Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Creating Optimal Birth Space

The environment in which we live and move and have our being is critical to our physical, mental, spiritual and social functioning. More and more understanding is emerging about how the environment plays a pivotal role in all aspects of our lives. From mice to (wo) men, science is demonstrating that the body's neural network is "plastic", that genes are not destiny and that the "environment" is an integral part of how living creatures function and develop. Every physiological interaction and behaviour, from the way genes are expressed in the sperm and the ovum to our health and experience across the lifecycle depends upon the environment. The environnment gives feedback which will be either nourishing and provide the stimulus to function well and grow or hostile, which disrupts our functioning, leading to disease, distress and decay.

Recognition of the way the environment is integral to optimal functioning is expanding our understanding of the role of maternity care in providing optimal environments for childbearing women. The science is also demonstrating why woman centred care, facilitating the fulfilment of woman's choices and incorporating women's rights into maternity care are so much a part of optimising outcomes for women, their babies, their intimate relationships and society in general.

My friend and colleague, the wonderful Maralyn Foureur, Professor of Midwifery at the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS) presented on this topic at the recent homebirth conference in New Zealand.  Maralyn is heading up a research team exploring birth space and has attracted a highly prized NHMRC grant for this work. 

Click the link below and it will take you to the slide share of her presentation

I think you will enjoy and get a lot out of her research.


Joy Johnston said...

Thanks again Carolyn, for a thought-provoking post.
I have seen some wonderfully designed spaces in which women can give birth. I have also seen women give birth beautifully (optimally) in settings that would seem to contravene every goal of the optimal birthing space ideology.

The woman's own nesting, which I believe is hormonally driven more than the result of intelligent planning and preparation, seems to be the key. Nesting can include the choice of setting, as well as the choice of people who make up that woman's birthing team. Nesting also enables the woman to change her plan if her situation requires it, without losing the ability to proceed normally.

Joy Johnston said...

I have written a little more about nesting and optimal spaces at my blog

Carolyn Hastie said...

Interesting point Joy. Some women are able to birth well, no matter what the context, as you say. I always think of the woman in the flood in Africa who gave birth in the tree and even managed to do nipple stimulation to help birth her placenta! What an amazing, focussed and 'present' woman. The other extraordinary thing about this woman's birth and her presence of mind was that her mother had been swept away from the tree during her labour. Women truly are extraordinary.