Expert Author Lisa L Hardy

If you had to guess, how many professionals would you say you might meet during one stay at the hospital? Two or three? Five or six? Well, I did a brainstorm and came up with TEN! And for each of those ten categories, you might see three or four different people during your stay there,depending how long it is. That is 40 different people you will be sharing your birth experience with.

Now for some folks, meeting new people is no problem. Others of you might not even mind meeting people when you are not feeling your very best. And others of you might even feel comfortable meeting new people when you are wearing a thin not-so-terrific-looking greenish gown that doesn't completely close in the back AND you are not feeling your best.

Even if you feel comfortable with new people, for some people, just walking into the hospital can make them nervous. You associate hospitals with being sick, something yucky, and even scary. "White coat hypertension", otherwise known as getting really nervous when you go to the doctor, is a real phenomenon. So when you get to the hospital to have your baby, nervousness or fear are automatically triggered in your brain. Add to that a bunch of unfamiliar people, not to mention that you are going to have your baby now and this isn't a "drill", and who wouldn't be nervous or even afraid?

But for those of you who MIGHT have some nervousness about all this or who might be thinking, "WHAT????", I have some good news. There is a solution and it's something that is easy and free for you.

So what's the problem with a little fear or nervousness? From the perspective of a pregnant mom, a problem with the nervousness and fear is that it can contribute to the "fear-pain" cycle. The fear-pain cycle has to do with activation of a bunch of chemicals in your body via FEAR that create more PAIN. Pain itself is actually made up of two distinct parts, and this is helpful to understand when you are thinking of the fear-pain cycle. There is the part where nerves send signals up your spinal column to your brain telling it to tell you, "That hurts!" Then there is the MORE important part, the part where you are about to make a difference, and that is the part where your brain sends signals back down to the painful area and actually BLOCKS those signals coming up to it. Your amazing brain will STOP THE PAIN, or at least decrease it.

Probably the easiest and most important way to decrease your fear and anxiety is through relaxation. Yes, you may be laughing right now and saying, "If I could relax, I wouldn't be feeling fear and anxiety!!" This is a two-part answer. One is that you need to practice particular relaxation techniques and the other is that you need a partner to REMIND you very gently to activate those techniques as there this a good chance that a) you will forget because you are about to have your baby and b) You will not recognize that you are feeling tense because you are about to have your baby and you have other things on your mind.

Remember all those people I mentioned at the beginning of this article? That's another reason why your partner is key in having a smart, confident birth. He or she is a familiar anchor for you, a reminder to you to use your relaxation techniques, a signal to your brain that everything is okay. And all of those things will automatically activate your brain to send signals down your spinal cord to tell any pain you might be having that it actually doesn't hurt, leaving you feeling calm and confident and leaving your body to "do its thing" in labor and help you and your doctor to safely deliver your healthy baby.

Relaxation is taught and, most importantly, practiced in childbirth education classes. This is important, because the more you practice relaxation, the better you will be at it and the quicker you will be able to activate your brain to tell pain to stop or decrease. There are a variety of techniques for relaxation as well, and you may find some of them are a better "fit" for you than others.

So even though the people and setting of the hospital may be unfamiliar to you, once you and your partner learn the technique of relaxation, YOU will be more confident in your birth experience.



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