Can hypnotherapy help me feel less pain during labour?
It’s known as one of the most painful experiences women can experience. Thanks in part due to the number of painful experiences we hear about – be they from friends or family who have had a traumatic experience, or from reading or watching births as part of popular TV programmes – it’s no wonder that as many as half of women are afraid of childbirth.
Tokophobia (the fear of pregnancy and childbirth) can be an extreme form of this common fear, and can develop in women who have yet to give birth as well as those with past, traumatic birth experiences. While feeling a level of anxiety and stress during pregnancy can be completely normal, symptoms of tokophobia can also include panic attacks, nightmares, disturbed sleep, and developing avoidance behaviours (where you specifically take actions to help avoid or escape difficult thoughts or feelings).
Fear of the unknown, combined with an expectation of labour pain can, for many women, make the experience that much more worrying and, ultimately, can make the experience more stressful and painful.
The more stressed, anxious, or scared you feel during labour, the more adrenaline is released into your body. Putting you into ‘fight or flight’ mode’ causes blood to flow more readily to your limbs ready for escape, meaning your womb gets less blood and oxygen, which can make your muscles less efficient. These increased levels of stress also make it less likely for you to produce hormones that ease pain. The calmer you are able to feel, the more likely you are to alter how you perceive pain.
We spoke with holistic well-being practitioner and hypnotherapist Elizabeth Hollywood. Specialising in hypnobirthing, pain management, and anxiety, Elizabeth explains how hypnotherapy can have a positive impact during pregnancy, labour, and beyond.
“Many women come to hypnobirthing because of the positive impact it can have on their experience of pregnancy and labour. In my experience of teaching hypnobirthing, I have found that fear of pain and loss of control are of the most common concerns women have.
“Unfortunately, many pregnant women gain their fear of pain through listening to other people’s negative experiences of birth. For first-time mothers, fear of the unknown can feel very daunting. The imagination takes over, making a process which should be naturally easy and joyous, difficult and fearful.
“However, it pleasantly surprises women that, by learning some simple hypnobirthing techniques, they can influence their birth in a positive way both physically and mentally. A combination of antenatal education, breathing techniques and reframing birth through positive thoughts, visualisations and hypnosis can help women feel empowered, confident and better prepared for childbirth.”
What can I expect to learn from hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing can help with a wide variety of worries you may have about labour. Arguably, one of the most important areas taught is to help reframe the language used around labour. This can help you focus less on what ‘could’ go wrong – anticipating anxiety and pain – and, instead, use positive language such as ‘birth breathing’ (instead of pushing) or ‘practice’ (instead of ‘false’ labour), to help you create a more positive mindset.
As Elizabeth explains, breathing techniques taught during hypnobirthing classes can have a huge impact on many women.
“One of the most valuable things you will learn in hypnobirthing is how to breathe during pregnancy and labour. Learning how to breathe properly can help women gain control over the way their body reacts.
“By breathing calmly and rhythmically, we can reduce adrenaline and cortisol which is released during times of anxiety and release helpful hormones, endorphins and oxytocin which can help make childbirth more comfortable.
“Endorphins are found naturally in our bodies and provide relief from physical and emotional pain. It is very reassuring to women when they learn that their body is able to produce its very own natural painkiller.
“The hormone oxytocin is produced in the pituitary gland and plays an important role during pregnancy and childbirth. Oxytocin is essential for the muscles of the uterus to work properly so that your surges are more efficient and shorter in duration.
“When women understand what is physically happening within their body and realise that they can gain control over anxiety and pain by simply breathing in a certain way, they can in most instances reduce pain levels and birth with confidence in their own natural abilities.”
Hypnobirthing can provide many benefits in addition to reducing the levels of pain you may feel. While the effects can vary between women, common benefits of hypnotherapy for childbirth can include:
- Reduced chance that you may need surgical or medical intervention, as well as reduced recovery time for you.
- A higher chance of having shorter labour, as well as your baby sleeping and feeding well.
- An increased sense of bonding between you, your baby, and partner.
Hypnobirthing offers a natural, side-effect free approach to childbirth that appeals to many women. However, it can also be used alongside just about any birth plan choices you plan to make. What’s important is figuring out which options make you feel most comfortable, calm, and prepared.
To find out more information about hypnobirthing, check out our latest member articles or hypnobirthing page. To find an experienced hypnotherapist online or near you, check out our list of experienced hypnotherapists dealing with hypnobirthing.