The secret to coping with labour

scared of giving birth
Are you scared of giving birth?

If you are currently pregnant or even planning to have a baby then the thought of giving birth will have crossed your mind once or twice!  From those cringe worthy sex education videos to One Born Every Minute the message most women get is clear. Birth hurts like hell, that you will be in labour for days, that you are likely to scream the place down and turn the air blue with a few choice words begging for drugs. Is it any wonder then that 8 out of 10 women in a Mother and Baby survey were terrified of giving birth?  So could there be a secret to coping with labour that is not publicly “out there”?

Well, if you were to switch over to the Discovery channel and were to watch a programme of any other mammal giving birth, she would be quiet, calm, mobile and seem to just get on with it.  We know that mammals register and feel pain, yet somehow during labour they don’t seem to show the same characteristics as women on OBEM.

So do you think that maybe there is a chance that women could also experience labour and birth being calm, more in control and better able to deal with the pain? What is this secret to coping with labour and how you can turn from a potential screaming banshee to a calm, serene birthing goddess?

Well, it all comes down to hormones and how you are feeling in the lead up to and during the labour.  If you are scared your body will be in a “fight or flight” mode and birth becomes tough; if you are calm, relax and breathe slowly, your body can just get on with it. To put it into context, imagine you are labouring alone out in the wild. Suppose you saw or even thought you saw a dangerous animal lurking in the shadows. What do you think would happen? Would you have a conscious choice on what happens next? Simply believing there is a wild animal in your birth space would instantly stimulate the “fight or flight” response. Your muscles would tighten, blood would flow to your limbs and contractions would slow down or stop and would not resume until you felt safe.

This fear, whether real or imagined, activates the nervous system to produce adrenaline (danger hormone), which gives you a burst of power to fight or to run away. Your cervix tightens (to prevent giving birth where it is not safe) and the increased level of adrenaline neutralises the oxytocin (the hormone responsible for your contractions) so that your body slows down or even stops labour. All this “fight or flight” preparation uses a great deal of energy and as our bodies were only designed to be in this state for a few minutes, you can imagine that staying in this state for prolonged periods of time will lead to prolonged labour, horribly painful contractions which will be extremely exhausting for both mum and baby.

This is essentially about fear, any fear – fear of pain, fear of dying, fear of tearing. Your nervous system does not know the difference between fear from real danger or imagined fear, from what you may have seen on the tele or told by friends and family and so your body will respond in the same way to both. If you go into labour feeling and being frightened, your system will respond accordingly.

So what is the secret to coping with labour and birth?

Ultimately it is about learning to let go of fear and to work with your body to stay as relaxed and calm as possible. By being able to relax during labour, your body responds in a very different way to the fear scenario described above. When you are relaxed, your breathing is even, ensuring a high level of oxygen is entering both you and your baby’s body, helping your baby remain calm and stable. Increased oxygen stimulates the production of oxytocin (hormone responsible for contractions) and the natural pain-killer, endorphins. As the uterus has no resistance or tension from surrounding muscles, the contractions are more effective and more manageable. Other natural hormones also increase in including relaxin which allows the tissue of the birth canal to relax, soften and expand.

One of the easiest and most relaxing ways to help you shift from being anxious to being calmer, is to listen to a Natal Hypnotherapy album in the weeks leading up to the birth. Over 2000 midwives now recommend award-winning Natal Hypnotherapy  as they have seen how beneficial it can be for both mum and baby. Listening to one of the tracks is a great excuse to go and lie down for half an hour knowing you are doing something really practical and useful to prepare for the birth.

My voice (british accent by the way) guides you into a deeply relaxed state using breathing techniques, guided imagery and visualisation. You can get a free 15 minute track by clicking here. Once you are deeply relaxed, your conscious mind becomes quiet and you become open and receptive to positive suggestions about the birth, learning coping strategies and pain management techniques, all geared towards helping you stay calm and able to deal effectively with contractions.

Hypnobirthing track
Natal Hypnotherapy hypnobirthing

As any midwife will tell you, the secret to coping with labour is to relax and breathe. By listening to a hypnobirthing track over and over again before labour you become brilliant at relaxing and effective breathing and are mentally familiar with the processes of giving birth, which naturally increases your confidence and reduces any fear associated with birth. The hypnotherapy techniques put you in control, so that you have all the coping strategies you need for the big day, no matter who else is there to support you.

You can learn more about how to help yourself during pregnancy and birth with my top tips emails

You can also read Jennifer’s birth story on how she used this secret to coping with labour.

If you’re not sure what this hypnobirthing stuff is like then you can get this FREE pregnancy relaxation hypnobirthing track

Click to download your FREE track

One Born Every Minute – a dad’s journey from a traumatic birth to an inspirational birth

This blog looks at how Paul’s journey took him from coping with a traumatic birth to being an integral part of an inspirational birth.

Channel 4 OBEM
Paul and Nadine talking about their positive expereince of using Natal hypnotherapy

Having met Nadine a few times I knew how much a positive birth experience had meant to her. Especially after the difficulties she had with her first labour. However, as often happens, a father’s perspective of the birth can be somewhat overlooked.

I was therefore so pleased when Paul sent me this video. He gives his perspective of their first difficult birth experience during which he felt like during which they both felt very unprepared and somewhat overwhelmed.  Paul especially felt like a bystander and felt unable to support Nadine in effectively.

When Nadine became pregnant again, they felt so strongly that they wanted to find a different way. Initially, like many partners, Paul was somewhat skeptical about hypnotherapy and had a misguided view of what it meant. However, he goes on to explain so clearly how his view changed once he understood what Natal Hypnotherapy was all about and how much it helped him have a proactive and important role and ultimately an inspirational birth experience.

I won’t give too much away but words like motivational, inspirational, positive, uplifting were words he used to describe the second birth experience.

You can watch his interview here

You can watch Paul and Nadine’s inspirational birth experience on Channel 4’s “One Born Every Minute” at 9pm on August 12th

To learn more about what Paul and Nadine did to prepare Click to download your 5 steps poster

I would love to hear from other partners who felt the same or from mums who saw a similar change in their birth partners.

Make use of your senses to prepare for birth

When I got out of the shower this morning and put a newly washed towel to my face, the smell of the towel suddenly took me back to my grandmother’s bathroom. Bizzarely, I have not thought about her bathroom for years! As I stood there remenisicng for a few moments, it reminded me of just how powerful our sense of smell is as a trigger for memories and emotions.
So when preparing for birth you can actively start to create these triggers by using all your senses in the lead up to the birth which will give you a heard start to staying calm relaxed and focused.

 

1.   Smell – start burring oils like lavender or rose when you are relaxing in the later stages of pregnancy.  This works especially well when listening to your hypnosis recordings.  By doing this at least 7 times in the weeks leading up to the birth, your mind will automatically make the association of the smell and your physiological and mental state of relaxation. In addition familiar smells increase the production of the fabulous birthing hormone Oxytocin.

 

2.     Sound – I once supported a lady in labour whose hobby was glass ringing (when you run your finger around a glass and it makes a humming sound).  She found the sound incredibly soothing and relaxing in general life.  When in labour her husband just had to run his finger around the glass once and you could visibly see her body completely relax – no one said anything or even touched her – just the sound sent her into deep relaxation. Find some music that you really enjoy that relaxes you and again play that during your pregnancy when you are actively relaxing. If you are using Natal Hypnotherapy then make sure you have the Relaxing Birth Music (the background music) to play during the birth

 

3.   Touch – so many of us instantly relax when we feel someone’s hands begin to massage our shoulder or when we have a bear hug with a loved one. Touch can feel so safe and reassuring.  You can practice this by asking your partner to place his hand on your shoulder when you are relaxing in the bath or at times when you are listening to your MP3.  Again you will begin to associate the touch with the physiology of relaxing.

 

4.     Visual – Isn’t it amazing how looking at an old photo of your wedding or a holiday can immediately bring about feelings and memories?  Again you can use this trigger by putting up photos around you of places and times that made you feel really happy and relaxed.  Keep these with you so you can use them as a visual trigger to help you relax and refocus.  You can even bring in objects like a babygrow as a reminder of what you are working towards.

 

5.   Taste – this is not such an obvious one but you can still use this sense to help you stay calm and focused.  In the lead up to the birth have a glass of a favourite drink.  As you take a few sips, close your eyes, breathe deeply and really enjoy the taste in your mouth. Relax your shoulders and being to imagine being somewhere really wonderful, really relaxing.  Then take another sip and make the feelings and images even brighter, even stronger.  Do this every time you are about practice your hypnosis.  The taste will soon become another trigger for relaxation and calm.  Then during labour when you have a few sips of the same drink go through the same exercise and the relaxation and calm will automatically follow.