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The Science of Hypnobirthing

Sceptical about ‘breathing your baby out’? Wondering if hypnobirthing is just for homebirths? Or a load of woo? You’re in the right place, read on.

What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing has had a hard time marketing itself – the name conjures up all sorts of thoughts and feelings; swinging pendulums, chanting, heavy-breathing, relaxation, steering clear of drugs and giving birth at home?

These were definitely some of the things my husband and I thought before we did a course ahead of our Son, Leo’s birth! And whilst ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with all of that, as two trained scientists, now working in science communication and accounting, we were definitely not ‘those kind of people’.

But, we were wrong, couldn’t have been further from the truth. Hypnobirthing is about addressing how you feel about birth, it’s about understanding what’s going to happen, knowing all your options and choices and feeling prepared and in control no matter the twists and turns birth might take.

How does it work then?

Hypnobirthing starts with the mind, it acknowledges that we all have a set of thoughts, beliefs, ideas and perhaps experiences of birth that we’ve been banking in our mind since we were young. And, in society, on TV, birth is often depicted very dramatically - loud, scary, frightening, and possibly traumatising. The mind has a huge influence on our body – ‘what the mind believes, the body achieves’. Essentially, how we feel, impacts how we birth.

Wait, what?

When we feel nervous, apprehensive, scared of the pain or even just a bit unsure of what’s to come with birth, we trigger our sympathetic nervous system, this starts a cascade of responses which you may have experienced or heard of; our ‘fight or flight’ response. When you get worried, your mind thinks you’re not safe and your body responds in a big way; a shot of adrenaline, your breathing gets faster and more shallow, blood/oxygen rushes to the muscles in your legs so you can run away, your pupils dilate and let in loads of light, you’re on edge, you feel tense, you’re ready to get out of there.

Experienced this before? Before doing a presentation at work? Meeting someone new? Doing something out of your comfort zone? Yeah, not much fun and not really what you want in labour. When we’re in our fight or flight response, labour is pretty tough, our uterus muscles no longer receive the oxygen and nutrients they need to work well and because we’re tense, the muscles are tense – tense muscles don’t work so well and they tend to hurt.

So, whilst no one can offer or promise you a pain free labour, by addressing this, we can hope to make it more comfortable. My approach to hypnobirthing starts with addressing how you feel about birth, providing you with information on what’s likely to happen, informing you of all your options, how to navigate the maternity system and importantly how to support your body to labour effectively. Combined, this helps you move away from feeling fearful about birth, to feeling prepared, calm and confident. When we feel this way, we can stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system; breathing deeply, feeling relaxed, producing melatonin and oxytocin, the hormone needed for effective labour.

That is some of the science behind hypnobirthing, on my courses we explore the research and evidence behind all of the elements that might sound a little ‘woo’ – visualisation, affirmations, hypnosis scripts.

Research, information and most importantly support is at the heart of hypnobirthing with Mama’s tlc – this approach is so effective for all types of birth, whether that’s a spontaneous vaginal birth, a caesarean birth or induced birth – the information, tools and techniques we learn put you in the driving seat of your birth.

Find out more about my hypnobirthing courses here.

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