Looking to Animal Instincts for What's Needed for Women in Labor

Now, back to the family cat or dog in labor. By quietly, even sneakily, approaching we observe additional factors involved.

1. The need for darkness and solitude. Bright lights are indeed disturbing. My attempts to take photographs of dogs and cats have been foiled by the indignant laboring mothers retreating to dark secluded place usually physically out of reach of annoying human beings—such as far under the house or barn.

2. The need for quiet becomes obvious. Any loud or unexpected noise disturbs the mother. Again we make the fervent plea to attendants in hospital labor sections to keep raucous noises down to a minimum. One careless, loud-mouthed, clanging nurse can undo hours of prenatal preparation and set the stage for another series of "Cruelty in Maternity Wards" articles, ^ justified examples of human mothers snapping at their disturbers in labor.

3. The need for physical comfort during first-stage labor is made manifest by animals in many ways. On the farm we could predict the imminence of labor when the pregnant cat would be seen c£carefully digging out a hollow place for its body in the warm earth under the barn. It would test out the area by lying in it, then diligently paw aw;way any lump or irregular area until its body fit the cavity in the earth without any disturbing localized pressure. A few years ago our beloved family dog, a French poodle, was pregnant, and the children noticed with delight how several days before the birth occurred the dog dutifully raided the soiled-clothes basket in the basement, selecting articles of soft material, and laboriously dragged them up the steps to her basket in the kitchen. Here she meticulously lined the basket with them, turning around and carefully pawing away any lumps until she was satisfied with the comfortable contour. Wise mother that she was, she was upset by the attention her acts were bringing from the overly interested children and after the household was asleep, cunningly transferred her nest pa< ding to a closet left open in the bathroom. She gave birth to her puppies peacefully and quietly during the night without arousing a soul—much to the disappointment of the children.

Observation of animals, then, points out the need for a comfortable position of the mother's body during labor. For years human mothers —and their doctors!—have been guessing wrong when labor will begin. How does the animal mother having her first pregnancy know in advance to so prepare? I'll leave the answer to that "how" question to the academic doctors—I can't answer it and, as yet, neither can they—but as a clinical doctor may I strongly point out that animals do know! and that this observed fact is not weakened in the least by our human ignorance of how they know. The scientific eye of human learning is just now beginning to look timidly into the function of animal brains and instinctive abilities—and it has a long way to go.

4. The need for physical relaxation. These itemized needs are not mutually exclusive. Relaxation even in animals takes concentration. When this concentration is disrupted (by bright lights, loud noises, uncomfortable positions, presence of strangers) the animal tenses up, and tensing up during uterine contractions produces in animals the same thing it does in human mothers in first-stage labor—pain! Again we academically do not know how, but we jolly well know clinically that it does.

We encourage any human mother not to "believe" a word we state on the concepts we are teaching. We respect intelligent, honest skepticism. Being a man, and therefore destined never to know the actual feelings of labor, I have always, from the first experimental patient years ago to the current one in labor, challenged them to "believe" nothing but to "try" everything proposed, and then tell me if there is a difference. I throw this challenge to the reader: Carefully coach your wife in first-stage labor in the details of relaxation, then ask her to tense her voluntary muscles deliberately (any muscle—it doesn't matter which) during the next uterine contraction and then tell you the effect of such deliberate tensing. Try it and see what she says! No wonder the animal mother will try her best to avoid such disturbances and actually attack even a loved human being if he persists in disturbing her concentration!

Animal mothers are observed to lie absolutely still and physically relaxed during the contraction of their uterine muscles. Like efficient athletes, the muscles not being utilized in the event are completely inactive and relaxed, enabling the energies of the body to be more effectively directed to the one that is being utilized. My friends have laughingly said that I bore people to death by seeing manifestations of natural-childbirth principles in everything and anything. The basketball player going in for a set-up shot at the basket is graceful and lithe—the arm not being used in this one-arm shot is limp and relaxed. The football player getting set to kick the crucial place-kick that may win the game is a picture of deliberate relaxation as he shakes tension from his shoulders and arms to increase the effectiveness of his leg muscles. The mother, whether by instinct or training, who deliberately loosens her other muscles during her uterine muscles' contraction is rewarded by comfort (nature's reward for helping rather than hindering birth) and by effectively producing the desired result (shortening of time required).

5. The need for controlled breathing. Animals breathe in first-stag€ labor in the same fashion as in sleep. Because labor is what the tern implies—^hard work—the breathing is deeper and, as labor progresses more rapid. Here confusion arises as some species of animals do no perspire. Body heat is increased due to the forcefulness of the uterine contractions. In animals with perspiration mechanisms, and this includes the human, cooling is achieved by perspiration. Other animals are observed to break into panting type of breathing, at intervals, which serves as their particular mechanism to cool their body. Most animal particularly if the environment is warm, breathe through open mouths rather than the narrower air passages of the nostrils. This may be related to the need for a greater volume of air or, as some have suggested, th relaxation of the jaw muscles as part of the overall state of generalized relaxation.

6. The need for closed eyes and the appearance of sleep. Again this is probably only a manifestation of the need for absolute and total concentration. It results in the label of the first stage of labor as that the "sleep" stage. Animals return to their sleep place, lie, breathe, and look as if they were asleep during first-stage labor. i he irritation that they manifest at the presence of human beings may be related to their distrust and need for keeping an eye on the intruder even when the human being is inactive. This again interferes with the increased ability to concentrate that comes from shutting out visual stimuli. Closed-eye concentration seems to be a necessary aspect of their job.


Quiet, solitude, and an environment conducive to concentration and relaxation.

Folksonomies: pregnancy childbirth

/family and parenting/children (0.376748)
/family and parenting/motherhood/pregnancy (0.353324)
/society/work/unions (0.331615)

labor (0.982889 (negative:-0.013769)), human mothers (0.928915 (neutral:0.000000)), indignant laboring mothers (0.847669 (negative:-0.848668)), hospital labor sections (0.847199 (negative:-0.807345)), uterine muscles (0.846382 (negative:-0.459875)), uterine contractions (0.828755 (negative:-0.443691)), bright lights (0.825331 (positive:0.444679)), dark secluded place (0.825159 (negative:-0.848668)), animals (0.825087 (negative:-0.232884)), first-stage labor (0.823338 (positive:0.418036)), need (0.817533 (negative:-0.154945)), disturbing localized pressure (0.815303 (neutral:0.000000)), diligently paw aw (0.811120 (neutral:0.000000)), animal mother (0.808606 (negative:-0.526213)), overly interested children (0.806918 (negative:-0.436834)), beloved family dog (0.803907 (positive:0.253361)), relaxation (0.787138 (positive:0.499620)), narrower air passages (0.780044 (negative:-0.515917)), Labor Quiet (0.756249 (neutral:0.000000)), concentration (0.754436 (negative:-0.200585)), physical relaxation (0.745458 (neutral:0.000000)), voluntary muscles (0.743299 (positive:0.277230)), human mother (0.741636 (neutral:0.000000)), leg muscles (0.741039 (positive:0.826041)), Animal Instincts (0.736686 (neutral:0.000000)), deliberate relaxation (0.736363 (positive:0.826041)), jaw muscles (0.736319 (neutral:0.000000)), uterine contraction (0.734373 (negative:-0.347518)), human ignorance (0.731461 (negative:-0.581675)), human learning (0.730749 (positive:0.571101))

basketball:Sport (0.940288 (neutral:0.000000)), football:Sport (0.884480 (positive:0.826041)), the house:FieldTerminology (0.818024 (negative:-0.848668))

Childbirth (0.951177): dbpedia | freebase
Contraction (0.629435): dbpedia
Human (0.620234): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Pregnancy (0.529860): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Obstetrics (0.515560): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Sleep (0.467695): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Gestation (0.425899): dbpedia | freebase
Mammal (0.375158): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 Husband-Coached Childbirth (Fifth Edition): The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Bradley , Hathaway , Hathaway , Hathaway (2008-05-20), Husband-Coached Childbirth (Fifth Edition): The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth, Bantam, Retrieved on 2011-05-21
Folksonomies: pregnancy childbirth


17 MAY 2011

 Comparing Ourselves to Other Animals

Examples of authors referring to animals in nature for insights into human nature.
14 JUN 2011

 Labor Memes

Memes about dealing with labor.
Folksonomies: pregnancy labor
Folksonomies: pregnancy labor