How the mind affects the body...
Why positive thinking is important...
If something is expected to be awful and horrendously painful, it probably will be! Negative thoughts about birth are absorbed over a lifetime, remaining in the subconscious at least, if not at the forefront of the mind...
Like other mammals, the parts of our brain in control of birth have very primitive needs. We need to feel as positive, safe, warm, supported and unobserved as possible, otherwise the sympathetic nervous system is activated and birth is dominated by the fear-tension-pain cycle:
The primitive brain can't always tell the difference between real or imagined danger ~ the imagination often influences the body regardless (e.g. heart rate increasing when watching scary movies!) During birth, negative thoughts (including those buried deep down), or feeling unsafe, insecure and unsettled in any way can activate the sympathetic nervous system; triggering a state of fight-or-flight.
Adrenaline is released, blood drains from the uterus (to help us run away), the circular muscles of the womb (including the cervix) tighten up, contractions then become very painful and inefficient compounded by lactic acid build-up (cramp), the neocortex (thinking part of the brain) is overstimulated making it hard to 'switch off' and babies may get into distress. Essentially, in fight-or-flight, the body fights the birth process. Birth then becomes inefficient and excruciatingly painful.
1) processing fears
2) nurturing a positive mindset
3) practising self-hypnosis
4) having excellent support
- is more likely to activate the parasympathetic nervous system; promoting calm, keeping the heart rate and blood pressure steady, leading to...
I have a cognitive-behavioural therapy exercise here to help parents acknowledge and process any fears or concerns surrounding the birth of their baby. There are also elements of fear release in their birth preparation audio and partner script, as well as a dedicated audio for full subscribers.
Fostering a positive expectation...
The more one practices hypnobirthing (in a variety of ways) the more effective and powerful it is. The aim is to create a positive 'blueprint' of birth deeply within the mind. Each time a parent listens to the audios the hypnotic suggestions are reinforced.
Practising hypnobirthing several times a week, and daily in the last few weeks of pregnancy, also means that self-hypnosis is becoming a more familiar and increasingly automatic state - one that can be entered at will.
Some people set their expectation towards an orgasmic, blissful birth; others choose to adopt an attitude of curiosity about how their contractions will feel under self-hypnosis:
"I deliberately chose not to interpret the contractions as pain, instead I thought of them as "a really intense physical feeling that requires all of my focus" Steph, Cornwall
Can you really choose how to feel? Find out more in my blog entry: expectation affects perception
Myth-busting... If someone has medical pain relief they've failed "It wasn't the perfect hypnobirth I'm afraid"
No! 9% of our non-induced parents choose an epidural (and 80% of those induced with the drip). However the sensations are perceived, using hypnobirthing to focus and cope is always beneficial, even (especially) alongside medical pain relief. Parents should be encouraged to release themselves from any self-imposed pressure. The 'perfect hypnobirth' is about having their best birth, no matter what path birth takes.
Choose support wisely...
Effective birth partners are worth their weight in gold. They act as 'gatekeepers' to ensure that parents can feel as safe and undisturbed as possible, in their birth 'cave' or 'bubble'. They can also assist with practicing the positive hypnobirthing triggers during pregnancy, and using these on the day. Parents should consider choosing willing, confident birth team members or hiring a doula who is trained in space-holding for hypnobirthers.