What is Physiologic Birth? Part 1 of 2
You might have heard this phrase kicking around. Physiologic birth is often called a “natural” birth. Many people assume that this is a birth for idealistic hippies, crunchy parents, or those with an axe to grind against the medical system. While this may be true for some people, it’s actually a really beautiful union between the science and art of the human body.
Physiologic birth is the idea that birth is a normal and healthy human process that proceeds best without intervention in that process. Birth unfolds best when it is undisturbed and led by our body’s innate design. It is physiologic in the same way as breathing or pooping. A healthy body performs these functions without a need for intervention, management, or external control. This is also true with birth.
We birth from the primal centers of our brain.
One of the best ways to derail normal birth physiology is to get stuck in your THINKING brain. We don’t overthink the breathing process. We simply have a natural urge and our body signals our next breath. This is a normal function of a healthy body. In your daily life, does an external force closely control how you poop? Breathe? Digest? Birth is a normal human event in the same way that other functions are handled normally and easily by our body.
The Three Zones of Birth
Firstly, we are often taught that birth is simply a physical process. In this model, the body works alone without consideration of the other holistic and internal realms of the birthing person. We don’t birth with our body alone, separate from our mind and spirit. There are three zones of physiologic birth. The three zones of birth are the physical, chemical, and emotional zones. All three of these zones work together to support a healthy birth.
The Physical Zone of Birth
The first zone of physiologic birth is the physical zone. This refers to all of the body’s functions in labor and birth, your baby’s position, tension in the body, and the actions of the uterus and tissues. Over time, your uterus contracts and the muscles lengthen and move upward as your baby rotates down through your pelvis. In the physical zone, your pelvis, uterus, pelvic floor, ligaments and tendons, and your baby work together through the birth process. Your nutrition, health, and movement during pregnancy and birth greatly support the physical zone of birth.
The Chemical Zone
The chemical zone is the second zone of physiologic birth. In the chemical zone, we are talking about the hormones and mental processes involved in labor and birth. The hormones of birth including oxytocin, melatonin, catecholamines, endorphins, relaxin, adrenaline, and prolactin greatly affect the labor process. The chemical zone is where we get deep into the altered states of birth and we move into deep theta-delta brain waves. Also, this is where we move from the thinking brain (neocortex) to the primal brain in birth. Our movement through the chemical zone in labor can greatly affect the progress of physiologic birth. This is where we want to support normal hormonal processes and shift our brain waves to facilitate labor progress.
The Emotional Zone
Lastly, the third zone of labor can be understood as the emotional zone. In the emotional zone of birth, we are referring to all of the big feelings, fears, worries, and mental blocks that may occur in the process. These often arise during pregnancy and can carry into the birth process if they are not supported. Unresolved fears in our emotional zone can create tension in the physical zone and impede normal labor progress. In the emotional zone of birth, we process and deal with all of our triggers, fears, and other emotions that may arise in the process.
All three of the zones of labor are highly interrelated. Progress in one area greatly impacts progress in all the other areas. Birth is not just a physical process. It is a holistic process that involves the body, mind, and spirit. For example, supporting the emotional zone of birth through examining our fear and coping mechanisms can greatly support our ability to produce oxytocin in labor, which then facilitates progress in the physical zone of birth. A supportive birth team can also help you to support all three zones of birth through pregnancy, early labor, active labor, birth, and postpartum.
Stay tuned for an in-depth look into each zone of birth in the next several blog articles!
I’m hosting a LIVE webinar December 30th that dives DEEP into this topic and more. In this webinar, I’ll talk all about 4 major moments in birth where physiology often goes awry. These 4 moments are often turning points in labor, where we are met with a challenge in birth. Learn how to cope with these BIG moments in birth and support your body to do what it knows how to do. I’ll go through 4 challenging moments in birth and and also discuss how to stay on course for the healthy birth you desire.
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