During the past two decades, medical researchers have documented how a woman's emotional state influences her reproductive physiology. In 1979 Gershon Levinson and Sol Shnider at the University of California in San Francisco published findings that linked maternal fear to dysfunctional labor patterns. One year later, Roberto Sosa, M.D., and his associates published research in The New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that the presence of a person who offered emotional support to the mother decreased the length of labor and enhanced mother/infant bonding immediately after birth. This kind of research helped to humanize standard hospital procedures. Hospital birthing rooms that provided for labor and delivery in one place became increasingly available in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Women were permitted to have family members present during labor and to keep their babies with them after delivery. Family-centered birth became an option for women with low-risk pregnancies.
An unfriendly setting and insufficient emotional support can cause anxiety during labor, as can unrealistic childbirth preparation and negative feelings about impending motherhood. If a woman is at ease with her ability to mother, her family relationships, and the anticipated change in her lifestyle, she will be able to turn her attention to preparation for labor as childbirth approaches. Whether she readies herself for a natural birth or plans to use medication, she will need to develop skills for coping with pain. The more her expectation reflects the reality of birth, the less chance she will be shocked by an experience that is much harder and more intense than she had imagined.