Childbirth is a transformative experience that requires the body to be in a relaxed state. The parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” state, plays a crucial role in controlling labor through the release of oxytocin. Understanding the importance of this system can help birthing parents prepare for and navigate the different stages of labor.

During moments of fear or anxiety, the parasympathetic nervous system shuts down, and the sympathetic nervous system takes over, invoking the fight or flight response. This can cause labor to stop and make the process more challenging. Therefore, it’s essential to keep the body in a relaxed state during labor and delivery.

The various stages of labor, from prodromal labor to pushing, require different levels of relaxation and energy. In prodromal labor, contractions may not have a pattern yet, but the uterus is practicing and training for the big event. In early labor, contractions become consistent but are not yet close together, allowing for rest and relaxation. During active labor, contractions are longer, stronger, and more frequent, and it’s time to lean on comfort measures to help labor progress.

Transition, the climax of labor, can feel intense, as the baby moves down into and through the birth canal. Pushing is the time to bring the baby into the world, with some birthing parents experiencing the fetal ejection reflex, while others put in a lot of hard work


After the baby is born, it’s essential to take care of the birthing body in the days and weeks of rest and recovery. While every birthing experience is different, understanding the power of the parasympathetic nervous system can help birthing parents feel more prepared for the journey ahead.

It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to labor and delivery. Each birthing experience is unique, and every birthing parent’s journey is different. However, learning about the parasympathetic nervous system’s role in labor and delivery can provide a foundation for birthing parents to make informed decisions and approach the process with confidence and grace.

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