Failure to Progress - Adrenaline
All species are equipped with this flight or fight mechanism in
order to get away or fight off any predator that interrupts, or invades the
birthing environment. We obviously posses this same primitive response judging
by the number of births which I have attended where this same phenomenon
occurred, the reports that I have read, or heard about since our birth; of
failure to progress, or a birthing mother arriving at a hospital only to find
her contractions stopped and her cervix ceasing to dilate. On being sent home,
contractions will often restart and sometimes birth will take place in the car
or ambulance on the way back to the hospital.
I think that the power of this unconscious mechanism has been underestimated.
Many parents that I have talked to have been disappointed and sometimes felt
wanting, that in spite of all their preparations, Bradley and Lamaze classes,
etc., their birth was very painful and distressing. That in many cases medical
intervention became necessary because of the threat of foetal distress.
There are cultures that only employ midwives who have been lived in close
proximity with the birthing mother all her life or close relatives who will not
arouse that unconscious reaction. In such cultures labour often takes minutes
once the water bag has broken, and discomfort is minimal. (I suspect that if
there are unexpressed antagonisms, and hostilities present between caregiver and
birthing mother this may still create tension, and delay birth no matter how
accustomed to each other they may be.)
Dr. Grantly Dick-Read writes: Fear is the natural protective emotion without
which few of us would remain alive for many days. Its intensity varies from
precaution and doubt to uncontrollable terror. Even mild anxiety can make a
woman tense, thus causing the circular muscles to resist the expulsive muscles
of the uterus. A tense woman has a tense outlet to the uterus, giving rise to
the saying "Tense woman - tense cervix." A tense cervix means a long
and painful labour in the majority of cases, for the mother is closing the door
against the progress of her baby from the uterus.
For some time now I have been suggesting to physicians, midwives, and doulas,
that greater awareness is directed at diagnosing the arousal syndrome and taking
steps to help the birthing mother to discharge the adrenaline which is in her
bloodstream, before using pharmaceuticals to mask the pain.
An alternative would be for private birthing rooms to be equipped with a video
camera, and a two way wireless, and the birth monitored by health professionals
in an adjoining room or central viewing station. Part of the prenatal caring
would be to instruct the mother to be and her companion in the simple practice
of an uncomplicated birth. Without
comparative strangers present the flight or fight reaction may not be
stimulated. If complications arise, qualified help is immediately on hand, and
the safety and comfort of the two most important people, the mother and child,
would be assured.
by Rayner Garner
For more information, please contact him at [email protected]