In Favor of the Natural Expulsive Reflex in Childbirth

Click here to read: Getting Pushy | Midwifery Today

The above article from Midwifery Today, published in Issue 98 in the Summer of 2011, speaks wonderfully to the Natural Expulsive Reflex that HypnoBirthing® refers to (a.k.a. the Fetal Ejection Reflex). This article validates instinctively letting your body bring the baby down instead of following all of that annoying coaching for forced pushing.

The Quietude Phase

The author, Alison Bastien, writes that often, when a woman’s cervix is fully opened, a doctor, nurse, or midwife will immediately coach her to begin pushing, even when she’s not feeling an urge to bear down. I’ve certainly heard this story from my HypnoBirthing® students. This can lead to frustration and exhaustion as the “pushing” goes nowhere. And if you don’t have an urge to push, there’s something wrong with you. This article speaks of an interim phase between the time when the cervix is thinning and opening and the descent and birth of the baby. Midwife Whapio Diane Bartlett calls it the “quietude” phase and Sheila Kitzinger calls it the “rest and be thankful” phase. Alison calls is the “still pool,” that period of calmness before you meet your baby for the first time. For some women, this phase is short, and for others, it’s longer. What do you do during this phase? Nothing. There is nothing to do. Rest, sleep, connect with your baby, and restore your energy. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it wants to do. Ignore the coaching.

Our Microfocus on the Cervix

Another gem I pulled from this article is our obsession with the checking the dilation of the cervix in the United States. Alison quotes a Russian doctor as saying, “We do not ask a woman to push until we see the baby’s head.” And then a wrinkled old traditional midwife in rural Latin America speaks about checking a woman and says,

“‘Why would I want to feel the dilation of the cervix? I’m feeling for the babies head! If your finger goes all the way to here (indicating her second knuckle) then it’s still got a ways to go, and if you can only get it in to here (tapping her first knuckle), then here it comes!’”

This is so different from the attitude in the United States, where we routinely check the cervix to see if a woman is “ready to push” or not. It’s a simpler, gentler way of looking at the birthing phase.

Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom

The wisdom from this article is this: leave a birthing mother alone. Her body knows what to do with or without your meddlesome interference. Don’t coach her to push. She knows how to bring her baby into the world.

“Let’s let the babies tell us when it’s time to push!”