Transcript: Childbirth Education – Discussion on Active Birthing With Midwife Beau Wilson
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Helen Thompson: In this week’s episode of First Time Mum’s Chat, I’m chatting with midwife Beau Wilson about active birthing. I’m a big fan of holistic solutions and was fascinated when Beau told me all about the holistic childbirths education and support that she provides to families. I particularly like the way in which she empowers both the mums and partners that she trains so they are prepared for the birth process with a good degree of confidence.
During our chat, you’ll hear Beau talk about, the process of active birthing, including its many benefits, such as the advantages of being active and upright and mobilizing the pelvis during the birth process, the many advantages of having a waterbirth for both mother and baby, and you’ll hear all about the process, the advantages of a delayed umbilical cord clamping, how homeopathy can help moms have more control over their birth experience and treat things that they wouldn’t be able to do in conventional medicine.
And so, so much more!
Hi Beau and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to be chatting with you. Midwives performs such an important role in births and I’m looking forward to hearing about what you do. Can you please start by telling us about your background and what you do?
Beau Wilson: Thanks, Helen. It’s a real pleasure to be here. So I’ve been working with women in pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period for just over a decade now.
I was inspired to become a midwife because I saw a home birth midwife looking after my family for my younger siblings and I was very, very intrigued about the whole experience and how amazing it was to have that experience in the home environment. It was very peaceful and calm and yeah, I was just very intrigued. So I went on to become a midwife and the first birth I attended I was probably three weeks into my degree and I just sat at the back of the room because I was very, very new to it all and I just was completely awe inspired and I just thought, wow, that was the most miraculous thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life and the rest is history really.
Since then I’ve worked in lots of different models of care. I’ve worked with women with healthy pregnancies, having normal physiological labor and birth and water birth but I’ve also worked in more high risk pregnancy care in large tertiary hospitals with over 3,500 births a year, which was challenging, but great learning experience too.
Helen Thompson: Wow, you’ve certainly had a lot of experience there. I think having a midwife who’s active and incorporating her skills with the mother when she’s having a baby is very important.
Beau Wilson: Yes and what we see in the research is that when a woman has what’s called continuity of care with one midwife throughout their whole pregnancy labor and birth, the outcomes for the woman and the baby are much improved. In the standard model of care in the public health system in Australia, women will see lots of different midwives.
At each appointment, different doctors, and in the labor and birth seat when they come in, in labor, they will most likely have never met the midwife who looks after them. You can imagine, we do our very best to establish a rapport and work with the couple, but when they’re in the throes of labor it’s quite challenging to then be able to meet their unique needs and wishes.
You know, every woman is different and what one mum feels as comfortable to her is different for the next mum. As midwives, we take a lot of pride in working with the woman. Actually the word midwife means with woman, which means being with the woman and putting her at the front and center of the care, so that’s what our care is all about.
Helen Thompson: And it’s incorporating the whole family as well. I think, before dads weren’t involved, dads were sort of shoved out and told, oh no, no, you go outside and pace up and down, or go have a beer or whatever. They weren’t encouraged to be involved and I think more recently, I’d say in the last 20 years, they’ve been encouraged more to be present at the birth.
Beau Wilson: Exactly, yes and that is something also that’s inspired me to do what I do now. So now I have a private business called Birth to Baby, and so I teach childbirth education and my main interest is in active birth. So offering women and their partners all of the non-pharmacological tools to manage pain and a large part of that incorporates having their birth partner there with them to learn about the natural hormonal process of labor, to feel more confident about the woman’s body and to also be there as a really close support person through that experience. So, yeah, the woman’s partner is very much welcomed now and understandably, some feel a little uncomfortable or unsure, but, what I’ve found once we work with them in the birth classes, the partners, come in very unsure, they haven’t really had any experience around a birth before but they come out of the workshops feeling really quite empowered and they know their role and some of the active tools they can use to support their partner. So a lot of the fear reduces as well.
Helen Thompson: Yes, I can imagine. So what are some of the things they learn to help their partner?
Beau Wilson: Yeah, so there’s two facets to active birth. One is that the woman is an active part of her care. So she is actively making decisions about her care, she’s understanding the risks and benefits of all the decisions she makes. The other part is that she is active and mobile and upright in the labor and birth experience.
So we know that if the woman is active and upright, she’s mobilizing her pelvis. It’s opening the space for baby to descend and all of that will support the natural hormonal process of labor. So some of the active birth tools that can be used are mobilization, movement, massage. So in my class, we go through with the woman’s birth partner, how we can use either light touch massage or lower back massage to relieve the pain and we learn about the gate theory, which is a theory where if there is some kind of pressure at the gates of the pain pathways to the brain, which is often around the lower back area, if we can put some pressure on that, then we actually block that pathway for the pain to go up and tell the brain that there is pain there.
So, we do double hip squeezes where we’re squeezing the hips together, where the partner can actually physically maximize the space in the pelvis for the woman. It’s comforting, we use hot massage oil, they can use showers. A lot of women will like to use a pool for waterbirth, or water immersion. We learn about acupressure, which is putting pressure on points that can relieve pain or nausea in the body. All of those are great methods and we also use Rebozo, which is a Mexican traditional tool. It’s a long fabric cloth woven cotton, and it basically sits around either the woman’s waist or back in different positions and the birth partner will hold the cloth up and relieve that pressure off the woman’s body and also shake it a little so that the baby gets in a really good position for the labor and birth. So they are some of the main tools that we learn about in the birth class and I give the birth partners a little cheat sheet that they can take home so that they are prompted with all of those tools that are available to them and the partner.
Helen Thompson: So when they’re actually giving birth, you mentioned a few techniques, when they’re moving the hips and getting them to be mobile and walking around and showering. So when they’re actually giving birth, can you still use those techniques?
Beau Wilson: Yes, absolutely and the biggest support for the birth itself is being upright. So, if women are allowed to just move their body the way that they intuitively feel they need to, a lot of women will just naturally move into an upright position for the birth. Either on all fours or kneeling, leaning over a birth ball or something like that. So that’s the biggest support for the birth itself. So we can use acupressure for the birth to relieve pain. Massage all of those tools often can be used in the pregnancy to relieve discomforts, but also labor and the birth as well.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’ve heard of pregnancy massage and I’ve heard that that really helps as well. I was just thinking of pregnancy massage, but also thinking of when they’re giving birth, because I would’ve thought that that’s so much more natural than epidurals and all the other stuff that you’ll get given and it’s more relaxing for the mother because they’re relaxing their muscles naturally and they’ve got their partner to help them there and calm them down and they’ve got you lovely midwives also to help them relax as well.
Beau Wilson: Absolutely yes, and the big part of what we learn about the hormones of labor is that oxytocin is one of the primary hormones of labor, and oxytocin is the hormone of love. It’s released in the body in love making and labor and birth and bonding when baby’s born and breastfeeding and we need an never ending flow of oxytocin for labor to progress.
So, yes, as you mentioned, anything that will help the woman to feel relaxed, to feel calm, whether it’s massage, relaxation, music, acupressure, even the partner’s loving embrace or that supportive environment that helps a woman feel physically relaxed, but also in her mind as she feels at ease, those are all the things that will promote that continued release of oxytocin in the body for labor to progress.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I know all about oxytocin cause I teach baby massage. You mentioned the bonding process. That’s more where I come in with the baby massage side, is the bonding process and the breastfeeding and things like that.
You mentioned water births as well. So I would’ve thought that for a mom that would be quite relaxing and for the baby when they’re born, because babies in the womb have got a lot of water in the womb, so that when they come out and it’s in the water, it’s probably more natural for them.
Beau Wilson: Yes, absolutely. So waterbirths are becoming more common and women are very, very attracted to them because yeah, as you can naturally imagine, they just do seem to be very soothing and relaxing and the problem we have, especially in the public health system in Australia, also in private sector, that waterbirth is not available to a lot of women. Some hospitals might only have one bath for the whole birth suites. There might be 6 to 7 rooms, but only one bath available to all of those women. Also there’s issues with the medical system not supporting waterbirth and suggesting that potentially it’s not safe for the baby.
In the research, there’s nothing to say that it is dangerous. What it tells us is that for a healthy woman and baby, a healthy pregnancy and a labor that’s progressing well, it’s absolutely very, very safe and a very effective way for the woman to manage the pain. As you mentioned, yes, through my observation, a lot of midwives that have worked with waterbirth, we observe the babies born in water to be be very, very calm babies, at least in those first couple of hours after birth because that transition from inside the womb is, is smoother. It’s from warm water to warm water and no real shock to the baby’s system and even things like the rest of the environment, often in the waterbirth setting, the lights are dim. The whole environment is a lot more calming for the woman and of course then the baby as well.
Helen Thompson: When I think of a water birth, I envisage a pool of water, like a swimming pool. I’m asking this cuz I don’t know, I’m presuming it doesn’t have chlorine and all that in it. It’s just warm water. Not so deep that the baby can drown, but relatively deep so the baby comes out in the water. Is there any salt or anything in the water?
Beau Wilson: No, we don’t put anything in the water and yes, as you mentioned it, the water is fairly deep. We like to have the woman’s breasts up to the waterline because then she can move around in the water as she needs to, even to the last minute, at the birth and baby still stays submerged.
So we want baby to be born fully in the water for that smooth transition and then once baby is brought up often by the mum herself, bringing the baby up to her chest, that’s when the baby takes its first breath, being exposed to outside of the water environment. It depends on the birth setting, but some hospitals will have an actual bath. Normally it’s a circular bath to give more space for the woman to move and things.
Some hospitals you will need to bring your own blow up, inflatable pool. So there are actually birth pools designed for that, but some people have actually been able to use even like kitty pools. Obviously the idea is though that it’s a little bit deeper than your usual sort of little kitty pool.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’m asking again cause I don’t know, is the cord cut after the baby is brought up to the breast to the mum or is it cut in the water?
Beau Wilson: No, so baby is brought up to mother’s chest and they take their first breath out in room air. In a hospital environment, the next few minutes the woman would be helped out of the bath and then the cord would be clamped and cut, and then the delivery of the placenta would come. Often in home birth settings, there’s no need to bring the woman out of the bath. We support the woman to just relax in the bath with the baby for those first few moments after birth, and there’s no rush in that sense. Often women having a physiological labor and birth and a waterbirth like that, those women will choose to have what’s called delayed cord clamping, which is where the umbilical cord is left intact until the blood flow from mom to baby finishes. That just finishes on its own after 3 – 4 minutes after birth and the aim of that is for baby to get as much of their blood as they can in their body.
The research tells us if we wait for that to happen over a couple of minutes, baby can get up to one third more of their total blood volume. Whereas very commonly in a hospital system, once baby’s born, we just clamp cut and that blood supply is cut off and that can be a problem because we do see lots of babies and young children with iron deficiencies. So this is a benefit of delayed cord clamping, allowing baby to get as much of their blood volume as possible.
Helen Thompson: You mentioned also you’re a student of homeopathy and you’ve been mentioning a lot of natural therapies that you do. So how does homeopathy help with pregnancy?
Beau Wilson: Yeah, so I became interested in homeopathy just under a year after my baby was born, a few years ago now. I learnt from a local homeopath about the benefits and I was very intrigued and I knew about homeopathy decades ago, but I always thought you needed a practitioner to help you and it was quite complex and I thought it involved, herbal medicines and things like that. So I didn’t really realize it was safe for babies and things like that, but when I learnt a little bit more about it, I realized that homeopathy is really energy medicine. So when a remedy is made, the substance that we make that remedy from, is actually physically left out of the actual remedy once it’s made. So because of that, it doesn’t interact with other drugs or it doesn’t matter the age of the person who is taking it. It is perfectly fine for newborns to have, pregnant women, elderly, all of that. So, what I realized is that there were so many home uses for it that I could learn, to empower myself to look after my new baby.
So in that time I used homeopathy at home for first signs of illness, for snotty noses, congestion, for bumps and bruises. I realized, wow, I felt so empowered to have my own way of looking after my baby without having to run down to the doctor as soon as I was concerned and often when we do see a doctor, they look at the the illness and that’s it. They say, look, there’s antibiotics for this, bronchitis or this illness. There’s lots of obviously repercussions with taking generic antibiotic for an illness that is individual to that person.
So homeopathy is different in that it addresses the totality of the symptoms of the person. It also considers what makes the person feel a bit better or what makes them feel a bit worse, and things like that. So the remedy that’s chosen for the person is very, very individualized to them.
So yeah, I couldn’t help it, I had to start my studies. To me, it was just a natural transition into bringing more holistic services into my practice as a midwife and so now there’s so many possibilities. There’s remedies to encourage the baby, to turn, to relax the uterus and help the baby to turn into an optimal position for labor and birth. If the woman is worried that baby is breach or posterior, there’s remedies for pain relief in labor, Arnica is just an amazing all round remedy, of course, for bumps and bruises. Very, very good for all women having any birth, whether it be vaginal birth or cesarean. There’s obviously a lot of internal tissue damage and things like that and tearing and Arnica just helps tremendously to help the woman recover quicker and, yeah, just a myriad of other remedies that are just so, so helpful and supportive for the woman and the baby.
Helen Thompson: Thank you for sharing that. I’m a great believer in natural therapies and that’s why I like the idea of the water births but also the homeopathy side. That part really intrigues me and I think it’s good for moms to be more aware through a midwife what natural products you can use, that you don’t have to have all the medical procedures. You can do it naturally.
Beau Wilson: Absolutely, yeah and this whole idea, you know, me starting my birth education is helping women to feel more empowered and in control and I think homeopathy just offers that other option for them to have more control over their experience and being able to treat so many things that they wouldn’t be able to do in conventional medicine, I guess. Yeah.
Helen Thompson: So thank you for sharing all of that and I know you are in Western Australia. If somebody wanted to get in touch to find out how they can be supported how can they do that?
Beau Wilson: Absolutely. So my website is www.birthtobaby.com au and on Instagram and Facebook social media my account is birthtobabyaus for Australia.
Helen Thompson: Yep, okay Beau, well thank you so much. I’ve actually learned a lot from you by talking to you about different sort of techniques with midwifery. I like it, cause as I said before, it’s a natural approach. So thank you for being here on the podcast, I’ve really, really enjoyed talking to you.
Beau Wilson: Oh, thank you so much for your time, Helen. It’s been a pleasure.
Helen Thompson: I learnt a lot from Beau about active birthing and was particularly fascinated to hear about water birthing and how she has incorporated the use of homeopathy into her teaching to help mums further. I highly recommend checking out her website and her social media, and I’ve included links to the Birth to Baby website and social media in the show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/121.
Next week I’m chatting with friendship mentor and coach Emily Siegel all about putting together a circle of supportive friends. Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you can get quick and easy access to all our episodes when they are live.