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

Using hypnosis to help overcome morning sickness

No one really understand what causes morning sickness, but it is believed to be triggered by a combination of hormonal, physical and emotional changes that take place when a woman becomes pregnant.
Some women completely go off things like tea or coffee

Anyone who has suffered with morning sickness will tell you how absolutely awful it can be.  It is an odd time for women as the elation and excitement of being pregnant is often subdued by the intermittent or, often non-stop feelings of nausea, low energy, dizziness and vomiting.  There isn’t a magic pill that will take it away and none of natural remedies are guaranteed to work.  It is something that you know you just have to put up with in the knowledge that at some point around 12 weeks (for others it can continue longer) it will stop.

No one really understand what causes morning sickness, but it is believed to be triggered by a combination of hormonal, physical and emotional changes that take place when a woman becomes pregnant.

Some say it may be nature’s way of preventing the mother from eating foods that are not helpful to her or her baby. Many women completely go off things like tea, coffee, wine and, believe it or not, even chocolate! However in research studies, far more women went off foods that are recommended as being good for her baby such as fish, eggs or meat.  This is particularly interesting as in a study comparing anthropological reports of 27 societies [i], the seven societies for which morning sickness was completely unknown rarely ate animal products, relying instead on corn, rice, tubers, and other plants.

Most websites and pregnancy resources will tell you that morning sickness is considered a normal part of pregnancy quoting that up to 80% of women (in our society) will get it.  However there is considerable research, including a study that came out in Germany which has shown that psychosocial variables have a clear influence on incidents of morning sickness including levels of stress, social support and emotions relating to being pregnant[ii]. Stress in particular has been shown to increase the incidence and severity of morning sickness [iii],[iv] as an increase in cortisol (stress hormones) leads to highs and lows of blood sugar which bring on the bouts of morning sickness.

Another theory is that it may also be nature’s way of getting a mum to slow down, to take better care of herself, and to begin her journey to becoming a mother by ensuring that she begins to be more aware of the effect her actions have on her baby.

Whichever view you hold, morning sickness is something that is very common, and in most cases is considered to be a positive element of pregnancy – statistically morning sickness reduces the likelihood of miscarriage, pre-term birth, low birth weight and perinatal death.

However, if you are suffering from morning sickness you probably do not really care what the theories are or why you have it – you probably just want ideas on how to reduce or get rid of it.

There are several natural ways to help reduce morning sickness including acupuncture, acupressure, taking ginger, peppermint, eating bland foods and grazing rather than eating big meals. Another way that has helped many women, including the Duchess of Cambridge is by using hypnotherapy.

Click here for your top tips

So what is hypnotherapy and how can it help with morning sickness?

Hypnotherapy (i.e. using the state of hypnosis for a therapeutic outcome) involves listening to a therapist in person or on a CD or download, who will use calming, relaxing words, imagery and often music to guide you into a relaxed state. Once in this relaxed state (when you are in fact still aware of your surroundings and could, if you wanted to open your eyes and interact) you listen to specific positive suggestions to help you re-frame or change the way you currently respond to things.  All things in life have a cause and an effect, for example you hear your name so you respond, you feel hungry so you eat, you stuck in traffic so you feel stressed etc. The suggestions given when you are in this relaxed state are based on the premise that you cannot usually change the cause but you can change how you respond. Because the conscious part of your mind (the critical, analytical part of you) is resting, you become very open and accepting of these positive suggestions and they become a new way for you to deal with the difficulties you were facing before.

As already discussed, stress can play a significant part in the onset and severity of morning sickness. However, reducing stress consciously or on demand is a difficult thing to. Hypnotherapy helps you do this on several levels. Firstly the simple fact that you are taking time out (usually about 30 mins) to relax and switch off means that you are reducing the body’s levels of stress hormones, calming your thoughts and focusing on positive feelings. Secondly whilst in a deeply relaxed state you are listening to positive suggestions about releasing any tension or stress and replacing them with calmer, more positive feelings. And thirdly whilst in hypnosis you take on new ways of dealing with the stress once you are out of hypnosis and dealing with your daily life (called a post hypnotic suggestion).  By being calmer, more relaxed and less stressed the symptoms of morning sickness will reduce.

The second key factor is to help you re-frame your thoughts and feelings about food and smells giving you positive suggestions to change your response such as imagining (and so having) a minty or lemony taste in your mouth which replaces the unpleasant sensations and to be attracted to foods that feel and are good for you.  According to the  reports on the Duchess of Cambridge ‘the hypnotherapy took away any negative thoughts connected with food from the morning sickness, and replaced them with cravings for healthy, nutritious food”. Whilst in hypnosis you also learn an easy and quick to use technique to bring about feelings of positivity, energy, and a fresh lemony taste when you going about your daily routine. This can be a really useful tool to instantly feel better at any time of night or day.  

Click Here to get top tips 

Overcome Morning Sickness
Overcome Morning Sickness

This form of Hypnotherapy is not just for the rich and famous, my “Overcome Morning SicknessCD   or Download helps pregnant women to deal with nausea and morning sickness through by listening to the cd in their own home. A survey carried out in conjunction with Pregnancy and Birth Magazine, found that 10 out of 10 mothers would recommend this CD to a friend and 9 out of 10 felt significant benefit from using it. Second time Mum Mandy said:

“After listening to your CD I stopped being sick after meals. The nausea only comes back very occasionally, and my appetite has improved almost back to normal!  I wish I’d known about it for my last pregnancy, as I suffered really badly until about 18 weeks. I’ll certainly recommend the CD to my friends.”

[i] http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/May00/morning.sickness.hrs.html – Morning sickness is Mother Nature’s way of protecting mothers and their unborn, Cornell biologists find

[ii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17905253 Relationships between nausea and vomiting, perceived stress, social support, pregnancy planning, and psychosocial adaptation in a sample of mothers: a questionnaire survey.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23232775 Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy: Prevalence, Severity and Relation to Psychosocial Health

[iii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17207743A comparison of different severities of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy relative to stress, social support, and maternal adaptation.

[iv] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14675977 Psychological health in early pregnancy: relationship with nausea and vomiting