There are lots of things a midwife has in their toolkit to help promote and protect birth, and to make you feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. It is important to us that you, the mother, do feel as relaxed as possible when in labour - which sounds a bit ironic doesn’t it when contracting?! This is because, unfortunately, increased anxiety can actually slow your labour down.
When you are in labour, your body is producing large amounts of a hormone called oxytocin, sometimes called ‘the hormone of love’, and prolactin ‘the mothering hormone’. This release of oxytocin is what gives you contractions, and the larger release the stronger and more effective the contractions will be. Our bodies are very clever though, and they actually also release beta-endorphins; the bodies natural pain killer, to help us through the intensity of the contractions.
The other hormones produced in labour are adrenaline and noradrenaline. Adrenaline can be very important in the second stage (pushing stage) of your labour, to give you that sudden burst of energy required to push, even after a long labour. Unfortunately, adrenaline, if released in large amounts too early in the labour can actually inhibit the release of oxytocin, and in effect, slow down or stop the contractions, which will slow down or stop the labour process.
We often see this release of adrenaline when the labouring woman first arrives to the birthing suite in hospital - she has gone from her ‘nesting space’, her home, where she feels comfortable and secure, to a stark hospital room, with unfamiliar faces, unfamiliar smells, beeping equipment, bright lights and that association of hospitals with ‘sickness’ that can bring feelings of fear and nervousness. What happens next, is that her labour that was progressing really great at home, has now slowed dramatically or completely stopped.
So, it is our job, as your midwife, to make you feel ‘at home’ again, to increase that oxytocin hormone, and hopefully increase your contractions (sadist’s at heart we are!) to get your labour going again so you can have your baby in your arms soon!