Why Labor is Good for Babies

A few years ago I was sitting in a lecture series designed for birth professionals. I have to admit I was beginning to doze, as it was right after lunch. Then something the physician said made me jolt upright in my chair. Labor was good for babies.

Considering everything I’d ever heard from women, doctors and even some midwives, I never thought I’d ever hear those words. So many people talk of fetal distress and the dangers of birth for the baby. This man was telling me that in general labor is great for babies.

Basically, what it boils down to is that the stress of labor is a good stress. As the mother labors her body produces hormones to help her deal with pain. As she does this her baby’s adrenal glands are stimulated and they begin to produce high levels of catecholamines, or stress hormones.

The catecholamines are the same ones that everyone’s bodies produce in the flight or fight response to a life threatening situation or stressful event. This fetal stress response is designed to help the baby make the transition to life outside the uterus.

Here is how it helps specifically: