Hypnobirthing

How you can manage labour pain by understanding the mind body connection

In this blog you’re going to learn how your mindset during pregnancy and birthing can influence the type of birth you end up having.

Basically, if you’re scared and anxious during birthing this will cause your birthing muscles to become constricted and tense which will make birthing your baby painful. If you can adjust your mindset so that you are relaxed and calm when birthing your baby this will mean your body is also relaxed which will allow your birthing muscles to work just as they have been designed to do to birth your baby easily and quickly. You may not even feel any pain only a manageable discomfort, pressure or tightening. This is all taught in Hypnobirthing, a proven and highly effective childbirth education program that will teach you everything you need to know to relax and work with your body during birthing.

You are wired to birth and your body already knows what to do

Your body is currently doing an especially important and complicated job. It is building a whole new human being. Throughout your pregnancy your body will build your baby’s skin, fingernails, heart, liver, nose, and brain as well as everything else your baby needs ready to enter the world.

You don’t need to project manage any of this. You don’t need tell your body what and when to do these things and this is because your body already knows exactly what to do to grow your baby. So, it also make sense that your body also knows what to do to birth your baby.

Understand that you are wired to birth and your body already knows exactly what to do on the big day. All you need to do to help your body is trust it to do exactly what it has been designed to do and bring a positive mindset that is relaxed and calm to the birthing environment.

Let’s explore the brain to help you understand this concept a little bit more

The reptilian or primal part of the brain are those primitive brain structures related to instinctual behaviors for survival including breathing, swallowing and keeping your heart beating.

Now birth is also governed by the reptilian part of the brain and when your reptilian brain is confronted with a threat to survival either real or perceived (such as fear or anxiety during birthing), it goes into what is known as the fight or flight response. We’ll go into this in more detail later, but basically if you are fearful, anxious or panicking during birthing it is this mindset that creates a corresponding physiological response in your body and causes your uterus muscles to freeze, your baby to subsequently push up against rigid, tense and constricted muscles which will cause you a lot of pain and your baby will then be unable to move down the birth path. You might be told that there is a ‘failure to progress’ and a surgical birth may be required.  So, you need to be relaxed and calm during birthing and Hypnobirthing techniques are designed to help you learn how to relax and stay calm so that you can manage and, in some cases, eliminate pain during birthing, only feeling pressure or tightening.

Are you feeling more positive about birthing your baby?    

So, why are so many women nervous, fearful, and afraid and experiencing problems with birthing their babies?  

Well, when women have activity in another part of their brain during birthing called the neocortex or the ‘thinking’ brain, it inhibits instinctive behavior such as birthing. One of the reasons why is that the births of modern women tend to take place in hospitals which is a medicalized setting with a lot of checking and ‘managing’ the birth by nurses and doctors. This is not a bad thing, but it is this sort of environment that can create increased activity in the neocortex part of your brain and in turn inhibits instinctual activity in your reptilian brain, which then has a physiological effect on your body and impacts the birthing process.  

Let’s look at what sorts of events or environmental factors might stimulate activity of your neocortex during birth and impact birthing:

  • Bright lights
  • A cold environment
  • Questions being asked
  • Medical checks
  • Interruptions
  • Loud noises
  • Having people at your birth who make your feel uncomfortable, threated or judged
  • Fear, anxiety and panic about birthing in general
  • The use of words such as ‘complications’ and ‘failure to progress’

Overall, the hospital environment can be a place where a birthing mother doesn’t always feel safe, comfortable, warm, and able to go deep inside herself, move freely through her contractions and make noises, or, whatever is required to block everything else around her out, so that she can focus on birthing her baby.

Mindset

Let’s look at your mindset now and how that plays a role in birthing your baby. There are two parts to the mind, the conscious and unconscious part. The conscious is everything inside your awareness your current thoughts, feelings, your memories, values, and your belief systems. The subconscious mind is the part of the mind that is not in your state of awareness.

Now your subconscious cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined. Any thought that you repeat is going to make an imprint within your subconscious. So, techniques like repeating affirmations to yourself or visualizations can have a powerful effect and help to create a belief system within yourself, which your subconscious, then acts upon.

Self-hypnosis is a shortcut to your subconscious. So, the messages you program into your subconscious mind during hypnosis when you a pregnant and preparing for birth, or during birthing, can help to change any negative or unwanted thought patterns or beliefs you might have about birth and replace them with more positive thought patterns and beliefs that are going to serve you well during birthing.

Your subconscious mind has a powerful influence over your thoughts, so it’s easy to see how any ingrained fears that you might have regarding childbirth can be difficult to remove. But by learning and using Hypnobirthing techniques ingrained fears or damaging beliefs can be altered so that you view birth more positively and go on to have a more positive birth experience.

Think of a stereotypical image or movie scene of a women giving birth. Usually, she is portrayed to look scared, she might be screaming in pain, begging for pain relief, lying on her back in agony and it’s images like this that get ingrained into your subconscious mind and can negatively influence your own perceptions about birth.  

I want you to think about whether you have been exposed to any negative stories about birth that might be causing you to feel fearful about your own upcoming birthing? Spend some time exploring your own feelings and perceptions about childbirth so that you can understand how you feel about it. The reality is that today birth is often depicted as a negative, painful, and traumatizing experience for most women. For some women, a natural childbirth is so frightening that a caesarean-section (which is major abdominal surgery and takes a lot longer to recover from), is a more appealing choice compared to having a natural birth.

It is true that in some cases a surgical birth will be the safest way for a mother to birth her baby, but Hypnobirthing will still benefit you regardless of whether you have a natural or a surgical birth.

History of birth

Let’s have a look at the history of birth to understand how birth used to be viewed and what has changed in our modern society that has made childbirth something to be feared.

When you look at historical accounts of birthing through the ages, they depict babies being born naturally with minimum discomfort. Birth took place outside a hospital environment because it wasn’t a medical event and doctors were not always in attendance. Ancient cultures depicted birth as something sacred and positive and celebrated the birth of new life. Women are depicted in literature birthing in a kneeling, standing or upright position supported by midwives and birth attendants.

Moving forward to the second century AD the views on childbirth changed. Painful childbirth was given the title the “Curse of Eve,” and the pains of labor were depicted as a direct result of Eve’s sin. It was stated that ‘all women who bear children will suffer them as a reminder of their inherent sinful nature’. Many midwives were executed during this time and a lot of wisdom and knowledge about birthing was lost. Without support many women were left feeling alone, unsupported and scared during their birthing. Over the following centuries this resulted in many women and babies dying during childbirth due to a lack of care and support. There was even a time where, if a woman experienced any complications during childbirth, the local Shepherd would be sent to assist her because shepherds were used to lambing and women weren’t considered worthy enough to see a doctor.

In the 19th century Queen Victoria set a new trend in childbirth by asking that she be given chloroform to help her relax and deal with any pain during birthing. This started the use of drugs to help women relax and manage pain during childbirth. Women then abandoned natural birthing positions (squatting, standing, sitting etc.) and started to birth lying on their backs in beds because they were anesthetized with chloroform and it was safer in this position and doctors could easily examine them. There was also a belief during this time that it was more regal to birth lying down on a bed. But lying on a bed and being drugged rendered women passive participants in their birthing and so instruments such as forceps were designed to help babies out.

Hospitals were also dirty and unhygienic. Good hygiene practices such as hand washing or using gloves and changing them between procedures wasn’t practiced, so infection rates were high resulting in many women and babies dying. Women started to fear childbirth even more and this fear was then passed down through the generations to become part of our beliefs about childbirth to this day.  

Birth doesn’t have to be feared.

Birth doesn’t need to be feared. Women today are no different to the ancient women depicted in history who birthed their babies easily and comfortably usually within two to three hours. Today hospitals are clean and hygienic, doctors are highly educated, and women can have support around them when they birth. It is very unlikely that you or your baby will die in childbirth from a lack of an infection due to doctors not washing their hands.

Fear and childbirth

Let’s look at how fear negatively affects birthing by triggering the fight or flight stress response.

Imagine someone approaches you in public and from their body language and what they say to you, you don’t feel safe. Your body will go into what is called a fight or flight response. It will direct blood to your arms to help you fight as well as to your legs to help you run away. Blood will be directed away from any non-essential parts of your body that aren’t helpful in this situation such as your digestive system, so digestion of food will cease until you are in a more relaxed state.  

When it comes to birthing, if you feel in any way threated during birthing, if you feel scared, frightened, anxious, or worried your body will release stress hormones putting you in this state of fight or flight. Blood as you now know is then redirected away from your non-essential parts of your body, and in this case your uterus and birthing muscles are considered non-essential.

Your uterus muscles need blood to function and do their job properly. Now if the fight or flight response is activated because of your mindset, then the blood containing beneficial oxygen that allows your birthing muscle to work is directed away from your uterus. In response your uterus which is now deprived of oxygenated blood will start to constrict and become tense and rigid. Your baby is now butting up against taught, tight birthing muscles and this is what creates pain and prolongs labor.

Uterus Design

Your uterus is made up of layers of muscle. The outer longitudinal muscles and the inner circular muscles work in harmony to move your baby down through the birth path while your cervix thins and opens to allow your baby to be born. Your body also releases beneficial hormones called endorphins to counteract any pain as your birthing muscles work. However, your body only releases these beneficial pain fighting endorphins when you are relaxed. This is where Hypnobirthing will help you because the techniques will teach you how to relax during birthing so that your uterus muscles can work as they are designed to do, and your body can release endorphins to help counteract any pain.

Fear-tension-pain syndrome

Grantly Dick-Read was an obstetrician in the early 1900s who wrote the book, ‘Childbirth without fear’. Early on his career he witnessed something that changed how he viewed childbirth. In the early 1900’s he was called to attend a birth in a poor area of London where the woman was not birthing in a hospital environment. He later described how this woman’s baby was born without her making any noise, she didn’t have any fear and her birth was without any fuss. When he tried to offer her chloroform to help her manage the pain, she rejected it.  When he asked the women after the birth why she hadn’t wanted to take the chloroform to help with her pain she answered ‘It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t meant to, was it?

Grantly Dick Read attended other births of wealthier women in hospital environments. He noted that in contrast to this poor woman they appeared to experience fear, pain and were in agony during their birthing. He didn’t understand why these women had more challenging births, yet the woman he had attended to in the poor area of London had a much easier, calmer, and quieter birth.

During World War One he went to foreign countries and again witnessed women birthing calmly and comfortably without asking for any pain relief. He concluded that it was fear that created tension in birthing bodies and that this was the factor that led to pain.

Summary

The key to a more comfortable birth is to use techniques (which you will learn in Hypnobirthing) that will allow you to birth in a state of relaxation and calmness without fear, anxiety or worry affecting your mindset. This in turn will allow your body and your birthing muscles to be in a relaxed state so that they can do their job to move your baby down the birth path to be born.

So, to summarize the main points.

  1. Don’t be scared. You are wired to birth. Birth is a natural and an instinctual act. Your body knows how to grow your baby and it also knows what to do to birth your baby.
  2. Reflect on any fears you might have about childbirth. Think about where these fears may have come from and know that it is within your power to remove those fears by changing your mindset leading up to and during birthing.
  3. Recognize that your mindset going into childbirth can create a fight or flight response in the body. This will then direct blood containing beneficial oxygen away from your birthing muscles and cause them to become constricted and tense which in turn will cause pain and inhibit the progression of your baby’s birth.
  4. Grandly Dick-Read refers to the fear-tension-pain syndrome. Remove any fear or stress you have during birthing and you’ll remove any unnecessary tension from your body allowing your body to do exactly what it was designed to do to birth your baby and making birthing a calmer and more comfortable experience for you (and your baby).

So, in this blog we have laid the foundations for Hypnobirthing and the importance of the mind-body connection. Fear, anxiety, and stress will create tension in your body which will create pain. But there is a lot you can do during your pregnancy and during birthing to relax your body, remove tension and allow your body to do its job to birth your baby comfortably, calmly, and easily the way nature intended. Find out more in the next blogs.

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