By Harriet R. Barry
I have been an Alexander Technique teacher since 1976.
I am also a childbirth educator with a private practice and a faculty member in the Parent Family Education program in the Department of Obstetrics of a NYC major hospital. The woman’s uterus is shaped like an upside pear and is a muscle consisting of 2 layers of elastic type tissue arranged in different positions. As it grows, nourishing and supporting the unborn baby, the woman’s body changes dramatically, especially with a large lordosis (curved lower back If the curve arches too far inward, it can affect the lower back and neck. This can lead to excess pressure on the spine, causing pain and discomfort.
During labor, contractions of the uterus cause it to bunch in an upward direction. The bottom of the uterus, known as the cervix, has nerve endings, and, as the baby descends, the head presses against the cervix and, that is what causes pain in childbirth.
After becoming an Alexander teacher, I was supporting a laboring woman and observed that contractions were causing both physical and emotional effects, even raising blood pressure, increasing breathing and heart rate, but, especially, causing muscle tension. The mind and body work together, they cannot be separated. The mind controls thoughts and attitudes and affects the way your body controls pain.
In between contractions, she told me ”my back is killing me”. When the contraction ended, as she lay on the bed in a semi reclining position, I placed my hands under her lower back. I said “just let your back rest in my hands, let it go” and if you get another contraction just take an easy breath and mentally think let it go”. She was able to do that, work through another contraction and then yelled “I have to push”. We were the only two in the room, stuck my head out the door – yelled “she’s pushing”. Seconds later as staff ran into the room, the baby was on the bed between the new Mom’s legs.
I spent a great deal of time thinking about the experience. As a result, I integrated the Alexander Technique into my Lamaze Childbirth Education/Preparation teaching and I and my students have been greatly rewarded.
HARRIET R. BARRY has been a certified Lamaze Childbirth Educator since 1973 and is a Fellow of the American College of Childbirth Educators. She has studied the Alexander Technique for more than 40 years. On the teaching faculty of Parent Family Education at Mount Sinai West in New York City, she lectures on the benefits of the Alexander Technique and its importance in the childbearing experience. She has integrated the Alexander Techniques into Lamaze Childbirth Preparation classes as part of prenatal and postnatal care and women in labor since 1983. She continues taking workshops at ACAT as well as continuing her studies with Barbara Kent.