Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Fetal Biome: The Beginnings of Prenatal Parenting

In 2001, I was reading a book titled Prenatal Parenting.  The author was Dr. Fred Wirth, a staff neonatologist at Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Reading, Pennsylvania. 

Wirth brought to light communication with the unborn child and called the womb the “intrauterine temple of learning”.  He believed in the empowerment of women and that they should take charge of their health care, not only as a means to a more satisfying birth experience, but as an optimal pregnancy and birth outcome catalyst.

“Faith and prayer are pivotal to my belief that you can increase the safety of your pregnancy by taking more responsibility for its outcome.  Thinking you are incapable of handling such responsibility will only work against you.  You must have faith in your ability to do this.”

And why not? Women are creating a wonderful environment both physically and emotionally for this baby.  The “faith” and “prayer” do not have to be religious.  But faith and prayer in a higher power or meditation and relaxation can help alleviate fear – and fear begets tension and tension begets stress hormones, which can have multiple negative effects on the growing baby and the pregnancy.
Fear is a huge topic today – with media input such as television views of childbirth and certain books and embellished stories from friends!  Fear of childbirth or tocophobia may include nightmares, panic attacks and psychosomatic symptoms.  The fear may be rooted in the misunderstanding of the pain in childbirth or apprehension in being at the hospital during the birth.  In our society hospitals are the place of illness and death – not the ideal location for pregnancy which is mostly a situation of health and wellness.  Again with the media, we have created a culture of avoiding pain: this medication for a headache, this medication for arthritis, this medication for menstrual cramps – we don’t have time for the pain.  And why should we – just take medication.

Therefore protecting the fetal biome is more than eating the right foods or consuming enough liquid to avoid dehydration.  It is a psychosocial journey of learning about the roots of fear, education on methods of comfort measures for the tension, as well as understanding the mechanism of pain and how to use the pain to the advantage of both the mother and baby.

When the above skill set is in process of being mastered, a powerful emotional bond begins to take place between the mother and child.  As childbirth educators and doulas, we can help mothers establish this reverence for the fetal biome and facilitate prenatal bonding.  What we teach our expectant clients has an impact on their relationship with their baby and may greatly influence the pregnancy.  Focus education not only on the expectant mother or the growing baby but the two as a dynamic dyad where love flows back and forth.

Want to read Dr. Wirth’s book Prenatal Parenting?  There are copies available on Amazon: click here.  And as former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “Read this book!  You will learn how to improve your birthing experience, as well as the health and happiness of your unborn child.”

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