At no other time in your life do you experience such massive hormonal fluctuation as during pregnancy and labour. According to research conducted by psychologist Laura M Glynn of Chapman University and her colleague Curt A Sandman of University of the California Irvine, reproductive hormones may be your body’s way of getting you ready for the demands of motherhood. The scientists believe that this helps you become less stressed, and more attuned to your baby’s needs.
And during labour itself, your hormones can turn you from a relatively sane and calm person to someone completely different.
For your baby to arrive, two things need to happen: the muscles in your womb and abdominal wall contract, and your cervix softens to allow the passage of your baby from the womb to the outside world. The hormone oxytocin plays a key role. Called the “love hormone”, oxytocin is associated with feelings of bonding and motherhood.
Another hormone released during labour is called prolactin. As your labour contractions become more intense, natural pain-relief hormones are released. These are known as beta-endorphins. Along with pain relief, these also bring about feelings of elation and happiness. As you get closer to pushing, your body releases large amounts of adrenaline and noradrenaline, and the sudden rush of these hormones brings about a surge of energy and the final contractions to deliver your baby.
Here’s how your personality will change during labour:
This stage comes fairly early in the process, when you first begin to have contractions. You are excited and filled with anticipation regarding what is coming. This period can last a while and is the fun part of labour. You still have a sense of humour at this point, so enjoy this time.
This is the second stage and can shift from the excitement stage without you realising it. Now concentration is needed with each contraction. You may need to focus on relaxing and deep breathing. Your contractions are extended and can be up to a minute long. It’s around this point that you have that “do not disturb” air about you, and may be totally absorbed in your labour process.
You will feel confused, unsure, scared or nervous. You may have thoughts such as, “This is so hard”, “I’m tired”, “I can’t take it”, or “I give up”. This is the time your personality changes the most and you may find yourself becoming irrational or emotional. At this point, you may find yourself screaming, crying, or even swearing at your husband or doctor. Blame your hormones, and the fact that these emotions are a response to pain. Labour causes a shift in your oestrogen and progesterone levels that’s similar to severe PMS, so if your normal rational personality starts to channel that of a screaming banshee, don’t worry – the doctors and nurses are used to it.
Calmness and determination
Your desire to complete your labour and hold that beautiful baby. You are no longer modest, or concerned about how you look. This is your fight or flight mode – and the desire to push signals that meeting your baby is close.