Previous Post Next Post


Brought to you by

Labor Can Go Backwards, Kissing Can Prevent Tearing And Other Insights From Ina May Gaskin [video]

By ceridwen |

Here I am with Ina May soon after the birth of my daughter.

I just came across several short videos of über midwife Ina May Gaskin talking about birth and what she calls, “the sphincter law.” This is basically the idea that the sphincter only opens when you feel safe and relaxed. (And this does not include the situation wherein someone is leaning over you telling you to “Relax!”.)

There’s so much going on in these videos; such a wealth of information and wisdom and warmth. Here are a few of her insights into how our bodies work in labor and then one of the videos after the jump.

Labor Can Go Backwards

Ina May talks about how “labor can go backwards in women.” She had never read this in any medical books but saw it in births she attended and started to wonder why it was happening. She’d also observed this seizing-up in laboring farm animals who felt threatened.

Soon she realized that when the human animal feels very frightened, her labor will slow down or in some more remarkable cases, reverse to the point where the cervix actually starts to close. It’s not very common but it can happen. The cure for this is helping relieve the woman’s fears. In the example she gives, Ina May encourages mom to laugh. The opening of the mouth and release of tension corresponds with her pelvis, soon the baby is born and there’s no tearing.

Labor Is Private

Part of what can make a woman frightened and seize up in labor is the anxiety of being watched. It’s kind of funny to hear about how birth is intimate and “private” from a hippie who is so into nakedness and vaginas and breasts and all that feel-good natural stuff. But she’s totally right. I’ve seen it. I’ve read about it. I’ve felt it. There’s a hormonal and evolutionary basis for it.

Sometimes women go to the bathroom in labor and don’t want to get off the toilet or come out. They like it in there because this is a private place; a place where they are accustomed to letting their pelvic floor relax. So it’s important to think about who is in the room with you when you give birth. As much as I love the idea of all your loved ones gathering around to support you… I think it’s wise to keep the group small and focused for hardest parts of labor. This is when you want to be with people you feel very comfortable with. Typically this means a labor attendant who has a deep trust in normal, physiological birth and who has seen it all before– a doula or midwife, well-trained nurse or ob/gyn and your partner.

Kissing Can Prevent Tearing

Ina May covers this in the video below, so I won’t go too far into it. But the basic idea is that the sphincter opens up– and is less likely to tear– when a woman is relaxed and her mouth is open. And kissing can help make this happen. It’s similar to the above concept of laughter helping with dilation. But Ina May has such a inimitable way of getting all this across I encourage you to watch.

For the full video series:

Here’s the first video.

Here’s the second.

Here’s the third.

An Ina May documentary is in the works. “Like” the facebook page for this film and receive updates. I’ve seen Ina May in person and she’s just incredible, I’m sure the film will be too!

More on Babble

About ceridwen



Ceridwen Morris is a writer, mother, and certified childbirth educator. She is the author of several books and screenplays, including (Three Rivers; 2007). She serves on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ceridwen's latest posts →

« Go back to Pregnancy

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Comments, together with personal information accompanying them, may be used on and other Babble media platforms. Learn More.

0 thoughts on “Labor Can Go Backwards, Kissing Can Prevent Tearing And Other Insights From Ina May Gaskin [video]

  1. kat says:

    I was going to have a Farm birth with my first but he came too early and I couldn’t make the 6 hr drive. I have loved Ina May and her writings since I first came across her book Spiritual Midwifery when I was 19. She is awesome. Before my 2nd birth (a homebirth) I only read her books in the weeks leading up to labor. I had my perfect birth; eating my favorite lunch, watching funny movies, making love with my husband, going on a walk in the countryside, and having the baby after 2 minutes of pushing. It was her stories that made that possible, because with out her I wouldn’t have known how amazing giving birth could be. Ina May and the other Farm midwives rock so hard!!!

  2. Kate says:

    Ina May’s Complete Guide to Childbirth was instrumental in helping me to achieve a swift, natural birth in a hospital setting.

  3. Deirdre says:

    Ina May also helped me to birth my babies, including the 10lb and the 12lber, naturally. No, she wasn’t in the room but my head was in the game because what she says is practical, down to earth advice from someone who has seen and understood the birthing process.She has inspired me and helped me on my path to becoming a mother. xxx

  4. Elissa says:

    I’m a huge Ina May fan. My baby was 9.4 pounds, and I’m only little, but I managed to deliver him naturally (as in, both, without the use of drugs and with a vaginal delivery) and totally tear free. Of course my lovely birth centre midwife was also instrumental, with her gentle coaching at the end, but Ina (along with yoga, and some of the amazing women in my life) helped me to be prepared for birth. I think that one of the most important things she does is to share so many positive birth stories, especially because she never represents any one type of birth as being ideal, or better than the others. She treats birth as the paradoxically universal and completely individual experience that it is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

Previous Post Next Post