safe passage for themselves and their babies by “following the rules.” Their decisions are often based on “not taking any chances,” thereby avoiding potential blame and regret.
Preparing for birth begins with accomplishing the tasks of pregnancy. We need to be with women every step of the way through pregnancy. Helping women manage normal fears, develop strong attachments to the baby, and develop confidence in themselves and the process of birth. Perhaps most important, we have a role to play in helping women embrace the belief that they hold the key to safety for themselves and their babies. This is the foundation for women being able to make critical decisions about care provider and place of birth and, ultimately, being able to experience normal, natural birth. But it takes time for the woman to develop the confidence that she knows her body and her baby better than anyone else, and then to realize that this knowledge plays an important role in keeping her baby and herself safe during pregnancy and birth.
Contemporary prenatal care interferes with women's ability to accomplish the tasks of pregnancy and, combined with “intervention-intensive” care during labor and birth, has the potential to seriously disrupt women's transition to becoming a mother. Nature's plan—the gradual, hormonally encouraged “falling in love” that happens as a woman gets to know her baby intimately as he grows within her body—guides women on the journey of becoming a mother. The woman's ability to attach to her growing baby in natural, everyday ways is routinely disregarded. Too little value is placed on a woman's knowledge of herself or her growing baby. Women's normal fears are intentionally increased. Women are told over and over again that the only way to insure safety for themselves and their babies is to follow the advice of their care provider, including giving birth in a hospital.
Though all attempts are made to provide correct information on the subject, inadvertent & typographical errors arising out of manual intervention cannot be ruled out. It is requested to bring any such discrepancies to the notice of the blogger for correction.
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