We’ve always discussed what a mum feels – both emotionally and physically – during pregnancy, labour and birth. We understand her anxieties, her discomfort, her emotions and more because there is just so much that has been studied and written about all of these.
What a woman feels during labour and birth are perhaps the most talked about topics in a woman’s journey to become a mother, even more so than pregnancy.
But, have you ever stopped to think about what your baby might feel as he is born? Does it hurt? Does he feel excitement, sadness, joy or even pain? Mummy is able to take pain relief for the contraction, but what about baby, when he is being squeezed through the birth canal?
Food for thought, isn’t it? Which is why we help you understand what the other person involved in the birthing process feels.
Your little baby feels your contractions…
Labour and birth: What baby feels
“Mummy, I feel your contractions”
You might think you are the only one who feels contractions, but your little darling knows when you get contractions too.
This is reflected by his little heart beating faster during those big squeezes. During contractions, your baby also receives slightly less oxygen, but he is well equipped to deal with this, sometimes even snoozing right through.
It is because your little one feels your uterus squeezing around him that his heart rate is constantly monitored when you are in labour. A drop in your little one’s heart rate may indicate he is in distress and he might pass meconium while still inside your womb if this happens.
But Mummies, also remember that when you go into labour, you produce a lot of the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin – and this helps baby stay calm and happy.
How you can help baby: yes, contractions might be tough, but your baby is so in tune with your emotions that your stress can stress him out too. Use techniques such as visualisation (e.g. visualise your ‘happy place’) to help keep calm, which in turn will keep bubs stress-free too.
As your contractions become more intense, baby gets pushed down the birth canal and may react to this sensation in various ways.
“I’m moving down the birth canal, Mummy!”
As your contractions become more intense and closer together, baby’s head moves closer and closer to the birth canal, where it will soon get lodged.
Now, with your contractions happening hard and fast, your baby definitely feels the uterine walls squeezing around him. But experts say it is unlikely that he experiences this sensation as pain.
“It appears that the neural connections that would lead a baby to interpret sensations as ‘pain’ may not be developed at the time of labour,” says Dr Anne Deans, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, England.
How you can help your baby: focus on your breathing so that baby gets plenty of oxygen to help him get through the final ‘big push’.
“I’m almost with you, Mummy…”
You will be completely focussed on pushing by now. Your baby is doing his very best to squeeze and move his way through the birth canal with each push. While some babies experience a more difficult journey (e.g. breech, posterior and transverse babies), all babies are physiologically prepared for their journey.
“Because the plates of his skull aren’t fixed, his skull is able to ‘mould’ to the shape of the birth canal as he travels through it,” explains Dr Anne Deans, a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, England.
How you can help your baby: use gravity to make his journey a little easier. When you lie passively on your back during labour, for your baby, it’s like pushing uphill. But if you are semi-reclining, on all-fours, or in water, baby’s experience is made easier.
“I’m here, I’m your baby…” Image Credit: Kailee Riches Photography, via Birth Becomes Her
“Just a bit more!”
You might feel a burning sensation as baby’s head crowns. While this is painful, it’s also very good news because it means that in a few minutes, you’ll be holding your sweet baby in your arms.
Your baby is feeling a very tight sensation by now and is getting ready to breathe once he comes into the world. Dr Deans says:
“The pressure on your baby’s body as he squeezes through the narrow birth canal is actually helpful in preparing him to live outside the uterus. The compression expels fluid and mucus from his lungs and also prevents him from breathing and inhaling fluid and blood as he passes through the birth canal. This all helps to prepare him to take his first breath.”
If your little one is born into a cold, bright environment, he could possibly feel shock. In contrast, a dimly-lit, soothing environment will calm him.
How you can help your baby: ask for immediate skin-to-skin contact with baby after birth. By doing this, you help to regulate his heart and respiratory rate, keep him snug, and get him ready for that all-important first latch at your breast.
So there it is, mums. Will we ever stop wondering at the miracle of birth? I think not!