Labour & Delivery

Silent Birth: The Controversial Birthing Method Explained

When Australian mum Hayley Wuerful delivered her daughter, Taieisha, she did so in a water birth which she described as a “bubble of love”. Many mums choose to give birth at home, but what made Hayley’s birth so unusual was that she chose not to speak throughout. 

For several hours, as she went through the contractions with her husband by her side, she didn’t make a sound. When the pain became too intense, she would let out a scream underwater, so the baby inside her couldn’t hear her.

Hayley relied on gestures to express what she needed and, even after she delivered her daughter, she remained silent.

What Hayley experienced is known as a silent birth. No doubt you’ve heard the controversial term in the media as it has been particularly popular among celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and John Travolta and Kelly Preston.

What exactly is silent birth?

Silent birth is a method meant to make the physical separation from mum less traumatic for the baby.

“The idea is not to use words in moments of pain because they can negatively affect you and your baby later in life,” Hayley explained.

“We believe tht anything said in that moment is stored in the reactive mind. If, later on, something stimulates that memory – you could be in the same place and someone says the same word or you smell the same smell – then, without you even realising it, your mind dramatises the past and it has an adverse effect in the present.

Of course, you can chat away to your bump during pregnancy – though if you were to hurt yourself at any point, you’d bite your tongue and wait for the pain to subside. And, during the birth, there’s nothing against you moaning, groaning or screaming. But it’s about keeping as calm as possible. You’re going through an extremely traumatic experience and adding all sorts of chaos is unnecessary.” 


What exactly takes place during a silent birth? 

Scientologists believe that silent, or quiet birth assists newborns in their spiritual development. Furthermore, they believe that expectant mothers must be provided the utmost care and respect.

To do so, they advocate a quiet, calm, supportive environment during childbirth. This means there should be no conversations, no television, no beeping sounds, and no phones.

Silent Birth
Source: Bigstock

Particularly important is abstaining from talking, especially during moments of pain as Scientologists believe that breaking the silence with words could have detrimental effects on the child’s psyche and consequently, later in life.

Later in life, as the child hears the same words spoken, they will unknowingly have an adverse reaction to that word, which can have a negative impact on their life and relationships through no fault of their own.

Hayley shared her own silent birth experience with news.com.au:

“I remember sitting on my bed, with Taiesha’s cot next to me, and holding the sheets very tight as the contractions started. That was when the silence began; in those moments of pain. Then they’d pass, I’d breathe and be OK to speak again.

I was having a water birth, and as soon as I was in the bath, I calmed down. As I pushed, I’d scream, then bury my head in the water and blow bubbles. It had been going on so long, I didn’t think I could do it. But one thing I know is that having someone shouting, ‘Push!’ wouldn’t have helped. I hate being told what to do. As soon as a contraction started and there was pain, I’d handle it. Then, once it eased, I’d start speaking again.

Once Taiesha arrived, it was 10 minutes before we spoke. There’s a chance there’s still pain afterwards, so we’d decided to keep it quiet. There was no other commotion and we were able to enjoy that moment. It felt as if we were in a bubble of love.”


A bit about Scientology

The Church of Scientology was established in the 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard, an American science fiction and fantasy writer. Scientology promotes a set of practices and beliefs including that people are immortal, spiritual beings (thetans). According to their teachings, thetans live from lifetime to lifetime, transferring from one body to the next.

They receive spiritual counseling, or auditing, to remove painful events from their past with the ultimate goal of reaching spiritual enlightenment.

Scientology arrived in Australia in the early 1950s. It has headquarters in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, and Canberra. Additionally, the church’s spiritual headquarters for the Asia Pacific Region is in Sydney, Australia.

Although the Church of Scientology claims 150,000 members in Australia, the Australian Census claims a decline in Scientologists’ population with 1,681 in 2016 and 1,655 in 2021.

DISPELLING SILENT BIRTH MYTHS

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding silent birth. Some include:

  • Mums cannot make a single sound during childbirth; no talking, no moaning, groaning, or screaming.
  • No one can talk to the newborn during the first 7 days.
  • Parents must eat the placenta.
  • Newborns cannot be touched for 3-7 days.

Pros and cons of silent birth

Although there is no scientific evidence silent birth negatively or positively affects newborns, there are a few things to keep in mind as you contemplate whether this method is the best choice for you.

PROS

  • Restricting loud noises from anyone attending the birth, including doctors, nurses, doulas, and family members, leads to a more peaceful environment.
  • Requesting no shouts, such as “PUSH, PUSH,” loud conversations, or laughter can help keep mum calm and relaxed.
  • Reducing commotion in the delivery room allows you to be present in the moment and be surrounded by love.

CONS

  • Having a birth plan certainly helps in expressing the parents’ desires during childbirth, but things can change, and they can’t always be followed. Parents must keep this in mind.
  • It is not safe to banish words completely as doing so can obstruct communication between parents and care providers. It is important to maintain a safe birthing environment through adequate communication.
  • Sudden silence could alarm your newborn as they are used to hearing their parents’ voices in utero from the moment their hearing develops at about week 19 of pregnancy.

According to a study in the journal of Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, “background noise in utero is about 85 decibels (dB), with peaks of 95 dB reported with each stroke of the mother’s heart.”

For comparison, garbage disposals run at 80 dB, a propeller plane flying at 1,000 feet (305 meters) is 88 dB, and a power mower is 96 dB.

Therefore, entering the world to complete silence, might be confusing to a newborn.

For Hayley, a silent birth was the right choice. But every birth is different and every mum has the right to choose whatever she’d like:

“If someone wants to give birth with drums beating in the background because that’s their belief, they should,” Hayley added.

The important things to keep in mind when making a birth plan are to keep realistic expectations, communicate with your caregivers, and allow them to do their job to provide you and your little one with the best possible care.


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