by Cathy Daub, PT, CCE and CD(BWI)
As a Libra, balance has always been an important concept for me. As I have worked in birth for so many years, the concept of balance becomes even more important. There is a very fine line of balance in the body, physiologically, as when our temperature is even one degree higher than normal, we feel ill. The body is always adjusting and being in balance keeps us healthy. When the body is too hot, it will sweat to regulate temperature. When the body is cold, the pores on our skin close to keep in heat. We can feel unbalanced in life when stresses become too great. Our bodies crave balance, and balance keeps us healthy.
The other important consideration with balance is realizing how connected every part of our body is. When one part is out of balance, the whole body feels it. Remember the hand relaxation exercise I wrote about in another blog? Besides being a great exercise for women in labor, it also teaches us something else. If you squeeze both hands very tightly and hold them that way for 30 seconds, you will have time to follow where the tension is moving in your body. The tightening will slowly spread throughout the body, becoming more subtle the further it is from your hand, but gradually, you will be aware of it. This means that tightening the hand will have an effect on the muscles of the pelvic floor. Therefore, the more relaxed her hands are, the more relaxed is her pelvic floor musculature.
It is very important to have all aspects of the pelvis with its muscles and ligaments, balanced in birth. For example, if the baby’s head is not positioned directly in the middle of the cervix, it will take longer for the cervix to dilate. If a ligament is tight on one side, the baby may not be able to descend. If a woman is very fearful of contractions, her body may be in a fight/flight mode of survival trying to protect her with a guarding energy that creates an imbalance in her body.
You may be familiar with the exercises taught to birthing women to release their pelvic floor i.e the Sidelying Release and Forward Leaning Inversion (also called “Belly over the table”) originated by Dr. Carole Phillips. It is important that the Sidelying Release is carried out lying on both sides so the entire pelvis experiences a release.
But just knowing and doing these pelvic floor exercises is not enough. We must think in terms of the entire system because every part of our body is connected. For example, how is a woman in labor breathing? Are her breaths short and fast or long, deep, and more relaxing? The more relaxed she is, the better her progress in labor especially if she is upright and moving around. Then her entire body is moving in synchrony with the rhythm of her labor and she is sensing a balance that feels peaceful. Even though strong contractions are coming and going, she is in her instinctive, primal brain that knows everything is okay and she is in the “zone” moving with her labor and guided by her body wisdom that already knows how to give birth.
And sometimes, doing all of these things still results in a baby not descending for one reason or another such as a tight short cord, but a woman who feels balanced in her life and in her labor, still knows she did the best she could, is thankful for interventions that help birth her baby, and feels grateful for the experience.
Balance is very connected to peace and contentment. So many people say, “I want peace,” as they feel their lives are in pieces. Helping women in birth to find peace automatically results in a feeling of balance and in that moment their breath is slower, their body is in synchrony, and all is well.