Fear, Tension, Pain Syndrome

This is a concept found by Obstetrician, Grantly Dick-Read in the 1950's and was published in his book "Childbirth Without Fear".  He observed women's attitudes prior to labour affected the experience of childbirth.  Negative attitudes resulted in higher anxiety, pain and fear during childbirth.  

When anxiety, pain and fear are raised we enter 'flight or fight' - our hormonal response to stress.  This was helpful when we lived as cave-ladies and needed to run from lions and tigers and bears (oh my!).  When we needed to survive and encountered a real threat to our lives.  But the brain has not evolved since this to identify between real and perceived threats.  So you can see how the brain may interpret our attitudes towards labour and process them accordingly.

This 'flight or fight' response triggers 2 hormones to assist us with the once necessary reaction to 'danger; (adrenaline and cortisol).  That double act work to change any responses that might get in the way of us 'fighting or flighting'.  One hormone it reduces is Oxytocin - the LOVE hormone.  Oxytocin is required for contractions and it just makes you feel...good!  So if oxytocin is lowered, contractions slow down, you stop feeling positive, start experiencing some fear, leading to tension ending with pain.  And so it goes.

So how can we interrupt or even stop this cycle?  As well as those we cover in our practice, there are a few other factors you could also consider;

  • Environmental

  • Equipment

  • Unexpected

Familiarising yourself (and birthing partner) with your planned place of birth can help to ease fear a lot.  By 'equipment', I'm referring to your belongings, anything you're planning to have with you during your labour.  Whether that's a particular pillow or blanket, a birthing partner, music, a smell, food - anything that easily brings you into a 'safe' place. 


Working out the every day things can also help to avoid any unnecessary 'stress' when the time comes.  Thinking about who you may need to call if you go into labour when you are alone, a list of names and numbers?  Working out your journey to your place of birth.  Will this be the same during the day and night?  Who will take you?  Do they know where to park?  How long do you expect the journey to take?  Perhaps considering how many contractions you may experience en route and how you plan to cope.  Give yourself some time to consider any questions that may feel relevant for you.

Below is a yoga nidra practice which helps you to tap into this relaxed safe place, allowing you to explore what feels right for you.  Again, I have included the active toolkit I created to help you discover what may work for you. 

"It is not only that we want to bring about an easy labour, without risking injury to the mother or the child; we must go further.  We must understand that childbirth is fundamentally a spiritual, as well as physical, achievement...The birth of a child is the ultimate perfection of human love" - Grantly Dick-Read

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Maternal Sunshine Yoga

Seaford, UK

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