How does the mind affect birth? The mind has been likened to an iceberg. The part you see above the water is the conscious mind. You can understand it, see how big it is, and generally get to grips with it. It is, of course, the most wonderful tool that we are privileged to have at our disposal. The unconscious mind is likened to the part of the iceberg that is under the water; much larger, much more significant, but we can’t really tell how extensive it is, how powerful it is, or where it begins or ends. When we ask questions about how it works, it’s the conscious mind asking about something that it isn’t, the unconscious mind. By definition the questions are unanswerable.
Without the mind, the body is merely a hunk of meat, and, when you stop to think for a moment, it’s obvious that anything and everything that the body does is at the instigation of the mind.
The body knows how to give birth. We certainly don’t sit down and decide with our conscious mind when we’re going to go into labour or how the labour is going to be. It happens at the right time when the baby is ready and in the right way. What we can do however is get in the way. Michel Odent, the obstetrician who instigated water birthing at his unit in Pitiviers near Paris in the 1980s is quoted as saying: “Never, never disturb the neocortex of the labouring woman,” and indeed it is true that any mammal will give birth only where she feels safe, secure and unobserved. If the mind is worried or disturbed it impedes the natural function of the body. We can see it in the finals of a major sporting event when a top sportsman will fail to reach his potential because of nerves, and it’s just the same in labour. For a woman’s body to function naturally and efficiently, she has to feel secure at a deep subconscious level.
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