3 Adelaide Women Share Their Experience With Hypnobirthing
When it comes to giving birth, one of the most common responses from women when you ask what worries them is Pain.
Google search results show that women are looking up:
How painful is birth?
Does it hurt to give birth?
How can I give birth pain-free?
Is it because of this that many women are now turning to hypnobirthing to manage the pain?
First of all, let's look at why childbirth is perceived as painful?
The changes your body is experiencing
The muscles in your uterus are contracting and your uterus and cervix are changing shape. Your uterus uses its thick muscle to pull your cervix up and out of the way so baby can pass through. It takes a lot of pulling, pushing and stretching within your body to get that baby out.
The position of your body
Much is written about the different positions you can birth in and the effect they may have on your labour. If you are laying down on your back, you are reducing the space in your pelvis. Thus making your body work harder to push your baby up the incline in your pelvis.
Not being able to freely move about will also impact the pain you are feeling.
Fear and Anxiety
If you’ve done any research into childbirth or attended any birth classes, you’ve more than likely heard about the fear-tension-pain cycle. For those that haven’t, I’ll explain it below:
The fear-tension-pain cycle is a concept introduced by Grantly Dick-Read to explain the pain associated with childbirth. The concept proposes that a woman’s thoughts and beliefs can induce anxiety and cause fear in labour. This fear leads to muscular and psychological tension that interferes with the natural processes of dilation and delivery, resulting in pain. And it is a cycle because with the pain can come more fear and so-on.
Now let's think of how pain works in your body
I like to use the analogy of cars driving along a road looking for somewhere to park (thanks Dr Sears!). When our body receives a painful stimulus, it sets a little car off to travel up the road of your nervous system and spinal cord and looks for somewhere to park in your brain.
So now we have three ways we can work with our body to stop this happening.
First of all by reducing the number of cars our body is producing. We do this in birth by remaining active and upright during labour. By thinking positively about the sensations we are experiencing and by keeping our muscles as relaxed as possible. You can use breathing techniques, visualisations or progressive relaxation techniques. Try not to get caught up in that fear-tension-pain cycle.
The second way we can stop the cars is by not letting them onto the road in our spinal cord. The Gate theory says, very simply, that we have little gates in our nervous system that pain has to pass through. If we can shut these gates or block them with other vehicles, then our little cars can't reach our brain to be perceived as pain.
So how do we block the gates?
We can create "peak hour" with different vehicles to travel along the roads of our nervous system by using all 5 of our senses.
And the third way is by filling up all the carparks (pain receptors) in your brain with other vehicles. Fill them up with the natural endorphins your body produces during childbirth or some pain medications also work this way.
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is a series of tools and techniques that promote pain management during birth. These techniques can include self-hypnosis, visualisation, breathing and relaxation techniques. There is also a birth education component so that women understand what is happening in their bodies during childbirth.
There are a few different hypnobirthing options around Adelaide. Some classes teach The Mongan Method and others teach the Hypnobirthing Australia method. Self-learning options such as books, websites and videos are readily available.
I spoke with 3 women from around Adelaide about their experience with hypnobirthing. I asked if they felt that their experience was consistent with the following statement: “One of the main theories that hypnobirthing discusses is the idea that pain is caused by fear and that by learning to relax, the amount of pain felt will be decreased.”
Why did you choose to use hypnobirthing for this birth?
“A friend gave me a copy of the [Marie Mongan’s] book and recommended that I read it. Reading the book completely changed my perspective. It eased a lot of my fears about birth and reminded me that our bodies are designed for birth”
“I wanted to have a different set of tools to use for birth”
“I wanted to have a natural water birth and avoid interventions. I placed so much focus on my birth outcome”
How did the theory of being able to relax in birth decreases the pain experience relate to your birth? Do you think your experience verified the above statement?
“It helped with reprogramming my subconscious beliefs and reaffirmed what I needed to do for a positive birth. My experience verified the statement and I think the most important thing is to practice and apply the info that the classes teach”
”It was helpful to have in the back of my mind. But I should have let go of my expectations and ideals. I feel like I failed though as I was exhausted and had an assisted birth after a long labour. I was able to cope with the pain which verifies the theory but I was exhausted”
”It turned around my concept of birth. The meditation was integral to keep me calm and focused. Even though my birth didn’t go exactly as planned my experience agrees with the theory”
What does the research say about hypnosis for pain relief in labour and childbirth?
A Cochrane review on hypnosis was released in 2016. It concluded that “Hypnosis may reduce the overall use of pain medication during labour, but does not seem to reduce the use of epidurals. Women using hypnosis are no more likely to have a normal vaginal birth. There is currently not enough evidence to say whether hypnosis helps women feel more satisfied with their pain relief in labour, nor whether it improves their sense of coping with labour.”
If you are interested in learning more about Hypnobirthing, please check out the below resources for local contacts.
Hypnobirthing Classes in Adelaide
0431 726 670
m: 0413 782 744
Mobile: 0413 505 533
Packing your hospital bag for birth
There's a million blogs out there telling you what to pack in your hospital bag with the usual lists of things to pack for mum and baby. I'm of the belief that you're a pretty smart individual and can work out how many pairs of knickers to pack for a couple of nights away so I'm not going to cover the basics. Suffice to say, pack clothes that you feel super comfortable in and allow for easy access to your boobs if you're going to breastfeed. Go for function over form. Practicality over style.
Or hey, if baby brain has well and truly kicked in, see the resources at the end for your standard list.
Instead, I want to talk about three things to go put in your hospital bag right now if they aren't already in there. Not only are they useful in keeping you comfortable during your stay, they might even help you birth your baby!
1. Your own pillow
I've never known a hospital pillow to be as comfortable as your own and it can be used before, during and after birth. Enough said.
BONUS TIP: pop a drop of your favourite essential oil or scent on the corner of your pillow. Smell is a powerful way to access our limbic system and connect to positive emotions and feelings of wellbeing. If you don't have any essential oils, ask your doula to raid her stash!
2. Your favourite snacks and drinks
While most of us know Its super important to stay hydrated during labour, did you also know that eating your favourite food or sipping your favourite drink may also make labour less painful? Here's a tip to cope with contractions in early labour: during a contraction mindfully eat a square of your most indulgent chocolate (or whatever floats your boat). Focus all your attention on how it tastes, what it feels like in your mouth. If it's crunchy, what does it sound like? Use as many of your senses to describe in your mind what you are slowly eating. This is just one way of providing mental distraction from the pain and reducing the amount of pain signals being sent to your brain. Obviously you can't eat a square of chocolate for every contraction, but its certainly an option to try occasionally.
Also think about what you might like your first meal after birth to be. A hospital sandwich that's been sitting around or something tasty and nutritious you can bring from home? Reward yourself for your hard work!
PS Yes you are allowed to eat and drink during labour! See the evidence on eating and drinking during labour
3. Small objects from home that bring you joy and happy memories.
Set them up around your hospital room and place some in the bathroom too if you have access to your own. Items could include photos, a memento from a favourite holiday, something with your favourite scent or even the wedding ring on your hand. Not only will they help turn a foreign environment into a more homely atmosphere where you feel safer, they can also help with pain management. When you look at them, reconnect with the happy memories they provide. Again providing distraction from the work of labour and encouraging your brain to release your body's natural oxytocin and pain-relieving endorphins.
BONUS TIP: Practise looking at, touching and smelling these objects while you are pregnant to help train your brain into automatically releasing those endorphins. Yep, you're going to Pavlov's Dogs yourself!
Are you looking for further information on the topics discussed in this blog? Here you go!
Your Brain in Birth
The Role of Hormones in Birth
Women's & Children's Hospital List of What to Pack
Leave a Comment below and let others know what you found handy to take to hospital
Dr Heather Mattner
Stirling, South Australia, 5152
M: 0414 499 544
Gemma Johnson Psychology
Hanna Beaven Psychology
0455 140 400
PANDA National Helpline
(Mon to Fri, 9am - 7.30pm AEST) Call 1300 726 306
Centre Of Perinatal Excellence
Make the best choices for your birth
We are faced with making a lot of decisions for ourselves and our child during pregnancy and birth. Some couples prefer to let their obstetrician call the shots but many want to feel in control and confident of the decisions around their care.
How can you know if you are getting all the information you need to make an informed choice?
Do you understand what you have been told?
What if you feel uncomfortable with what the doctor or midwife is telling you to do?
As your doula I will find out what your preferences are for childbirth and how you feel about communicating these to your care provider. We can role-play different styles of communication with you and your partner so that when you are faced with making a decision, you feel more confident to do so. I will also talk about various decision making tools to assist you with the myriad of choices available to you.
Here are 10 handy questions to get you started.
So the other week I was driving my children to school and we had a car accident.
The adrenaline set in and we were all in shock. I was trembling all over, my daughter was screaming, my two boys in the backseat were deathly silent and the driver of the other car wasn't moving. I remember her sunglasses had fallen out of her broken window and were laying in the smashed glass next to her car. It all happened so quickly yet everything was in slow motion.
The crunching of metal, the breaking of glass, our car being turned around, strangers coming running to help us.
The man in the red jumper standing on the corner just filming it all like he was going to be a social media sensation. Yes, I remember you very clearly, dickhead.
The staff in a nearby business bringing my children hot chocolate. The unknown man who, judging by appearances, didn't have much to give yet gave my children a new toy he happened to have with him. The help from the emergency services. Thank you for your kindness.
It could have had a very different ending, but thank the universe, everyone was able to get out of their cars and walk away. I am beyond grateful that this was the outcome, that everyone got to go home to their families. That besides a few bruises and some whiplash, everyone will be physically okay.
You know this right. That I am grateful that my children are healthy. I don't know any person that wouldn't be grateful. Yet I am still upset by what has happened. I still replay what happened in my mind. I can still feel the fear and uncertainty of those first few moments.
And that will take me a little while to get over.
In the meantime, I still have to go on with my life. I still have to drive my children down the same road. I have to sort out all the paperwork and phone calls that go along with a car accident. I still have to comfort my children who draw pictures of what happened. I am still grateful that our bruises will heal and we will be okay.
So why do people keep telling me "You should be grateful!".
That cars can be replaced but people can't.
I know this. You don't have to remind me.
I know it can be difficult to be with someone going through an emotional time. That you don't always know what to say or that you want to make me feel better. But I'm not asking you to fix it. I'm asking you to just sit with me and let me be, however I am feeling. Hold that space for me.
Don't start telling me about your friend's car accident that was probably worse than mine and how they are just happy to be here. I'm allowed to be upset that the new-to-us car I got only three days prior is now gone. Don't brush off my feelings as though they don't matter when compared to the outcome. How a person feels after a traumatic event is important too. The memories will take longer to heal than the bruises. I hope you understand.
The point of all this though isn't really to tell you about me.
It's to make you think about those women and families who go through a traumatic birth and are told they should just be grateful that they have a healthy baby. A traumatic birth doesn't have to be a cesarean birth either. A traumatic birth is whatever the woman says it is for her. Where you are left feeling scared, fearful, out of control, traumatised. And yes, you can still be grateful that your baby is healthy.
A healthy baby isn't all that matters. Parents matter too. Their mental, emotional and physical health is important. The fact that mum and baby are alive doesn't cancel out what happened to them during labour and birth or how they feel about it.
Please be mindful of your words and don't tell them to be grateful their baby is okay because believe me, they already are.
Kelly is a mum to four amazing children. She works as a birth, bereavement & postnatal doula in Adelaide and also offers placenta encapsulation services.
If you feel upset about your birth please seek support. Here are some resources that may be useful
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Kelly Harper is the owner of Elemental Beginnings Doula & Placenta Services in Adelaide. She provides placenta encapsulation and doula services to families during pregnancy, birth and in their fourth trimester.