WHAT CONTRIBUTES TO SELF ESTEEM IN BIRTHING WOMEN?
Research does show that childbirth experience has an effect on women’s self-esteem after birth and can impact her emotional availability to her baby immediately afterwards. Giving birth will tend to be integrative or disintegrative, depending on the support, preparation and acceptance of her feelings before, during and after the birth. Her sense of maintaining psychological wholeness throughout the labor, whatever the method or kind of birth, is key to a positive sense of self. Giving birth is an experience of great magnitude. It naturally follows that the more intact a woman feels emotionally, the easier it is for her body to adapt to the intensity of the labor, as heightened amounts of fear can give messages in some women for the brain to shut off labor. Self-esteem is a part of health.
To support women’s self-esteem through this very important transition to motherhood, we must begin prenatally and continue through the postpartum period. The only hindrance to addressing this is the unconscious societal belief that this is not an experience which warrants such attention. Perhaps it is missed because it is such a common experience -- this miracle that is pregnancy and birth -- that we forget that it is an incredibly powerful and unknown force in so many ways. Perhaps we mistake the scientific ability to describe an event for understanding its essence. It is not a question of positive or negative experience. It is an issue of respecting women in their experience of giving life, and making opportunities available in the course of their prenatal and postpartum care to openly discuss the emotional and physical changes they are undergoing, so that they can integrate the feelings involved.