‘When your mind is free of fear and tension, your body can be free of pain and will function as it was created to do so.’
This sentence was said by Marie Mongan, founder of the HypnoBirthing Institute and HypnoBirthing® – The Mongan Method, and because I’m one of her practitioners, it is this Hypnobirthing method that this article discusses. There is a variety of other Hypnobirthing courses and other childbirth preparation courses but that is a blog for another time.
When women first learn that they are pregnant there is a common awareness of what to eat, what not to eat and the importance of taking folic acid in early pregnancy but how often are the emotional feelings of that woman taken into consideration right at the start of the pregnancy journey? The first question I ask expecting women is ‘How are you feeling about going into labour and giving birth?’ It is not often that we stop to think about how our mental attitude throughout the pregnancy will affect the labour? It simply isn’t mentioned antenatally until your labour begins and the midwife is telling you to relax or calm down. How much better do you think you’ll be if you had had an opportunity to learn how to achieve deep relaxation and a state of calmness before your labour begins?
We all know that our brain controls our body and it is no different when we labour. Our mind is in charge, and influences, ideally positive, but more commonly, negative have profound effects. Throughout our childhood, adolescence and adulthood, women are bombarded with frightening images of childbirth, we have to listen to scary experiences and our mind over time is conditioned to believe that labour is just something to get through often with the use of analgesic drugs. When it becomes our turn at motherhood we may love the experience of being pregnant but have huge anxieties and fears about the birth. Whether we like it or not, our mind absorbs negative information which will ruin the chance of our mind, body and baby working together in the natural state it must be in, in order to have a straightforward, safe and positive experience of birth. After all it is not just the birth of your child but your birth as parents and it should matter a great deal.
With my first pregnancy, I didn’t really understand what was going to happen or what effects drugs had on the baby or me but thought I would see what happens. It wasn’t until I read about pregnancy and birth that it dawned on me that my number one priority was to give my baby the best possible chance of having a natural birth because in the absence of medical necessity, this is undoubtedly what was best for her.
In order to achieve this, I went on a Hypnobirthing course on which you learn a variety of simple relaxation, breathing and visualisation techniques which prepares the mind for birth. Learning these techniques and being able to think positively about birth, realising that this is a huge and immensely exciting time in your and your family’s life, helps your mind to replace all associated negativity and re-wires it with excitement, confidence and a calm control about what will most definitely happen.
Fundamental to the Hypnobirthing philosophy is the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read (1890 – 1959). He was an obstetrician who dedicated his professional career into exploring natural birth and as a result developed a theory of childbirth which in my opinion is amongst the most important ever hypothesised in this field. He began to explore whether the nature of labour was responsible for the emotional state of the woman or was the emotional state of the woman responsible for the nature of her labour.
His theory is that the fear of pain produces true pain through the medium of pathological tension. This is known as Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome.
When the body begins to labour with unresolved fears the mind instead of being calm switches into the fight, flight or freeze state. For the labouring woman, the uterine muscles which must work together along with the body’s rich hormonal cocktail are all affected and her chances of a normal, natural birth diminish from this point.
Because of his work, Dr. Grantly Dick-Read concluded that confidence, understanding and fearlessness are essential factors in easy childbirth and from my two experiences of birth and now from years of teaching Hypnobirthing, I wholeheartedly agree.
‘Nothing disturbs the course of natural labour more than fear.’
Dr. Grantly Dick-Read
As a natural childbirth consultant, Sarah helps expecting women and their partners make informed choices about their pregnancy and birth. Sarah teaches Hypnobirthing, lectures about normal birth and founded Baby-Birth – an international website all about pregnancy, birth and the immediate postnatal period – www.baby-birth.com