We have so many conversations about birth but avoid a very important four-letter word.
Especially in that first pregnancy leading up to birth. It may be surprising but, learning to overcome fear can be one of your biggest pain reducing tools for labor and birth.
We have four steps to help you identify and move past your fears surrounding pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.
Before we can learn to overcome our fears, we must learn how fear affects the body, especially when we are having a baby. This happens on a hormonal level. One of the most important hormones that come into play during labor is oxytocin, known as the hormone of love. It is released when you do things that make you feel good!
Oxytocin is released when you make love, eat a delicious meal, pet a cute dog, receive a text from someone you love, and it is released during labor, birth, & breastfeeding.
In addition to making us feel happy and in love, oxytocin has other functions. In labor, it causes uterine contractions and will peak to the highest levels in your life in the moments after birth. There are few things that can block the release of oxytocin. Labor augmentation drugs in pain relief at-old effects of oxytocin levels. Stress hormones can also block oxytocin.
A hormone that goes hand in hand with oxytocin are beta-endorphins. They are nature’s morphine! Studies show beta-endorphins are 25 times as effective as morphine. Similar to oxytocin, endorphins play a role of in bonding between mother and baby. Endorphins levels peak 20 mins postpartum and facilitate the release of important breastfeeding hormones, such as prolactin.
So those are some of the good hormones your body releases during labor and birth. Our bodies also make stress hormones. Adrenaline and a noradrenaline are not helpful to the progress of labor. In fact stress hormones block the absorption of oxytocin in early labor. This can cause your labor to slow or even stall out.
High levels of stress hormones during labor can make you feel a sense of panic, increased the amount of pain in labor, and can even cause fetal distress. We know now that stress hormones hinder your labor. But what are some situations that could cause the release of those stress hormones in early labor?
Well, some obvious things like stressful situations or people, painful interventions, frequent disruptions and being near conflict can trigger adrenaline. But there are also more subtle things that can also cause stress hormones to be released during labor. Bright lights, frequent cervical checks, or even feeling hungry or thirsty cause a release of stress hormones. We call these things Fear triggers. Another major fear trigger is a lack of understand of the birth process and what is happening in your body.
Towards the end of labor, at the point known as transition, it’s normal for your body to release adrenaline. This is helpful at this point in labor because it helps gives us the energy and power we need to push our baby out. While stress hormones are helpful towards the end of labor, we want to avoid people, situations, and environments that increase their release.
As I mentioned before, fear itself can cause the release of stress hormones, making labor more difficult. So, we have compiled four steps to overcome fear around labor and birth.
Step one: Identify your fear: Take some time to do some soul searching. Ask yourself what is making you feel afraid? Common fears are a loss of control, the of potential for pain, feeling unprepared, or the unknown.
Step two: Do your research: No blogs. No opinion pieces. Do research and look for legitimate information. Are you afraid of something physical going wrong? Find out the statistics. What are the actual odds of that complication? Worried about being a good parent? Look up recent parenting techniques. Read books and take a parenting class. Don’t forget to talk to your care provider. They’re a resource all of their own.
Step three: Use affirmations: What is the opposite of your fear? Affirm that thought. If you’re feeling afraid of a long labor tell yourself “My labor progresses quickly”. If you’re concerned of a specific complication, affirm the opposite of that. It may feel silly at first, but say your affirmations daily. If you’re feeling creative, you can write your own down by using the Writing our Affirmations worksheet in this module. If you’re like me and want something a little easier, you can check out the Motherled store for our Birth Affirmation Cards. However you get your affirmations, hang them where you will see them, by your computer at work, on the fridge, by the sink. My favorite place was on my bathroom mirror. I would say them after my morning and night.
Step four: Tap on it.EFT or tapping is a very useful stress reduction technique that can be used anytime but is particularly helpful during pregnancy and in labor. Tapping uses well known acupuncture points for stress reduction and by just lightly tapping on those points we can create a similar effect to acupuncture, without the needles. Add in a powerful statement “even though I'm feeling scared, I deeply and completely accept myself” and you have a tool for moving that negative energy out and creating space for more positive emotions while lowering stress. Tapping can be done anywhere, at anytime and can be a tool for life. Tapping is a powerful, evidence-based tool.
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