“Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it” - unknown.
I'd like to start off by asking you to probably forget everything you have learned about birth through films and TV shows... During my Hypnobirthing Classes, I always start off by asking what your perception is of birth. Pain, hospitals and someone shouting "PUUUUSH" at you is what usually comes to mind. Although I have also had a Dad referring to that rhino scene from Ace Ventura... However, you'll be thankful to know you are not a rhino and you are not giving birth to an adult sized Jim Carrey. I love that the below gif was the first to come up when searching for "birth"... My point exactly.
One Born Every Minute
We have very limited exposure to birth in modern life. We grow up in smaller families with fewer siblings, so it's not common to be around birth from a young age or to have been a part of your siblings' or other family members' births. It is done behind closed doors and not spoken of often. This has led to the popularity of "fly-on-the-wall" programmes such as "One Born Every Minute". We assume these programmes are factual and realistic because they show real life events. However, this could not be further from the truth and can have quite a damaging effect mentally and physically on our birthing abilities. We are not told that these programmes are edited in a way to more dramatic and therefore obviously more exciting for the viewers. Every so often, they will show a pool birth here or there. But these are shown to be the rarer and more unusual types of births, whereas the emergencies and rushing to theatre is more "normal" and "common". This completely changes our mindset on birth and leads us to believe it's likely for us to be involved in an emergency, be rushed to theatre and have staff running in and out of our birth room panicked. Yes, emergencies do happen. Yes, for most viewers these are more "exciting". But no, they are not more common.
Even if you have never given birth before, your subconscious mind already has an idea of what to expect. This is because you have a "Birth Folder" in your subconscious mind. Our subconscious mind stores lifetime memories and experiences, like a big computer database. It brings relevant memories and experiences to our conscious mind when necessary. Therefore, when you go into labour or think about birth - your subconscious access your folder on all things birth related. If you've not experienced birth yourself, then it will be filled with stories from other people about birth, births shown on TV and in films. If these have strong focus on fear, pain and loss of control - your mind will deem birth as unsafe. Therefore, when thinking about birth or going into labour will trigger your Fight or Flight mode (Sympathetic Nervous System) and this causes labour to slow down and stop because your body does not feel it is safe to birth your baby. Or it will result in the Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle which I will explain further below.
Our subconscious mind also has a negative bias, which is also designed to protect us. Negative experiences are deeply stored to try and prevent them from reoccurring and harming you. However, our subconscious mind cannot tell fact from fiction. Therefore this "negative experience" may have been a birth story someone has told you about them or someone they know. Consciously, you are aware this has not happened to you and has not harmed you. However, your subconscious mind is unable differentiate between what has happened to you and what has happened to Sharon down the road's brother's wife's niece's friend. Which means it embeds the vivid negative birth story you have heard, in an effort to try and protect you. Just like reading restaurant reviews, 893 are great but of course you believe the 6 that are negative and decide against going there... If you hear 10 birth stories - 9 are positive and 1 is negative - your subconscious mind will store the negative more deeply than the positive.
So what can we do about our "Birth Folder"? Well, there is no better time than now to work on clearing it out and having a good spring clean. By clearing out this folder, you are then able to fill it back up with more realistic and positive birth imagery.
How can you do this?
Book onto a Hypnobirthing Course - working through your negative thoughts and challenging where these ideas come, will allow you to fill your subconscious mind back up with the positive beliefs and suggestions you hear on your Hypnobirthing tracks. This is much easier to do during self-hypnosis.
Limit and avoid negative imagery around birth - be mindful of what you're watching on TV, in films, limiting social media intake and even negative news stories that you know will not benefit you.
Fill up your cup of positivity - replacing ideas and imagery around birth with positive ones requires a lot of repetition. This can be watching calm and gentle birth videos, reading positive birth stories, using positive birth affirmations and reminding yourself that your body has a perfectly designed system that knows how to birth your baby.
Fear - Tension - Pain
Your uterus is your birthing muscle. Like any other muscle, we don't have to consciously think about it for it to work and it requires a good supply of oxygenated blood for it to work efficiently and effectively.
When we produce adrenaline, we trigger our Flight or Flight mode (sympathetic nervous system) - in response to a real or imagined threat. When in this system, blood flow is diverted from "non-essential" organs (uterus, digestive system etc.) to priorities the "essential organs" such as your heart (beating faster) and lungs (breathing quicker) to get you out of the situation quickly.
When we are afraid and full of fear, our reaction is to tense our muscles. The uterus already has the lack of blood flow making it unable to function effectively and increasing tension results in restricting its movements.
Therefore, when our muscles are tense from stress and our uterus is not able to function properly, this becomes increasingly uncomfortable and resulting in pain and also adding to our fear.
This was termed the "Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome" by Dr Grantly Dick-Read in his book "Childbirth Without Fear" published in 1942. Attending births in the early 20th century, he concluded that "there is no physiological function in the body that gives rise to pain in the normal course of health". What does this mean? When we are fit, healthy and well - no pain or discomfort. When we have sprained an ankle or pulled a muscle - we have pain. This is our body's way of signalling that something is wrong in the body and we should do something about it as continuing to go about our day-to-day lives with a sprained ankle wouldn't be ideal... However, in labour - nothing is wrong. Birth is a normal physiological function, meaning the sensations we experience are different to any "pain" you have experienced before.
When we use breathing techniques, understand what is happening in our body, work with it and allow it to happen - we have a much more comfortable birth. When we fight it, tense, dread each contraction - we have a much more uncomfortable birth. Don't get me wrong - birth is intense, but it is not the same as injuring yourself. Contractions come in waves, do not tend to last longer than 1 minute and between contractions - you have complete rest. Reframe your contractions and remind yourself - you can do anything for 1 minute! After his observations, Dr Grantly Dick-Read found that up to 95% of birthing women experienced intense sensations in labour due to the effect that fear has on the body. He believed that by eliminating the fear, we could return the uterus to its normal function, thereby eliminating the pain. You've so got this! Mindset Matters!
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