20 June 2016
Did you know that over 80% of women are afraid of giving birth? Not surprising when we are flooded with horrific or comedic images in the media or told awful horror stories by most of the women we know.
So how is that women in other cultures have such a different experience of birth? How is that they can give birth in a rice paddy with minimal fuss and bother and then just continue with their day?
Well, the answer might surprise you, it all has to do with our emotional state. Yes, you read that right, how you feel and how fearful you are can completely change the outcome of your birth. Let me explain…
When the mom is afraid, catecholamines or stress hormones are secreted. Most of the oxygenated blood in her body moves to her arms and legs so that she can fight or run away (“fight” or “flight” response). As a result, blood is directed away from the uterus and the cervix, the muscles tense and constrict and the body experiences pain. This lack of blood flow to the uterus means that the muscles start to work against each other and can result in baby’s head pushing against hard unrelenting muscle.
Conversely, when she is completely relaxed and free from any fear, her body is able work naturally to help her birth her baby. In this relaxed state the body secretes endorphins, a natural painkiller 200 times stronger than morphine.
So our question becomes ‘how do you ensure we have endorphins instead of stress hormone?”. The good news is that the answer is much simpler then you think. When you experience deep relaxation, the body naturally releases endorphins and the more it relaxes, the more endorphins are released. Deep relaxation can be achieved by following a guided visualisation like Relaxation for Calm Pregnancy designed by Patti Good – the ‘happy mum’ expert, deep breathing or a gentle light tickling up and down the arm and over the shoulder. This type of endorphin release is not about going to the gym but about calming and deeply relaxing the body.
It is for this reason that the HypnoBirthing® Programme, designed in the US by Marie Mongan, has been so successful. It offers couples a stand-alone ante-natal option that prepares you physically, mentally AND emotionally for your birth. Releasing your fears and concerns is the most important preparation of all, irrespective of whether your chose natural birth of a C-section.
So, you ask, am I going to cluck like a chicken? Absolutely not, hypnosis is easily described as ‘focused relaxation’ where the subconscious mind is open to suggestion and does not mean you will be ‘controlled’ by the person hypnotising you (especially when this is your husband!). Relaxation is proven to be one of the most effective tools for dealing with tension, stress and discomfort and together with visualisation can help the body birth without the need for drugs.
With HypnoBirthing® thousands of women have enjoyed shorter labours and fewer Caesareans. They heal faster and their babies tend to be calmer and sleep and feed better. Now if that isn’t a good argument I don’t know what is!
Trust your body and your baby: s/he knows what to do!
I'm on the forum all of this week where you can ask me any questions regarding emotional wellbeing in pregnancy and motherhood, from hypnobirthing through to recovering emotionally from a complex birth experience. Pop over and drop me a line.