The use of self hypnosis during labour and childbirth has been practised for more than a century. This natural approach to pain relief teaches you to alter the brain’s perception of the pain message, and to turn down its intensity.
One major benefit of this simple technique is that it provides you with the ability to remain relaxed with minimum discomfort, throughout labour and childbirth, without the use of pharmaceuticals or medical intervention. And even in the event of complications, where medical intervention is required, you will be able to activate your body’s natural pain relief mechanisms, so as to reduce the use of harmful medications. The self hypnosis technique that I will touch on in this article does not put you into a zombie like trance state – in fact, through using this approach you will be completely awake and aware, so that you can play your important role in every moment of your baby’s birth.
Pain, worry and fear during labour can cause your body to go into fight-or-flight mode. This results in stress hormones, including adrenaline, to flood your body.
Adrenaline reduces the blood flow to your womb at a time when the optimal circulation in the womb is required for your baby’s wellbeing during birth.
As a result, the muscles of your uterus will work less well because they are deprived of blood and oxygen. This can make labour harder and longer. Your baby will be getting less oxygen too.
Plus, fight-or-flight mode diminishes the production of oxytocin, the hormone that eases labour, just when you need it most. You’ll also produce fewer endorphins, your body’s natural pain reducing hormones. Like morphine, although far more potent, endorphins don’t only prevent pain, but also produce a gentle euphoria, that contributes to a serene birthing experience.
The self-hypnosis technique that this article introduces can help to prevent the stress responses from kicking in, through helping you to:
- Reduce your need for pain-relieving drugs, and therefore avoid their side affects that also effect your baby.
- Minimize your need for drugs to speed up labour along with their side effects.
- Increase your chance of having a natural, uncomplicated and positive birth experience.
You may still ask, “Why bother with all this when modern obstetrics can provide an epidural to enable pain relief”?
Before the creation of my Birthing Without Fear programme, it was published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia that: ” Epidural analgesia techniques are in widespread use despite their known side effects, as they are perceived to have a good risk/benefit profile in the absence of effective alternatives. However, the complete removal of labour pain by epidural analgesia does not necessarily mean a more satisfying birth experience for women, and is associated with serious complications.”
Epidurals and other painkilling procedures prevent the production of endorphins for both mother and baby. Some researchers believe that this can actually cause harm to both mother and child, especially regarding mother-child bonding and the ability of the baby to adapt to a new life outside the womb.
This article does not intent on listing all the known complications that can arise through the use of drugs during birth, because it is not my intention to dismiss modern obstetrics, as this medical approach to birthing has saved the lives of many mothers and baby’s. The intention of the following Self Hypnosis for Pain Relief during Labour and Childbirth technique is to provide an effective alternative to medicated births for women who want to increase their likelihood of having a more satisfying and natural birth. It can be used in any birthing environment, regardless of birthing preferences, or the occurrence of unexpected circumstances.
In my own case, I was asked to assume a different posture during the last stage of labour than that which my body naturally wanted. This was due to the hospital environment not being optimal, and it could have easily thrown me off track and made me loose focus, had I not learned to meet unforseen situations with flexibility. Women who actively use the Self Hypnosis for Pain Relief during Labour and Childbirth technique in conjunction with the supporting knowledge and empowering processes that are provided in the Birthing Without Fear programme, will dramatically improve their chance of having a birth experience that forges positive memories for life, even if unexpected circumstances occur.
Next I will explain the three components of the Self Hypnosis for Pain Relief during Labour and Childbirth technique. The following content covers the theory of the technique that is taught in track 7 of the Birthing Without Fear audio programme.
The first component is Breathing:
Specific types of breathing are closely associated to relaxation. Carefully controlled breathing is important during labor. It helps you relax, it reduces pain, it provides you and your baby with optimal levels of oxygen, and also prevents hyperventilation.
Relaxation breathing techniques should be used throughout labour although adapted during the different stages of labour.
Allow each inhalation to bring relaxation into the area where you would like to reduce pain. Let your out breath dispel any tension. Breathe in relaxation, breath out tension. Let your soothing breaths provide a gentle internal massage. Feel all discomfort melt away more and more with each breath.
Contractions come in waves, so your relaxation breathing technique needs to flow in rhythm with the tightening and releasing of your uterine muscles. Each wave opens your cervix slightly and brings your baby closer to the moment of birth. Through allowing and accepting each surge of your contractions, breathing into it and out of it, you’re able to abandon any agonising thoughts so that you can remain focussed on breathing through each wave.
Using relaxation breathing techniques during labour is meant to take you deeper into your body, so that you’re present with each passing wave. Your in breaths allow the wave to come. Your out breaths melt away any tension so that the wave can pass. You continue with relaxation breathing throughout labour, however like the incoming tide that brings more frequent and powerful waves, your breathing adapts to the increasing intensity of the waves. It’s important to continue with your conscious breathing pattern in a way that’s most comfortable and natural for you.
The second component is Kinaesthetic Awareness:
Having used specific breathing techniques to access a relaxed state, you are now shifting all your attention inside your body on the precise sensations that you are feeling.
The way you label your experience largely determines how you experience it. So from now on, exchange the word ‘pain’ for the word ‘sensation’. It’s important to keep your attention within, and to notice all the different ways in which you are aware of your sensations. In particular, pay careful attention to how your sensations are constantly changing from moment to moment. Contractions come and go. All sensations are in a process of constant change, and sooner or later disappear.
Intense sensations in the body always call out for your attention and usually require you to take some form of action. The more you pay attention to the increasing and decreasing of your sensations during labour, the more you’ll be able to respond to them in ways that help you remain as comfortable as possible. Sensations in the body carry a message, and during labour those messages could be: “shift your position”, “take a walk”, “drink water”, “eat something light”, or just a reminder to use your Self Hypnosis for Pain Relief during Labour and Childbirth technique.
This technique does not require you to imagine being some place else or to visualise anything other than the experience you are having. Trying to distract yourself in order to not feel pain only works up to a point, as when discomfort becomes too intense, distraction techniques begin to fail. This mindful approach to birthing brings you closer to your experience, so that you can be consciously involved, the way nature intended it.
Your body and you baby want your attention at this time. Give it to them!
The beauty of going deeply into your body’s sensations, as apposed to trying to escape from them, is that your inner focus of attention is like an analgesic, it plays a role in melting away discomfort, and inviting ease. This inward orientation of awareness decreases the harmful effects of fear based thoughts. Staying present in your body, as opposed to in your head, disables thoughts that are not positive or supportive.
It is not necessary for you to try think positive thoughts and to try have a loving and nurturing bond with your baby during labour and birth, as these are naturally occurring when you have eliminated all fears and limiting beliefs about birth. The “Eliminating Fears and Limiting Beliefs about Birth” track in the audio programme will help you to clear any fears and limiting beliefs, so that this pain-relieving technique works optimally.
It is not necessary for you to do anything, other than continuing with your conscious breathing pattern and listening to your body as it goes through the motions of bringing your baby closer to you. No matter how things unfold, stay inwardly focussed. That way you’ll be clear and calm about any decisions and actions that are required in your birthing environment.
The process of keeping your awareness fully in your body, which includes your baby, is as simple as noticing specifically how you feel what you’re feeling at all stages. Focus on the intricacies of each sensation as you move through them. Go into the sensations. Merge with them. Notice the direction of the movement. Does the sensation seem to turn or twist? Does it expand or contract? Does it shake or vibrate? Does it throb or jolt? Pay attention to all details vividly, as they come and go. And remember to continue breathing into and out of each passing wave.
The third component is Being With What Is:
It’s important to be with your birthing experience exactly as it is. This means not wishing it was easier or otherwise, as such thoughts trigger tension, which in turn can result in the dismissal of your innate power and increase the possibility of requiring medical intervention. Maybe things will go to plan, maybe not. In the greater scheme of things, your can rest assured that everything will unfold just as it needs to.
Wherever and however you have chosen to give birth to your baby is less important than the awareness and attitude that you bring to your birthing experience as it takes place from moment to moment.
In order to have a fearless and positive birthing experience, it’s essential that you abandon any preconceived ideas about what should or shouldn’t happen. You would have arranged things and prepared as best as you can to this point. If you have a birth-plan, then trust that matters have been taken care of, and let go of attachment to this plan. When labour begins, let that be a sign that now starts your baby’s awesome journey from your inner world to your outer world. As the miracle of birth progresses, your job is to allow the course of nature to unfold, and that includes accepting the support and help from others, or any medical intervention, should it become necessary.
This is not just a birth philosophy, it’s a strategic way of shifting your attention away from matters beyond your control and onto what matters most. Once the birthing of your baby is underway, your and your baby’s health and safety is of most importance. Your best investment into the health and safety of both yourself and you baby, once labour has begun, is to be fully present with your experience. Not only does this enable you to filter out mental noise, it also helps you to make wisely intuitive decisions as you play your valuable role in the birth of your baby.
Let things be as they need to be. Stay in your body. Keep breathing. All is good. Hear these words, and when labour begins, let them go. Let everything go, relax, release and receive your baby in love.
The above content forms part of the theory that is covered in the “Self Hypnosis for Pain Relief during Labour and Childbirth” track of the Birthing Without Fear audio programme. The specific technique is also taught step by step, so that you can easily apply it on the big day.
Article written by Jana Allmrodt