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Holistic Birthing

I want to share a source of frustration with you, the term “holistic” when it is applied to natural birthing. This is not because I am in any way against holistic birthing.  In fact, I encourage women to prepare holistically.  What frustrates me is the term, and the inappropriate way it is used and understood.

Holistic really means “whole.”  In holistic care you care for the whole person – body, mind and soul/spirit.  You worry about the emotions and the vital signs.  You ensure adequate spiritual and intellectual development. It is a package deal.

  • You are not doing holistic care because you use herbs.  Herbs treat the body just as pharmaceuticals do. The correct term in this instance is natural care.
  • You are not doing holistic care because you hired a midwife, or because you are planning an unassisted birth.  “Who” helps you does not define holistic.  “What” they do with and for you defines holistic.
  • Eating a healthy diet and exercise are getting closer, because they will have effects on mood and overall well-being.  But to think your preparations are holistic because you are caring for your physical body isn’t quite the definition of holistic.

So, what do I think holistic preparations really means? I believe true holistic care begins with care for the spirit or soul, encompasses the care of the mind and ensures the health of the body. It involves prayer or journaling or singing – whatever it takes to help you grow spiritually to prepare for this new baby.  It involves doing the work to restore relationships and heal from previous wounds, seeking forgiveness for the wounds you have inflicted on others. It requires honesty about who you are and what changes you need to make.  It takes the humility of accepting what you do not know and seeking wisdom and information from respected sources.  Within all this, is the physical care of the body – which comes in many forms.

In what ways has your pregnancy preparation been holistic?

What changes can you make to be wholly prepared for birth?

Need some ideas?  Check out the section on emotional preparation for childbirth.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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