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Studio Australia Blog

What is Hypnobirthing?

To many people in our society, the idea of ‘natural’ childbirth is equated with needless suffering and sacrifice. A pregnant woman who says she would like to give birth naturally is often treated with cries of ‘that’s brave!’ or worse still ‘well, you’ll soon find out’ or perhaps just a baffled ‘why?’ Somehow we have become convinced that our species is unable to give birth to its young without drugs and that every birth is a medical disaster waiting to happen.

From an early age, girls learn that childbirth is dangerous and excruciatingly painful. Ever seen a birth on television that wasn’t either dangerous or excruciatingly painful? Coupled with the harsh language of birth and antenatal care that is often focused on all the things that go wrong, it’s hardly surprising that many women enter the labor ward filled with dread and a desire to get it over in the most painless way possible.

HypnoBirthing is based on several things that every health professional knows about childbirth.

Firstly, in order for labor to initiate and flow, the woman needs to secrete the hormone oxytocin.  Oxytocin and adrenaline are antagonistic.  If the woman is scared, anxious or nervous her body will secrete adrenalin and stop secreting oxytocin. Her body will understand that she is in danger and will attempt to shut down her labor until she finds a safer place. Blood will be diverted from the uterus and to the main muscles, in preparation to ‘fight or flight’.  We’re mammals after all, and this is a great way to put off birth until you’re safe out of the way of a predator.

Secondly, oxytocin is, in the words of the renowned birth specialist Dr. Michel Odent, ‘a shy hormone’. Oxytocin is essential to our most intimate experiences: sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. It flourishes when we are in small spaces where we won’t be observed or judged, where we feel safe and secure.

Thirdly, the mechanism of the muscles in the uterus during childbirth is greatly affected by our minds. During a uterine surge, the outer vertical muscles stretch down and open the inner circular muscles around the cervix, opening the cervix for the baby’s descent.  If the woman is relaxed and not producing adrenaline this movement is smooth and effective.  If the woman is in fear and secreting adrenaline, this movement is painful and ineffective as the muscles tense up, in what is commonly known as the ‘fear-tension-pain’ cycle.

The body tries to do as the mind tells it.  If we are telling it that we don’t want to be in labor, it will try to stop our labor.  If the message is that everything is fine and we offer absolutely no resistance, labor flows in an entirely different way, reducing the discomfort and sometimes eliminating it altogether.  Many HypnoBirthing mothers feel an intense pressure, but don’t interpret it as pain.

In HypnoBirthing classes, women learn to approach childbirth with confidence in the knowledge that their bodies know exactly what to do.  The hypnosis that we do in the classes is simply deep relaxation, of the kind that the mother can then do by herself.  The women learn deep relaxation techniques that they can employ during labor to ensure that they are able to let go and not resist the birth.  They learn to welcome the uterine surges and let them flow through their bodies. They learn to quieten the ever-questioning, fear-inducing neo-cortex.  Their births are often calm and undramatic, marked by their withdrawal from the outside world into an almost amnesiac state, as they go inside their bodies. She feels everything, but since it is not threatening, she doesn’t suffer.

We can never predict what turns our birthing may take, as every woman, every baby and every birth is different. But, we can prepare our minds in the best way possible so we offer no resistance to the birth. After all, why resist something so empowering, so beautiful and so overwhelmingly natural?

This blog post was written by Esther Jones, HypnoBirthing practitioner at Studio Australia Barcelona.

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