The Brain Wave Patterns of Birth
I have always found that birth is a transformational experience. You can absolutely observe that a birthing person moves into an altered state of consciousness in birth. They go somewhere deep inside and bring their baby earth side. This is very simple to observe.
If you’ve had a baby before, then you’ve most likely felt this yourself.
What is an altered state of consciousness?
When I use the phrase “altered state of consciousness,” I’m talking about the hormonal and brain wave changes that happen throughout the birth process. Birth calls you to go deep into your soul and spirit, go internal, and connect with yourself and your baby as they enter the world. It’s a spiritual and soulful process that calls you into the deepest level of existence.
For many parents, this soul journey is something they’ve never experienced before. Maybe they’ve never thought about this.
We often focus on the physical…
When we talk about birth, our culture focuses really intensely on physical birth preparation. We talk about everything under the sun that you can do to get your labor “moving.” This includes: how to shorten your physical labor process, how to find a position for labor and birth, exercises to support your body, supplements to take for a quicker birth, bodywork to align your tissues and pelvis for birth, and more.
SO MUCH emphasis is placed on the physical process of birth. We hear about how horribly painful and intense the sensations of birth can be. We talk about ways to cope with the pain and sensation.
This is all well and good. I think physical preparation is incredibly important in preparing for birth. I’m pretty reasonably sure that my clients are tired of me talking about diet and wellness.
Birth is a spiritual journey that happens in an altered state of consciousness.
I think that the spiritual journey of birth is dramatically overlooked in our culture. We’re decent in preparing and supporting birth as a physical process. But we leave families with little guidance on what to expect from the soul in this transformation.
I don’t think I really had any preparation for the spiritual transformation of birth. Nearly all childbirth courses focus on physical birth preparation. They talk about what to expect from your body.
Birth is a holistic process.
In birth, there is an amazing series of mental/spiritual/chemical changes that happen as your labor process unfolds. When I talk about birth, I talk about it as a holistic process. There are essentially 3 zones to this process. There’s the physical zone, the chemical zone, and the emotional zone. All of these areas work together to support labor progress as a whole.
In pregnancy and birth, there is an important series of hormonal changes and brain wave changes that happen that allow your baby to move earth side.
You might hear a little about this from people who have experienced an undisturbed birth. I think that this is really the intensity of the experience that a lot of people talk about that goes beyond the physical sensations and changes of birth. Transformation happens outside your comfort zone.
Birth is the ultimate altered state of consciousness.
I think this is the coolest, most transformative, and powerful thing ever.
Brain Wave Patterns in Pregnancy and Birth
Firstly, as you move through birth, you go through a variety of changes in your brain wave patterns.
This information comes right from training with Whapio, an independent midwife with decades of experience. This is also based on scientific study on how the brain works.
As I talk about these brain wave states in birth, I want you to think about times in your life in which you have already experienced this. This study is relevant to areas outside of birth, because it’s simply how your brain works under certain chemical conditions.
Understanding how this works and applying it to what you already know can help you understand and prepare for birth. We know that there are four main brain wave states.
Birth as an Altered State of Consciousness: Beta Brain Waves
Firstly, there are beta brain waves. Beta is the realm of ordinary consciousness. This is the THINKING brain, and the brain waves of words and the mind. This is where we can be found making lists, agendas, to do’s, and other rational thinking type tasks. Beta brain wave cycles are very fast (about 40-60 times/second). When you’re in beta, you’re chatty and totally lucid. This is also the realm of the critic and judgment.
This brain wave state can show up in pregnancy and birth. It is often seen in parts of early labor. I can usually tell whether a birthing person is in active labor or not based on the type of phone conversation I have with them in labor. If they can hold a totally lucid conversation with me and they’re very chatty, upbeat, thinking a lot and talking fast, and using judgment and rational thinking – they’re probably in the early labor and beta state.
As you can imagine, certain scenarios in birth can really disturb the brain waves and bring a birthing person into beta. We don’t want to keep dragging them into beta and their thinking brain. It disturbs the hormonal and brain wave flow of labor progress.
Birth as an Altered State of Consciousness: Alpha Brain Waves
Secondly, the next level of brain waves is called Alpha. Alpha is a greater state of relaxation. It’s sensual. It’s emotional. This is the daydream state and it is centered in the heart. Simple, hypnotic activity can promote alpha states. Some people also call this the flow state. In Alpha, the senses are engaged and it’s the realm of emotion. This is the realm of feeling and can be expressed through art and creation.
Most people live in Alpha in pregnancy. Have you heard the term “pregnancy brain?” This is where it comes from. Alpha brain waves are slower, about 20-40 cycles per second.
Most children actually live in the world of Alpha until they’re about 7 years old. This is why educational theories such as Montessori and Waldorf wait until around this age to begin any kind of academic instruction.
You know how you can get into Alpha? Some people have experienced this through being in the flow state of creation. So, if you’re an artist or a musician for example you may have experienced this brain wave state. Listening to music deeply can also be an alpha state. Enjoying the world with your senses, perhaps getting into nature, brings you into alpha. If you’ve ever experienced cannabis or psychedelics, it’s in this brain wave state.
Alpha is the realm of art and symbol.
How perfect a state to be in while you’re in the middle of the ultimate act of creation.
A huge portion of pregnancy is spent in alpha, and it’s kind of a mix of beta/alpha.
Beta and alpha are the time of early labor. Beta is the pre-labor party. In early labor alpha, you’re starting to feel the sensations changing and you’re moving more deeply into the feeling state. This isn’t quite active labor but you’re beginning to move into a different state.
Birth as an Altered State of Consciousness: Theta Brain Waves
Thirdly, the next brain wave state is called Theta.
This is a deeper state, the realm of the subconscious. It is the realm of understanding, intuition, revelation, insight, and self-discovery.
This is where you gain huge insights and revelations into your life or situation. You can make a change because you suddenly see something new and you understand.
This is also the brain wave state of healing and forgiveness. Your inner critic dissolves. You get a 360 degree view of your life or a situation. Your intuition kicks in and you can act without self-judgment. You might have experienced this before if you’ve ever done deep meditation for example.
Theta is the realm of the soul.
It’s your personal closet.
In theta, brain waves are much slower at about 10-20 cycles/second.
In labor, we enter Theta when we get into more intense active labor. Labor gets stronger and more intense, and we move under what Whapio calls “the veil.” You are in your personal closet of intuition, understanding, and internal focus. You find a rhythm through your contractions. You’re no longer chatty and the pre-labor party is over. You’re serious and internal. You’ve left the ordinary plane of consciousness.
Birth as an Altered State of Consciousness: Delta Brain Waves
Lastly, the fourth brain wave state is Delta. Delta is similar to Theta but it’s DEEP. The delta waves are somewhere between 1-6 cycles per second. Delta is cosmic consciousness. It’s the realm of understanding, insight, intuition, but it’s the BIG picture of things. It’s the full altered state of cosmic consciousness where you enter the stars and bring your baby back to earth.
In labor, you move through theta and flashes of delta as you progress and your labor intensifies. When you reach full dilation at 10 centimeters, that is full on delta brain waves. Once fully dilated, you’re at your most open point in the universe.
Your labor can slow a little or stall here, as your baby makes their final movements. You might find yourself falling asleep between contractions here before you feel the urge to push your baby out. This is what Whapio calls “the quietude.” You are the temple upon the mountain. You’re here.
Second Stage Labor & Brain Waves
After this time of deep cosmic delta waves, your baby will make their final movements and you’ll feel the urge to push. You might find that you get a bit of an adrenaline kick here.
In a primal way, your body is realizing it’s time to push a baby out and giving you a heightened sense of awareness. If you were in the wild world, you would want to check your surroundings to make sure it was a safe place and situation to bring your baby out. And then that energy is used to bring your baby earth side. You’re just bathing in cosmic consciousness.
A huge driver of this process is the chemical and hormonal shift that happens throughout birth.
In early labor, hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins are ramping up and increasing incredibly as your brain waves slow and you move more deeply into the altered state of consciousness in birth.
Hormone changes and brain waves states work together to support your labor progress.
Have you heard of DMT? This is a hormone that is released in huge life transformations. For example, it’s released in you when you’re born, in orgasm, in death or near death (this is what people mean when they say they had a near death experience and left their body temporarily), and it’s in healing or major trauma as well. Your body releases DMT when you give birth, and it’s released in your baby when they are born, and you’re both basking in this cosmic consciousness.
As a doula, I serve as a witness to this transformation. Your body has the ancient genetic code to embark on this entire journey. I work to be a witness to your transformation, and I support the sacred space in which you give birth.
I fully believe that you are the center of the spiral in birth. You are the ultimate source of wisdom, and you know exactly what you and your baby need as you go on this journey together.
I’m there to support you through the transformation and serve as an anchor, protecting your sacred space. I reassure you as you move into the realm of cosmic consciousness. I’m the fully sober friend that hangs out while you go on the trip of a lifetime.
After birthing 4 babies, I have an intimate personal understanding of this process and the transformational changes that are unique to birth.
Want to connect with me? Join my Facebook group called Follow Your Own Compass. Connect with other parents who want to follow their own compass in birth and get tons of free resources to support your journey.
I have an amazing new course called the Blissful Birth Mini-Course. This course lays the foundation for a confident, peaceful, and powerful birth. I teach this course through my strategy called the 3 R’s – relaxation, ritual, and radical love. Check out this online course to help you have a confident and powerful birth! The link is right in the episode notes. I’m offering this course to you at just $7, although the resources in it are worth $57.