The purpose of this blog entry is to provide observations between Animal and Human Behaviours During Labour and Delivery. The animals that have been observed are Domestic (Pet) Rats, commonly used in laboratory settings to test reactions to drugs that are used on humans and diseases that affect humans. These particular Domestic Rats are kept in communal cages of 3+ Domestic Rats and are separated prior to delivery, although notes have been taken of deliveries that have occurred prior to separation.
Please take note – this is not a medical study. There is no laboratory involved, nor any funding or research project. This blog entry is merely comparing personal observations and showing the similarities and differences of behaviour between Animals (in this instance the animals are Domestic Rats) and Humans during the birthing process and the effects that Intervention can have on that natural process.
These observations will be put down in three separate parts – Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention in Early Labour, Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention During Delivery and Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention Post Birth.
This blog post has been inspired by past discussions on a Doula support board involving the benefits or lack thereof of Ingestion of the Placenta post birth.
Humans – Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention in Early Labour
Modern humans are impatient and want things to happen quickly. During early labour we tend to, for the most part, try to make things move faster by walking, having sex, doing various routines to try and make sure that the baby is in a good position, eating and drinking when we feel able to. Some women don’t eat at all, and some rarely drink which can cause problems further on during labour. The most common advice given to women during early labour is suggestions to get moving, suggestions to rest, and suggestions to eat and drink so that a woman will have enough energy for the next stage of labour.
If interventions occur during this stage various things can occur – labour may stop or stall, it may slow down, or it may pick up and move faster. Baby may also go into distress if the amniotic sac is artificially broken or pitocin/cytotec is used to make labour progress faster, or baby may be fine and the labour will progress faster or continue to progress at the same rate as before. Also a woman may feel discouraged if she is checked via an internal examination and found to still only 1cm, 2cm or 3cm dilated after many hours of contractions during early labour, she may feel like it is not doing anything and this can make her morose and unhappy, or even make her feel like a failure. A woman may also be very tired which can slow down labour and may cause it to stop or stall. We cannot anticipate exactly what will happen when interventions occur, however we can provide insights in to what has happened to others in the past.
During early labour women may also be irritable and moody, or excited and talk or laugh a lot. Some women may not like to be touched during this stage while others find that touch comforts them a great deal and want someone to be touching them or holding their hand at all times. If a woman is upright and moving around early labour tends be shorter in duration or it might feel to her that it is of a shorter duration because she is partially distracted by the movement.
If a woman does not feel safe in the place where she is while in early labour her body will release adrenalin which will make her body “clamp down” and she may not progress any further on her own without further intervention.
For the majority of human women who do not feel safe or who receive intervention in the form of internal examinations, being touched when they don’t want it or are exposed to lots of noise that is distracting or annoying during the early labour period their labour will slow down or stall. There are always exceptions however.
Rats – Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention in Early Labour
With Domestic Rats early labour goes on for a relatively short time, contractions may start as little as 5 minutes before the active second stage of labour is established, or as long as a few days before the active second stage of labour is established. If a rat is disturbed during this time she will actively stop her labour until such a time as she feels safe again at which point labour will begin again. Rats during this stage can be overly protective of their nesting area and may bite or make noise to warn off intruders.
If they are in a group setting they will attack any rats that they don’t want near them although they may allow other females to sit beside them, this may include allowing another female to groom the labouring rat. During this stage any other females allowed in the nesting area will act protectively towards the labouring rat, they will forcibly remove any other rats who are not permitted in the nesting area, effectively “holding the space” around the labouring rat (this particular piece of information was taken by many in the Doula Group to be the equivalent of other female rats acting as a midwife or doula for the labouring female).
Any intervention will affect the way a female rat labours, and almost always results in the labour stopping entirely until she feels “safe” again.
Humans – Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention During Delivery
During delivery (the 2nd stage of labour which includes the pushing phase) a woman is focused internally on her body. She may become panicked and scared (a normal part of the transition process) and as a result may start demanding things like an epidural, a caesarean and/or drugs to take the pain away, or she may decide that she’s had enough and is going home and won’t have the baby that day and will come back another day (again this is very normal and it is a sign that the birth itself is getting closer).
If intervention occurs during this stage it can do one of 2 things for the woman labouring – make a woman scared and possibly traumatise her, or it may make her feel relieved and happy that something is being done to help her.
Intervention in the form of pitocin, artificially rupturing the amniotic sac, use of forceps or ventouse to help get the baby out or the use of pain relieving drugs at this stage could also cause problems with the woman labouring and could also affect the baby negatively. A woman could haemorrhage or her blood pressure may suddenly drop or rise to dangerous levels. A baby’s heart rate could drop too low or rise too high (aka baby may go into distress), baby may receive injuries to the head, neck or shoulders, and baby may be “floppy” and unresponsive at birth. These interventions can be detrimental mentally and physically to both the mum and the baby and as a result should only be used as a last resort.
Rats – Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention During Delivery
Rats are perfectly capable of delivering alone with no support or complications. A female will lick her baby’s clean, paying particular attention to the umbilical and facial areas, and will consume the placenta straight away before delivering the next baby. Any stillborn babies are removed from the nesting area by the mum and may be cannibalised if they aren’t removed from the cage within 12 hours (rats are self cleaners, they will cannibalise their own dead to try and reduce the threat of predators finding their nest).
If they feel threatened or are disturbed (aka any form of intervention) they will stop their labour and move any babies already delivered to a “safe place” where she will begin labouring again and deliver the rest of her babies. If, however, it takes too long find a safe place (over 3-4 hours) in 99% of cases the remaining unborn babies will be stillborn.
In a group setting other females will help to clean the babies but for the most part will refrain from eating the placentas. The only time another female will eat the placenta is if the labouring female has not eaten it within 20 minutes of delivering a baby, in which case the supporting female will eat it and make sure that the baby is thoroughly cleaned. Any dead babies will be again be removed from the nest and if they are not removed from the cage within 12 hours they will usually be cannibalised. Other females will assist the birthing female to keep babies clean and toileted (baby rats are unable to urinate or defecate without stimulation to those regions, mother rats will lick the areas clean).
If the placentas aren’t consumed directly after the birth of a baby the females labour may stall or stop completely and she may run out of energy quickly. She may be unable to focus on caring for her babies that have already been born and as a result may not feed or clean them correctly. She may bleed for an extended period of time which puts her at risk of haemorrhaging. If the female still hasn’t eaten the placentas after a day this period of not being able to care for her babies may very well extend further until she has regained enough energy to be able to focus on them, but it may also result in her abandoning her babies completely or in her losing her milk.
Humans – Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention Post Birth
Post birth humans can feel excited and happy, teary and sad, or completely numb. If the birth has been traumatic or scary a woman is more likely to feel teary, sad and numb.
Women who eat a piece of their placenta within a couple of hours of birth report feeling more “normal” and more “happy”, while others who don’t eat their placenta may feel the same. Those who do eat their placenta more often than not report that they don’t experience the “baby blues” or only experience a small period of sadness or cry more than normal for a few days and then feel “normal” or better than “normal” afterwards.
Intervention post birth in the form of removing the baby from the mother or not allowing skin to skin contact can be detrimental to the bond between mother and baby. The mother may not bond as well as she could to the baby and the baby may feel “abandoned” by the mother and may cry more than is normal or need to be held more than normal.
A mum may feel inadequate if intervention occurs post birth, she may feel as though she is a failure or that she isn’t a good parent if she can’t care for her baby 24/7.
Extra stress can be classed as an intervention post birth as well and may raise the mothers blood pressure and can potentially affect her milk supply by causing it to reduce and may even stop milk production completely.
Rats – Behaviour and the Effects of Intervention Post Birth
Post birth rats need to be left alone with their babies for at least 12 hours and preferably for 48 hours to ensure that the bond between mother and baby’s is strong. If a rat is disturbed right after giving birth or within the first few hours of birth there is the risk that the mother may feel that her babies are in danger which could result in the mum “eating” her babies, removing them from the nest or may even result in the mother abandoning her babies completely.
Some female rats may be very over protective of their nest and babies and may bite and/or make a lot of noise as a result. They must be left alone if this happens, and experienced rat breeders will not breed them again.
If the female has ingested all of the placentas from her babies she will have regained some energy, the bleeding that occurs during birth will have stopped, and she will be able to focus solely on her babies.
My conclusion is that immediate ingestion of the placenta post birth in Domestic Rats shows a marked increase in energy and the amount of attention and care that is bestowed upon the offspring. Non ingestion of the placenta has shown that Domestic Rats have less energy and show less care towards their offspring than they would normally. This shows that ingestion of the placenta immediately post birth provides benefits of immediate energy and may possibly increase the oxytocin output which helps with the developing maternal-infant bond between mothers and babies. A marked increase in care for the babies with placenta ingestion, and a marked decrease with no placenta ingestion supports this. Rats that ingest the placenta immediately after the birth of the offspring have a shorter labouring time and a reduced amount of bleeding which may point towards the ingestion of the placenta being able to reduce bleeding and thus may prevent or reduce the severity of a post partum haemorrhage.
More research needs to be done, but in Human observations from Placenta Encapsulators, Doula’s and Midwives an increase in maternal energy levels and bonding with baby when some of the placenta is ingested raw immediately (within 2 hours) after birth has been observed regularly. I theorise that by ingesting the placenta so soon after birth it may help with the regulation of oxytocin and other hormones and thus increase the bonding with baby, increase milk production and may also help with healing from the birth by providing the body with an immediate source of energy, nutrients and minerals including iron which we may not otherwise have on hand in the form of other food if the placenta is not eaten. The placenta may also help to prevent post partum haemorrhage or reduce the severity of a post partum haemorrhage, how this occurs is yet to be determined and needs more research. The placenta, by helping to regulate hormones, may also assist in the reduction of the “baby blues” that occur approximately 3-7 days post birth and also may help to prevent Post Partum Depression.
Ingestion of raw placenta prior to encapsulation may also increase the effectiveness of the encapsulated placenta pills as the body has already been exposed to the placenta prior to ingesting the capsules. This is also a theory and would need research done on it, however observations from parents who have done this are so far very positive and I am yet to come across any negative observations, I will continue my search for negative outcomes from early placenta ingestion followed by capsule ingestion.
Student Birth Doula
FOOTPRINTS & RAINBOWS