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Powerbirth?

Many people ask me, “What form of childbirth do you practice?”  My answer to them is, “No form and all forms.” 

Although I am quite familiar with all of the well know birth philosophies and have tried many of the techniques in giving birth to my own children, I believe that childbirth was created by God to be a perfect process, in and of itself, and that no man nor woman can rightfully claim a technique to be their own invention,  neither does one technique work for every woman or for the same woman in the births of different children.

There has been much controversy circulating over a philosophy called “Powerbirth” written in an educational manual by a highly respected Midwife and teacher, Lydi Owen.  I have been so labeled a “powerbirth midwife”  because I served as Lydi’s apprentice many years ago and she is my dear friend.  I honor her and I support her endeavors.  She is an amazing midwife who has delivered more babies, at home, than any midwife I know (over 2700) and has trained many midwives, including myself.  I also appear on her “Powerbirth” DVD where I am interviewed and seen delivering twins.  

Most of these “anti-Powerbirth” opinions, are written by competitive birth professionals who have not read Lydi’s manual and have formed false impressions of what “Powerbirth” really means.  I am quite aquainted with Lydi’s philosophy and would like to clarify the truth on a few misconceptions and blatant falsities. 

1. It is not true that “Powerbirth” advocates forceful, unnatural pushing prior to full dilation.  In Lydi’s use of the word, “Power,” she does not mean “force” but strength and ability of mind and body.  Her Powerbirth does encourage mother’s confidence in their abilities to give birth naturally and to listen and respond to their body’s natural urges, whether it be to breathe and relax, moan, grunt, “let down” their babies or even bear down as forcefully as their body is directing; and at any time during the birthing process, regardless of cervical dilation, without fear of hurting themselves or their babies.   Experienced midwives know that a mother who is not drugged will not hurt herself thus causing herself more pain. 

Lydi’s manual describes the changes in the cervix during labor and disputes the theory that pushing causes cervical swelling because it has been discovered that cervixes will swell with blood just prior to “popping” open quickly to full dilation during transition.  This will happen whether mother pushes or not, but has been blamed on pushing because it happens at the exact time that mothers get that natural urge.  Lydi’s Powerbirth manual also redefines the stages of labor and explains the truth about prodromal labor.  It is probably the most informative and descriptive piece of birth literature that I have ever read.  I have not met a reader who did not gain much insight from the manual.

If vaginal exams were never performed and mothers were not taught to fear these urges, they would do this naturally and babies would be born safely, in less time, with less pain and with less physical and emotional trauma.

2. “Powerbirth” advocates the use of natural laboring positions and pelvic tilting.  A mother will naturally assume the position that aids in labor progression if she is aware of the benefit of more effective contractions and the means by which babies rotate through the pelvis.  “Power” is education.  “Power” is control of ones own birthing.   Animals on the farm can be seen using these same labor positions which come instinctly to them and also to humans when no rules are attached.  Midwives and medical persons alike can grossly misunderstand the use of gravity in childbirth.

3. Powerbirth does not advocate “Manual Dilation.”  No where in the manual is it written that manual dilation should or could take place in normal, natural childbirth.   I must point out that stripping of membranes and cytotech and pitocin induction are forms of “manual dilation” that are considered acceptable to most birthing professionals.  Powerbirth does not advocate nor believe in artificial inductions under normal conditions.  It is believed that they are a result of failure to trust the body’s ability to give birth.  Powerbirth does not advocate unnecessarily long, exhausting labors that often result in hospital transport for pitocin induction and/or c-section.  It is believed that these abnormally long and hard labors can cause damage to the pelvic floor, stress to the baby, maternal exhaustion, unnecessary need for medical intervention and raise the risk of other complications including post partum depression.  With a midwife there to help you, who has thorough knowledge of the mechanisms of labor;  and with no “rules” to hold you back from doing what your body is telling you to do naturally, there is no need, in most cases, for active labor to last more than a few hours, even with a first time mother.

In conclusion;  I am not a “Powerbirth” midwife or a  midwife by any other label.  I am a “Midwife.” I have been blessed with female intuition.  This intuition, combined with my experience and the experience of those who have gone before me, allows me to draw upon the techniques that suit the individual laboring woman and her unborn baby.  Every birth is different.  Knowing how to “customize” a birth to fit individual needs, knowing when and how to help (and when to do nothing,)  is where the true art of midwifery comes in.