Labour and birth hormones – Adrenaline
Adrenaline is quite often considered to be unhelpful, not only when it comes to birth, but life in general – it normally makes us think about that fight/flight/freeze response when we’re scared, stressed or panicked.
Adrenaline is unhelpful during the first stage of labour, however it does definitely have its place when it comes to actually giving birth.
So, when we spoke before about oxytocin, I mentioned that adrenaline is unhelpful during the first stage of labour as it inhibits the production of oxytocin, which is the hormone that we need to produce to encourage our surges.
It’s also unhelpful because when we produce adrenaline and that fight/flight response is triggered, in order to prepare us to fight or flight (run) from the perceived threat our bodies send our oxygenated blood to our hands and feet, it means that anything that isn’t essential for fighting or running away doesn’t get as much oxygenated blood – things like your digestive system and yep, that’s right your uterus! So this combo of you feeling scared/threatened, not as much oxygenated blood, the physical tension in your body that this response is causing, the fact that the adrenaline is blocking the production of oxytocin (the hormone that facilitates your surges) can mean that things can slow down and your surges can come to a complete stand still or it can mean that your body is working a lot harder as your muscles are tense (your uterus is a big bag of muscles) which is tiring and more painful.
What can cause this response?
You don’t have to be faced with something that absolutely terrifies you for you to have this response – by feeling unprepared, out of your comfort zone, out of control or scared you can trigger this response. Things like not really knowing what’s going on, if you’re not clicking with your midwife, if you don’t have faith in your birth partner, if you don’t feel confident yourself for whatever reason, if someone walks into the room, doesn’t make eye contact and starts talking about you like you’re not there – all of these things could trigger the production of adrenaline.
It’s important to remember that if you do have a wobble or a fully blown panic during labour it’s not the end of the world – you can definitely get back into the zone, get calm, get focused again and encourage your body to get back to producing lots of oxytocin. I’ve given you some ideas on the previous post about oxytocin.
When is adrenaline helpful during labour?
You go through a phase in labour which is often referred to as transition or the rest and be thankful phase of labour – this is when you get a hit of adrenaline, which triggers your ejection reflex and gives you a boost of energy for the final part of labour, when your baby is born.
Finding out more about the transition phase of labour is definitely really helpful (we go into this in more detail on my birth preparation course or you can google it or find it in most good books about pregnancy and birth). I’m really glad that my birth partner was also aware of how things might change during transition. If he hadn’t have been aware and been there to remind me of what was happening then my birth could have ended up being very different.
I hope that this is helpful. If you have any questions, please do get in touch.
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