with the Easibirth Method By Simon Heale NRHP LCSP at Chelsae Natural Health Clinic, 208 Fulham RD., SW10.
I recently wrote a paper on the use of hypnotherapy in pregnancy and for birthing. It was mainly focussed on how anxiety and stress as inhibitors affect the body in general and how in pregnancy, degrees of anxiety can influence the progression of labour and the birth.
Grantly Dick-Reid said in the 1940’s that what was missing in a natural and pain free birth was fear. His obstetric experience led him to develop his Fear-Anxiety-Pain cycle. In short: where there is fear, there is anxiety and there is pain and so on…. His other core belief was that if the body can function without impedence it has more chance to operate naturally: this includes daily functions as well as more complex process such as birth.
My main function as a Hypnosis for Childbirth practitioner is to reduce the levels of anxiety present during pregnancy and to teach both mother and father the skills to recognise the presence of fear and stress and how to deal with it, easily and effectively. I am trained in the Easibirth method www.easibirth.co.uk where parents to be are coached over 6 sessions to have a pregnancy free of inhibiting levels of anxiety, fear and ultimately pain.
Hypnotherapy and Childbirth
Hypnosis in childbirth is becoming increasingly utilised both privately and in the NHS. Its aim is to teach both the expectant mother and her partner how to gain control of the birth process, to allow the natural bodily processes to progress unhindered through stress and to feel a sense of confidence over the whole experience.
Easibirthing founder and trainer Sharon Mustard defines it as using self-hypnosis, relaxation, visualisation and breathing methods to prepare and teach your mind and body for birth. You are taught pain management skills, and a deeper understanding in your abilities so you manage, rather than fear childbirth. It is about reaching a state of deep relaxation and maintaining perception of control over the process. It is about changing the expectation of birth for both the mother and birth partner, training both to go into labour and birth feeling calm, confident and in control.
If fear, as Dick-Reid stated, is the missing ingredient in relaxed, natural births, then the use of hypnosis aims to empower the parents to achieve states of relaxation as and when is necessary.
The key components in training for childbirth using hypnosis are to teach parents how to reach an ‘ideal state’ (Sharon mustard) of mind and body; to be able to master levels of calmness, to be in control or awareness throughout and to maintain a confidence in their personal ability and effort.
The core strategies taught during any hypnosis for childbirth training would be:
- Beneficial Breathwork
- Appropriate and situation/birth process specific visualization
- Specific pain relief and control techniques
- Reframing and stress relieving cognitive processes
The benefits of using hypnosis for childbirth have been widely researched, and in one paper from 2001 in Canada, it demonstrated clearly that the use of prenatal hypnosis significantly reduced
- the average length of labour and pushing
- the use of pain medication including epidural
- need for medical interventions
There was a reported increase in the mothers self confidence prior to birthing. 4
Harmon et al show that,”…hypnotic subjects and highly susceptible subjects reported reduced pain. Hypnotically prepared births had shorter Stage One labours, less medication, higher Apgar scores and more frequent spontaneous deliveries than control subjects’ births.” There was also evidence that highly susceptible, hypnotically treated women had lower depression scores after birth than women in the other three groups. 5
With the amount of knowledge we have today about birth, it is possible that the natural process of birth has been forgotten. Lost behind the need for understanding the anatomy and physiology of birth, the medicalization of birth, the psychological impact of birth. Combine this with an increasing search for perfection in life, a perfect birth, a perfect child, as well as an empowered individual, one who is able to make choices, able to exercise and indeed seeks control over life and all its processes and the result is a complicated layering of impressions whether deep or not: that birth affects the body, that pain is involved, that a hospital and even surgery is an option, that emotional and psychological issues are a possibility. Think about these long enough and combined with the natural processes of pregnancy, the physiological, hormonal changes and you are left with a simmering pot: stress and anxiety.
Birth is a natural process, a normal bodily function. The stress response too is the body’s natural mechanism to protect. Birth practitioners and professionals such as Michel Odent, Grantly Dick-Reid and Sheila Kitzinger, who strenuously advocate natural birthing, will all hold onto the core belief that the missing ingredient in a pain-free, natural birth is fear.
Our roles as therapists, midwives, birth partners and birth professionals is to foster more helpful beliefs about birth, to create a birthing environment where calmness and confidence about the process is dominant and instinctive, and one which is able to override any remnants of the stress response.
“The law of nature, when understood in its simplest form, replaces fear with awe and respect for the creative spirit.”