Vicious Cycles: All About Fear-Tension-Pain

Ah, vicious cycles, how we loathe ye. They are hard to get out of, that's for sure. The key, I think, is to never get in them to begin with.

It's easy enough to understand. Fear causes tension which creates pain. Yes. But let's break it down a bit, shall we?

This is Ding, she ain't afraid of nothing!

This is Ding, she ain't afraid of nothing!

In childbirth, women produce a hormone called Oxytocin. It's the love hormone, it makes us bond with our babies, and also makes our uteruses contract to get those babies out. But we have a couple of other hormones which do not help us in that situation. They are Cortisol and Adrenaline. The stress hormone, and the fight or flight hormone, respectively. 

So when we let these hormones roam free, they can run amok. The stress will cause you fear and in turn, tension and then, you guessed it, pain. And adrenaline will send blood flow to other parts of your body as if you were about to run away or fight someone, taking oxygen away from your uterus and baby. This situation causes uterine contractions to slow down, or even stop, and become ineffective and painful. 

Think of Fear-Tension-Pain as FTP, Failure To Progress.

That is a phrase you do not want to hear while in labour, so it's best to nip it in the bud. 

The role of a support person (partner, doula, friend) is to help mama turn Fear-Tension-Pain into Confidence-Relaxation-Progress. 

Ways to do this are:

- Going into labour knowledgable about what will happen
- Familiarizing yourselves with normal birth and seeing that it is not scary
- Don't let things scare you about birth
- Encouraging phrases ('your body was made for exactly this!' 'but you ARE doing it!' [when she says she can't do it])
- Talk through her fears and anxieties
- Make sure she feels loved, heard, respected & protected
- Use massage and hydrotherapy
- Use counter pressure to help ease pain, and an epidural if she likes

The most important thing to remember is do not get to fight or flight! It'll just be that much harder to come back from. 

Be confident in yourselves, mamas. Relax into your birth process, however it may go. And let the natural progress happen so that you can meet your baby.

-Lila