Sphincter Law- Part 1

doula at work
In birth work, obstetricians use the Law of Three Ps:

• Passenger (baby)
• The Passage (the pelvic structure and vagina)
• And the Powers (strength of uterine contractions)

From these Ina Gaskin believes stems the misunderstood capacity of a woman’s body from both the pregnant woman and the doctors who work with them. From the misunderstood capacities are the causative factors leading to all the interventions and procedures that now create problems in birthing, such as: Cesarean sections, Forceps use, vacuum extractors, etc.

The blame is placed upon women, for what obstetricians see as “dysfunctional birth”. Women have birthed for eons without a hitch; doctors perceive having a baby as “a problem of physics rather than a millions-of-years-old physiological process (168)”.

The Basics of Sphincter Law

• They function best when the atmosphere is private, and familiar.
• They do not open “at will” and do not respond to commands such as “Push!”
• When in the process of opening (relaxing) they will suddenly close down if a person is upset, frightened, humiliated, or self-conscious. This is the reason why in most traditional cultures women assist women in birth.
• If the mouth and jaw are relaxed, there is a direct correlation to the ability of the sphincters opening in the cervical and vaginal area (or the anus, for that matter).

What are the Sphincters?

These are a grouping of muscles that surround the rectum, bladder, the cervix and vagina. Each has a function for the body. These muscles remain contracted to keep the openings of certain organs held shut until something needs to pass through.

How do they work?

They work in conjunction with the brain. The brain has two sections that directly influence the functions of the Sphincters. These sections are the neocortex and the brain stem (or “primal” brain).

The brain stem is the portion that is directly connected to hormonal functions, and more instinctual. The hormones it releases (related to birth) are oxytocin (the main ingredient in the drug Pitocin, used to induce labor), endorphins, and prolactin.

Whereas the neocortex stimulation works to inhibit the brain stem from hormone release. It is “stimulated” during labor by asking too many questions of a woman in labor, bright light, and failure to protect her privacy during birth.

The sphincters work with the brain stem (and its many hormonal excretions) by a relaxation response. They respond to emotions. A good example of this relaxation response is what happens when toilet functions are interrupted. Everything gets held in, and it takes a while to relax again, right?

~more on the “Sphincters” next week!

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