Is your glass half empty or half full?
Your perception of the birthing process shapes your birth experience.
The common perception of the birthing process involves many hours of painfully agonizing work worthy of fear. It is something to just ‘get through’ and rarely an event that women look forward to. When a woman absorbs the idea that the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful, hearing this repeatedly from her mother, friends, relatives, doctors as well as poopular culture, all of these horror stories and images lead to the belief that birth must be painful. For a long time, we believed the earth was flat, but was it the truth ? The people of those times believed it was.
Birth is a normal physiological process. Mental attitudes and emotions interfere with the ability to give birth naturally and comfortably far more than is generally understood. Hypnosis can help deal with these negative attitudes and emotions by decreasing the mother-to-be's fears and anxiety before, during and after the birthing experience. But to understand how it works, you need to know the methodology behind hypnosis affecting your subconscious mind and imagination.
What is hypnosis?
Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming? When daydreaming, you're somewhere else, very calm and still, caught up in the moment but perfectly aware of what's going on around you. We go into hypnotic states several times during our day and don't even realize it.
This is exactly what it's like to be hypnotised. You experience an overall feeling of calmness throughout your entire body and are totally aware of what's going on around you. You are in complete control, able to communicate clearly and effectively with the hypnotherapist and the medical team supporting you. As a technique for complete body and mind relaxation (something very important in childbirth), hypnosis remains unsurpassed.
What's so important about your subconscious mind?
The subconscious is the part of the mind that is utilized in hypnosis, and it looks after every organ, muscle and cell in your body 24 hours a day. Your subconscious mind regulates all involuntary bodily functions including heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, hormone production and elimination.
Your subconscious mind is also the seat of emotions, feelings and sensations. It's also where permanent memory is stored, so everything that you have been told or heard about childbirth over the years is stored within your subconscious mind. So if you’ve heard nothing but horror stories, guess what your feelings towards childbirth will be?
When fearful and anxious, the nervous system activates to produce adrenaline, which has the following effects:
- The muscles of the uterus tighten, becoming tense and knotted. This makes uterine surges less effective increasing overall discomfort.
- A marked increase of blood flow away from the uterus to the arms and legs because the body is preparing for fight or flight.
- The big contracting muscle (the uterus) receives an inadequate supply of blood, so the 3 layers of muscle fiber that make up the uterus start working against each other. This soon causes a severe amount of pain.
Sound familiar? Replace the word uterus with heart in the above scenario, and you’d be experiencing a heart attack! Our heart beats every day from early in conception until we die and it never hurts until the blood supply to the heart is reduced. Similarly, when oxygen-rich blood is redirected away from the uterus through the action of adrenaline, birth HURTS.
We continually experience childbirth similar to the above scenario in part because it is expected to be like that. If the mind expects something to happen, then it will subconsciously work to realize it. So if you expect pain, anxiousness and fear in childbirth... you will most likely experience pain, anxiety and fear.
If you expect comfort and relaxation through building up a positive mental image of childbirth, your experience will be much more pleasant.
So how does hypnosis for childbirth work?
When you are in a deep state of relaxation, your body will respond in a very different way to childbirth.
- Instead of anxiety and fear, you will be confident, calm and trusting in your body.
- Your blood pressure remains at a steady healthy rate.
- You breathe steadily, deeply and rhythmically, so you send oxygenated blood throughout your entire body channelling an adequate supply of oxygen to the hard-working uterus.
- Your body becomes very limp and relaxed, and you're conserving energy for when you need it most.
- All your muscles relax and there is no resistance or tension.
- As labour continues unhindered by artificial drugs, you will secrete the natural hormones that have helped women through labour and birth. Natural prostaglandins soften and thin the cervix, while oxytocin stimulates uterus surges. Endorphins block your perception of pain, acting as a natural anaesthesia.
When the time comes to give birth for real, your body and mind will expect a calm and relaxing childbirth while your physical body reacts by completely relaxing all your muscles and producing endorphins. This is the ultimate benefit of hypnosis: a less-stressful, more pleasant birthing experience.
If you have medical-related questions about living in Indonesia to ask of medical professionals, see Ask the Experts.
We trust this information will assist you in making correct choices regarding your health and welfare. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for personalized advice from your medical adviser.
Our thanks to Ginny of Four Trimesters for providing us with this article. If you want to contact Ginny for information on her next workshop in Jakarta, visit her website at www.fourtrimesters.com.