There are a lot of scary myths surrounding childbirth, which can cause women to become afraid. Fear triggers the “fight or flight” response and can shutdown the birthing process. Laura Shanley discusses the importance of overcoming fear and provides insightful tips for mothers who are preparing for birth.
Fear, Stress and the Birthing Process
Did you know that your face turns white when you’re afraid because the body thinks the blood and oxygen are needed in your arms and legs to fight a perceived danger? This is part of the “flight or flight” response. If we feel that we are in danger, blood is drained from the face and other internal organs; digestion shuts down. This is why you can have stomach problems if you’re in a constant state of stress and fear.
There’s a book called “Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers” – that really explains how well our bodies would function if we didn’t keep triggering fight-flight. Because of fear and stress, we keep sending blood and oxygen away from our digestive organs, our sex organs, etc. If we were not on high alert all of the time, then our bodies could function at a much higher level. This is true every day of our lives, but is especially important during pregnancy and birth.
Our natural, physiologic response to stress and fear can actually make birth traumatic, causing a host of problems. This begins building long before a woman conceives. Our society focuses way too much on the different things that could go wrong in birth. We should spend more time focusing on how well our bodies really will function when we are in a relaxed state.
For me, overcoming fear was a spiritual process. I know there are women that have given birth to healthy babies without having spiritual beliefs, but I found strength and courage through the realization that there is a larger consciousness. I also believe that the human body was created intentionally; That we aren’t just a mass of chemicals that accidentally came together – that there is great intelligence to creation and we can somehow feel that within ourselves.
My advice to other moms?
1. Ask for direction and inner help. Look within yourself for guidance and direction – trusting that it’s there.
2. Simply believing that courage is available actually makes a big difference in your birth outcome. Affirmations can be very powerful in this way.
3. Pay close attention to how you’re feeling throughout the day. For example if you start feeling anxious during the pregnancy ask yourself “what was I just thinking about?”
4. Surround yourself with positive thinking people. If you go see a friend or family member who is continually telling you about the danger and possible complications of birth, I would say that you have the right to not be around that person. Often times, these people are trying to convince themselves and others around them of their decision, and their remarks have nothing to do with you or your birth experience.
5. Research. Read positive birth stories. This will help to remind you that other women have stood in your shoes, and they’ve succeeded.
6. Pay attention to your dreams. I had a dream about how I should give birth to my son standing up, which I had never thought of because I was on my hands and knees for my first birth. He ended up being born breech (vaginally). This opened my eyes to the idea that dreams are just another resource. Do not discount your dreams, intuition, impulses, emotions, etc.
LAURA KAPLAN SHANLEY is an author, freelance writer, speaker and childbirth consultant widely recognized as one of the leading voices in the natural-birth movement. Her expertise is frequently sought out by television and movie production companies, as well as media outlets around the globe. She has been featured in media outlets such as ABC News, “20/20,” “The Doctors,” BBC, Discovery Channel, Disney, The New York Times, Reuters, and The Washington Post, among many others. In addition, she works with women on a one-on-one basis, providing them with childbirth education and emotional support before and during pregnancy. She is a frequent speaker at childbirth conferences, providing her unique perspective and inspiring insight. Laura maintains a website dedicated to natural childbirth, www.unassistedchildbirth.com, and has published articles for an array of news outlets. During her free time, Laura enjoys hiking, writing poetry and spending time with her four adult children and one grandchild.