Just as a woman’s heart knows how and when to pump, and her lungs know how and when to inhale, so her body knows how and when to give birth. One cannot help a natural physiological process. The important thing is not to hinder it.
The human body has a Sympathetic and Parasympathetic system. The sympathetic system is activated when you are stressed and frightened. Your breathing and heartbeat accelerates, blood pressure rises and adrenaline is released. Tense muscles become even more tense when filled with adrenaline. By contrast, the Parasympathetic system is the healing state, where harmony and balance slow the heart and breathing rate, and place the body into a state of relaxation.
If you approach the birth of your baby with fear and tension, expecting pain, the stressor hormone Catecholamine is triggered and the body goes into sympathetic mode, releasing adrenaline which makes the heart race and breathing increase. This blocks any chance of the body feeling relaxed, and any chance for the body to naturally and easily deliver your baby.
If you are anxious and nervous during labour, and if you tense your body during contractions, the blood drains from the uterus, like it drains from the faces of scared people, because the body is conserving it for essential organs.
With no blood reaching the uterus the delivery of oxygen, which fuels the muscles, is also halted. The muscles become tight and inflexible and you feel pain. It is truly a self-fullfiling prophecy. If you brace for pain you will feel pain. If you are deeply relaxed the feelings you experience will only be pleasurable.
Not only are tense muscles uncomfortable for the mother, but also the baby, as its movement becomes constricted.
It is therefore essential, for a pain-free delivery of your baby, that the mind and body is completely relaxed during muscle surges. When you are fully relaxed, all your muscles work in harmony quite naturally, and your body will do any pushing that is required without any help from you. You will feel pressure as the baby moves down the birth canal but no pain, as the body is expanding just where it needs to at just the right time to move the baby through. A stress-free body functions without self-defeating tension. Labour, even for a first baby, can be as short as two hours.
In clinical hypnotherapy Hypnobirthing sessions, as well as being shown how to create a totally relaxed state for their mind and body, mothers-to-be are taught how to visualise their muscles working in tandem – the vertical muscles of the outer layer of the uterus aligned with the baby’s descent, and moving him or her slowly downwards, and the horizontal muscles of the inner layer of the uterus relaxing and thinning. The vertical muscles draw up, flex and expel, while the horizontal muscles relax and draw back. It can be useful to imagine the horizontal muscles as soft blue satin ribbons, flexible and non-resistant to the draw of the vertical muscles.
The subconscious mind works in images and symbols. By visualising the muscles working effectively and unhindered, your body knows to make it so.
In medically-assisted birth there is a tendency for midwives to tell the mother when to push, judging by outer signals. But the body will push with just the right pressure when the baby reaches the right position, and any superficial pushing by the mother before that point can be counter-productive to the natural rhythm of the muscles, and cause pelvic floor damage. Also, mothers are often told to hold their breath and push which is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing – which is continuing to breathe deeply throughout all stages of labour to ensure ample oxygen supply for the hard working muscles.
The proper working of the muscles on the big day is assisted by hormone changes in the body. Creating a store of just the right amount of natural hormone can also be assisted by hypnotic visualisation. Whatever you imagine, the subconscious believes to be true! The subconscious can’t tell the difference between reality and make-believe, which is why when you think about something scary your heart will race and your blood pressure will rise.
Since the start of your pregnancy, hormones have been secreted and stored in your body to change your cervix from a hard, cartilaginous substance into a spongy, pliable substance. Essentially your cervix goes from feeling like the end of your nose to feeling like your ear lobe. These hormones are released in a rush when required, and this is why inducing a baby is generally so much more painful for the mother, because the body has not released the necessary hormones to ensure a natural birth.
It is also worth noting that painkilling medications given during labour can interfere with, or even paralyse, normal internal muscle movement, just when it is needed most, leading to numerous forceps and ventouse (suction cap) deliveries. In the worst of cases, the mother’s body is actually fighting against all of its natural impulses to expel the baby!
As well as hypnobirthing being able to teach you techniques to ensure a pain-free delivery without medication, it also helps you create a far more calm and comforting way for your baby to be born. Just as chemicals and hormones cross the placenta during pregnancy, so too do emotions. Doctors have noted that the pulse rate of a foetus goes up when the mother is screaming!
If you would like to join any of my hypnobirthing sessions, please contact me for further details. The next round of classes begins on July 1st at 7pm SPANISH time, and is delivered online worldwide. The course costs 150 Euros for six sessions. Your partner or parent is very welcome to participate with you for free.