As your due date gets closer, you’re probably feeling excitement, anticipation, probably a bit of relief - and also perhaps, a bit of fear, largely around the painful experience you are about to go through. It doesn’t help that every mum around you is so quick to tell you their own horror story, while others share tales of their drug-free births like a badge of honour.
While a bit of fear is normal, social pressure, sensationalised or scary stories and the sterile hospital environment can lead to an unhelpful emotion: anxiety around your impending birth experience.
There is absolutely no need to justify your choice of pain relief, but there are other options you may want to explore that can help not just to reduce these anxious feelings, but also reduce pain.
What is hypno birthing?
“When I click my fingers, open your eyes and push…” Nope, not that kind of hypnotism.
Hypnobirthing is essentially a method used to manage pain during labour and birth. It’s done using visualisation techniques, relaxation and deep breathing, and is increasingly being used by women to overcome fears around pain and remain relaxed throughout childbirth.
Visualisation: this involves imagining a positive birth experience with specific detail. Consider it like a rehearsal for your body and mind so you feel prepared and positive.
Relaxation: meditation allows you to concentrate on your body, and its ability to do the job it was made to do, without distraction from what’s going on around you.
Breathing techniques: this goes a step further than what you may pick up in your antenatal classes, and is about being super focused on your breath - breathing deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth to help you stay calm.
The theory is that whilst in a type of hypnotic trance, your mind becomes calm and your body physiologically relaxed. In this state, your body can create the optimum level of birthing hormones, and you’re also able to alter sensory perceptions of pain. Your body is better placed to manage stress hormones like adrenaline, which can affect your labour. During labour your body produces oxytocin, which helps to move things along, however stress hormones can interact and cause labour delays.
A new way of thinking
Hypnobirthing is also about reconditioning your mindset around birth. We’re inundated with negative stories, to the point that we are conditioned to believe that birth is destined to be an excruciating experience. Our minds are expecting it, so that’s the experience we create!
Using positive verbal affirmations throughout your pregnancy, you can create more positive associations for your mind, and instil faith in your body’s ability to allow for a more enjoyable experience.
“My body is perfectly designed to birth my baby”
“I allow my body to completely relax”
“Every contraction brings my baby closer to my arms”
So, is it possible to have a completely pain-free birth? Supporters of hypnobirthing claim that it can be. While this might sound a little woo-woo, there is research and evidence to back it up.
Studies have shown that hypnosis can be effective for reducing length of labour, as well as reducing pain and the need for pain relief during childbirth. There is also research to show its merits for turning breech babies and improved Agpar scores (condition) at birth - not to mention an improved overall experience for the mother.
How do you learn?
While it’s possible to do your own research and learning around hypnobirthing through books, videos or CDs, it can help to have instruction from a trained hypnotherapist, either in a group or private consultation.
Hypnobirthing is designed to transform childbirth to a more empowering and beautiful experience that signals a positive start to motherhood. But remember, no matter how prepared you are, that doesn’t mean you won’t possibly encounter unexpected challenges or complications. However with the techniques you learn through hypnobirthing, you are more likely to stay calm and more in control, even if things don’t quite go to plan!