Mamas on Bedrest: What We can Learn From Elephant Births!

June 25th, 2014

safe_imageGreetings Mamas!

This video showing the birth of a baby elephant is all over Facebook, and I even posted it to the Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond Page. Now I have been known to post all things mamas and babies on this page, so it probably was no surprise when this video appeared. However, I want to call your attention to some very specific details in this video that should be mandatory for any birthing female-of any species! I truly believe that if we practiced the habits exhibited by the elephants in this video, birth outcomes in humans (especially in the US) may very well improve!

1. Allow Mama to labor in whatever position is most comfortable for her. Throughout this video, the laboring mama elephant is moving about the elephant pen and doing what she can to find comfortable positions while her baby makes its way through her birth canal. This mama is not placed in the lithotomy (on her back, legs up in the air) position! And mama is not being given any medications to “speed up the labor” or to dull the pain. This mama elephant’s birth is following nature’s course and in due time, this mama elephant gives birth to a healthy baby elephant.

2. Mama should make whatever sounds she needs to make while laboring and delivering. This mama elephant cries out when she needs to and in a way that is natural to her. No one is telling her to “Get mad” and push her baby out! She is using sound and movements natural to her to manage her labor and delivery.

3. Mamas may snack while in labor. At one point during the video, another elephant offers the laboring mama a branch to snack on as she labors. This is in stark contrast to laboring women her in the US who are not given food and water but instead are hooked up to an IV fluid bag “In case a c-section is necessary”.

4. Mama took all the time she needed to labor. No one told mama elephant that her labor was taking too long, she wasn’t given pitocin and she wasn’t told she’d need a c-section if her labor went beyond a certain time. Mama Elephant simply kept roaming the pen and moving about until finally her body pushed her baby out “at the perfect time”.

5. Other female elephants were there at the birth. African Elephants are known to be very tribal and when a female is giving birth, the other females of the herd care for her and support her during her pregnancy, are present and assist as needed during labor and delivery and help the new mama raise her young one. African Elephants have a 22 month gestation and only get pregnant once every 5 years, so supporting the growth and development of the babies is critical to the survival of the herd. As seen in this video, when a mama elephant is laboring, the other females of the herd offer her food (tree branches), keep her cool (throw sand on her body), check the birth progress (sniff and lick her bottom) and help clean and care for the new baby when it was born.

In many cultures and species, birthing is considered to be “women’s work”. If we look throughout history, women traditionally attended births; be it the mom, aunties, cousins, or other women in the community. In this way, the wisdom of childbearing and childrearing was passed down. Modern day obstetrics severely hinders this passage of information from woman to woman and generation to generation. It has in many ways thwarted the knowledge many new mamas have at childbirth and the shared commitment to the mother and infant from families and communities. In Elephants, once the elephants mate, the male moves on to another herd while the newly pregnant mama elephant is now cared for and supported by the mamas, aunties, sisters and cousins in her herd. A pregnant elephant is never left on her own because her herd recognizes that the survival of the entire herd depends upon everyone being healthy and well. So mama is nurtured throughout her pregnancy, labor and delivery and once the baby is born, the entire herd raises the baby.

We could learn a lot from elephants and quite possibly improve our human birth outcomes!!

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