What is Active Birth?

Janet Balaskas, founder of the Active Birth Movement

Active Birth is…

  • A way to prepare your body and mind to awaken your natural ability to give birth physiologically
  • A celebration of the miraculous unfolding of the hormone driven  processes of pregnancy and birth
  • A philosophy and a global movement that has empowered women to choose how and where they give birth to their baby for more than 3 decades
  • A common-sense, evidence-based approach that is supported by midwives and doctors, and supported in NHS hospitals and birth centres in the UK and in many countries worldwide.

Active Birth has evolved as our understanding of the intricate process of birth has developed. But three ideas have been present since the beginning: encouraging mothers to use instinctive upright birthing positions; facilitating  natural hormonal responses during labour; and empowering women to make their own choices about their births.

ACTIVE BIRTH is not new. It is simply a way of describing how women the world over have always behaved during labour and birth throughout history — Janet Balaskas  ‘New Active Birth’

1. Going with Gravity

In an active birth, a woman is not confined to a bed. She is free to move during labour, and to give birth spontaneously in a position of her choice, according to natural birth giving instincts. This instinct is strengthened during pregnancy, as a woman learns to trust in her body’s natural ability to give birth. Active Birth preparation, through regular pregnancy yoga classes, and workshops or courses you can attend with your partner, helps you to become more confident.

In an Active Birth you will choose your own way to move, and to be still, depending on how you feel and how your labour is progressing. You will instinctively find your own way to make your labour more comfortable, and to help your body to align with gravity during your baby’s descent through the birth canal. This in turn will send a better blood and oxygen supply to the uterus and baby, making birth easier and helping to prevent complications.

2. Releasing your own Birth Hormones

When you are in labour and giving birth, your body produces an ‘internal cocktail’ of birthing hormones, including Oxytocin and Endorphins, ‘the love hormones’. These regulate the birth process, stimulating the involuntary muscular responses of your uterus. They also promote attachment and love—in other words, bonding between you and your baby. This dual capacity of the birthing hormones to influence muscular and emotional responses simultaneously is Mother Nature’s blueprint for survival.

When you have the freedom to move and can labour in a peaceful and private place where you feel safe, undisturbed and unobserved, you are able to release very high levels of Oxytocin and Endorphins. This makes the birth process faster and easier, as natural relaxants stimulate good reflexive uterine contractions and help you to transcend pain and experience pleasure.

Learning how you can optimise this natural production of birth hormones will help you to ensure that birth is efficient and the bonds of love between you and your baby are established from the outset. This primal relationship at the time of birth when you and your baby are transfused with love hormones forms the foundation for your relationship with your child and also baby’s capacity to love. It is the prototype for all future relationships.

Active Birth recognises that the ability to birth is instinctive to all mammals including ourselves. Our ‘body centred’ approach invites you to awaken this awareness during your pregnancy and develop connection with your instincts through your body memory. As you begin to sense the innate ability to give birth that is common to all women, your confidence will grow. Any fears or anxieties will turn to relaxed and joyful anticipation.

3. Your Empowered, Educated Choice

Active Birth places you at the centre of your pregnancy and labour – rather than your birth attendants. By educating you about the physiology of birth, Active Birth gives power and control to you – the birthing mother. You will discover that pregnancy is not a medical condition, and that most woman are able to give birth without medical intervention. As a result, you will be confident in making the key decisions about your own birth.

This releases the potential for you to give birth physiologically and naturally, and for you and your baby to benefit from the release of hormones that are present in ‘every facet of love’ (Michel Odent).

This is one reason why many parents choose Active Birth and why, even in special circumstances, it’s always best to stay as close to nature as possible and to restore the physiological connection between mother and baby, so the production of love hormones can continue through holding, breastfeeding and close contact in the weeks and months after birth.

Wherever you choose to birth your baby and whatever your antenatal preparation, NCT, HypnoBirthing, Pregnancy Yoga or other – Active Birth is fundamental and what you can learn from us is invaluable and empowering.

Active Birth Teaching Programme

The programme of Active Birth teaching pioneered by Janet and taught at the Active Birth Centre and in other places by teachers who have trained with her, offers you a comprehensive range of effective and empowering classes and courses to prepare for giving birth and becoming parents. They include pregnancy yoga for Active Birth, antenatal classes, up-to-date inspiration for an easier start to breastfeeding and newborn care, as well as a full range of professional training courses in these methods.

The Active Birth Story