Bring On the Uber Powerful Birthing Hormones
For many women, “fear” is a word that is readily associated with childbirth. You may have heard this one before, but just in case you haven’t, here is a fun way to think about fear. Yes, that’s right –thinking about fear can be fun. Fear is:
There’s something I want you to know about these false expectations that appear real; they mess up the uber-powerful birthing hormones. The false expectations bring out the catecholamines (I like to call them the “cats”), which are your fight-or-flight hormones.
When we’re not supposed to be fighting or flighting, like when we are in labour, the “cats” cause complications and mess up the uber-powerful birthing hormones called oxytocin and endorphins. I can’t think of a fun name for these, but trust me, you really want to have these around when you’re giving birth. Let’s talk a little more about oxytocin and endorphins.
Oxytocin is also known as the hormone of love. It does a number of things: helping us feel good, triggering the nurturing mommy feelings, and telling the body to do what it needs to do to give birth. Oxytocin is responsible for important things like contractions, which dilate the cervix and move your little munchkin down the birth canal and into your loving arms. This hormone helps with the delivery of the placenta, and it reduces bleeding. Without enough oxytocin, contractions can slow down, labour can lengthen, bleeding can increase, and medical interventions can increase. Not so fun, right?
Endorphins are the magical calming and pain-relieving hormones. They’re a little bit like morphine…but about 100 times stronger. This is the fabulous substance that’s associated with the altered state of consciousness that women experience during birth. I’ve heard it referred to as “labour heaven,” “the zone,” “euphoria,” “the flow,” and many other delightful descriptions. Without endorphins, labour can seem excessively painful and even intolerable.
Hopefully by now you want to know how you can deal with the fear – false expectations appearing real – so that you can create an environment for the oxytocin and endorphins to flourish.
Here are a few tips:
- Identify the fear. Which specific false expectation is appearing real to you?
- Challenge it. Is it real? Is it happening right now? Can you know for sure that it will happen? Is it helping you? How would you feel without it?
- Replace it. Chances are good that the false expectation appearing real won’t measure up when you challenge it. Whatever the fear is, it only exists in the future, and since the future isn’t real yet, the fear can’t be real. Replace the false expectation appearing real with something that is true, helpful, and supportive. This can be something as simple as reminding yourself, “My body is a finely tuned work of art that is designed to give birth.”
By dealing with the false expectations appearing real, you can keep the “cats” at bay so that you can welcome the uber-powerful birthing hormones into your birth experience and find your own “labour heaven.”
Gemma Stone is a mom, psychologist, speaker, and writer who is passionate about birth. She focuses on empowering women to have peaceful and positive birth experiences (no matter how the birth process unfolds).
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