Where we give birth matters. Where we give birth holds how we are able to give birth.
From an evolutionary perspective, we know that when women feel safe and loved, they birth better. This presupposes that she is giving birth held in love and safety by her community. But fathers also have a measurable increase in prolactin, the hormone that brings in our breastmilk but also the “hormone of mothering” – clearly it is not only the hormone of mothering but parenting and caring. Fathers’ testosterone levels also fall; this suggests that in early parenting, men through time have been able to step back from guarding the perimeter and into the nest of their family; this suggests that there was community enough that other men could cover for him in the more testosterone-requiring roles. Evolution supports families being supported, the base note of all healthy societies.
So the place of birth should be among loved ones. It should be familiar, to soothe the primal brain’s alertness to difference and the unfamiliar – being alert equals adrenaline which hinders labour. The woman should be free to move, to make noise, to be able to do the culturally important things that are a ritual balm to her psyche as she travels the demanding road of birthing her baby.
When we are able to appreciate the interplay of endocrine and nervous systems in the orchestration of birth, we can consciously create birth spaces that work with our primal registration of safety. We design spaces that have lights that can dim, access to warm water, capacity to play music, enough space for loved ones to gather with us but still feel private and dim and gathered around. Spaces that are quiet and still. We have a deep human need for connection to nature; an ancient connection to our greater Mother Earth.