“Birth High” After Delivery

After a natural physiological birth, did you feel kind of out of it? Say some super funny things? Not know exactly what was going on for a little while after delivery? This is what we call the “After Birth High”! But why does this happen?!

During physiological – undisturbed labor/birth we experience a normal hormonal chain of reaction that leads to delivery. The 3 main components of this process are Beta Endorphins, Catecholamines, and Oxytocin. We elaborate in full on how each of these work together in our Birthkeeper & Doula certification program, I will briefly explain below.

Hormonal Changes During Delivery

Beta endorphins are natural and powerful pain suppressors released from the pituitary gland! They are also the main cause of the after-birth high when birth is left unhindered (no drugs added – no epidural). Studies have found a sharp decrease in endorphins when using an epidural. Low endorphins have been linked to post-partum depression and limited or decreased maternal bonding. So – AVOID the epidural if you can!

Effects of Epidural Anesthesia During Labor on Maternal Plasma Beta-Endorphin Levels – NCBI
Pain and Plasma Beta-Endorphins During Labor – NCBI

Catecholamines are hormones produced by the adrenal gland. The 3 main catecholamines are Dopamine, Epinephrine (Adrenaline), and Norepinephrine. This is where the adrenaline comes into play! When birth is left untouched by pharmaceuticals, there are high levels of adrenaline coursing through the body. The Norepinephine is what causes the Fetal Ejection Reflex (FER), more on that in our course!  Having an epidural will cause catecholamines to be virtually non-existent because you are no longer under any type of stress! This hinders  the postpartum period and takes away from the naturally occurring “Birth High”.

Maternal Catecholamines Decrease During Labor after Lumbar Epidural Anesthesia – NCBI

Oxytocin is what makes our contractions occur. Oxytocin can stop flowing when a mother feels uncomfortable, afraid, or harmed. These feelings tell the body to stop labor to protect baby from an unsafe birth environment. Many times, women will experience contractions very regularly, get to the hospital and it all stalls out.  This is because the oxytocin is being suppressed. Often times, providers suggest synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) to pick it back up. The issue with Pitocin is that it REPLACES naturally occurring oxytocin. We know what happens when we mess with physiology, a cascade of events is automatically a variable. When birth is left unhindered, your catecholamines and oxytocin work together at a perfect mixture to ensure baby’s arrival!

If you’ve had an “After Birth High”, feel free to share about it! Did you say something totally off the wall?! Did you look out of it like I do in my photo? 

🌸 Fetal Ejection Reflex (FER)🌸

You know how when you watch movies, doctors will instruct a woman when to push while delivering her baby? Did you know that “pushing” usually isn’t even necessary during natural labor and birth? Instructed pushing can actually be harmful. Mother should be following her instincts, solely, instead of relying on others to tell her when and what to do.

When mother is left to labor undisturbed, it’s possible she may experience what is called the Fetal Ejection Reflex. This is when the body expels the baby with no real effort from the birthing mother. Her body simply does it on its own, naturally. It’s like a sneeze! Once it’s coming on, you can’t stop it! But if you don’t experience it, you can’t force it, as Dr. Michael Odent says.

FER happens in the transition stage. High levels of adrenaline and norepinephrine trigger the Fetal Ejection Reflex (FER). These adrenaline and oxytocin surges create strong, rapid waves, and these powerful waves (otherwise known as contractions) move the baby from the uterus and into the birth canal. The pressure from baby in the vagina triggers the uncontrollable expulsion of the baby. The nerves in the pelvis are stimulated and baby descends through the birth canal. This automatic bodily function sends messages to the brain to release more oxytocin, resulting in two or three strong contractions. The baby is then born quickly and easily without voluntary pushing from the mother.


When a large amount of adrenaline enters the mother’s bloodstream, it gets her out of the exhaustion state she may have been in previously, preparing her for baby’s arrival. This makes her alert and prepared to catch and protect her young.
FER can come on suddenly. Prior to FER kicking in, many will experience sudden thirst, dilated pupils, and a period of panic or fear. This is normal and no reason to be concerned!

What to Expect from FER

The birthing mother may show a sense of fear. She may say she can’t do it, she does not have any control, or may be frightened. This is when she should be assured that what she is experiencing is normal and that she is about to meet her baby! She should NOT be checked for dilation. She should simply follow her body’s lead and allow baby to exit naturally! Her body will begin to “push” on it’s own.

Sometimes the woman may yelp, screech, or scream. It is an overwhelming moment where mom isn’t in control and the sensations themselves are overwhelming in the moment while your body is in overdrive. I know I definitely screeched the last 2 contractions, when I experienced FER! I had no control and the last 4-5 contractions were back to back, with no break. It’s overwhelming, so her noises are rightfully so!

If a provider steps in and checks for dilation or tries to interfere, it can interrupt the FER process. Women that feel delivering in a hospital is the safest place to be should also be aware of the impact their birthing environment has on their desired natural birth experience. FER rarely happens in a hospital with bright lights, intervention and so forth.

FER can happen when:

  1. Mother has a sense of danger in the last stage of labor.
  2. Spontaneously when the birthing mother is undisturbed and at peace in her own space and feels safe and supported, not being interrupted by commotion or bright lights.
  3. It can, but rarely, happen in a hospital setting. This is because women are interrupted quite often with procedures and unnecessary interventions. If the mother is threatened with intervention, this could make her feel a sense of danger. In this scenario, if the woman is in the last stage of labor, the body will eject baby instead of stalling labor.

Labor stalling is what usually happens when a woman is in labor and is uncomfortable, feels threatened, is being bothered, in bright lights, feels anxious or senses danger. Labor stalls to protect baby from the environment mother is currently in. This is where unnecessary interventions come into play and mess up the whole natural birth flow. All because mom was in a place she couldn’t be completely relaxed and get into her birth zone.

That’s a different topic for a different day. Gahhh, I could talk about unnecessary interventions and the importance of birth environments for days! Any who, that’s FER and how it all works!

Allow your baby to arrive earth side naturally. No coached pushing, no intervention, just you and baby working together to bring babe earth side! Get yourself a doula if you would like to increase your chances of a natural birth and experiencing FER. You won’t regret it!

Have you experienced FER? Please share your experience!!