Understanding Fear, Physiology and Finding an Explanation of How the Mind Influences Us During Childbearing

  • Kathryn Gutteridge


This chapter looks at the pregnant mind and the journey women make throughout their pregnancies before they make a leap of faith into motherhood, describing the anatomy and pathophysiology of fear and the influence of pregnancy hormones. This chapter will identify the psychological vulnerability of women and their bodies which may influence the choices they make about pregnancy and birth.


Fear Hormones Brain Psychological stress 


  1. ‘Anxiety’ Online version Oxford Dictionary Accessed June 2018Google Scholar
  2. Ainsworth MDS (1991) Attachments and other affectional bonds across the life cycle. In: Parkes CM, Stevenson-Hinde J, Marris P (eds) Attachment across the life cycle. Routledge, London, pp 33–51Google Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 5th edn. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DCCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aston-Jones G, Gonzalez M, Doran S (2007) Role of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system in arousal and circadian regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. In: Ordway GA, Schwartz MA, Frazer A (eds) Brain norepinephrine: neurobiology and therapeutics. Cambridge UP, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Bandura A (1977) Social learning theory. Prentice Hall, Englewood CliffsGoogle Scholar
  6. staff (2014) Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014. WikiJournal Med 1(2). ISSN 2002-4436
  7. Bowlby J (1969) Attachment. Attachment and loss: vol. 1. Loss. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Breslau N, Davis GC, Andreski P, Peterson E (1991) Traumatic events and posttraumatic stress disorder in an urban population of young adults. Arch Gen Psychiatry 48(3):216–222. Scholar
  9. Bristow D, Dehaene-Lambertz G, Mattout J, Soares C, Gliga T, Baillet S, Mangin JF (2009) Hearing faces: how the infant brain matches the face it sees with the speech it hears. J Cogn Neurosci 21:905–921CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Counts SE, Mufson EJ (2012) Locus coeruleus. In: Mai JK, Paxinos G (eds) The human nervous system, 3rd edn. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 425–438. Scholar
  11. Dale HH (1906) On some physiological actions of ergot. J Physiol 34:163–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duhn L (2010) The importance of touch in the development of attachment. Adv Neonatal Care 10(6):294–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Foucault M (1989) Power affects the body. In: Foucault M (ed) Foucault live: interviews. Semiotext(e), New York, pp 1961–1984Google Scholar
  14. Freud S (1900) The interpretation of dreams. Standard edition, vol 4 & 5. Hogarth Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  15. Freud S (1953) The interpretation of dreams (second part) and on dreams. The Hogarth Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  16. Fuchs AR, Behrens O, Lin HC (1992) Correlation of nocturnal increase in plasma oxytocin in plasma with a decrease in estradiol/progesterone ratio in late pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol 167:1559–1563CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gerhardt S (2014) Why love matters; how affection shapes a baby’s brain, 2nd edn. Routledge, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Giedd JN, Snell JW, Lange N (1996) Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging of human brain development: ages 4-18. Cereb Cortex 6(4):551–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goldman J (2012) What is classical conditioning? (And why does it matter?). Accessed 23 May 2019
  20. Gutteridge KEA (2002) From me to mother; a descriptive phenomenological exploration of women’s journey into motherhood, influenced by feminist theory. University of Central England, Masters of Science Psychotherapy, BirminghamGoogle Scholar
  21. Gutteridge K (2014) The multisensory approach to birth and aromatherapy. Pract Midwife 17(5):26–29PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Gutteridge KEA (2016) What impact does fearfulness of childbearing have upon parturient women? Unpublished ThesisGoogle Scholar
  23. Handelzalts JE, Becker G, Ahren M-P, Lurie S, Raz N, Tamir Z et al (2015) Personality, fear of childbirth and birth outcomes in nulliparous women. Arch Gynecol Obstet 291(5):1055–1062. Scholar
  24. Herman JL (1997) [1992] “A new diagnosis”. In: Herman JL (ed) Trauma and recovery: the aftermath of violence—from domestic abuse to political terror. BasicBooks, New York, p 119. ISBN 9780465087303.Google Scholar
  25. Hofberg K, Brockington I (2000) Tokophobia: an unreasoning dread of childbirth. A series of 26 cases. Br J Psychiatry 176:83–85. Scholar
  26. Holt S, Buckley H, Whelan S (2008) The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children and young people: a review of the literature. Child Abuse Negl 32(8):797–810. Scholar
  27. Jung CG (1974) Dreams (compilation from collected works, vols. 4, 8, 12, 16). Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. isbn:0-691-01792-1Google Scholar
  28. Kitzinger JV (1992) Counteracting, not reenacting, the violation of women’s bodies: the challenge for perinatal caregivers. Birth 19(4):219–220. Scholar
  29. Klabbers GA, van Bakel HJA, van den Heuvel MMA, Vingerhoets AJJM (2016) Severe fear of childbirth: its features, assessment, prevalence, determinants, consequences and possible treatments. Psychol Top 25(1):107–127Google Scholar
  30. Kolb LC (1987) Neurophysiological hypothesis explaining posttraumatic stress disorder. Am J Psychiatry 144:989–995CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lovallo WR, Robinson JL, Glahn DC, Fox PT (2010) Acute effects of hydrocortisone on the human brain: an fMRI study. Psychoneuroendocrinology 35:15–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lukasse M, Vangen S, Oian P, Kumle M, Ryding EL et al (2010) Childhood abuse and fear of childbirth—a population-based study. Birth 37:267–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Melender H-L (2002) Experiences of fears associated with pregnancy and childbirth: a study of 329 pregnant women. Birth 29(2):101–111. Scholar
  34. Moberg KU (2003) The oxytocin factor: tapping the hormone of calm, Love and Healing. Da Capo Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  35. Nielsen TA, Paquette T (2007) Dream-associated behaviors affecting pregnant and postpartum women. Sleep 30:1162–1169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nilsson C, Lundgren I (2009) Women’s lived experience of fear of childbirth. Midwifery 25(2):e1–e9 Epub 2007 May 18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pavlov IP (1897–1902) The work of the digestive glands. Griffin, LondonGoogle Scholar
  38. Pert CB (1997) Molecules of emotion: why you feel the way you feel. Scribner, New York, p 368Google Scholar
  39. Rachman S (1977) The conditioning theory of fear acquisition: a critical examination. Behav Res Ther 15(5):375–387. Scholar
  40. Raphael-Leff J (2001) The psychological processes of childbearing (revised edition). Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, Faculty of Health and Social Care Integrative Psychotherapy; 2nd revised edition (9 Mar 2002)Google Scholar
  41. Raphael-Leff J (2002) Women and power. In: Seelig BJ, Paul RA, Levy CB (eds) Constructing and deconstructing woman’s power. Karnac, London, pp 45–55 (Chapter 4)Google Scholar
  42. Rondung E, Thomtén J, Sundin Ö (2016) Psychological perspectives on fear of childbirth. J Anxiety Disord 44:80–91. Epub 2016 Oct 18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rothschild B (2000) The body remembers: the psychophysiology of trauma and trauma treatment. W.W. Norton, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Saisto T, Halmesmäki E (2003) Fear of childbirth: a neglected dilemma. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 82:201–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schacter D, Tulving E (1994) Advances in the study of memory and memory systems. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  46. Sherin JE, Nemeroff CB (2011) Post-traumatic stress disorder: the neurobiological impact of psychological trauma. Dialogues Clin Neurosci 13(3):263–278PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. Southwick S, Krystal J, Morgan C (1993) Abnormal noradrenergic function in posttraumatic stress disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 50:266–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stoll K, Hall WA (2013) Attitudes and preferences of young women with low and high fear of childbirth. Qual Health Res, 23 (11) (2013), pp. 1495–1505, Scholar
  49. Tsui MH, Pang MW, Melender H-L, Xu L, Lau TK, Leung TN (2007) Maternal fear associated with pregnancy and childbirth in Hong Kong Chinese women. Women Health 44(4):79–92. Scholar
  50. van der Kolk BA (1987) Psychological trauma. American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  51. van der Kolk BA, Saporta J (1991) The biological response to psychic trauma: mechanisms and treatment of intrusion and numbing. Anxiety Res 4:199–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. van der Kolk BA, van der Hart (1989) Pierre Janet and the breakdown of adaptation in psychological trauma. Am J Psychiatry 146:1530–1540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. van der Kolk BA, van der Hart (1991) The intrusive past: the flexibility of memory and the engraving of trauma. Am Imago 48:425–454Google Scholar
  54. Van der Kolk, BA (2014) The body keeps the score. Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma, New York, VikingGoogle Scholar
  55. Verma BA, Nichols LP, Plegue MA, Moniz MA, Rai M, Chang T (2016) Advice given by community members to pregnant women: a mixed methods study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 16:349. Scholar
  56. Walsh D, Gutteridge K (2011) Using the birth environment to increase women’s potential in labour. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest 21(2):143–147Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn Gutteridge
    • 1
  1. 1.Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS TrustBirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations