Friday, March 18, 2011

Home Birth Works Cooperatively with the Sphincter Law

This article is the sixth in a 7-part series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out the Pregnancy and Parenting Index.

As described in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth [1], the vaginal and cervical sphincters operate just as the excretory ones do. “Each sphincter’s job is to relax and expand so that it can open comfortably and wide enough to allow the passage of whatever must move through” [1]. Since the cervix and vagina are sphincters, they operate under the Sphincter Law. This means that they do not respond to orders (such as someone telling a mother to push), they work best “in an atmosphere of familiarity and privacy”, they “may suddenly close when their owner is startled or frightened”, and they are more easily opened when the mouth and jaw are relaxed. Furthermore, “the presence of a strange person in the birth room, especially if the person is male and not an intimate companion of the laboring woman, frequently (although not always) slows or stops labor” [1].

The atmosphere while birthing at home naturally works well with the Sphincter Law. The mother is comfortable with her surroundings, and the only people present are those that she knows. She is less likely to have fear as her midwives will generally treat labor and birth as a natural occurrence rather than as a medical situation that must be managed. Since the mother will be comfortable and have less fear, she may experience labor as a more joyous process, possibly even smiling and laughing which would further allow her body to work with the Sphincter Law. I certainly would not have felt as comfortable birthing in a hospital as I was at home, and the Sphincter Law shows that the mother’s comfort level is intimately connected to how smoothly her labor can progress.

1.  Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin, 2003, pp. 141 and 170-179.


Anonymous said...

Very well written! Thank you for getting straight to the point and illustrating exactly what this is and how it relates to birth.

Abi said...

I have Crohn's disease and have been doing GAPS for over a year. I've had 10 major surgeries in the past, but since starting GAPS I've improved greatly. Do you think it's a wise idea for me to try for a home birth? Or will I be a high risk pregnancy? I would LOVE a home birth. I just worry a little because both of my half-sisters had to have c-sections. How do you know if you NEED a c-section?

Abi said...

My email is I don't know how to subscribe to get updates comments on this blog. Would love to hear from you!

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Abi,
Whether or not someone is low-risk during pregnancy has to do with how their body is handling the pregnancy. For instance, if someone has gestational diabetes or pregnancy-induced hypertension, then they are no longer "low-risk". As long as the pregnancy is progressing normally with none of these (or other complications), then the pregnancy is low-risk. The best way to know what category you fall into is to talk with a homebirth midwife. I personally would not go to an obstetrician or even a hospital midwife unless the homebirth midwives have determined that I am not a good candidate for home birth.