Say Aaaahhhh.

There was an interesting study done a short time ago confirming a commonly held belief in the childbirth field. This study concluded that the cervix and vocal fold tissue behave similarly when tested.

For decades, professionals such as Ina May Gaskin, Robert Bradley, Barbara Harper, and Maria Iorillo have all said the same thing: when a woman's mouth and throat is loose - so is her bottom. And now we have proof of this: when the throat is open, this opening is reflected in the throat of the the uterus, the cervix.

Part of this is being completely uninhibited. When a woman feels safe and secure enough to use whatever means necessary to birth her baby, without fear of seeming silly or embarrassed, she is more apt to use vocal noises - and this release of tension, as a biproduct, allows any tension in her bottom to release. Consider the very real phenomena of performance anxiety: some people feel it when trying to use the bathroom in public areas, some feel it when singing.. when we feel private, safe, and uninhibited, we are able to open our mouths and bottoms to acheive a goal.

When anxiety sets in, the body reacts by tightening. Fear or anxiety, even the feeling of needing to perform a certain way, creating tension, releases adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone). Adrenaline constricts tissue in the body (think: 'ready to spring into action') and does not allow for softening and relaxing. Imagine when you were really frightened or upset, your vocal register raises, sometimes breaking, sometimes coming out in screeches. These 'upper registers' require your vocal cords to be tight, as your body is when confronted or upset and anxious.

During labor, it is helpful for women to know positive birth sounds and phrases so that she can consiously check her anxiety or fear level and forcefully relax her body to encourage a more easy labor and dilation. A birth partner or doula can listen to the quality and timbre of the laboring woman's voice to assess if it is tight, constricted, or high-pitched.

To encourage better labor sounds, the partner or doula can hum, sigh, ahh, oooh, or even show 'horse lips' in lower-register tones with open glotis. This allows for proper breathing, intonation, moderate distraction, and relaxation. There are many benefits to staying conscientious of your vocal tone:
  • Opens the throat, which opens and relaxes the pelvis
  • Ensures deep and long breathing
  • Promotes relaxation of the mind and body, releasing stress and anxiety, inhibiting 'fear, tension, pain cycle'
  • Serves as a productive pain management tool
  • Creates vibration in the body, which can relax your muscles
To help prepare for understanding of these benefits, it can be helpful for couples to practice 'good labor sounds' before hand. It is often awkward and sometimes even embarassing, but can be a good tool to encourage uninhibited labor and closer communication between partners. Partners understanding, beforehand, that sound is GOOD in labor will be able to be better prepared for the possibility of it occuring. Women practicing it beforehand will understand the difference between productive and unproductive noise for labor and birth.

Remember, open throat, open vagina. And for a small taste of it's benefits, here is a woman who sings during her labor, at 8cm, as a way to encourage an open bottom, a relaxed body, and proper breathing.


Kim said...

I love that video - she's inspirational!!!

I used a lot of vocalization during my labour. Early on it was just little moans at the peak of my contractions, but during transition, it was moaning through the whole thing. Breathe in, moan out. My midwives were great about moaning in low tones with me to encourage the low ones ... towards the end, when I was feeling a bit out of control my pitch certainly started to rise!

Sarah said...

My eyes actually welled up with tears while I watched this video!! It was so beautiful in so many ways--a beautiful woman so peacefully singing through her contractions and also worshipping the Lord with her husband while in labor!! How amazing, what a gorgeous picture of what an uninhibited labor can look like.

I love Ina May's analogy of the sphincter law when she places a bowl in the middle of a bunch of expectant parents. Then she proceeds to ask any man who is willing to come forward and pee in it in front of the group!! So funny, yet a perfect illustration.

Rebekah Costello said...

I've seen that video several times and I still cannot make it through without crying. See? Look at me, tears in my eyes and I didn't even click on it this time!!!

Lil said...

on a holistic note nicole, the throat chakra aka your voice is directly correlated to the sacral chakra aka your pelvis. here is just more proof to the everyday eye...


talkbirth.me said...

Fabulous! Thank you for sharing!


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