Research has demonstrated that relaxed moms who feel less frightened during labor and delivery have shorter labors and are more likely to deliver healthy babies. This may not be only a psychological effect but a physiological one as well. When a mom is frightened during labor, she may respond by clenching her teeth, grabbing the side rails of the bed, and curling her toes as if she's steeling herself against the pain or even fighting it. This can happen with the pain of a contraction or the fear of another one coming. She may also be afraid of the unknown.
Unfortunately, this response may physically inhibit your baby's birth. When you tense up in response to your contractions, your body produces adrenaline, the hormone that surges through you when you face situations that cause you fear or pain. When your body produces adrenaline, that chemical response inhibits the production of oxytocin, the hormone that causes your uterine muscles to contract. In effect, your fear of pain during labor can prevent your body from doing the work it needs to do to move your baby through the birth canal and into the waiting arms of the people who already love him.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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