Most of us are aware of the basic mind and body responses fear triggers within our physiology—particularly the well known adrenaline rush. Anything that requires the body to adapt in the long term is perceived as stressful and will have a negative effect on fertility and labour. Our fight/flight/freeze response is activated and blood flow is directed towards the limbs and away from vital organs that need protection.
The uterus is not exempt.
Excessive adrenalin levels negatively affect hormonal balance, leading to fertility problems. Furthermore, in the presence of adrenaline, the body’s built in “epidural” (aka endorphins) cannot do their magic during the natural birthing process—thereby slowing oxytocin release. This prolongs labour, making it far from comfortable.
A recent paper written for the Royal College of Midwives Journal by British Midwife, Dr Denis Walsh has sparked some surprising recent media discussions and also evoked some interesting reactions within the medical industry.
He stated in his article that the use of Epidurals in the UK had doubled in the last 20 years, he was quoted as saying “it has never been safer to have a baby, yet women have never been more frightened of the process”.
Commenting on this, Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen of the Australian College of Midwives said, “Fear increases the release of adrenalin, which impacts on endorphins – a scared woman is more likely to have an epidural.”
The body’s natural defense mechanism is governed by the sympathetic part of our nervous system, and once it kicks in – our body is instantly in the “fight, flight or freeze” state. A mother entering into early stages of labour is sometimes likely to flick on this switch through unresolved fear and stress, in doing this she also triggers the release of certain hormones.
It is believed that these hormones are secreted in large amounts prior to and during labour. In cases of childbirth – “freeze” is the body’s natural defensive response to fear, and as you can imagine this results in tense and constricting muscles and the body predominantly working against its’ natural relaxed birthing state of mind.
It is advisable for expectant mothers to remain in the most relaxed state they can throughout the duration of their pregnancy right through to birth in order to avoid these affects of fear upon labour, and for them to remember that the mind is the doorway to a ‘natural epidural’.
During pregnancy a mother should do as much relaxing as she can. Emotional freedom technique, yoga, meditation, acupuncture and massage are all excellent ways to relax the body and the mind. If a little extra help is needed to relax there are several CD’s and DVD’s on the market to teach techniques.
Surrounding oneself with positive pregnancy and birthing stories is also another great way to eliminate fear and anxiety. Learning to politely refrain from listening to others’ less positive stories is also a good idea. This will more easily enable the beginnings of visualising a positive experience during labour.
If there are any fears or concerns around labour, birth or life once the baby has arrived it is a great idea to address them immediately. This can be done by talking it over with partners and loved ones to get the reassurance that is needed. If there are deeper issues that are more difficult to address then professional help may be sought. A trained hypnotherapist will often be able to assist in releasing fears and teach the valuable mantra, ‘mind leads, body follows’ providing remarkable value and tools to assist in a calm, happy and healthy labour and delivery for both mum and bub.
In my practice, I use HypnoBirthing for my patients because I believe it is such a tool. It provides a comprehensive guide for women and their birth partner(s) during pregnancy and birth. It teaches women to let go of any anxiety they have around giving birth as well as bringing aspects of relaxation, visualisation and breathing techniques as tools to use during pregnancy and labour.
A Note from The Bringer of Babies:
What’s also interesting about fear is that in can negatively impact not just the experience of birth but also a couple’s very ability to conceive. Hypnotherapy is an amazing tool, which can help reduce the stress and anxiety that can be associated with the ‘trying to conceive’ journey. Most couples experience some stress along the journey. If you have been lucky and haven’t yet experience any discomfort during your journey, this tool is a great preventative measure. If you have been stressed out by the process I’d recommend hypnotherapy as ‘a must’ part of your treatment. Experience it and enjoy!