Natal Hypnotherapy Cotswolds
|15th June 2021|
How does Fear Affect the Birth?
How to Overcome Fear and use Self Hypnosis to Reduce Pain in Childbirth
Imagine yourself labouring in a jungle. Suppose you saw or even thought you saw a tiger lurking in the nearby shadows. What do you think would happen? Would you have a conscious choice on what happens next? You may think you could control the situation, but your body would already have made the decision.
Simply believing there is a tiger in your birth space would instantly stimulate a healthy “fight or flight” mechanism. Labour contractions would slow down or stop and would not resume until you felt safe.
This fear activates the nervous system to produce adrenalin (danger hormone), which gives you the “umph” or power to prepare to fight or to run away. Your cervix tightens (to prevent your baby from being born where it is not safe) and the increased level of adrenalin neutralises the Oxytocin (the hormone responsible for stimulating your uterus to contract) and endorphins (pain killing hormone), so that the body naturally slows down or even stops the birthing. Experiencing fear during labour leads to your heart rate increasing, your breathing becoming shallow and faster (so reducing the amount of Oxygen in your body and your baby), your heart pumping blood faster around your body so raising your blood pressure and blood being directed away from your Uterus (and your baby) to your limbs, essentially to prepare you for action.
All this fight or flight preparation uses a great deal of energy. As our bodies were only designed to be in this heightened sense of preparation to fight or flight for a few minutes at a time, you can imagine that staying in this state for prolonged periods of time will be extremely draining, if not dangerous.
You may be asking, “what does a women giving birth in a jungle have to do with me?”. This is essentially about fear – fear of pain, fear of dying, fear of tearing, fear of losing control. Your nervous system doesn't know the difference between real or imagined danger, so will respond in the same way to both - ever felt the rush of adrenalin and fear when watching a horror movie? Is the threat real or imagined?.
If you go into the birth feeling and being frightened, your system will respond accordingly. This fear will lead to increased adrenalin in your body, leading to increased tension in your muscles and your cervix with less “contraction” hormones being produced, so that your uterus is having to work much harder to flex and tighten. This subsequently makes contractions more painful, in the same way that if you tense up when you are in pain, the pain becomes greater.
All the while that there is fear in childbirth, your birthing body will not be allowed to flow easily through the natural progression of labour. In addition, the minute you introduce artificial hormones from induction, the body stops producing the right amount of natural hormones, including the wonderfully powerful endorphins or natural pain killers.
By being relaxed during your labour, your body responds in a very different way to the fear scenario described above. When you are relaxed, your breathing is even and rhythmical, ensuring a high level of oxygen is entering your body. This oxygen goes through to your baby, ensuring that your baby remains calm and stable. Increased oxygen stimulates the production of Oxytocin (hormone responsible for contraction) and endorphins. Your blood pressure remains at a healthy level, and as your body is limp and relaxed you conserve your energy, with all excess energy being channelled through to the muscle that is really working hard, namely your Uterus. As the Uterus has no resistance or tension from surrounding muscles, the contractions are more effective and more comfortable. As the labour progresses un hindered by artificial hormones, other natural hormones kick in including relaxin which allows the cells of the birth canal to relax, soften and stretch, so making the babies descent easier and more comfortable.
Hypnosis is a natural state, which we all experience many times a day. It is a time when your conscious, (analytical, rational mind) takes a step back and your subconscious (feelings, memories, emotions) comes more to the forefront. For example when you are day dreaming, reading a book and realising you have read the same thing over and over again, driving on a long journey and not remembering anything about the journey etc.
With intended Hypnosis, you purposefully take yourself into a daydream like state using music, soothing images and guided visualisation. Once the critical and analytical part of your mind also relaxes, you become more receptive to positive suggestions and affirmations. As the mind does not know the difference between imagination and reality, the more times you give yourself positive suggestions, the more real they become.
The Natal Hypnotherapy™ Birth preparation CD guides mothers into a deeply relaxed state using breathing techniques, guided imagery and visualisation. Once she is in a deeply relaxing day dream like state, the CD continues with a detailed visualisation of giving birth from a physiological perspective. It is like she is going through a dress rehearsal of giving birth in a calm, natural way. This way she is practicing how she would like to feel and respond to the sensations and changes during labour. The CD also includes “triggers” such as “ each new face you meet reminds you of the confidence you have in your body… each contraction encourages you to relax… the sights and sounds of the hospital float over you and allow you to remain wonderfully relaxed”. This way you are using the things which may otherwise have caused you some anxiety and turning them into something positive and useful.
By listening to the CD over and over again before your labour, your body and mind become more and more familiar with the processes of a calm relaxed birth, so increasing your confidence and reducing a lot of the anxiety associated with birth. As the mind does not know the difference between imagination and reality, once you go into the labour for real, all the suggestions just kick in as the body recognises the sensations and triggers and says “Oh yes, we have done this before – this is a sign for me to relax, stay calm etc..”.
So in summary, the key to a comfortable birth is to keep the levels of anxiety and adrenaline to an absolute minimum. By keeping relaxed, focused and breathing steadily and rhythmically, your body will have the best chance of producing the right birthing hormones to enable you to birth your baby unhindered by chemicals or drugs.
© Maggie Howell 2006
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