HypnoBirthing and the Physiology of Labour
A recommended course in HypnoBirthing can teach you how to stay calm, relaxed and in control during your labour, regardless of what is happening around you. From the Midwife’s perspective this is extremely helpful as it can reduce the need for an epidural. In turn, birth without an epidural can progress faster, and there is less risk of needing an assisted delivery, or even a caesarean if there is slow progress and the baby becomes distressed. Babies born using HypnoBirthing tend to sleep better and so feed better, because they have experienced less trauma and are generally calmer.
Breathing techniques and exercises to focus the mind are taught in HypnoBirthing classes, which actually help the birthing process. During labour the body prepares for dilatation by softening the cervix and then it becomes effaced. This means it reduces in size, to become paper-thin and is then stretched open to 10 cms in order to allow the baby’s head to pass through. All these changes depend on contractions of the uterus, which must be long, hard and effective. Eventually the first stage is achieved and the baby will begin its decent through the pelvis with an involuntary pushing reflex. Eventually the head will be born and the rest of the baby will follow with ease.
HypnoBirthing will attempt to teach you how to release any fears that you may have about childbirth and the process of labour. You will learn how to know what your body is doing and why and how it is doing it. Most classes will teach the group in a structured, but informal way, which is excellent. The courses will coverer both the physical and emotional aspects of birth. Some organisations will also give books, relaxation CDs and affirmations, which can help enormously on the day, if well practiced at home. Partners will become a central part of the birthing process and they will help to follow affirmations, visualisations and breathing patterns learnt in the classes. Their support will become incredibly helpful.
All Midwives now realise the power of HypnoBirthing and are willing to adapt their care to facilitate its use. In the past women managed by focusing their minds on breathing through their contractions, perhaps blowing at a candle, or counting up and down to ten. Focussing the mind is the key with the aim of letting the body do what it has to, with as little resistance as possible. Hopefully this will result in the maximum release of birth hormones, which will help to speed up labour and birth. It is astounding how quickly some mothers can give birth in a calm and gently lit birthing pool.
We all want to reduce complications, surgery and hospital stays, and many studies have supported the use of hypnosis to do this. We at Kensington Midwives are very keen that our clients learn some of the skills used in HypnoBirthing, so they are prepared, focused and fully in control when the big day arrives.
HypnoBirthing is influenced by the work of Dr Grantly Dick-Read and his book “Childbirth Without Fear”, originally published in 1933. In his book he writes, “There is no physiological function in the body that gives rise to pain in the normal course of health. In no other animal species is the process of birth apparently associated with any suffering, pain or agony, except where pathology exists or in an unnatural state, such as captivity.” He felt that fear and tension caused labour to be painful. Eliminating fear would help the uterus to function properly. When we are afraid the body diverts blood and oxygen from non-essential defence organs to large muscle groups for flight. Adrenaline is also produced which inhibits the production of oxytocin, a vital hormone for contractions and birth. He called this, “The fear-tension-pain syndrome of childbirth”, and he believed that by eliminating fear the uterus would function well and women could eliminate the pain.
Whether you choose a hospital birth, a home birth, a birth centre, a water-birth or an epidural HypnoBirthing is a method that can help enormously during the hours of labour ahead. The mind is powerful and the confidence gained by good teaching, knowledge, practice and support from an understanding partner is invaluable.