Birth itself is shrouded in a little bit of mystery, but as people start sharing their stories verbally and through social media, more about the process seems to come to light. Some births are presented as pain free and tranquil. Some are bloody and gritty and scary. The later is the kind of story many people feel inclined to tell; horror stories about births of relatives or even their own, to expectant parents all in an attempt to inform pregnant people of what lies ahead.
Fear and birth go hand in hand, but they shouldn’t. Many times a pregnant person will be asked “are you scared or nervous to give birth?”, planting the seeds of fear and doubt in their heads. Everyone should feel empowered, confident and supported about their upcoming birth, not the other way around. There are any number of fears associated with birth; pain during contractions and pushing, perineal tearing, unwanted cesarean or interventions, loss of modesty, past sexual traumas resurfacing, their wishes during labor not being taken seriously and poor health in the mother and/or baby.
This is only but a handful of fears.
Feeling afraid inhibits the natural progression of physiological labor, and can alter the course drastically. There are two key hormones which fear effects; oxytocin and adrenaline. During pregnancy and labor, the body creates a hormone called oxytocin, or the “love hormone”.
Oxytocin is sent from the brain to the uterus to create contractions. The uterus then sends oxytocin to the brain as a sort of natural pain relief. This pattern continues on and on and on.
Oxytocin stimulates the strength and frequency of contractions; the more calm and safe the laboring person is, the more contractions they have, and the sooner baby is birthed. It is paramount that the birthing person feel taken care of and safe, heard, and loved during labor to stimulate the production of oxytocin, as without it labor can sloOoOOooow down and be more painful.
When someone is scared, or unable to sink into and surrender to their labor due to a stressful environment, loss of control or fearful thoughts, a hormone shift happens; adrenaline, or the response “fight, flight or freeze”, amps up in production, taking the place of oxytocin. Adrenaline can be caused by negative feelings and can significantly slow labor down, or even cause labor to stop. This in itself increases fear and anxiety in the laboring person, which just perpetuates the production cycle of adrenaline. Affirming the pregnant person, giving them choices during labor, and promoting tranquility will only produce more of that "love hormone" and bring labor back to its natural course.
During pregnancy, it is important for the pregnant person and their partner to develop a birth team who will be able to create a warm, safe environment in which to birth. Developing a team can be done a number of ways. A doula may be hired to provide stability to the family and offer well rounded support during this emotional journey, birthing in a place they feel safe and with providers who respect their wishes, and to learn about labor by taking a childbirth education class to at least have a little understanding about what lies ahead.
Negative feelings surrounding a persons birth can influence future pregnancies and births not only for themselves, but others as well.
Our journeys should be rife with love, courage, strength and ferocity. Lets show our partners, families, friends, and more importantly our babies, how fucking amazing we are. Fear has no place here. How could it?