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Newborn babies have been trying for centuries to convince us they are, like the rest of us, sensing, feeling, thinking human beings. Struggling against thousands of years of ignorant supposition that newborns are partly human, sub-human, or not-yet human, the vast majority of babies arrive in hospitals today, greeted by medical specialists who are still skeptical as to whether they can actually see, feel pain, learn, and remember what happens to them. Physicians, immersed in protocol, employ painful procedures, confident no permanent impression, certainly no lasting damage, will result from the manner in which babies are received into this world.

Babies are like us in having clearly manifested feelings in their reactions to assaults, injuries, irritations, or medically inflicted pain. They smile, cry, and kick in protest, manifest fear, anger, grief, pleasure, or displeasure in ways which seem entirely appropriate in relation to their circumstances. Babies are cognitive beings, thinking their own thoughts, dreaming their own dreams, learning from their own experiences, and remembering their own experiences.

Because of all these capabilities, we know babies remember at a very deep level of consciousness their primal journey, the way they entered this world.

from Babies are Conscious by David Chamberlain, PhD


Vertical Birth video by Carol de Bowé

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Birth Hormones: How Labor Pain Prevents Permanent Injuries

Birth pain, though at times excruciating, is actually good for the birth of a child. Birth pain helps prevent many of the dangerous effects of drugs and hospital procedures that can lead to birth injuries in the mother and infant. It also releases hormones that promote the unique bond between mother and child.

Birth pain, like other forms of pain, never occurs in the abdomen, vagina, or perineum. Pain is a sensation of the brain. Though this may seem obvious, medical science and hospital doctors often treat the phenomena of pain and the mother in labor as two separate entities.

Hospital Doctors’ Position on Birth Pain

There are number of factors that doctors believe help a woman in labor and, if the doctor believes him or herself a better judge than the mother, that may violate her birth plan . While some try to “do no harm,” other doctors have a more self-serving reason for putting a woman out of her pain: their own comfort.

A mother in pain is not the easiest patient to deal with, and it is not uncommon for doctors and their helpers in a delivery room to feel personal discomfort. Although evidence shows its dangers of mother and infant birth injury, many hospitals still prefer mothers to remain stationary on their back in the bed with their legs in the air for hours of labor, despite the problems this position brings.

Pain increases with this supine birth (sometimes called the “lithotomy” or “dorsal” position) and birth injuries can occur when labor is forced or rushed.  For a woman in labor, this loss of control and a hospital’s treatment of pain as a disease can increase a mother’s experience of pain during birth.

Awkward Hospital Position Promotes Birth Injury (or: Supine Birth is a Real Pain in the Backside)

The pain of birth is reduced when adopting a vertical (sitting and walking) position during labor. A vertical birth position has both the benefit of gravity and the body’s muscles to push an infant downwards. This increases the ease of birth, power of contractions, and helps put the infant in that necessary head-down position. Standing, squatting, or being on all fours—almost any position except being supine—during labor also helps reduce perineum tears and subsequent the need for an episiotomy (enlarging the vaginal opening by cutting the perineum).

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