First coined by Janet Balaskas in the early 1980’s, an Active Birth describes a birth where a mother is encouraged to follow her natural birthing instincts. She is free to move and give birth in a position of her choice, using upright postures and the power of gravity to help her. She will feel protected, safe and uninhibited in her environment, allowing her to release the perfect symphony of hormones that are needed for natural birth and bonding. She will feel empowered throughout the process and active in the decision making.
I first heard of ‘Active Birth’ several years ago whilst doing my pregnancy yoga teacher training. It was certainly an eye-opener! Women don’t have to lie on their backs to give birth? And they can use techniques such as breathing and visualisation rather than medication for pain relief? Instead of screaming they can voice their inner animal? This was news to me, and it was exciting news at that. The following year during my own pregnancy I found an Active Birth course and, guided by our fantastic teacher Suzanne, my partner and I learnt and practised a whole heap of tools to take with us into the labour. We learnt that women’s bodies are completely capable of giving birth naturally, and are made to do it, given the right circumstances and support. Unfortunately we’re bombarded with media images of birth as painful and disempowering, coupled with a healthy dose of negative birth stories, often from our family, friends and colleagues. Active Birth seeks to overpower these associations and build new ones. Birth is beautiful, and even something to look forward to!
I went on to have a positive pregnancy, a wonderful empowering birth and a restful recovery – much of which I credit to Active Birth and pregnancy yoga. Yes the labour was intense and definitely painful, but I had tools to help me deal with the pain, and knew that the sensations were normal, and that each intensely delicious wave brought me closer to my baby. I also had a supportive birth partner who knew what his role was, and two wonderful, wise midwives who let me labour as I needed to, but were always there if I needed them. I am so grateful for my experience and wish every woman had the chance to labour how she wants to.
The aim of Active Birth is not to have an unmedicated natural delivery, although it will increase the chance. If a woman births feeling empowered and is active in the decision-making then that truly is an Active Birth. Positive birth experiences come in all forms, from a natural home birth to an elective c-section, and active birth principles can be applied to them all.
I am beyond grateful to have studied with Janet Balaskas and her inspiring group of wise women, to become an Active Birth teacher myself. Working with pregnant women and their bumps is an honour, and I hope to make their transition into motherhood more gentle.
To find out more about Janet Balaskas and the Active Birth Movement visit www.activebirthcentre.com