This is a subject very close to my heart, because the very first hypno-birth training I provided was for the birth of my grandson. It was a great success, much to my relief! What I didn’t know at the time was that it is very easy to achieve great success with hypno-birth, because I think we all assume at first that it must be something like a miracle to produce pain-free childbirth without any anaesthetic being required. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The medical profession have recently begun to change their attitude towards the whole business of childbirth, and respect the mother’s preferences to a greater degree than previously. There was a stage at which medical intervention was happening in 50% of cases, which is clearly wrong for what is, after all, a natural process. Now there is greater scope for home-births, water-births and other alternatives to standard medical procedure.
Nevertheless, there is a universal assumption that childbirth in humans must involve the kind of pain that makes women scream out loud, and therefore chemical anaesthetics will be required. Some women who have had children already may even be annoyed by any suggestion that such a thing as ‘painless childbirth’ could possibly exist. Even women who have never had a child themselves, and of course men, are bound to assume that agony and wailing are just a normal, inescapable part of the process. If they have witnessed a real birth, it is highly unlikely it was a hypnobirth. Whenever childbirth is televised – whether it is a documentary or a drama – it is never a hypnobirth! No, it is always the screaming and pushing and huffing and puffing of the standard medical procedure, as if that were the only way new life could enter this world.
Now just consider this: have you ever seen animals giving birth in the natural world? Almost certainly you will have seen that numerous times on the television, whether it was a horse giving birth to a foal, a cow calving or some similar creature – somewhere on an African plain, perhaps. Certainly all these animals are capable of signalling fear, pain or alarm through some sort of squeal, but they never seem to do that whilst giving birth, do they? No, it all seems a pretty relaxed affair. They sometimes lay down for a bit, then just give a couple of pushes at the last minute, and there you go. They didn’t attend any wildebeest anti-natal classes to practise their breathing techniques. Usually they are up and about soon afterwards, and not a doctor or anaesthetist in sight. So why should humans be any different?
Well the fact is, we shouldn’t. But here’s the real difference: the wildebeest didn’t grow up listening to their mother and their auntie swapping harrowing tales of agonising contractions, hours spent in labour, pushing and straining. They didn’t watch Holby City year after year, until they became convinced that if ever they got pregnant, they were in for a terrifying, agonising ordeal at the end of it. Their imagination – if wildebeest have an imagination – didn’t then have years to ruminate upon just how impossible it seems to actually give birth, and fearfully imagine how that might feel. And even if they were ever curious, it would be not be possible for the wildebeest to ask its mum: “What was it like when you had us, mum?”
But we are human, so we do have language, imagination, bloody Holby City, and a mother who says, without thinking: “It was worse than the worst pain you could imagine, dear. So have an epidural.” Because mother doesn’t realise that the only reason it was like that for her was because she was told the same story, time after time after time, and over the years she became totally convinced that it could be no other way, so the moment she felt that first contraction, all the fear, tension and apprehension in the world descended on her…
We all know that our experience of discomfort is magnified by fear and tension, and that the more we focus on any sensation, the more significant it seems. Add to that a wholehearted belief that what is coming soon is going to be “worse than the worst pain you could imagine”, and it is inevitable that the whole body becomes tense, every nerve and muscle straining – which is the very opposite of what the wildebeest is doing.
The long and difficult ‘labour’ is 95% due to tension, fear and stress. In hypnotherapy we eliminate all of that, and replace it with a relaxation so deep, it goes way beyond the lazing of the wildebeest, which still has to keep one eye out for lions.
Now, don’t imagine that just explaining this to women in a logical fashion will make childbirth effortless and comfortable for them. Explaining this to the conscious mind would make zero difference to the experience, because it is the imaginative Subconscious which controls the body, and produces the real physical experiences of tension, fear and pain. That’s why we have to talk to the Subconscious about it, and do some deep relaxation training to create a totally different experience. But the good news is, the Subconscious is delighted to hear it (not surprisingly!) and more than happy to adjust matters accordingly.
Given that the previous expectations had been thoroughly drilled-in over many years, eliminating that is not a one-session thing. Most training programmes suggest five sessions overall, to instill real confidence in the mother that she is able to get into deep states of trance and relaxation by herself, so there is no need for the hypnotherapist to be present for the birth. And since there is no need to keep one eye out for lions, the mother can enjoy an experience of birth in which she is even more chilled-out than the wildebeest… which is obviously not suffering at all.
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Consultant Hypnotherapist Chris Holmes is Director of Central Hypnotherapy and has been helping mothers from Stockport, Cheshire, Manchester and Tameside UK to give birth naturally and painlessly since August 2000.