In this post I’m going to share with you what’s at the heart of what you can do with your mind which could help you have a more confident birth in the future.
I’ve been where you are. I had a less than great experience with our first child due to the way my labour started. One thing lead to another and I ended up with an epidural and a ventouse delivery which may have contributed to our son’s learning disabilities. He wouldn’t breastfeed properly for five days either because he was affected by the drugs. I felt like an absolute failure and I have very unpleasant memories of my time in hospital afterwards.
So you can see why I was keen to do things differently next time around. Fast forward two years, after I learned how to control pain using hypnotherapy. I had a 10 pound 8 baby with no pain relief (that’s right, nothing, not even gas and air). Four years later, I had our daughter, another whopping 8 pounds 12. No pain relief again, in hospital at 11, home again by 5 pm. That may sound smug, but I want you to know that I’ve been through a poor birth and have walked the talk to improve the next ones. My experience drives my passion to help other women have the potential for a better birth.
If you’re anything like me, you did everything you could to make your first birth as good as it could be. You went to NCT classes and Googled everything you could. You read loads of books, pregnancy magazines and went to yoga for pregnancy classes too. You’re a smart woman right? Like other things you do, you wanted to do it right and you were determined to the best you could for the baby you love. You made the perfect birth plan too. Trouble is, the birth didn’t go along with that plan. Like me, you may have been shocked, traumatised or sad about what happened.
Mind Body Connection in Childbirth
What most ante-natal classes and activity don’t help with so much is how to get your mind in the right place for pregnancy and birth. You’ll learn all about pain relief options and NCT Classes are brilliant. I loved my NCT classes – I made friends for life, had loads of tips for keeping myself infection free in hospital and felt more confident in being assertive at the birth. The trouble was I was expecting an NCT-style birth – the one like the video they showed where the woman gets in a birthing pool, chills out and looks like she breathes the baby out.
If you’re reading this, your birth probably wasn’t like that either. What we learn about childbirth throughout our life comes from all sorts of scary images. Usually of a woman in hospital or perhaps somewhere unexpected, pushing the baby out in extreme pain. They don’t generally show women walking around for hours beforehand, it’s always an emergency right? We don’t generally see women giving birth calmly or in the way our bodies were designed to more naturally (squatting etc). So our mind takes note of very painful images associated with birth and tucks them away in our unconscious and these form our expectations of it. NCT videos are great to show us there is another way – but not really for how to get your mind in the right place to do that.
Stress and Pain in Childbirth
Our expectations of childbirth mean that with the onset of labour, we can feel scared and in my case absolute horrified at the way it started. Stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol are released in the brain in response to the perception of something scary – what we know more commonly as the fight or flight response. Contractions are powerful muscular movements, so the more relaxed we are, the easier they can be. As stress makes us tense, it leads to contractions feeling way more painful than they need to be. This is in direct contrast to our innate ability to respond to childbirth as a natural process. What we could have instead are the more relaxing and pleasure hormones (endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine).
So a lot of what I do with clients in hypnobirthing sessions is to help clients learn how to relax themselves with self-hypnosis. In fact, there are enormous benefits to practising self-hypnosis throughout your pregnancy, not just for the birth. Just imagine all those lovely positive hormones available to your growing baby or babies. Once you know how to take yourself to a safe and relaxing place with your own hypnosis method we work on together, it can be a life-long skill to use in other situations. I still use mine in the dentist’s chair! If you want to try a quick way to relax right now, try my free audio download of a breathing technique here.
How Pain Works
This is at the heart of having a better birth experience along with being able to relax. Pain isn’t where you think it is. If I tread on your foot, the pain isn’t in your foot (which sounds weird I know). Pain is something your brain creates based on its expectation of what is going on. So if you can change what your mind associates with that expectation, pain can be reframed. As the International Association for the Study of Pain said, “Pain is always subjective…in the modern view, stimulus may or may not lead to perception. Tissue damage may or may not lead to pain”. This is not to say at all that pain isn’t ‘real’ and you don’t feel it. It’s just that you may have more choice than you think as to whether you experience it. Your brain decides whether it’s useful for you to feel pain and stress hormones will heighten it.
So as you’re reading this, just have a think about where you might have got your associations about childbirth from. You’ll have them from your first birth but where else? Have your friends told you their horror birth stories? Maybe you remembered something from Call the Midwife or recalled something awful you read on Mumsnet? And these are just the ones that are more recent, you will have others you've forgotten about from long ago, especially the ones in childhood. Those expectations are in your mind and can influence what it serves up as pain in your labour and delivery.
What’s more, your expectations are unique to you – not everyone takes the same messages from what they see, hear, feel and think. That’s why I believe bespoke hypnobirthing is particularly effective to help with YOUR mind’s interpretation of childbirth. I use how your mind works to create hypnotic suggestions adapted just for you, tuned into what your mind needs to help you have a more confident birth.
At the end of the day, your baby or babies will mostly decide the way birth starts. With you in more in control of your mind at that time, you could have more choice about what happens after that.
So if you had a horrid birth experience first time and would like to have a chat about how we could work together to help you be more confident with the next one, please get in touch on 07887 992979 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.