A recent Norwegian study found that women who were fearful of giving birth spent an average of 8 hours in labour, versus an average of 6.5 hours for women who weren’t afraid of birth. Women who feared childbirth were also more likely than unafraid women to need an emergency caesarean or have their birth assisted by instruments.
This might be explained by the hormonal impact of fear on labour. When we are afraid, we release adrenaline. Adrenaline is a fight or flight hormone that prepares our bodies for action in the face of a perceived threat. Adrenaline can affect uterine contractions, making them less efficient and more painful.
We know that for labour to progress well and normally, we need very different hormones.
The hormones we need are the endorphins and oxytocin, and these hormones are far more abundant when we are feeling calm, relaxed, confident and safe.