What Every Woman Needs to Know About the History of Birth

For thousands of years Midwives (meaning ‘with woman’), have been depicted in imagery and stories providing care to birthing mothers. Some of the earliest written records of birth come from the Grecian School of Medicine (circa 400BC), where uncomplicated natural births were experienced with minimal discomfort.

In medieval times midwives were women from the community whose knowledge was passed down from one to another. They understood birth as a natural process and were trained in optimal positioning and movement to guide the baby through the birth canal, how to safely ‘catch’ and care for a newborn as well as nourishing a woman for energy and comfort in labour and post birth.

Birth commonly happened whilst squatting, kneeling or sitting due to pelvis’s ability to become wider in these positions. Many different cultures had their own designs of birthing seats and stools, the first being traced back to the Babylonians some 4,000 years ago. It was King Louey the 14th who insisted on watching the birth of his offspring which saw women start to deliver on their backs, it was also viewed as more ‘regal’, however this slowed down labour, creating its own set of problems.

In the 18th Century birth became a profitable and highly competitive industry, resulting in births moving from homes into hospitals and early forms of pain relief like chloroform were introduced. Ironically, the lack of comprehension around hygiene at the time and the rise in surgical interventions like episiotomy and forceps delivery led to extremely high rates of maternal death due to ‘childbirth fever’ (bacterial infection). It wasn’t till the early 19th century that hygiene was understood and accepted and Maternal wellbeing increased dramatically.

Over the centuries these events created fear of pain and possible death in birth, much of which still remains with us today. In the 1970’s natural childbirth without pain relief started to gain momentum once more with the launch of birth education classes based on the work of Dr Fernand Lamaze, which aimed at building a woman’s confidence in her ability to birth, taught breathing and massage techniques and encouraging husbands to take a more active role in birth support.

We now know that when fear is experienced during birth (whether real or imagined), we loose our ability to produce endorphins which relieve pain naturally. Our body initiates the fight, flight, freeze or appease response, stress hormones are released, blood flow and oxygen is concentrated to the defence systems rather than the uterine muscles, which constrict and need to work harder to move the baby through the birth canal, slowing or even stalling labour, thus creating pain.

Today we are incredibly fortunate to have a deeper understanding of the body and birth as well as access to quality birth education, various models of care and much safer medical interventions and pain relief if and when required to support a more positive birth experience.

PCOS

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is quite a common condition that affects women of reproductive age. PCOS can be characterised by some or all of the following:

– irregular periods
– issues conceiving
– mild obesity (especially around the abdomen)
– excessive facial or chest hair
– acne or excessively oily skin

In some cases, PCOS sufferers may not experience any of these signs which can make it difficult to diagnose for some.

Diagnostic testing may include a pelvic ultrasound to identify the presence of multiple cysts on the ovaries, blood testing of specific hormone levels on specific days of the menstrual cycle such as androgens, LH, prolactin and oestrogen and other blood analysis which may include blood lipids and blood glucose levels to determine pre-cursors to diabetes or other metabolic disorders.

Some factors may increase the risk of developing PCOS including genetic links, some medications and familial history of diabetes or metabolic disorder.

Due to ongoing disruption to the endocrine system and hormone production, PCOS can cause issues with ovulation, fertility, pregnancy, weight gain and insulin resistance. Management of PCOS requires a long-term holistic approach that targets weight management (if weight is an issue), increasing insulin sensitivity, cleaning up the diet and improving lifestyle habits.

There are several harmful foods that should be excluded or limited in a PCOS presentation including saturated and trans fats, refined carbohydrates, sugar (in its many forms) and caffeine. On the other hand, helpful foods such as low glycaemic index foods, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods should form part of the daily diet.

Foods and, in some cases, supplements containing zinc, omega-3’s, magnesium and the B vitamins are particularly helpful in the management of PCOS. These together with regular exercise, stress regulation and good sleep hygiene are essential in healthy endocrine function and hormone production.

For additional support, herbal medicine can be prescribed to target blood sugar regulation, adrenal function and stress management, hormone modulation, weight management, liver function and the formation of cysts.

If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of PCOS or are looking at enhancing your fertility outcomes, our Naturopath, Belle, can support you along the way with a customised Treatment Plan tailored specifically to your individual presentation and medical history.

The Vagus nerve

A KEY PLAYER IN THE BODY-MIND CONNECTION, THE VAGUS NERVE IS BEHIND YOUR GUT INSTINCT&THE KNOT IN YOUR THROAT, AND THE SPARKLE IN YOUR SMILE. YOU CAN THINK OF THE VAGUS NERVE AS A TWO-WAY RADIO COMMUNICATION SYSTEM HELPING YOU STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR SENSATIONS AND EMOTIONS.

WHAT IS THE VAGUS NERVE?
The vagus nerve is like a highway that connects the gut and the brain with smaller roads connecting the other vital organs in the body, this assists the communication between these organs and the brain.
The vagus nerve is important for optimal health, especially when it comes to being in the parasympathetic state or rest and digest. When triggered the vagus nerve stimulates digestive juices, bile release and movement through the digestive tract. When the body is in a sympathetic state our vagus nerve loses tone and becomes
imbalanced. How are we meant to digest or food when we’re in a constant state of fight and flight. When the vagul tone is good our digestion is stimulated. This is started before we even eat food; the message is sent up and down the highway the digestive system gets the gastric juices ready to prepare for optimal digestion. If the vagus nerve is not optimal then digestion won’t be great and you may experience digestive issues such as IBS, bloating, gas abdominal discomfort, indigestion and so much more.
Stimulating the vagus nerve…. It is a simple but powerful practice to stimulate the vagus nerve daily. This can simple be done by:

  • Cold showers
  • Humming, Singing, chanting or Gargling
  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation

Just to touch on why optimal Vagus Nerve function is so important in so many other ways. It’s associated with strong social connections, positive emotions, and better physical health. Individuals with low vagal tone index may experience depression, heart attacks, inflammatory and irritable bowel disease, loneliness, negative feelings, and stroke. We are only just discovering the multiple roles that the vagus nerve plays in our health and wellbeing: It directly connects the brain and gut to form the brain-gut axis and the enteric nervous system. It helps to regulate our memory creation and recall It triggers acetylcholine production which stimulates breathing in our lungs

It controls the inflammatory response and has the ability to activate a calming cascade to keep to body in a state of homeostasis; by communicating with anti-inflammatory neurotransmitters It controls heart rate and regulates vascular tone It can regulate hunger and satiety – which makes it important in weight management
It has a role in insulin and glucose control within the body Due to the importance of the vagus nerve in the gut-brain axis – it plays a role in mood irregularities and mental health It is elemental in taste perception, as well as gag reflex control and both swallowing and coughing