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

The Journey to One Born Every Minute – Having a positive birth

Maggie and Nadine

When I was approached by the producers of One Born Every Minute, explaining that one of the women who was being filmed for the programme was using Natal Hypnotherapy, I was somewhat nervous as in the past we have had negative experiences in the way TV shows portray women using Natal Hypnotherapy.  However, I also realised that this would be an amazing opportunity to  of women that birth can be a positive, calm and empowering experience.  I had never met the lady and had no idea what her background was however I knew from years of experience that Natal Hypnotherapy can help all types on women on so many different levels.

The producers put us in touch and I managed to have a few lovely conversations with her before the birth.  She had had a very traumatic birth with her first baby and was adamant that she wanted things to be different this time round.  She had done some research and come across the concept of hypnobirthing which she felt would be worth pursuing. However she had not been keen on some of the methods, as she felt they were too prescriptive, until she came across Natal Hypnotherapy.  She only listened to the CD and read the book (cover to cover!) however the change in her feelings and attitudes towards the forthcoming birth changed beyond belief.

I then heard no more from her until 8am on a Saturday morning last year –   She was still in the hospital and rang me just an hour after giving birth as she could not wait to tell me how the amazing and positive the birth was.  By the end of the conversation we were both in tears!  She really believed that having a positive birth experience was predominantly down to the techniques she had learnt using Natal Hypnotherapy. She was on cloud nine and could not stop telling me how wonderful it was and how amazed the midwives were.  I was thrilled beyond belief for her but also relieved that her experience had been so positive.

Then started the long wait for her birth to finally be shared with millions of viewers!  I have since met her a few times – once when she came to talk at a student midwives study day – it was such a pleasure and delight to see her talk about the birth with such passion and enthusiasm – and an even bigger delight to see the response from the midwives!

Then again when I filmed this lovely interview with her where she talks you through her experience.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAxcmLQg3XE?rel=0&showinfo=0&controls=0

To watch the actual programme tune into Channel 4 on August 12th at 9pm.

Nadine
Paul and Nadine on Channel 4’s One born Every Minute

To learn more about what Nadine did to prepare Click to download your poster