Henci is away until the end of the month, so I thought I'd take this one on. I'm glad you're researching Lamaze. For general information you should check out the history of Lamaze International and follow the links to the Lamaze Philosophy and "Lamaze for the 21st Century".
During a contraction, the baby encounters the pelvic floor and rotates to negotiate through the bones of the pelvis. Blood flow continues through the umbilical cord despite being squeezed due to wharton's jelly, a gelatenous substance that cushions the blood vessels. But if the vessels themselves are squeezed, a healthy baby has plenty of reserves to cope with brief interruptions of blood flow. This is why there is time between contractions! During pushing, the baby's head might mold (the bones of the skull can move and change shape to fit through the pelvis). Also, the fluid filled lungs are getting squeezed to remove the fluid and mucous that takes up the lung space and make room for the baby's first breath of air. This is an important step and will prevent respiratory problems after the birth.
At the moment of birth, many anatomic and physiologic changes occur quickly to help the baby adapt to life outside the womb. Early, continuous skin-to-skin contact and frequent breastfeeding help this transition go more smoothly.
I refer you to our care practice papers to learn more about how interventions in labor and birth can disrupt this normal, physiologic process. Lamaze is a philosophy more than a "technique." We promote normal birth and evidence based maternity care. We support non-intervention in the normal process of labor and birth.
I hope this helps. Good luck with your paper!
Amy Romano, MSN, CNM
Editor, Lamaze Institute for Normal Birth By: Amy Romano
To begin with, some women wonder whether contractions are painful for the baby as well as the mother. They are not. The baby feels contractions as a stimulating all-over massage. If you think about it, labor hurts the mother because the cervix is being stretched, but the baby is being squeezed. Squeezing feels good. (Try stretching the corner's of your mouth with your fingers versus squeezing your arm, and you wll see what I mean.)
The normal stresses imposed by contractions are also good for the baby. When you and I respond to stress, the hormones we secrete (epinephrine and norepinephrine) shunt blood away from our internal organs and to our muscles in the "fight or flight" response. But exactly the opposite happens in unborn babies. Blood is shunted away from the muscles and to the baby's heart and brain to protect them during the labor process. These same hormones dry out the baby's lungs, preparing the baby to breathe, and give the baby the wide-eyed, alert period after birth that makes them so irresistable and helps begin the attachment process between the baby and its family.
In addition, contractions are centered at the top of the uterus. Once the cervix is open, they press the baby downward into the birth canal. There is a newborn reflex called the "stepping reflex." If you hold up a newborn and let its feet make contact with a surface, it will begin to step alternately. This reflex is functional. The uterus is also pressing on the baby's feet, and the baby pushes back, helping itself move down like a swimmer pushing off the wall of a pool.
Isn't Mother Nature wonderful? Everything has a purpose and generally more than one. This is why it is important not to disturb the normal unfolding of labor unless there is a good reason to do so.
By: Henci Goer
All Times America/New_York
Please note that this Forum is intended to help women make informed decisions about their care. The content is not a substitute for medical advice.