So, we need to protect the mother (and the mother, herself) from anything that ignites the mother's thinking brain. Great. We need to support her sinking into her primal, reptilian brain, her other-worldly space from which the love cocktail that makes baby and mother work well together flows. Awesome. What things trigger that thinking brain? Spending time with Odent, Lammers and their gentle birth science reveals five important factors, five ambient conditions, that inhibit the birth process. These are the things we can protect a mother (and baby) from in service of safe, gentle, natural birth: bright light, talking, observation, cold and ambient adrenaline.
Just like we need to turn off or dim the lights to invite the hormones of deep rest, and likewise how low light or darkness helps us sink in to connected intimacy with our partners, laboring in very low-to-no light helps a mother's melatonin disengage the neocortex and let oxytocin flow.
We can protect a mother from bright light by turning out the lights, blacking out windows, and using soft candle-light if needed.
While many a mother may give voice to all sorts of things from a deep non-neocortex place during labor (Odent is fond of reminding us that when a woman is "talking crazy" at birth, she is doing especially well as she is outside of her rational thinking brain) talking to a laboring woman can interfere with the birth process. Receiving words of instruction (even encouragement), or being asked questions, encourages her to actively listen, analyze and comprehend, then probably formulate a response. This pulls her out of her reptilian brain and into her thinking brain. When the birth space is silent or very quiet, and free of talking from others, she need not engage in hormone-inhibiting conversation.
We can protect her from talking by not talking and helping others in the birth space to not talk to her or in her presence as well.
When I know I'm being watched, I am more aware of myself, of what I am doing, of my cultural conditioning around being observed (not least of which include "How do I look?" and "What does that person think of me/what I am doing?").
This observation and imposed awareness tend to keep a woman's rational brain in full function. It is very common for birth assistants to hover near a birthing woman, to demonstrate their support and make themselves available. It is also common, in fact, standard, for medically-trained birth assistants (doctors, midwives, nurses) to insert fingers or instruments into the vagina to check dilation, to use belly-based fetal monitors, and to discuss the "progress" of a woman's birth in front of her, reiterating their observation. Within the Odent course and teachings, I often hear references of doulas resting in the corner of a dark room, entering that space very sparingly, or knitting somewhere out of the way. My birth doula arrived at my house when I was pushing (my labor started hard and progressed very rapidly), and she spent much of the delivery knitting on the couch. She made her presence known only when she read thoughtfully that it was truly needed.
We can protect a mother from observation by staying out of her immediate surroundings and keeping others out as well while reading the possible needs from a discreet and quiet distance.
If you imagine trying to enjoy a romantic dinner while shivering, or achieving orgasm outside in a cold breeze, you might imagine how being cold could shut down the warm, cuddling love cocktail that birth requires. Being cold makes us tense, it instinctually invites fear (which summons adrenalin, which ignites the neocortex, which shuts down the flow of oxytocin and company). Since staying warm is part of survival, a mother will prioritize getting warm (requiring problem-solving) for herself and her baby, thus distracting the body from birthing.
We can protect birthing mothers and babies from the cold by keeping their space very warm during and directly after the birth (two hours minimum).
Ever sit with someone you know, feeling perfectly fine and peaceful, then notice you're feeling tense and a little agitated for no reason? Ever notice that this tension is coming from the other person, that you are picking up the contagion of nervousness he is experiencing?
This is fairly subtle, but is a proven scientific reality; adrenaline is contagious (not just extreme adrenaline, but subtler levels that accompany fear and worry, as well).
As noted in the cold section and applicable to others, adrenaline ignites the neocortex. Adrenaline hormone is the antithesis, in fact, a rival to oxytocin. Oxytocin will not flow when high levels of adrenaline are present and will be inhibited by any presence of adrenaline. It may be helpful to note that scientists know that the flight or fight response triggered by adrenaline and cortisol are more easily triggered in men than in women. For this reason (combined with the issue of feeling observed), Odent urges birthing women to have their births supported by women (only women), especially helpful if these women are mothers who have had a good birth experience, thus less easily frightened by birth and acting as a mother-figure for the woman.
We can protect mothers from ambient adrenaline by staying calm and relaxed, removing ourselves and others from the birth space when worry, fear, or nervous energy is present.