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Fear + Pain vs Birth

YouTube channel: WATCH a talk on this topic (and more!), with a local Certified Childbirth Educator, on our very own channel, Birth Prep 4-1-1

In being human, experiencing fear is normal and even beneficial to our survival. We have hormones, like the famous adrenaline, that trigger fear in us when there is a perception of danger, giving us a chance to respond accordingly and fast (fight or flight).

However, if we overreact to fear or are not able to manage it in order to navigate the situation at hand effectively, it can become debilitating. There can a reluctance to do what needs to be done or if there are sustained levels of stress hormones in our system, it can hinder other hormones that assist with our coping and wellbeing.

When it comes to birth, some fear is normal. It is normal for a mother to fear for her wellbeing and her baby as a basic survival instinct. In small doses, this is can be a healthy form of fear if it triggers an urge to prepare well for the anticipated process.

If a laboring mother experiences fear, adrenaline is released into the blood stream. If adrenaline levels continue to be sustained, then cortisol (the stress hormone) levels rise accordingly. This can be due to many reasons, for example:

- negative expectations or memories of birth (first time mother/ poor past birthing experience)

- a lack of coping mechanisms or preparation

- a stressful environment (noise and distractions, lack of privacy, lack of inclusion in decision making, harsh lighting…)

- Some fear can be triggered as labor intensifies as a natural reaction to pain

If adrenaline and cortisol are released, and the fear not addressed and resolved before the second stage of labor, it hinders the production of oxytocin and endorphins.

The body needs to be relaxed, and the mind at peace during birth, for oxytocin production and release. 

  1. Oxytocin causes contractions
  2. Endorphins act as natures pain relief during labor.
  3. The release of adrenaline and cortisol naturally counteracts oxytocin release.

This is the process in which fear can slow down and even stall labor. Fear can make the whole experience itself unpleasant and lead to the use of unnecessary interventions.

How to work with FEAR:

  1. One of the most important one it to take good Childbirth Education Classes so the birth process is not a complete mystery.

Knowledge is power, but too much knowledge can be overwhelming and confusing. Google can be a pregnant woman’s convenient friend at times but can also be a source of outdated, inaccurate or fear-based information. This is why it is advised to find a local, trained person, to consult with for evidence-based information.

Then from there, specific fears can turn into questions and questions into answers, suggestions and tips. (watch our YouTube Channel Birth Prep 4-1-1 anytime for some FREE Childbirth Education answers, Prenatal Yoga breathing/ relaxation demo and more Doula tips!)

  1. Another great way to ease fear is to be intentional in the literature and media surrounding birth that one consumes. Choose positive birth stories, read positive affirmations, write a journal of hopes and dreams for the birth. How do you imagine your birth? Visualize the best-case scenario... Take the parts in the movie where the woman is in labor and everyone is in a hysterical panic, with grain of salt! (take a look at the Lending Library on our website!)
  1. Writing a Birth Plan can help create a birthing environment one will feel safe in. Choose people that will give comfort and support that does not feel judgmental to you, even if some fear does arise. (A Doula or Childbirth Educator can assist with Birth Planning!)
  2. A Doula can also be a perfect addition to a woman’s support system when it comes to coping with fear. The extra prenatal support can help one explore fears and learn vital coping, breathing and relaxation skills. During labor and birth, a Doulas hands-on attendance and calming influence in the room can guide the birthing experience to the honored mom-to-be best wishes.

Wishing you (or your loved one) a happy birthing day,

Your Birth Prep Doulas,

Caroline and Erin.

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What has been your experience with Fear, Pain and Birth so far? Did this article bring up any questions? Please do share your story with us in comments below!

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