Hypnobirthing is the use of hypnosis to have a magical birth experience as nature intended.
Hypnosis is a state of deep relaxation with altered awareness.
Being in a relaxed state reduces the ‘panic’ hormone adrenalin and increases the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin, which makes us feel good about ourselves. In this way we are better able to cope with the fear of the unknown, and any pain as a result of the contractions.
Adrenalin produces dramatic changes in the body in response to fear, shock or stress. It causes the rapid preparation of the body for swift action and so is also called the ‘fright, fight and flight’ hormone. Adrenalin causes an increase in the rate of the heart beat and heart output, the ventilation rate, constriction of small blood vessels in the skin and abdomen, so more blood circulates to the skeletal muscles, taking more oxygen and sugars. The general effect is that the whole body is ready for vigorous action, which might be necessary in an emergency.
As the blood is taken away from the digestive system so more goes to the muscles creating the ‘butterflies in the tummy’ effect. In extreme cases this can cause the voiding of the bladder and bowels.
This state of tension cannot be tolerated for long periods and usually other hormones destroy the adrenalin. When one feels fear adrenalin is produced in large quantities and the more fear one feels then the more adrenalin is produced.
Everyone deals with pain differently. When one experiences pain you have the actual organic pain itself, but you also have your psychological awareness of that pain, which is your pain threshold, and you have your own personality reaction to the pain, which is how much you think it will hurt.
Women are constantly bombarded with negative stories about childbirth. As soon as they tell people they are pregnant they are told that it is the most painful thing they will ever do in their lives. This is in fact negative hypnosis and so people believe that childbirth is painful and expect it to be so. TV programmes like ‘One Born Every Minute’ in the UK, emphasise the ‘pain’ and fear of birth, as the producers have to show births that are dramatic to increase viewing numbers.
However, in my opinion the birth contractions are not painful. They are a strong pressure. If you think ‘pain’ then ‘pain’ is what you will get. By thinking of contractions, rather than ‘pains’, this straight away alters your perception of the birth process.
There are four levels of pain control. The first one is to remove the biggest obstacle, FEAR, that is letting your intellect start imagining all sorts of things that could happen. Fear inhibits two important abilities we have, of concentration and relaxation. So fear becomes pain. The fears usually associated with pain are the fear of making it worse, fear of the unknown and what is going to happen.
The second level of pain control is achieved by generating trust and belief in the hypnotic process and in the ability of your body to deal with the pain. Know that your body makes its own pain killing drugs, by the release of serotonins which are released in a very site-specific way in the brain so that all the other vital systems and functions of the body continue. This is how nature intended pain control. Have you ever noticed a bruise on yourself and cannot remember how it happened?
Once your brain has been freed from fear then you can focus your intellect and concentration on the present moment. So the third level of pain control is to engage in the use of progressive relaxation. Relaxation is the most important key to successful pain control and healing.
This then leads to the fourth level of pain control, which is the process of dissociation through self-hypnosis. In hypnosis one is in the alpha-theta brain wave pattern with an altered sense of awareness. In this state the unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and unreal. So when in hypnosis you are relaxed and in control, and the levels of adrenalin produced by fear and pain is maintained at low levels. In this way relaxation and self-hypnosis make the contractions much easier to cope with.
Relaxation produces effects at a cellular level. It produces the hormone oxytocin, which not only protects the body from heart disease but it also plays a significant role in the regeneration of wounds. Relaxation also produces anti-oxidants, which soak up the free radicals, which can also cause heart disease. Thus all relaxation techniques, and self-hypnosis, are beneficial to the body, whether pregnant or not.
Oxytocin is the hormone involved in birth, bonding with your baby and also in breastfeeding. By learning the hypnobirthing techniques you learn how to relax at a deep level, so you work with your body and intuition, and are able to dissociate from the feeling of the contractions. For many women this does mean that they may have a pain free childbirth. We all have different pain thresholds and so hypnobirthing cannot guarantee a completely pain free birth for everyone. However, what hypnobirthing does is to give you the best birth possible for you so having your baby is an empowering, magical experience, as nature intended.
There are several methods of hypnobirthing. I am a biologist and a hypnotherapist. The Inner Power Hypnobirthing starts with a biology lesson so you know what is happening in the body and understand that the female body is in fact beautifully designed to give birth. You learn special breathing techniques to maintain calmness, positive affirmations, visualisation, the use of colour for relaxation and healing and of course self-hypnosis which is created by using all these techniques. In this way you are able to flood your body with serotonins, a morphine based hormone during the birth process, which is your body’s natural epidural. Thus the adrenalin levels stay low. When you are relaxed you cannot feel fear, and the ‘pain’ of the contractions is considerably lessened.
Therefore giving birth becomes a truly memorable, exciting experience.
All the techniques that you learn for Hypnobirthing are techniques that you can use for the rest of your life to keep you calm, relaxed and in control and so deal with all of life’s challenges.
I remember the first birth I attended as a midwifery student. It was this mom’s first baby. At one point during transition, she was in the bath and she was moaning as loud as she could. I began to feel uneasy that she was experiencing so much pain. My instinct was to try and help her “calm down”. My preceptor however just sat with her and encouraged her to express herself. After the birth, I shared with the midwife that I was sorry this mom had struggled so much in the last stages of labor. My preceptor asked: “Do you think that because she was screaming she was not in control of her labor pain?” I was surprised by her question. Yes, I had to admit that I had thought that. But, in truth, this birthing mama had just followed her instincts and expressed each wave of contractions in her own unique way. She later confided in us that her moaning really helped get her through the birth pains.
Just over a year ago, I was a doula for a sweet young mom. She sailed through her induction and even invited her acupuncturist to the birth. As she pushed, she told us that her baby wasn’t moving down. The midwife kept telling her to push and that she was doing great. But, she continued to tell us that it wasn’t working. Her words were interpreted as discouragement. But this young mom was giving us important clues to her birth that we ignored. The birth ended in a shoulder dystocia, with an OB performing the McRoberts manoeuvre and giving her a huge cervical laceration. After the birth, the mom asked, “Why didn’t anyone listen to me?” She had pushed for so long without any real help. She gave us important clues that we ignored.
Are we really listening to birthing mothers? Do we misinterpret the sounds they make? Do we ignore the words they say? Are we missing important clues by assuming that birthing women are not in control or not able to participate in feeling their way through the birth process? Are we letting mothers down by not validating and encouraging verbal participation in their births (whether through sounds or words)? Have we forced birth sounds and birth words into a box so that we don’t truly hear what women are communicating at their births? Worst even, are we putting words into the birthing woman’s mouth?
In a recent discussion on The Birthing Site’s Facebook page, we were asking moms if they spoke words like “I can’t do this anymore!” at their birth. Many women said they did. But, what surprised me was that some women said they only spoke those words because they felt that’s what was expected of them, that they didn’t really mean it, that they didn’t really know why they spoke those words. Wow. Think about that. What are you saying at your births? What are you hearing at other women’s births? Have we lost the art of listening to birth and expressing birth? Are women feeling hindered to speak a unique and truthful birth language of sounds and words during childbirth?
We must not assume. We need to ask ourselves:
Does screaming at a birth really mean a loss of control?
Do words like “It doesn’t feel good, Ouch! Don’t make me do that!, I can’t do this anymore!, Don’t touch me!, I can’t feel the baby moving down!” really mean that mom is discouraged and can’t clearly express herself through the pain? Are her words evidence of cultural expectations?
I encourage you to give every birthing woman the gift of listening and believing. Be slow to assume and quick to learn about each woman’s unique birth language! Have confidence in your own birthing language and choose support people who will listen and believe!
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