Fear of Childbirth makes you 3 times more likely to suffer PND.
I just read an article that has found pregnant women who are fearful of childbirth are at three times the risk of developing postpartum (postnatal in Australia) depression. This conclusion was reached after studying over 500,000 mothers in Finland and was recently published in BMJ Open.
Fear of childbirth is a much under appreciated condition here in Australia.
For over 10 years I have been teaching about how fear impacts on labour and birth (http://birthsavvy.com.au/fear-of-childbirth-prolongs-labour/), so it doesn’t really surprise me that it increases your chance of PND.
Fear of childbirth is an insidious condition and greatly affects the progress of labour and birth by interfering with the hormone oxytocin. The more and more I look into oxytocin the more I realise what a precious hormone it is.
In the midwifery world we call it the “Love Hormone” as it is the main hormone in every reproductive response in both men and women. It triggers care taking behaviours and makes us feel good after orgasm; during labour it gives us a sense of well being; and during breast feeding it induces maternal nurturing behaviours, and makes us want our babies in a biological way.
I recently heard it called “the Cuddle Hormone” by a psychologist as it is released in response to kisses, hugs and cuddles. As humans, we seek this contact in times of stress and oxytocin is a part of the body’s stress coping mechanism. It has also been show to repair heart cells that have been damaged by stress.
Michel Odent, writes in his book The Scientification of Love that the price the human race has paid for civilisation is problems with low sex drive, difficult childbirth and difficulties breastfeeding. One of the reasons for this is because so many women receive synthetic oxytocins during labour. And while they do contract the uterus, they don’t enter the brain and give all the wonderful behavioural benefits of nature’s oxytocins.
But along with synthetic oxytocins, fear and stress are the greatest threats to our own oxytocin. They release catecholamines that inhibit the flow of oxytocin.
However many obstetricians do not acknowledge the role fear plays and give women very little time to discuss their fears.
Most fears come under the umbrella fear of ‘Fear of the Unknown’, but the 15min Doctor’s antenatal appointment does not allow time to explore and allay these fears.
Some doctors even play on these fears to encourage women towards induction or a c-section. This may also contribute to an unsatisfactory birth experience and therefore a higher chance of PND.
This is such an important issue because PND may affect the mother’s abilities and skills to engage with her baby, and can possibly affecting the child’s later development and well-being.
We are supposed to feel like Wonder Woman after birth, ready to take on anything. And oxytocin plays a big part in this. We are also supposed to feel like Wonder Woman in 5 months time, not bewildered, overwhelmed, tired and depressed.
Education really is the key to reducing the fears around childbirth. Birth is not meant to be overwhelming and scary. When you understand the beautiful design and have strategies to manage the contractions, it can be a wonderful and empowering experience.
Unfortunately, in today’s busy world, couples are not seeking out good quality childbirth education.
They are relying on hospital antenatal classes, which only prepare them to be good patients and often increase their fears. Or worse, their obstetrician’s advice. Neither of these adequately addresses the issue of fear of childbirth and ways to manage that fear.
This is why I do what I do.
I truly believe good quality childbirth education is the key to managing the fear of birth and give couple the confidence to take control of their birthing experience.
Of course, there are also my Hypnobirthing Australia classes. For more information visit www.perthhypnobirthing.com.au