How will hypnobirthing help my labour be more comfortable?
“There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ they would brag about it. So should we.” – Ina May Gaskin, Midwife.
Did you know that before pregnancy, your uterus is roughly the size of a pear. By the third trimester, it’s more like the size of a watermelon. It's home to your baby and at least a pint of water, so it’s no surprise you feel twinges as it grows, especially as it will be touching the bottom of your ribs. By the end of pregnancy the uterus is one of the largest organs in your body! Isn't that amazing!
But what is your uterus? Well, simply put it’s a powerful bag of muscles which during pregnancy provides a safe home for your baby and during labour is designed to expel that same baby.
The uterus has two main layers of muscles (myometrium). The outer muscle layer is vertical and runs up and over the uterus. The inner muscle layer is horizontal, and runs like hoops around the baby.
During pregnancy, the inner horizontal layer of muscles contracts, holding the cervix closed, keeping your baby safe inside. In labour this inner horizontal layer relaxes, while the outer vertical muscles begin to contract instead, gently pulling the cervix open. Or at least that's how it should be if the conditions are right for the birthing mum.
During pregnancy, the outer layer of muscle practices for the real thing. You’ll have heard of Braxton Hicks contractions. From about the seventh week of pregnancy, your uterus will contract and relax every day. You won’t usually feel these practice contractions until later in pregnancy.
Every other muscle in your body is designed to contract (shorten), then return to the same size and shape when they relax. The uterus, however is unique. After each contraction the muscle fibers are a bit shorter and thicker so by the end of the first stage of labour the outer layer of muscles is bunched at the top of the uterus. When the cervix is fully dilated, this bunch of muscles is in position ready to push the baby down and out.
Now let’s look at how our thinking or 'reptile' brain can prevent the uterus from doing it’s job...
If a woman in labour feels stressed and unsafe, a flood of stress hormones rushes through her body, and effectively stops or stalls labour, so she can move to safety.
However, the reptile brain doesn’t differentiate between real and imagined threats. We know this from our physical reaction to say, a nightmare which is entirely imagined yet our body gears up to run from danger.
For our ancestors, the response would help them run away, or fight, when faced with danger from a predator. But today, a bright, busy, unfamiliar hospital can feel like a hostile environment and so a birthing woman could still go into fight or flight mode and ultimately her labour slows or halts.
It can take about 20-60 minutes for your body to return to its original, pre-heightened state.
Going back to the uterus...when you're stressed in labour, the horizontal muscles that hoop around your baby tense up, causing the cervix in turn to tense up. This makes it difficult for the vertical muscles to move up with each contraction. There is a resistance between those muscles which need to work as a team. This will become very uncomfortable for the woman in labour. So too is the pressure of your baby being pushed onto your cervix when it isn’t thinning or dilating.
Feeling more intense pain leads to a woman becoming more stressed or panicked and she’ll likely doubt her ability to birth her baby.
This then triggers the ‘fear-tension-pain’ cycle.
Typically this will result in the birthing woman’s labour being labelled as ‘failure to progress’ and she’ll be offered intervention. Statistically interventions lead to further interventions so the cycle continues. The woman continues to suffer, she doesn’t feel in control of her birth and ultimately perceives the whole experience as negative or even traumatic.
How can hypnobirthing prevent this from happening? Understanding how powerful and amazing your uterus is and forming a positive mindset ahead of birth is key to a successful hypnobirth.
In essence, hypnobirthing is a form of self-hypnosis, training you to switch off your logical, thinking, conscious mind - so dulling that ‘fight or flight’ mode - and tunes into your unconscious mind, and flooding it with positive words, sensations and visualisations about birth to reinforce to you and your body that you can and will have a positive birth experience.
If this sounds good to you then why not get in touch to see how I can support you prepare for a positive birth?
Mums who have powerful hypnobirths tend to say they perceived their contractions to be less painful, the sensations didn’t overwhelm them, they felt in control, they felt in tune with their bodies and they felt empowered.
About my hypnobirthing classes:
Just like in hypnosis, the core hypnobirthing technique is guided relaxation scripts and recordings. These will also often use visualisations. And that’s a big focus of my classes. I've written all my own scripts. You’ll experience each script live in class and can then continue your practice at home. Most women will listen to them before bed when they unwind and it really helps them sleep deeper. Then you can also use them in active labour or create anchors that will help you remain calm - all this is covered on the course.
I also incorporate pregnancy yoga in my hypnobirthing classes. These gentle movements will help ease pregnancy aches and pains but also encourage baby into the optimum position for labour. By practicing the sequence each week with your breath you'll be familiar with positive positions to encourage efficient labour and also have options for birthing your baby.
It's truly a mind-body course to leave you feelings confident, informed and even excited about your upcoming birth!