Why this podcast?
Whilst pondering which podcast episode to feature this week, I discovered that whilst I had subscribed to the Birth, Baby and Life podcast, I had not yet listened to a single episode. A whole new, unexplored set of podcast episodes, perfect!
Birth, Baby and Life is hosted by Kristen Burgess who introduces herself as someone who has loved babies since she herself was a baby.
Brought up seeing babies born by cesarean and formula fed, Kristen started reading about physiological, undisturbed birth as a teenager and a whole new world opened up for her.
Kristen has seven children and so definitely knows a thing or two about birth. She says she began the Natural Birth and Baby Care site for three reasons:
1 – Natural birth is a healthy, empowering choice for you and your baby
2 – Giving birth naturally is NOT ”just luck”
3 – Raising a healthy, happy baby (from pregnancy onward) doesn’t have to be complicated.
The second statement really resonated with me. Preparing for a natural birth, in terms of both information and mindset, is so important if that is the kind of birth you want.
This podcast is definitely geared towards natural birth but with such a variety of episodes covering pregnancy, birth, the postpartum and childrearing, I think that pretty much everyone can take away some really useful information.
Something I find really interesting about this podcast is that Kristen shares a lot about her own experiences and gives tips and advice.
On the one hand, it’s great that she is so open and shares both the positive and the negative but on the other hand it is important to keep in mind that Kristen’s experiences are hers and yours will be yours.
If you find a tip that helps you, great but remember that you are a different person with a different life and not everything that worked for Kirsten will work for you.
How does it look?
Episodes are released every two weeks and are between twenty-five and fifty-five minutes long with most episodes falling in the twenty-five to thirty-five-minute range.
Areas covered include elimination communication, pregnancy diet, what to expect in the early postpartum, breastfeeding & fertility, picky eaters, childbirth hypnosis and even, how to clean your house when kids live in it.
Why this episode?
This episode on pushing struck me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I think this is often something that first-time mums are nervous about. Questions come up such as
“How will I know what to do?”
“Will I be able to do it?”
Secondly, as a doula, I have learnt that ‘purple pushing’ or, as it’s more properly known, directed pushing, is all too common and, so often, unnecessary.
You have probably seen this kind of pushing in films and on television. There is also a good chance (depending on where you live) that this is the kind of pushing you could experience in a hospital setting.
You’ve seen it, right?
The birthing woman gets to ten centimetres dilated and she is told “ok, now it’s time to push. Take a breath, hold it, chin to chest aaand…..PUSH….1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and again, 1, 2, 3, 4…..”
You get the idea.
This kind of pushing is, in the vast majority of cases, unnecessary. It can raise the risk of tearing for the mother as well as leading to a drop in oxygen supply for the baby (the baby relies on oxygen provided by the mother if the mother is holding her breath this supply is reduced).
There are so many episodes out there covering birth but hardly any that I could find which focus on the pushing stage specifically.
I was excited to find one that did just that.
Who should listen to this episode?
Anyone who is pregnant and their birth partners.
If, after listening to this episode and doing your own research, you decide that directed pushing is not for you, it is vital that those in the room with you know that so they can advocate for you in the event that you cannot advocate for yourself.
Putting this in your birth plan is also very important.
Of course, there will be rare occasions when directed pushing is necessary for the health of the mother and/or the baby but these should be in the minority.
This episode is split into two parts. In the first section, Kristen tells you about the births of her children, specifically about the pushing stage. This was really interesting to listen to because you could hear how different the experience could be, even for the same person.
Kristen describes feeling overwhelmed with her first three children but with her subsequent children she felt able to let her body do the work for her and simply followed its lead.
The whole experience was a lot more peaceful for her. In fact, at one of her births, no-one knew the baby had even been born until she mentioned it.
I recommend listening to the episode to hear Kristen describing her births so I will move on to the second part of the episode and break it down in the same way Kristen does.
Directed Pushing (aka Purple Pushing)
Your doctor or midwife will announce that you are fully dilated and ready to push. Next, they will instruct you to take a breath, hold it and PUSH! Often you will be told to push for a count of ten and do this up to three times per surge.
As I mentioned above this can increase the chance of the woman tearing and due to lack of oxygen, could cause distress to the baby. Kristen goes on to mention that if you are giving birth flat on your back, you will already be in a position that can decrease the amount of oxygen getting to the baby.
Plus, of course, you will be pushing against gravity which will make the whole process tougher for both you and your baby.
Being more upright and using gravity to your advantage can be very helpful.
I love that Kristen goes on to explain that the top of the uterus shortens and thickens (retracts) during the pushing phase and pushes your baby down. The need to push at that point can be overwhelming and so you follow your body’s lead but it is your body that is pushing your baby down.
This is where, once you are fully dilated, you let your body decide when it is time to push. There is often a ‘rest and be thankful’ phase at ten centimetres dilated and, whilst you may not experience the urge to push straight away, your baby is still being moved down by your uterus.
When you start to have an irresistible urge to push, this is the time to follow your body’s lead.
Fetal Ejection Reflex
This is especially strong in an undisturbed birth where all the hormones are flowing and the baby is essentially pushed out of your body with little or no help from you.
What is the Best Position to Push In?
Kristen recommends looking at different birthing positions so that you have options on the day.
Upright positions will use gravity to your advantage.
Runners pose, squatting, kneeling and leaning over the raised back of a bed, hands and knees, a birthing stool and standing are some possibilities to keep in mind.
I found it so important that Kristen underlined that if you start to feel overwhelmed, exhausted or unsure, you can use the resting time between surges to regroup, change position or simply rest and gather your strength.
To wrap up
I hope that just knowing that pushing your baby out does not have to involve a bright red face, laying flat on your back and pushing until your eyeballs bulge, will already take some of the fear out of this process.
Understanding that your body will push your baby out and that all you have to do is follow its lead means that you don’t have to worry about not knowing what to do or not being able to do it.
Your body knows what to do.. Trust it.
As Kristen says, the best thing about reaching the pushing stage is that you are oh so close to meeting your baby.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with pushing and whether they varied from one baby to the next.
Did you find yourself in the middle of directed pushing or were you encouraged to listen to and work with your body?
Other episodes on this topic
The Pregnancy Podcast – Labour Positions
Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.