Childbirth without fear: why FEAR equals PAIN in childbirth
When I first found out I was pregnant for the first time, along with the delight at my news, I was also utterly terrified. It wasn’t the idea of having and raising a child; it was the idea of GIVING BIRTH! I’d tell anyone who would listen that I’d want to be given ALL THE DRUGS in the WORLD just to COPE with the PAIN!
And then one day I was having a conversation with someone while I was on a course (the advanced course of the method behind the head trash clearance technique), who told me that she had a pain-free birth with no drugs. PAIN FREE?! With NO DRUGS?!
I didn’t realise that such a thing was possible, but sure enough it was. Not only that, it gets better. Apparently, children who are born naturally (i.e. no medical intervention) are more likely to sleep better and sooner, cry less, breastfeed more easily and generally be a lot calmer.
WOW! This deserved further attention.
And so began my journey of discovery of natural, pain-free births. This culminated in me developing a range of products to help women clear their fears to increase their chances of a natural pain-free birth, using myself as the guinea pig. Let me tell you – this shizzle works! I went from being a terrified, panic-stricken emotional mess when it came to thoughts of childbirth, to “Amazonian woman of nature” (the midwife at my birth said this, not me! I’m sure it was a compliment!) who was so excited when my waters broke that I was finally going to meet my poppet that I gave birth naturally at home in 6 hours.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the PAIN! And I know what you’re thinking…
How is it possible to give birth and NOT experience PAIN?
In a word: FEAR!
Or, better still… a childbirth without fear is a childbirth without pain.
Everyone has seen enough births in their time on TV and in the movies and they always look like complete and utter nightmares. Midwives are screaming PUSH! PUSH! PUSH! Mothers are screaming in pain. Add to that all the birthing horror stories that women are more than happy sharing and you’ve got yourself a perfect recipe for complete and utter terror of childbirth.
But this is actually a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A lot of women experience difficult and painful births because they have been conditioned to believe that it WILL be painful. You never see a childbirth without fear in a movie… you know the ones that are calm, peaceful and magical. And yet, not only is that possible, but it happens ALL the time.
Tragically, for most women, by the time they get round to getting pregnant have seen enough “painful” births and heard so many horrific stories, that they just expect the same will happen to them. Understandably this makes them scared. Who wouldn’t be? I know I was. But I didn’t know any better. I thought that that’s just the way it is. The whole idea of a childbirth without fear just seems silly and downright impossible.
Let me ask you this: do cats, dogs, horses, cows scream in labour? Or do they just get on with it and give birth with no fuss?
But, guess what? In the context of childbirth and labour, FEAR CREATES PAIN. So, the more fearful you are, the more pain you will experience. This is all down to what is widely known as the fear-tension-pain cycle.
The fear – tension – pain cycle
When a person is in fear, their state of mind triggers the body to go into the fight-or-flight response. When the body is in this state, it is flooded with adrenaline to help the person either to escape (run away) or fight. As such, the body tenses up and blood is sent to the extremities (legs and arms) to help with the fight or flight action. This state is meant to be used sparingly by the body as the body suffers when it’s subject to this level of stress for prolonged periods.
So, let’s imagine for a minute… You’re about to drop and you’ve decided to take a walk while on holiday in the Bush in Oz when labour kicks in. So, you find a nice spot under a tree. Things start happening… but your man spots a dingo and says you’ve got to run. That mahoosive muscle that’s been squeezing the little fella out decides that now is not a good time and tightens up, thereby allowing all the blood to go to your legs so that you can scoot off at high speed to ensure you and your baby’s survival…. stay with me…. So, your lady wotsit is now well and truly tightening and closing up. So, how do you think it would feel to go against nature at this point and continue to push the little fella out? IT WOULD HURT!
While you’re in a state of fear and stress, your body doesn’t feel safe enough to allow labour to unroll at full pelt, so it slows it down, if not stopping it altogether. 2-3 days of labour anyone? Guess what’s happened there: fear and stress has slowed labour right down, if not to a halt.
So why does stress stop labour?
Adrenaline is a bully
When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release a load of adrenaline into your body. Adrenaline sends blood to your extremities so that you can defend yourself or run away. The thing is, adrenaline inhibits the flow of other hormones, namely endorphins and oxcytocin.
Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller and are more effective than anything man-made. Not only do endorphins alleviate pain, but they also promote feelings of love and happiness.
Oxytocin is known as the pleasure hormone. It is present during lovemaking and is the hormone that triggers the labour process and keeps it moving resulting ultimately in the birth of the baby. Unfortunately, it’s also a very shy hormone and is easily scared off.
So when adrenaline floods your system, not only does it mean that there are less endorphins flowing (no pain relief) but oxytocin stops flowing too, which slows labour down, maybe even stopping it.
Once you’ve understood these simple things it’s pretty obvious to see how so many women have horrific births. Their terror not only inhibits the body’s natural process for evicting the littl’un, but it robs them of the best pain relief known to (wo)man.
Once I’d got my head around this lot, it was pretty obvious what I needed to do: I needed to clear my fears!
DISCLAIMER: Now of course, I want to point out that this applies to healthy women who are undergoing healthy complication-free pregnancies. There might be a whole load of other things going on with your body and baby that can create complications in birth and so eliminating your fears is by no means a guarantee, but you’re definitely giving yourself and baby the best chance by making the effort. So if you’ve diligently given up alcohol, and made extra effort to eat all the right things – for baby – then isn’t it worth considering taking the time to clear your fears too?
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Do you have fears around childbirth? Were you able to free yourself of your fears before the birth? If so, how did you do it? Let me know in the comments!
Alexia supports families planning pregnancy and birth. She helps them to overcome their fears and feel calm and confident about birth and pregnancy.
Alexia also trains birth professionals in the Fearless Birthing, a unique approach to birth preparation that is ideal for those who have fears around birth.