Grantly Dick-Read and Leboyer Gentle birth
Grantly Dick-Read was an English obstetrician in the 1920s when the management of birth pain was handled by knocking the women unconscious with chloroform. After watching a woman refuse chloroform and deliver her baby without trauma or pain, Dick-Read came to believe that fear and tension were the cause of labor pains. He noticed that no other animal species experienced suffering, pain, or agony during the birth process and hypothesized that a woman's fear of labor pains caused blood to be filtered away from the uterus, so it could be used by the muscles that would flee if the fear were caused by a dangerous situation (sometimes called the flight-or-flight response). As a result, the uterus did not have the oxygen supply it needed to perform efficiently or without pain. He believed that by eliminating the fear, women could return the uterus to its normal function—without pain. In 1933, Dick-Read put his ideas into a book called Natural Childbirth that was not well received by the British medical community.
Dick-Read died in 1959, but his theory remains the basis of many of today's childbirth classes. His ideas are still quoted in books and papers by many of the world's most notable childbirth educators. He believed that education about the birth process and relaxation exercises during labor were the keys to reducing labor pains. Today, few disagree with this insight. Although it is out of print, Dr. Dick-Read's book Childbirth Without Fear is still available through various online booksellers such as amazon.com. You might also enjoy reading Post-War Mothers: Childbirth Letters to Grantly Dick-Read by Mary Thomas (University of Rochester Press, 1998).
Leboyer Gentle Birth
After the birth of your baby, don't hold your breath waiting for the sound of a slap on the bottom and a sudden loud cry. This method of greeting a newborn is no longer common practice. Today, the baby is stimulated by a gentle rubbing on the back, if stimulation is needed at all.
A hospital delivery room is not the most inviting place for a newborn. The lights are bright, the noise level can be high, and until a few years ago the newcomer was welcomed by being hoisted aloft by his ankles and slapped on the buttocks. A French obstetrician named Frederick Leboyer wrote a book in 1974, Birth Without Violence, calling for a more sensitive and gentle approach to birth. His recommendations have evolved into the Leboyer method, which advocates low lights and soothing music in the delivery room. The newborn is immediately placed on her mother's abdomen, postponing umbilical cord cutting and suctioning. The baby is then placed in a warm bath to enjoy a return to the weightlessness of the womb. This method of childbirth is gaining in popularity. The birthing rooms are now often well-designed with adjustable lighting and with medical equipment available nearby, but out of sight.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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