Labor Stress & Adrenaline in Labor

Adrenaline in Labor

So you are laboring at home beautifully – things are progressing well.  Contractions are 3-4 minutes apart so you and your partner decide it’s time to head to the hospital, your chosen place of birth. 

You waddle as gracefully as you can to labor and delivery triage and they place the monitors on you to see how frequent your contractions are. You are monitored for 20 minutes and only have two contractions.  And they aren’t as intense as they were at home.

What happened?
Were you imagining it?

This scenario is all too common for laboring moms.


The answer is hormones and one in particular – adrenaline.

To understand what adrenaline does first we need to understand another hormone that is vital in birth – oxytocin.

Oxytocin is the love hormone.

Known as the “protect and collect” hormone this is the hormone we feel when we are in a place that is safe and we feel comfortable.  Our body releases this hormone when we make love, when we eat chocolate and when we breastfeed our baby.  It’s also the hormone that causes our uterus to contract.  We cannot have a birth without oxytocin and if a woman’s body is lacking this medical care providers will give her the synthetic form of oxytocin, Pitocin. When oxytocin is released blood flows to the core of our body, giving us the feeling of warmth.

Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone.  It is released when we feel stressed or in danger. Our body will cause the blood flow to go to our extremities so we can fight or run away.
Something else that happens when adrenaline is released during labor is that it counteracts the oxytocin – and can actually cause labor to slow down or even stop. Other effects of high levels of adrenaline during labor is increased sense of pain, panic in the laboring mother and even stress in the baby.

Think of an animal out in nature about to have its baby.  If at any time they feel threatened, their labor will stop and they will wait to go back into labor until they are safe.
So whether it’s just walking into a hospital that stresses you out, or the fear of birth itself, it’s important that you do all you can to keep that adrenaline from flowing during labor!
Taking classes and hiring a doula can help relieve stress and lower your adrenaline. Click here for more info on my doula services and childbirth classes!

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