Fear and Anxiety : The Birth Antidote

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Young Woman Thinking

Fear is the antidote to a wonderful cocktail of hormones and natural substances that are working with you to birth your baby. When you become afraid of the pain, of needles, of a C-section, for the baby’s safety, you release cortisol—the direct antagonist to birth hormones. It literally turns off your cocktail service and oxytocin comes to a halt. Just as you can’t achieve orgasm during sex if you’re anxious, afraid, or stressed out, birth is not going to go according to “your plans” if you are hanging on to fear.

Anxiety is the stepchild of fear. We lose control when we become fearful. The best way to get back on track when you start to get fearful is to breathe and connect to affirming thoughts—it’s that simple.

I am powerful now and the universe supports me and my baby.

I have everything I need inside to birth my baby.

I open my body to the miracle of new life.

F.E.A.R. = F@$K Everything and Run

On a spiritual level, fear dials you into the pain cycle. You want to be in the love cycle! That’s the energetic space in which you created your baby in the first place. Fear makes us forget our power. Dr. Grantly Dick-Read in his research in the 1930s theorized that the more a laboring woman feared the process, the tenser her body would become and the more pain she would feel during labor. When you experience fear, your body releases chemicals to help you respond to the perceived threat and escape the danger, whether real or imaginary. This response, generally known as the fight-or-flight response, causes the blood to rush away from your internal organs toward your head and limbs, where it can help give you the strength, speed, and wits necessary to get away safely. Fight-or-flight robs your uterus of the oxygen it needs to perform rhythmic contractions.

Often when fear arises, labor actually halts. It’s a biological mechanism to preserve mom and baby. Imagine an ancestor mammal mama laboring in the wild. She would secure a safe place, tucked away from the elements, and begin the process of labor. If she sensed a predator looming about, suddenly her brain would cease to produce the birthing hormones. In an instant, cortisol and adrenaline would take their place—flooding the system. She’d take flight to get to safety. Once in a secure location the stress hormones would wear off again. Her shallow breathing would slow and labor would resume.

Fear, Tension, & Pain Cycle

The fear, tension, and pain actually stop labor from progressing. The muscles that open the cervix contract instead of relaxing. The result is and acute awareness of  labor sensations, where your muscles are “working against the grain.” They have access to very little oxygen, so the cramping factor is high. When you are afraid, your sphincters shut tight. If you aren’t relaxed, your pelvic floor, uterine muscles, cervix, and surrounding sphincters will close off—halting the labor for the time being until you can get back to a place of calm.

Unlike animals in the wild, we think our way into fear by creating what-if scenarios in our heads. We don’t even need a real threat to initiate a fight-or-flight response in the body. Fearful thoughts or a stressful set of circumstances will do just fine. Given our high-speed, busy lives, many women initiate labor in states of high stress.

The pain a laboring woman experiences as a result of stress and anxiety only serves to affirm her deepest, darkest fears about her body and the birth process: that labor is an excruciating experience and that her body is incapable of handling the pain that lies ahead. She begins to cycle into more fearful thoughts, which tense her up more—leading to only more pain. The cycle goes on and on like this until there is a conscious break. The break comes if and when you realize that you are the one creating the pain—and that you can also bring about your pleasure. We can manage how we experience the sensations of labor, which can be intense. If we accept that the sensations may be intense, when they comes, we can focus on the purpose. You will notice each contraction and how it grows to a peak, where you experience the full edge of sensation, and when it comes down. Consider that each wave has a purpose—to guide your baby down and out of your body. With each contraction you are a baby step closer to meeting your newborn.

Reboot & Reconnect with your Power

The first step toward reestablishing the connection to the primal experience is to recognize that you are saying the “FEAR” mantra (Fuck Everything and Run). At that point you can stop yourself from trying to flee your birth. Just noticing you’re in fear is like hitting ctrl-alt- delete on your computer. It’s a spiritual reboot, and guess what? Love is your operating system. It’s that love energy that made your baby and that loving energy will guide your baby out of your womb and into the world.

When you stay in connection with your inner glow you will more easily trust your body and the divinity of the process. Then you can allow sweet surrender. Your energy will go wherever you send it. It is obedient. Transmute any form of anxiety through deep breathing, movement meditations, and visualizations to help you stay in the flow. Primal movements include hip swivels, swaying on hands and knees, sitting with legs crossed while moving the pelvis in circles.

Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. When we encourage, we help others to find space to move beyond fear. That’s my job here. I want you to have a different dialogue with your body, one that says:

I trust and honor you.
We can do this.
I was made with everything I need to do this.

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