In our primal past, when a woman went into labour she would crawl into a cave to deliver her baby. Now, for a lot of our modern age technologically driven selves, the word cave conjures up images of spiders and bats and creepy noises – not exactly the adrenaline filled image you’d like to have racing through your mind when trying to squeeze a baby out.
But there are studies that show that the darkened, private, quiet and cozy space of a cave is beneficial to releasing oxytocin, melatonin and endorphins and kicking the fight or flight adrenaline to the curb. During labour we want the love hormone (oxytocin) to flow, it relaxes the body and helps labour to progress. Adrenaline on the other hand puts the body into a stress state and you can imagine that stress is not an ideal thing to be carrying around when you want a baby to exit your body.
So how can we facilitate the cave?
For one, we could let the birthing person birth in an actual cave if they want to. This might sound totally nutty to many people, but why not? If you can find a safe and fairly clean natural cave where your birth team is willing to meet you, then I say go for it! (I’ll be there like a bear…see what I did there…bears like caves)
Birth Centres are basically modern day caves, they’re usually set up to be dark, quiet and cozy, so that’s easy.
But then we get hospitals. With their stark white walls and bright fluorescent lights, dozens of staff members hustling and bustling in and out and the beeping of all the monitors and you basically have the opposite of a cave… So now what? The trick in a hospital setup is to just ask for what you want. Unless the birthing person has a medical need to be monitored continuously ask to turn the beeping monitors off. Ask to turn the lights off and request that the staff be as quiet as possible when they enter the space. People are natural followers, think of the person who walks loudly into a quiet meeting and how quickly they silence themselves. A doula will be able to help you do that for your birthing space so that any hustle-bustler will quiet themselves when they enter it. A hospital room is usually fairly small and cozy any way, and to make it a little more cave-y isn’t difficult, you can even bring somethings with you from home to make it more comfortable.
It’s fairly easy to facilitate, so let the mama bear have her quiet, private, dark and cozy cave, wherever she chooses to birth. In all honesty she’s having a baby, so this is probably one of the last times she will have peace and quiet and a moment to hear her own thoughts for a long time, so let her.