By Rachel Quickenden (Strong Like Mama)
I’ve always suffered from what I like to call “stress belly” (and if you are wondering what’s this got to do with hypnobirthing and shorter labour… keep reading!)
My stomach is a really obvious indicator of when I’m feeling anxious… worried… pressured about something.
And without putting you off your dinner (!) it usually means I spend a lot more time in the toilet! About 10 years ago I started a new job. One I really wanted but which felt like a big stretch – and I had 2 weeks of “stress belly”.
This is just one example of how the mind impacts the body – and there are so many examples! Other obvious examples are how you feel physically when you wake up from a nightmare… or how stress can stop you from sleeping.
A CALMER, SHORTER LABOUR STARTS IN YOUR… MIND
When it comes to labour and birth, we all come to it with preconceived ideas of what it will be like – whether that is because of what we’ve seen on the telly, what we’ve heard from other people or our own experiences.
Inevitably, there is always an element of fear and anxiety – because we rarely hear positives about birth! It’s all about how painful it is… how you have no control over it… and of course, we want our baby to be born safe and well.
And have you noticed that the pain of childbirth has somehow become the barometer for everything awful?!
“I’ll manage – I’ve survived childbirth!” or “Come on, you should be fine with this – you’ve birthed two babies!”
Of course, all this is said in jest – but it sticks with us. It affects the way we feel when we think about giving birth, and then when our labour actually starts.
My “stress belly” is a sign of my body going into freeze, fight or flight mode. It is in that emergency response to protect me from whatever is causing me to feel anxious – because the body doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is not. Adrenaline has been released and my bowels have been emptied (sorry!) so that I can literally fight or flight more easily.
SO, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR LABOUR?
That fear, anxiety or worry that we feel puts us into the emergency response – which is completely unhelpful for birth!
The body focuses on self-defence and escape and actively delays or stalls labour – until it’s safe again. It makes complete sense that our body would pause labour when under threat, until that threat has passed! It protects both mum and baby. But this results in a longer, slower labour and more pain because the uterus has restricted blood and oxygen supply and the muscles are tense and unable to move freely.
This is where hypnobirthing comes in.
LABOUR AND HYPNOBIRTHING
Yes, it has a silly name, but it gives you the tools to reduce the fear that you feel about birth, to calm your mind and relax your body. All of which tells your body that its safe to give birth to your baby – and so everything can work at its best. Your uterus has a good supply of blood and oxygen, and your muscles can move easily and with less energy.
In practical terms, this means a shorter, easier labour with less pain.
It is of course too simplistic to say to somebody “chill out! don’t worry!’ If you were about to jump out of a plane and someone said that to you it wouldn’t make an ounce of difference!
The key is in a combination of a) really understanding how birth works, so that you can trust your body and support it to work more easily, and b) practicing the relaxation and mindset techniques over a sustained period of time so that they come naturally and you are able to stay out of that emergency response when you are actually in labour.
Hypnobirthing gives you the tools to reduce the fear that you feel about birth, to calm your mind and relax your body
So, if you thought that hypnobirthing sounded wishy-washy… a bit weird… like hippy mumbo-jumbo… I get it! It does!
But it’s really all about the science of how the mind impacts the body, and how to utilise that connection during labour and birth.
A calmer, shorter, more comfortable birth?
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it!
Rachel (Strong Like Mama) helps expectant and new parents to dial down the noise, pressure and anxiety as they move from pregnancy into parenthood… so they can trust their bodies and feel confident to do things their way.
Rachel is trained in hypnobirthing and antenatal education (with KGHypnobirthing, a course accredited by the Royal College of Midwives) and as a Mindful Breastfeeding Practitioner with the Mindful Breastfeeding School.