Why is it that women spend more time planning their wedding than they do their birth?
You would never dream of leaving the person performing your wedding ceremony to sort out your dress, flowers and food!
But when it comes to birth most of us would rather set our hair on fire and run screaming or spend 30 hours finding the perfect pram than prepare for an empowered birth!
It's normal to feel anxious when we're flooded with horrific or comedic images of birth in the media or told awful horror stories by most of the women we know.
So how is that women in other cultures have such a different experience of birth? How is that they can give birth in a rice paddy with minimal fuss and bother and then just continue with their day?
Well, the answer might surprise you, it all has to do with our emotional state. Yes, you read that right, how you feel and how fearful you are can completely change the outcome of your birth. Let me explain…
When the mom is afraid, catecholamines or stress hormones are secreted. Most of the oxygenated blood in her body moves to her arms and legs so that she can fight or run away (“fight” or “flight” response). As a result, blood is directed away from the uterus and the cervix, the muscles tense and constrict and the body experiences pain.
This lack of blood flow to the uterus means that the muscles start to work against each other and can result in baby’s head pushing against hard unrelenting muscle.
Conversely, when she's completely relaxed and free from any fear, her body is able work naturally to help her birth her baby. In this relaxed state the body secretes endorphins, a natural painkiller 200 times stronger than morphine.
So our question becomes ‘how do you ensure we have endorphins instead of stress hormone?”. The good news is that the answer is much simpler then you think.
When you experience deep relaxation, the body naturally releases endorphins and the more it relaxes, the more endorphins are released. Deep relaxation can be achieved by following a guided visualisation like Relaxation for Calm Pregnancy (available at www.pattigood.com), deep breathing or a gentle light tickling up and down the arm and over the shoulder. This type of endorphin release is not about going to the gym but about calming and deeply relaxing the body.