So, now you understand the choices that are available to you and have an idea of your birth preferences. One of the choices that I'm very pleased that you've already made is to use hypnobirthing to prepare for the birth of your baby. For me, as for many thousands of other women out there, it was the best decision that I made during my pregnancy.
We're going to start looking at the process of hypnobirthing and how the techniques can compliment your birth, whatever the preferences are on your birth plan and whatever path your labour takes. And to start on this journey of hypnobirthing it's first important to understand how hypnosis works and the huge impact that the mind can have over the body, particularly during labour.
What is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a perfectly natural state of mind that we all go into several times each day. Have you ever experienced driving in your car but without awareness of the exact things that you did - for example, remembering every turn you took or every time you changed gear? This is because you were in a very light hypnotic state. On a subconscious level, you were still in control of the vehicle you were driving. The same happens when you are focussed intensely on a film or book, we ‘switch off’ the thinking part of our brain and go into a deeply relaxed state. Hypnosis is that shift of awareness from your normal conscious state.
When in this relaxed state, the subconscious mind is more open to suggestions, and this can be used to help overcome any existing fears and concerns or 're-write' any bad habits or unwanted behaviour patterns. This is known as 'intended hypnosis'.
For a more detailed explanation of hypnosis and how the conscious and subconscious minds work, click on the link below.
Hypnobirthing is simply where intended hypnosis is used to replace negative, anxious thoughts about birth with more positive, helpful ones. As a result the fear is released, any anxiety is overcome and what we refer to as the 'Fear - Tension - Pain cycle' is broken, enabling the body to birth instinctively. It works in the following ways:
I've mentioned the idea of 'overcoming fears' about birth several times now and this is a key part of the hypnobirthing process. But why is it so important that these fears are dealt with before going into labour? Where do the negative beliefs and expectations come from and how can they have a negative impact on the birth process?
The 'Fear - Tension- Pain' cycle was first introduced by English doctor Dr Grantly Dick Read back in 1913. He noticed that some women (most notably from different cultural groups) seemed to give birth much more easily and more comfortably than others. In his research he looked for reasons to explain this and concluded that birth is not naturally a painful process, the uterus is not designed to cause pain when doing it's job during labour, but that the introduction of fear is what causes the pain.
If fear is present then it creates tension in the body, and that tension results in pain.
Today we have the scientific understanding of what happens physically, hormonally, and neurologically in a woman's body during birth and know his theory is right. Normal muscle function is not painful. Relaxed muscles work smoothly and effectively. The uterus was designed to give birth, so why would it be the only muscle in the body to cause pain when it’s doing exactly what it’s designed to do? It's actually the fear and the negative expectations that many women have going into labour that causes the pain and the negative birth experience.
So where does the Fear come from?
As soon as I became pregnant everyone started to tell me their birth stories. And not just routine birth stories, proper horror stories. It was like the bump gave them permission to start offloading, sharing not only their own negative experiences but any gory stories that they’d heard themselves.
But it’s not just birth stories that spread fear. Our society is built on a long history of fear that has been around for generations. Labour is generally thought of as a painful ordeal that women have to endure and that is how it is continually portrayed on television and in the media (how often do you hear about a calm, relaxed birth or see one in a Soap? We’re more used to seeing the dramatic images of scared, screaming women on programmes like ‘One Born Every Minute’).
Throughout pregnancy we are constantly reminded of what can go wrong and are tested again and again to check that all is well with baby – scans, blood tests, urine samples…
Don’t get me wrong, we are incredibly lucky to have the NHS and all the medical support that is available to us, especially in the event that medical intervention is necessary. Medical teams save lives. But even perfectly normal, healthy, problem-free pregnancies are monitored with routine proceedures, and the effect of this is that we all have lots of little fears in the backs of our minds about what could go wrong.
How do we combat all this negativity and fear? With a big old dose of positivity!
Understanding how powerful any feelings of anxiety and fear about birth can be, and the massive impact that fear can have on the birth experience itself, makes it easy to see just how important it is to start to combat any negative feelings you may have (both on a conscious and subconscious level) with as much positivity as possible! There are lots of ways this can be done:
You can watch the video, listen to the Positive Birth Affirmations MP3, choose from this list of some of my favourite affirmations (click on the button below), those which resonate with you or you can choose to write your own.
Think of creative ways of making them part of your daily routine. You can write them on post it notes or little cards and put them around the house where you’ll see them – on the bathroom mirror, in a bowl on the kitchen table, on the wall above your dressing table. Read them or repeat them out loud every time you go past.
Or watch the video/listen to the MP3 as part of your daily routine - on your journey to work, as you're doing the washing up, or before you go to bed. Whatever works for you.
The aim is for the affirmations to be absorbed into your consciousness so your brain believes the statements and then makes it a reality… that can only be a good thing!
You can sign up for a free weekly positive birth affirmation email here. A weekly dose of positivity sent straight to your inbox!
How do Affirmations work?
What you focus your mind on grows, and if most of your subconscious or conscious thoughts relay a negative image of pregnancy, birth or motherhood, then this will be contributing to any emotional or health issues you’re experiencing.
Repeating positive statements of intent can help to overcome any negative thoughts which you may have about your pregnancy or the birth. These may be subconscious fears or thoughts and feelings which you are aware of.
Focusing on any negative thoughts or emotions around pregnancy, birth or motherhood will only cause them to grow and become real fears. Affirmations work by re-programming the subconscious mind to make more positive neuro pathways around a particular issue. Positive thinking helps the mind to let go of any negative thoughts and the body quite literally listens to what the brain tells it.
Positive Birth Stories
Reading positive birth stories is a fantastic way to help the process of feeling more positive about birth and even helping you look forward the experience. Make it your mission to take on board as much positivity as you can during your pregnancy and read all the positive birth stories that you can get hold of! There are several fantastic sites where you can find women sharing their positive experiences. These are my favourites:
The Positive Birth Movement also runs meetings which can be a great way to meet other pregnant women and mums, and a chance to hear their positive experiences or ask questions. You can find out if there's a group local to you on their website.
Positive Birth Videos
While it's really important that you stay away from watching programmes like 'One Born Every Minute' because the births are edited in a way that makes 'good TV viewing' (only the most dramatic births will make the cut - the quiet, calm, routine births aren't going to have the viewers on the edge of their seats), it can be reassuring to watch clips of births that use hypnobirthing techniques. It's good to see the techniques being used (you might get some helpful tips and ideas for your own birth) but also reinforces that birth can be calm, relaxed and beautiful and that hypnobirthing can have a huge, positive impact on your experience.
I've collated some lovely videos on the BabyBien YouTube channel which you can access by clicking on the button below. You can also search for more yourself - there are plenty on YouTube or just do a general search on any search engine. Just make sure that you are only searching for 'positive birth clips' or 'hypnobirthing videos' or similar (to avoid seeing any horror movies from women who haven't prepared in the way that you have).
Start to introduce some positivity into your daily routine! This can be a morning ritual of saying your birth affirmations, reading a positive birth story in your lunch break or start visualising your birth happening the way you want it to. It can be a really useful exercise to actually sit down and write your birth story in the past tense. Write it as if it has already happened and you are looking back on events, how well it went and how you feel about it and meeting your baby.
If you haven't already, now is also a good time to start listening to your hypnobirthing MP3s. You can find details of each track and when to listen to each in Module 8 and in the 'Your hypnobirthing MP3s' email.