Failure to Progress
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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 

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