There has been a growing buzz in pregnancy communities surrounding fetal ejection reflex. A lot of Mom’s are unsure of what it is, why it’s a good thing, or how to achieve it. For full disclosure, even in the context of a natural, unmedicated labor and delivery, some women may not experience this reflex. Which is completely ok!
What exactly is fetal ejection reflex?
Fetal ejection reflex is a term that was coined in the 1960’s while researchers studied the impact of environment on birth in mice. The fetal ejection reflex happens to wild and domesticated mammals in labor. The reflex is said to be triggered by extremely high levels of adrenaline. After transition, if conditions are right. The mother will begin to experience strong, rapid contractions that move the baby into and through the birth canal. This process leads to the expulsion of baby as nerves in the pelvis are triggered by it’s descent through the birth canal. As it occurs, mother may experience a strong uncontrollable urge to push and typically baby is born easily, and within minutes of FER beginning!
Why do pregnant women want to experience fetal ejection reflex?
Each stage of labor and delivery comes with it’s own challenges. For many women, the pushing stage is the most difficult. This is because pushing is physically exhausting when it’s unproductive. It’s not uncommon for first time mothers in a hospital setting to spend multiple hours of their labor learning how to effectively push. Coached pushing (without FER) often leads to tearing which is a pain no woman wants to experience. The fetal ejection reflex is really natures way of helping us birth our children in an effective, less painful way. It’s not uncommon for the pushing to start and stop in short spurts . Which is helpful for stretching the perineum naturally and avoiding tears. These short spurts also help women effectively push through the “ring of fire” sensation quite easily. Although, fetal ejection reflex is not necessary to delivery a baby, it is extremely helpful!
How can I improve my chances of experiencing fetal ejection reflex in labor?
There are a lot of things you can do to improve your chances of experiencing FER in labor. One of the best thing you can do to encourage this reflex, is choose your birth environment wisely! Most studies show that if the laboring mother does not feel safe, secure, and relaxed, FER will not occur. What makes you feel safe and secure? Chances are, loudly beeping fetal monitors and bright lights won’t make the top of your list. Try choosing a hospital that is supportive of natural labor, free movement, dim lighting, and intermittent fetal monitoring. If you are low risk – consider having a home birth! Remember that the more interventions you have, the more monitoring you will needs. So, avoid induction, pitocin, and epidurals if possible. Labor at home for as long as you can before going into the hospital. Surround yourself with dim lights, familiar smells, and comfortable materials. Another great practice, is carefully selecting who you will have attend your birth. If you find yourself clashing or feeling uncomfortable with your provider, no matter how late it is in pregnancy – switch providers!
Is there anything else I should know about FER?
Another important factor some women don’t realize may hinder FER, is too many cervical exams and coached pushing. If you allow constant cervical checks, you may find when you reach 10cm, there is pressure from your provider to begin pushing. However, many women find that labor typically stalls for a short time once they reach 10cm. This allows your body a short break to rest and gear up for FER. Eventually, contractions will pick back up, and your body will experience an involuntary urge to push. Have you ever heard a woman recall her labor experience and say the words “I had to push. I couldn’t stop pushing!” – That is the fetal ejection reflex my friend!
Many women describe fetal ejection reflex in different ways, and for different lengths of time. In my own experience I have seen it take as long as 1 hour for a Mom to deliver this way, and as brief as a single contraction for another! Have you experienced fetal ejection reflex in labor? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!