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So many of you recently answered my Instagram poll about the fear of labor. More than 60% of you answered that you were indeed afraid, particularly about the pain related to labor and birth. The rest of the women who answered that they weren’t afraid, have done some sort of preparation, hypnobirthing or other. What I am going to write about below is about the relation between fear and pain, and about how if you know the mechanisms in place during labor, you will no longer fear it and might even feel excited about the pleasure you can perceive during.

This is obviously a very brief description of the whole process. In hypnobirthing we discuss this in depth in 4 sessions.

So, we have basically been fear mongered our whole life about birth. This fear has been stored in our subconscious, and created a defensive response. This is called the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle. What does this mean? Well, once labor starts, your brain gets out all the information about it, and if this is negative, it will create tension in all your muscles. Your body has received a message from your subconscious saying “This isn’t safe” and “escape”. The muscles will have to go through the natural waves of contractions while completely in tension. As you can imagine, this is less than optimal.

In the 1920s, Grantley Dick-Read described what has become known as the “Fear-Tension-Pain” cycle. He suggested that fear causes a birthing person to become tense, and that tension increases pain. The increased pain, in turn, increases fear, and the cycle repeats.


As you may understand by now, a great deal of the pain we hear off about labor, is actually rooted in fear. The main two positive birth hormones are Oxytocin and Endorphins. This means love and pleasure. Oxytocin is the force that created the waves, what we like to call contractions, as that is how they feel. They cause intensity, but not pain perse. They come from deep within you. Therefor it is only logical to believe you can withstand these waves, as you are their creator. They help open your cervix and push your baby down. The endorphins are natures gift, which make this whole experience as pleasurable as sex, if you let it. That is why some call birth an orgasmic experience. It is part of our reproductive life. The same hormones and body parts are in place. We can therefor completely enjoy our birthing experience.

Its direct opposites are Cortisol and Adrenalin. (Stress and fear). They cannot co-exist with love hormones. (Well, not exactly true, as adrenaline plays a role in the active part of labor, but let’s talk about that another time.) What I mean by this is, as long as we are scared, usually because of false information, myths and negative birth stories, our body will completely tense and you will miss out on what can be one of the most female and empowering experiences of your life.

I solemnly believe our body doesn’t need any preparation for birth, but our mind does 100%. We need to erase all the scary stories which people love to tell so much, and replace them with facts, positive birth experiences and information about how amazingly our body really works. We were literally made to birth our babies. We have done it for millions of years, in every condition imaginable. It is time for women, to take back what was taken from us. Our confidence in ourselves, in our bodies and in our babies. I hope this helped you a little bit with your fear. For me, one of my biggest tools preparing for my labor is hypnobirthing. You can find more information in my blog and website.

Hereby a list of books and websites that may help you on your journey through pregnancy:

  • Birth by Ibone Olza
  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
  • Birth and breastfeeding by Michel Odent
  • Any book by Sara Wickham
  • Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan
  • Evidence based birth
  • El parto es nuestro
  • The free birth society

Photo by Flávia Jacob Fotografia

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