The key to a comfortable birth is to stay relaxed and to keep your levels of anxiety and adrenalin to a minimum. By keeping relaxed, focused, and breathing steadily and rhythmically, your body will have the best chance of producing the right combination of birthing hormones to enable you to give birth the way nature intended. If you're full of fear and adrenalin, your body will tense up, diverting blood away from your uterus to your arms and legs (fight or flight), making the contractions more painful and less effective, thus making the labour longer – but if you're relaxed, all your energy can go to the uterus, and your birthing body will be able to work more effectively.
Hypnosis is a powerful, effective, and natural means of achieving this focused relaxation, to overcome fear of birth and to pre-program yourself with positive suggestions. By preparing yourself during pregnancy, hypnosis can help you to approach birth feeling calm and confident, so when birth begins, all the positive suggestions that you've put in place kick in. Women using hypnosis for childbirth find they are able to manage the sensations of birth more effectively, and medical research shows that use of hypnosis for childbirth results in reduced surgical intervention, reduced use of pain medication, and faster postnatal recovery.
Here is a quick step-by-step guide on how to practice self-hypnosis.
Focus. Give yourself the best chance for the hypnosis to take effect. Take yourself away to a quiet, comfortable place, lie or sit down, and close your eyes. Make sure it's a good time – that you have at least half an hour, that you won't be disturbed and that you really want to do it.
Relax and breathe. Take yourself into a deeply relaxed state. Focus on your breathing – keep it steady, rhythmical and calm, breathing down to your abdomen. Relax all the muscles in your body, and keep yourself limp.
Visualize. Think about a place in your mind that is a calm environment, your ultimate relaxation get-away. Take a few deep breaths and practice going there in your mind – then focus on feeling, seeing and hearing things as if you were actually there.
Take yourself through the birth. Once you're completely calm, slowly, and in lots of detail, take yourself through the entire birth step by step, making it as detailed as possible. Focus on what you want to happen, not what you don't.
Give yourself plenty of positive suggestions and triggers. While taking yourself through the birth, put in positive suggestions and triggers. These are the things that will really help you in birth. Be specific, and use images that work for you. Here are a few examples of positive suggestions:
- I welcome each contraction as a step taking me closer and closer to meeting my baby.
- With each contraction, I remain calm, confident, deeply relaxed, feeling in control, energetic and strong.
- I can be flexible and adjust to whatever is best and safest, and trust those people I've chosen and who are here helping me.
A 'trigger' works on the 'When/if x happens, you respond with y' model – here are some examples:
- When I feel the sensations fading away, I find myself going even more relaxed and totally limp.
- When my body is fully open and ready, I trust it to help ease my baby out in the calmest and safest way possible.
- The sound of voices around me encourages me and makes me feel supported and calm.
Imagine holding the baby in your arms. Don't mentally separate off birth and your baby – it's the process by which you'll get to meet him or her. So end your visualization of the birth with the baby in your arms.
Wake up slowly. Slowly return to your environment. Flex your fingers and toes, tune back into the sounds around you, remember your feelings of calm and positivity, and open your eyes.
Preparation is vital - make sure you practice regularly to give the suggestions and triggers a good chance to establish themselves in your subconscious. As with any skill, the more you practice, the better you get at it. You should do these steps as often as you can in the last few weeks of your pregnancy. The more you've done it, the more effective it will be come birth.
Maggie Howell is the founder of Natal Hypnotherapy™. Natal Hypnotherapy™ produces self-hypnosis CDs which help women prepare for birth and approach it calm, confident, and prepared. The website is www.natalhypnotherapy.co.uk