expectations-effect-birth-outcomes

So now that I have you attention, I want to back up just a bit.

I recently listened to a new podcast (my new obsession by the way) called Invisibilia called “How to become Batman”. I was not expecting to be floored but oh was I! It’s not that the subject matter was new or ground breaking but that they presented the information that reinforced what I already knew with new an amazing story and ‘new-to-me’ research.
The podcast is all about expectations. In all of my childbirth classes we talk about how expectations play a huge roll in childbirth. The quick synopsis is basically what you believe will happen, will actually happen. For some of my students and for a good portions of society, this is a little “out there”. Some will even ask, “so, if I just sit on my couch and think about a red Mustang in my driveway, it will be there?” I think we all know that that’s not going to happen but our thoughts do become our reality.
Let’s use my favorite example of food. Let’s say on my drive to work in the morning, I heard or saw a commercial for doughnuts. As the day went on, I kept thinking about those doughnut and how good they would taste. In my mind, I picked out my favorite flavor(s) and even looked to see where the closest doughnut shop was located. Maybe I mentioned to my spouse or friend that I was craving a chocolate sprinkle doughnut and they agreed. Next thing you know, there is a dozen hot and steamy doughnuts in my kitchen.

Even if you change a few variables, the result is still the same: my thoughts became my reality. It has to happen this way because it is a universal law: like attracts like.This means that if I spend all day thinking about doughnuts, I’m not going to end up with a Mustang, I’m going to end up with doughnuts.

 

There are of course, a lot of variables in this equation that we aren’t going to go into here but the fact remains that expectations are huge. So lets take this one step further. In the previous example we talked about how our own expectation effect our own actions but what if our expectation could effect the people around us. Well, they can! and that brings me to the rats.

 

At the beginning of the podcast, the reporters/story tellers brought in a rat and ask the staff at NPR the question, “Do you think that the thoughts that you have in your head … could influence how that rat moves through space?” The resounding answer was NO.

 

Its a perfectly logical answer. If I was asked the same question, I would have probably given the same answer. But then they introduced the research scientists Bob Rosenthal. Early in his career, he conducted a study where he took a group of ordinary rats and late one night, while no one was watching, he labeled the rats “maze bright” or “maze dull”. The next day his team came in and they were told to run the rats through a maze. Over 5 days, the “maze bright” rats preformed and average of 34% better with a max one day at 45% BETTER! Remember that the rats were all the same. The only difference was how they were unconsciously treated!

 

OMG! Did you read that? The only difference was the expectations the researcher had of them!

 

So now I’m sure you are asking what this wonderful research has to do with birth. Well everything of course! During pregnancy, so much focus goes into the mom and what she wants / expects to happen but how often do we think about her support system? Imagine if a mom had a 34% better chance of having the birth she wanted just by having a support person that believed she could. Imagine if she had a “34% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience“.

 

Someone did imagine… the women who were giving birth and that was the ‘birth’ of doulas.

 

The statistics on doulas are clear so if you can hire a doula, always hire a doula. If you can have a supportive person at your birth, have a supportive person. (and by the way, partners count!) And, if you can be a supportive person, always be that person!

 

Now, I dare you to change the world one interaction at a time.