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Holistic Pregnancy and Birth

by Debra Norton(more info)

listed in women's health, originally published in issue 28 - May 1998

A good birth experience cannot be guaranteed through physical birth preparation alone, but neither does holistic birth preparation guarantee a natural birth. Every woman's experience of birth is unique, and no amount of preparation in body, mind and spirit will ever dictate what a birth will be like. Birth is a journey of personal growth and self discovery, full of surprises and opportunities for learning, just like life itself.

Holistic birth care accepts that necessary obstetric intervention, can become part of the perfect birth experience in a loving way if it is welcomed and accepted by the woman and her partner as part of their decision making process. Gayle Peterson expresses beautifully in Birthing Normally; "a woman births as she lives, expressing the continuity of birth with the rest of her life!" Women can be co-creators of their birthing experience, working with the power of birth, by releasing the need to control it or allowing others to control it for them. This also involves working with fear and allowing a natural progressive opening of the self to trust and let go in birth.

However, in order to "let go" in birth , women need to feel safe, secure, happy and private in their chosen birthing environment. They need to feel that they are making the choices about how their babies will be born and that their choices are being respected and honoured.

Pre-Conceptual Care

Good holistic birth care begins long before pregnancy manifests! Pre-conceptual care is essential to prepare body, mind and spirit for pregnancy. This can include proper nutrition through organic food and herbs, natural healing for menstrual problems, avoidance of environmental toxins, geopathic and electromagnetic stress, creating a harmonious home and office environment, balancing body energy, e.g. through Shiatsu and clearing emotional and unresolved birth issues, e.g. through Rebirthing and metamorphic technique.

Together with my husband a Feng Shui and Metamorphic practitioner, Amanda Rayment, Herbalist and Natural Healer and Nick Gray a Rebirther and Shiatsu practitioner, I offer a residential pre-conceptual intensive to prepare couples as fully as possible for the physical and spiritual process of conception. Some of this pre-conceptual work can continue through early pregnancy, giving women and their partners health care skills for life, not just pregnancy and birth!


From the moment a woman knows she is pregnant, she can begin to connect on a spiritual level with her unborn baby and if there are emotional issues around becoming pregnant, flower essences can help to clear the auric field of mother and baby. There is an amazing essence called Delph made by Andreas Korte from sea water, where dolphins were playing. Their loving and playful energy in this essence can help to nurture the mother from the very beginning of pregnancy. Early nurturing in pregnancy is important for father as well as mother and baby and can bring closeness in their relationship, as well as a feeling of well being to their unborn baby. The spiritual qualities of many herbs especially raspberry leaf can also aid in this process.


Holistic birth care teaches about the importance of womb life. All experiences here are remembered and held in the body and memories are often acted out unconsciously in everyday life. In the words of David Chamberlain PhD, author of Babies Remember Birth: "if all parents, midwives, and obstetricians understood that babies are fully aware and intelligent, both before and during their births, it could transform the way babies are welcomed into the world!" Many babies are still born experiencing pain, which is unnecessary and which shows how much ignorance there is about their most basic human needs. At birth we see the physical miracle of baby emerging from the mother's vagina, but what does this baby feel as she/he is born? Whilst the spirit strives to come into the physical body, the physical body feels the pain of scalp electrodes screwed into the head, of the pressure upon the delicate head when the amniotic sac is pierced to break the waters to speed labour up and the protective bag of waters over the head has been removed. The baby feels the physically uncomfortable process of being weighed and washed immediately after birth, as well as the psychological effect of being removed from its mother's arms unnecessarily. Pioneering obstetrician Michel Odent states that the first hour after birth should be undisturbed to allow maximum potential for bonding and initial breastfeeding.

Prenatal counselling to help resolve anxieties associated with giving birth is necessary for many women who have had a traumatic birth and who are frightened about giving birth again. The healing process can be enhanced by touch therapies like Shiatsu and Aromatherapy to help the woman be more in touch with her body and loosen emotions held within. Flower essences are very supportive at this time, particularly where grief connected with the previous birth is evident.

Post Partum Care

In our culture we have forgotten the need for nurturing of mother, father and baby after birth. The desire to "get back to normal" can cause serious health problems in many women, e.g. uterine misalignment leading to menstrual problems as well as relationship difficulties. Many couples are prepared for birth, but not for life afterwards, so much of the holistic postpartum care is taught in the later weeks of pregnancy. E.g. Ayurvedic diet principles for rapid energy return and plentiful breast milk, principles of natural womb care and preparation for return to menses, healing remedies for perineal stitches, Caesarean scars, sore nipples, etc.

A new vision of birth is emerging in our own culture creating a whole new outlook to birth – it is no longer being seen as an isolated event in women's lives, but an event which has powerful and life long impact and which is inextricably bound up with sexuality, fertility and menstrual life.

Further reading

Birthing Normally by Gayle Peterson. Shadow & Light Publications. 1981.
Pregnant Feelings by Rahima Baldwin. Celestial Arts. 1986.
Macrobiotic Pregnancy and Care of the Newborn by Michio and Aveline Kushi. Japan Publications Inc. 1983.
The Mind of your Newborn Baby, formerly Babies Remember Birth by David Chamberlain. North Atlantic Books. 1997.
Remembering Your Life Before Birth by Michael Gabriel. Aslan Publishing. 1995.
Birth Reborn by Michel Odent. Random House Inc. 1986.
New Active Birth by Janet Balaskas.
Creating a Joyful Birth Experience by Cappacchione and Bardsley. Simon & Schuster. 1994.


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About Debra Norton

Debra Norton trained as a nurse and midwife over twenty years ago. She now teaches an holistic approach to birth care to expectant parents and midwives, and ancient women’s menstrual wisdom to help women reclaim a healthy menstrual cycle: ultimate empowerment for birth. She is a founder member of Birth Matters, the holistic birth association in Bristol which honours the mother, father and baby as a family unit and all their feelings – physical, emotional and spiritual as valid and worthy of respect and recognition. Debra’s holistic birth education training programme, which starts in Bristol in June this year is aimed at giving prospective birth teachers and midwives the space to explore their own childhood patterning, experiences and attitudes to birth, sexuality and boundaries in order to teach birth preparation in a truly holistic way. She can be contacted on Tel: 01305 266156.

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