#110 | Cynthia Mini: How Fear Affects Labor

July 5, 2021

Your body has been perfectly designed for childbirth. In this episode, Cynthia explains the difference between a mammal birthing in a state of fear versus trust. It's all part of nature's perfect design to protect the baby from arriving amid harm. Our job is to respect that process and to learn to work with it. This episode may be even more important for your partner to listen to than you, because  partners tend to hold that special role of being the ones who can put us into a trusting state physiologically. And when it comes to childbirth - just like when it comes to sex - nothing is more important than trust.

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

You can sign up for Cynthia's HypnoBirthing classes as well as online breastfeeding classes and weekly postpartum support groups run by Cynthia & Trisha at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

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View Episode Transcript

Hey everyone, this is Cynthia and I wanted to do a mini episode that I feel is very overdue on the effect of fear on birthing mammals. This is a premise of HypnoBirthing. But any informed provider, probably virtually any midwife you ever meet will know all about this very well. So it's really quite common knowledge in in birthing, and I feel it should be common knowledge in society as well for you and for your partners to understand this. In some ways, it's actually more beneficial for your partners to understand this. And after you hear my explanation, I think you'll understand why. Now, I want you to envision a birthing mammal, let's picture a deer in the forest. And that labor is beginning for her now first, imagine this deer she's going about her life. She's full term pregnant, she has no idea she's pregnant, right? She doesn't have the conscious mind that humans have developed. So everything she's doing is driven by her instinct. And this is how mammals survive purely by their instinct. So she's out there in the woods. She's about to go into labor, she's gained some weight, she's feeling different in her body. But there are no thoughts or questions, no expectations, and certainly no fear about what she is about to experience. Now, I do want to just take a moment and have you recognize that we are all mammals for a reason, being a mammal, has nothing to do with the fact that you know that we humans view ourselves as so special, because we have thumbs and we have this intelligent quote, intelligent mind, what we really have is a prefrontal cortex that allows us to plan and allows us to evaluate and make decisions and plan for the future and reconsider the past. And you know, we use this to, to be able to do things that that other mammals are not able to do. But they certainly have their own intelligence. And we also have a lot of intelligence in our subconscious mind that we really aren't tapping into very much. So just imagine this mammal out there, she really isn't different from us.

As far as birthing, she conceives her baby the same way that we do, she births her baby the same way that we do, she breastfeeds her baby the same way that we do. Obviously, humans don't always conceive and breastfeed or feed their babies exactly the same way. But we know this is the default. This is how evolution in nature has created us. So we're all called mammals, specifically, because we birth the same way. That's what we have exactly in common. So this deer is now going into labor, she doesn't have to consciously do a single thing, because nature is going to make sure that when this baby has to come out, the baby will come out with or without the mother's participation. So she's going about her day, her baby indicates when it's time to come out, she doesn't have to do anything. And now the process has begun. And now oxytocin is flowing. Now oxytocin is your love hormone. It's your bonding hormone. I know you probably hear it all the time. But I want you to just appreciate the fact that we can secrete a host of so many different hormones in our bodies, we have endorphins that make us obviously feel amazing. And we have a host of hormones called catecholamines, which are stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and they too have their function. Alright, there aren't good hormones and bad hormones. The question is, or the point is, we want to secrete the hormones we need when we need them. And preferably at no other time, right? If you're going to make a speech out on stage, preferably, you're not going to start succeeding. The adrenaline and the cortisol that your predecessors experienced a few 1000 years ago, when a predator was chasing them. You don't need to experience that when you're standing out on a stage about to speak to a group of people. But sometimes we do because we're at this unusual point in evolution, where we can do that, for example, if you almost spill, salad dressing on your shirt you like you react like this, but you really don't need to go into a complete fight or flight mode over spilling food on your shirt. But that's where we are at this point in, in history and in evolution. So that deer is now in labor, and she doesn't know what's going on. But she is operating from a place of pure instinct. And what her instinct is telling her is, she must feel now fill in the blank. What must she feel? She must feel safe. And I just want to pause and have you start thinking about that right now before I say it. What is the most important emotion for you to feel when you're in labor? So let me give you a hint. It's the same emotion you must feel for sex to work optimally, our bodies can tighten and close, or our bodies can transform completely for sex, what makes our bodies completely transform and soften and open immensely with relaxation and increased blood flow and heightened sensation? What makes this happen? What emotion makes this happen? The emotion is trust. It works exactly the same in childbirth. So this dear is feeling she must experience trust. How does she do that? She'll go and be alone somewhere where she feels safe. And without having practiced ever in a childbirth class or reading any books or being told by anyone what to do. She's naturally now starting to deepen her breath. Why is that? Well, again, she's coming from a place of pure instinct. So her instinct knows exactly what to do. And by deepening her breath, she's keeping her physiology relaxed, which keeps that oxytocin flowing. And it combats any risk of fetal distress in her baby, because when the birthing mammal is breathing more deeply, she is better oxygenating her blood, and then the baby is receiving more oxygenated blood through the placenta. And with this process, her cervix is now softening and opening, it's softening and opening. other mammals are calm and quiet when they're giving birth. And not that that's the goal. Not that that's better. Not that that's what we're going for. We're looking for a state of trust how you practice that is, of course, there's no right or wrong to how you practice that. But we want you to be in a state of trust. So again, let's go back to the dear, she's breathing more deeply. Unbeknownst to her, she's dilating very, very easily now. But now imagine if that deer suddenly senses a predator is nearby. Imagine a human is nearby. Imagine a coyote is watching her waiting for the little baby to come out.

Right? Or if there's a forest fire, do you think nature would have it that that birthing mammal just has to live there helplessly in labor, I'm able to protect herself and her baby. No, that's not what happens because nature has an intention with every birth. And the intention is always survival. And survival only happens when a the mother survives. Because nature doesn't know anything about your partners or formula or hospitals and neonatal intensive care units. And the second thing that has to happen is the mother the birthing mammal has to fall in love with that baby. Because if any mammal around Earth were to give birth, and suddenly just get up and walk away with indifference, then the baby would lie there and die because it wouldn't have the warmth, the love the food, the safety that it needs in order to survive. So how does this happen when other mammals can take a childbirth class and learn the importance of attachment parenting, how does this happen? It's pure instinct. So if there is a predator nearby, if there's a forest fire, that deer jumps up, one single thought in her mind shuts off the process. All she has to notice is what's that. And instantly, her body stops succeeding oxytocin, which is an endorphin and now replaces it with stress hormones, or catecholamines. No mammal can secrete both stress hormones and endorphins at the same time. And this is a key point, you will secrete one or the other in your birth. Nature has every intention of giving you endorphins. Now when you're induced for a good reason, or for a bad reason, or for no reason, you're robbed of that. And sometimes induction makes sense. And we have to make that choice. But it's very important to recognize that you're not going to get the endorphins that you are expected to get by nature, we need to treat those women who are being induced with so much more love. We have to allow them to feel so much more safety so we can start helping her to secrete more oxytocin and endorphins instead of a chemical experience when she might feel fear. So what happens is back to the deer, the adrenaline kicks in immediately it takes no time at all. And you know that because you know if sirens drive by or you get nervous for a second or something, you know how quickly your hand starts trembling or your heart starts racing. It can happen in just a moment. So she jumps up on her feet. In an instant the oxytocin stops, the adrenaline kicks in and the blood rushes away from her cervix and uterus to her extremities. And this is the key point, her cervix closes it tightens the opposite of dilation. Why? Nature has made no mistake, right? We want to partner with nature. We want to respect nature. Why does it close Because it's nature's way of saying to that birthing, mammal, whoever she is, go save your life right now, the baby will be safe inside of you until you're ready again. And she can run and run and nothing will happen because adrenaline keeps the cervix tight and closed. Once she feels safe again, whenever that is because there's no timeline on it, there's no rush. inside of her, the baby has sleep, food, nutrition, water safety, there's no rush. So the deer runs when she feels safe again, nature says, shall we get back to business here and starts creating oxytocin again, she starts deepening her breath again, her heart rate slows again, and she becomes limp and relaxed again. And that baby is benefiting from all that oxygen again, because she's relaxed now. And then she begins to dilate. And then that's how birth proceeds. This is so important for your partners, especially to understand because their key job in your entire labor is to keep you feeling safe. And if I were speaking directly to your partners, and I say this to partners, and in my HypnoBirthing classes, you are the one you have a special role, you are the one who can make her feel safest.

We know that because you're the one who has sex with her, you're the one who can make her relinquish and soften and trust. And well who has a more powerful role than that in that room. That's an incredible honor. And it's an incredible power, because you can have the baby for her, you can make her feel more relaxed, you can allow her to feel safer, so that she can have the baby with greater ease. I wanted to talk about this response in the body to fear and tension because if you're in labor, and you walk into the hospital, if the nurse or receptionist is impolite to you, that's enough to make your body tighten, to make you breathe a little faster to make you stops accreting those endorphins. We don't want that to happen. Again, it's only because we're at this strange point in evolution, your ancestors needed that response. Because for 1000s of years, hundreds of 1000s of years, we gave birth outside we needed this. We needed this to save our lives. But now we're still kind of stuck with this scenario. So let's use it to our advantage. Let's use it how do we do that everyone outside of your skin should have one top priority. It's to make you feel safe. So we need to step away from this fear of giving birth as if it's some experience you're predestined to have, you can influence your birth immensely. This is why we see such fantastic results in HypnoBirthing. And in some other childbirth methods where women or even some prenatal yoga practices, meditation practices, where you learn to be less responsive to what you're feeling. You learn to quiet the mind. Focus on your breath, visualize that which you want, and the body goes into a completely different state. The most important word in childbirth is trust. It's also the most important word in sex. Nature is here to make this birth successful and comfortable because remember nature's intention. It's that after the birth you're well and that you're able to fall in love with and care for your own baby. So trust in nature. Trust in the process, trust in your baby and trust in yourself.

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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