Many birth professionals have noticed what is called the "cycle of fear" or what I prefer to call the "fight or flight syndrome". This is a simple problem that can be seen by any rancher or pet owner in the world. When an animal goes into labor it seeks out a place of quiet, usually a dark place and a place where it can labor alone - without distractions or fear of attack. A cat will often go under a bed, behind a stack of boxes, inside the closet - to build her nest and give birth. Nearly all animals do this. BUT, what happens when they are startled? What happens when you walk up to a birthing cow or burst in on a laboring dog? That animal gets a fight or flight response to you (Adrenaline) - AND normally they will run away - labor stops completely and they leave the scene in search of the perfect place to birth in safety.
A woman needs to feel peace and safety to birth well. This is very hard to accomplish in a hospital setting so she is forced to labor in a very un-private, loud, bright place. A feeling of danger is often the result - even when there really is no danger at all. The body responds to that feeling with a SLOWING of labor and an increase in the level of pain.
Doula support is proven to reduce the stress of labor and can even reduce labor time and pain levels. Women labor better when they have a doula with them.
One of the most amazing things about doula care is the fact that it can impact the medical outcome!
In a Houston study of 416 women:
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