Each individual is part of a family, and families are integral building blocks making up society. When the family is upright and healthy (spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically), the individuals raised from this family will be upright, and when the individuals are upright, his family, in turn, will be upright, and so we build an upright Ummah insha’Allah.
Childbirth educators understand that birth is a normal life event that deserves a family – centred circle of care for the birthing woman and her family.
We focus on wellness, health promotion, knowledge of informed consent, evidence-based care, and the use of nonmedical and self-care techniques to encourage a normal physiologic pregnancy, labour, and birth.
Consulting with a childbirth educator doesn’t in any way replace consultation with your primary healthcare provider but rather we work as part of a team which includes the birthing mother, family, healthcare providers, and community resources.
The key person in this circle, being the birthing mother.
I have put together a list of 5 things, which if every couple learns, can prevent trauma, depression, build a healthy marriage and make a family stronger. Good news is If you didn’t have the opportunity to learn these things the first time around, it’s never too late to learn, adapt and do better the next time inshaaAllaah.
Reproduction, Conception & Pregnancy
Couples should know about both male and female anatomy & physiology.
This creates understanding in the relationship.
A husband should be sensitive to the emotional and physical changes his wife undergoes when she is pregnant as well as when she isn’t.
They should learn about any lifestyle changes that may need to take place from both sides to improve fertility.
They should learn about pregnancy nutrition, exercises to prepare the body for labour, the possible discomforts of pregnancy eg nausea, fatigue, heartburn, how to ease these, how to support her during this time, and any potential warning signs.
Knowing this beforehand reduces the amount of stress of having to deal with these issues when they crop up, and not knowing what to do.
A happier, calmer pregnancy leads to a healthier baby and can prevent premature labour and low birth weight.
The Physiological Process and Stages of Labour and Birth
Allah taála in His infinite wisdom has designed a woman’s body, completely capable of birth without the need for intervention – from the joints of the pelvic bones that loosen, to baby’s skull moulding in order to fit through the birth canal, to the amazing pain-relieving hormones released when a woman feels loved, safe, relaxed and supported.
Thus letting nature run its course without interruption is the safest way to birth, leads to a quicker recovery, makes birth a pleasant family experience, prevents birth trauma and could save a tremendous amount of money by preventing any unnecessary medical interventions. (Please note I am not talking about a high – risk or complicated pregnancy here, as many interventions including Caesarian births can be life-saving when there is a true need).
Learning how to support the mother can strengthen the marriage bond immensely. When the husband knows what to expect, he can be a much stronger and calmer form of support to his wife.
Some things to learn are:
- what the signs of labour are,
- how to time contractions,
- when to go to the hospital or birthing centre
- what is normal behaviour to expect in each stage of labour and how to support her best in each stage. Eg. massage, reminding her to breathe, physically supporting her with different labour positions to encourage baby passing down the pelvis, and if the husband is capable, for him to recite Quran to her during labour and to make thikr & salawaat together during birth, to bring about tranquility and consciousness of Allah’s Nusrah.
Rights of a birthing woman, Informed Consent and Evidence-Based Care
1 in 6 women in 1st world countries reported being mistreated while in labour. This included ‘’loss of autonomy, being shouted at, scolded, or threatened, and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help”.
This was more common among women of colour, of lower socioeconomic status, and women under the age of 30.
What do you think the stats will look like in South Africa?
The only way there will be change, is to start educating ourselves about the rights of a birthing woman and her family, and taking a stand for it. In saying this, I don’t necessarily mean litigations and kicking up a fuss, but rather knowing your preferences and communicating it respectfully beforehand.
According to the International Childbirth Initiative, among the rights of a birthing woman, are:
- she has the right to medical care based on the latest research and proven evidence – this is Evidence-Based Care
- that – she is treated with dignity, and that her customs, values and privacy are respected.
- that she has the right to free or at least affordable care.
- she has the right to continuous support during labour.
- she has the right to be offered non – pharmacological comfort and pain relief measures first
- if any pharmacological pain relief or procedures are needed, she needs to have the benefits and risks explained to her, time to think about it, and the freedom of choice. This is called Informed Consent.
Being more aware of different birthplace options, types of procedures, pain medications and their advantages & contraindications, and communicating these to your healthcare provider beforehand, or if need be, changing healthcare providers if they don’t align with your values, ensures a calmer, less stressful and traumatic birth – this is more commonly known as Birth planning, or knowing and discussing your labour, birth & postpartum Preferences.
Postpartum care of the Mother
Traditional Moroccan midwives have a saying that the grave of a Nafsaa’ (a woman who has just given birth) is open for 40 days. This is an analogy showing her vulnerability; she is bleeding, her uterus and pelvic bones need to heal and close.
The more support and rest she receives, the better she can recover, and the less likely she is to suffer from Postpartum Depression.
The better she feels, the better she can be a nurturer of her family again.
In Moroccan tradition, no Nafsaa’ should have any financial burdens (rent, bills etc) or need to cook or clean for at least the next 40 days.
This is just the case for a woman who gave birth naturally, it stands to reason that a woman who had to undergo pelvic floor stitches or a caesarian birth needs more time to recover.
A recent study found that 1 in 7 women suffered from Postpartum Depression.
And did you know that up to 1 in 4 fathers suffer from Postpartum Depression?
This has nothing to do with the physiology of a male, or his hormones, but rather the stress of having a baby.
This rate can increase to 1 in 2 for the fathers when the mother is suffering from Postpartum Depression. Good postpartum care of a mother facilitates a happy mother, happy home and happy family. Having someone to talk to about relaxation and self-care, the impact a baby can have on the marriage, and knowing the warning signs of any mood, anxiety or depression disorders during pregnancy and postpartum is very important.
Newborn Care and breastfeeding
When both parents understand how breastfeeding works, it prevents any unnecessary anxiety and stress.
The husband can be a tremendous moral support for his wife when she endures any breastfeeding difficulty or feels unsure of herself.
New parents need to learn about the benefits of early skin – skin contact between both mother and baby, and father and baby.
Did you know that early skin to skin contact between baby and father positively wires his brain for fathering? Also, when Dads have more knowledge of assisting with baby care e.g. bathing, nappy changes, what is a healthy nappy output, common baby ailments etc. this allows for better postpartum recovery for the mother.
Now more than ever – when the media is making every effort to turn children against their parents, using the devices and entertainment to preoccupy individuals from having good relationships with one another, burdening people with unrealistic expectations of physical appearance and material wealth, and encouraging liberalism and divorce – can not be a better time to take great care to strengthen our families and our village and be concerned with how we treat our women and children. It is said that a woman rocks her baby in one hand and the Ummah in the other. (Source unknown). I have really only scratched the surface of this fascinating subject. I encourage you as couples to contact me to book a consult or course where I go more in-depth.
A version of this post has been previously published in Islam The Way of Life Sep 2020