How well do you understand your body’s fight, flight or freeze stress response? Understanding this can unlock just why is so important to rest and remain calm as you prepare to birth your baby.

Let’s talk science first. Your body is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. This controls all the body functions that occur without you even have to think about it, breathing, heart beat and digestion for example. This is further divided onto the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. One turns our stress up to prepare us for battle, the other turns our stress down (also known as rest or digest.) This is the system that keeps us safe.

If a huge bear growls aggressively in your direction and starts charging, you need to respond quickly.  The sympathetic nervous stem kicks in and hormones are distributed to help you react accordingly to keep you alive. Fortunately, your chance of a bear attack is pretty slim, but in modern life your body’s also recognises psychological threats as something it needs to react to. So, if someone at work challenges you regarding why you messed up an invoice at work our bodies will respond in the same physiological way. As this type of threat does not involve us needing to run, and therefore burn off adrenaline produced, this can leave us with raised our levels of cortisol and us feeling what we know as stress.

The parasympathetic nervous system does the opposite and keeps you on low alert, in safe mode so you can go about your day and not feel constantly intimated.

It is important to know that your body cannot simultaneously be in both the fight/flight/freeze stress response and a relaxed state. It’s one or the other. We also know that during birth we want the body to be feeling lovely, relaxed and safe, so we need to direct the body away from the stress response.

The more you understand what is happening in your body, the more you can use this to your advantage. Just by being aware that this response exists can help you to interrupt it when you need to and is one of the things we talk a lot about during the Hypnobirthing programme. If this is something you would like to discuss further, please drop me an email at steph@stephknowles.co.uk

Steph