By day, Esther Croft is all sandpits and messy play with her two young sons, by night she teaches couples that there IS a better way to birth using HypnoBirthing techniques.

I sometimes joke that the secret to HypnoBirthing can be summed up in just one word – ‘relax’. And it’s absolutely true, to experience gentle childbirth, all the mother needs to do is relax. Unfortunately though, in order to reach the necessary level of relaxation, most modern women need assistance to undo years of conditioning and retrain their brains and bodies in the art of relaxation. This is where HypnoBirthing comes in.

Why is birth so painful for most women?

Most of us have grown up ‘knowing’ that birth is something that is inherently painful, something that is to be endured rather than enjoyed. From a young age we are bombarded with these messages. We hear horror stories from friends, and the media loves to frighten us with horrifying birth scenes. Even the treatment and advice we receive as pregnant women subtly tells us that we are a problem waiting to happen.

When you learn more about the physiology of birth, you can see how these beliefs set women up for painful births.

The Fear-Tension-Pain connection was first discovered by Dr Grantly Dick-Read in the 1940’s and forms the basis of HypnoBirthingTM. When a mother feels unsafe or scared during labour, her body is sent into fight or flight mode. The body tries to shut down the labour so the mother can escape to somewhere safe to finish giving birth. This response happens in response to both real and perceived threats. Simply ‘knowing’ that birth is going to be incredibly painful is enough to set off this reaction.

Unfortunately, when the body goes into fight or flight mode during labour, it is incredibly painful for the mother and stressful for the baby. Labour can slow or stop completely, babies become distressed, and mothers are much more likely to request pain relieving medications. All of these factors increase the likelihood of needing further interventions such as inductions, forceps deliveries, or emergency cesareans.

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So how does HypnoBirthing help?

When we remove fear from the birthing experience, we avoid the unnecessary pain, and also harness the body’s own endorphins which are many times stronger than morphine.

HypnoBirthing works on multiple levels to help mothers eliminate fear and achieve the necessary relaxed state during labour. Hypnosis is used to address any fears or beliefs that could cause her to feel unsafe or afraid. Daily practice using guided relaxations mean that mothers are so used to being in the relaxed state it is easy for them to come in and out of this state on their birthing day.

On top of this, mothers and their birth partners are taught instant deepening techniques that instantly bring her back to that state of relaxation should she ever lose focus. Breathing techniques make sure that each contraction is as effective as it can be, and that baby descends without the need for forceful pushing. Light touch massage is also used to encourage the body to produce maximum amounts of endorphins.

Using all these techniques together with the rest of the HypnoBirthing techniques, mothers are able to birth much more comfortably – just as nature intended. The latest research (Swencionis, 2013) backs this up. Compared to other mothers, HypnoBirthing mothers had significantly better outcomes in almost all aspects of the birth, including:

  • Fewer epidural anesthesia
  • Fewer other anesthesia
  • Fewer cesareans
  • Fewer episiotomies
  • Fewer inductions
  • Fewer low-birth-weight babies

So there you have it, the secret to gentle birth – just relax (and take a HypnoBirthing course)!

References: Swencionis et al (2013). Outcomes of HypnoBirthing. Birth Psychology 27(2)

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