26 January 2017

A birth without pain? The science behind hypnobirthing


Studies have shown that 95% of labour pain is the direct result of the birthing mother’s fear and tension. So what if there was no fear and tension? Does that mean there would be very little pain in childbirth? Well, many hypnobirthing mothers would agree with that. They would claim that any discomfort was manageable without the need of medication.

So how does fear cause a labouring woman to feel pain?


When we experience fear or anxiety, our ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in. We all know that feeling. Think back to how you felt before a test, an interview or meeting your prospective in-laws. While you may not have run away or hit anyone, you would have experienced that rush of adrenaline produced by your body to help you survive the situation if it becomes too scary.

A labouring woman who feels afraid or nervous is not in a position to fight anyone and certainly is not capable of fleeing the scene. Well, not with any speed. However, her body will still produce adrenaline.

Adrenaline causes our hearts to pump faster. It causes all our energy to travel to our essential organs (brain and heart), followed by our arms and legs to prepare us for survival. This means it is travelling away from other organs, such as the uterus. It is no surprise then that during labour adrenaline is very unhelpful. A birthing woman needs energy in her uterus, certainly not in her arms and legs! The uterine muscles are the muscles which push the baby out. And if they have little energy, they will struggle to work effectively and efficiently. When a muscle is striving to work hard but has little energy to help it, it can feel painful and exhausting.

So what if there was no fear and tension during labour?


So what if there was no fear and tension , and the birthing woman was relaxed and comfortable? When we feel calm, confident and relaxed, our body produces oxytocin. Oxytocin, commonly known as ‘the love hormone’, is produced in large quantities when we experience love. It peaks when we fall in love, make love and after birth! However, it is also known as the ‘shy hormone’. We are less likely to produce it when we feel observed. Think of your best orgasm. Were there strangers there, lights shining on you, people telling you what to do?

During labour, oxytocin aids the uterine muscles. If a woman feels safe, confident and calm, and is able to minimise feeling exposed, her body will produce higher levels of oxytocin. This makes the birthing process more efficient and less uncomfortable.

It is at this time that beta-endorphin, another hormone is secreted. Beta-endorphin acts as a natural painkiller, working to block the perception of pain. So, if the mind is calm and relaxed, the body produces oxytocin to make labour efficient and beta-endorphin to make it comfortable.

Hypnobirthing and labour


So being able to release fear and resistance is essential if I want to minimise my dependence on drugs during the birth? Indeed! A key element of hypnobirthing is learning how to release anxiety and tension.

Taking a course will teach you how to become deeply relaxed quickly and easily and in any situation you may find yourself. This is essential if you want to avoid the adrenaline rush and instead encourage the oxytocin to flow. This is possible even if you find yourself in the bright lights of a hospital and under the watchful eye of many a medical professional!

Free introductory talk on hypnobirthing


Join Dr Stacy Gandolfi for a free introductory talk on hypnobirthing on Saturday 11 February, at 1pm. The talk is open to the general public and is free of charge. To book, call us on 020 8789 3881 or visit the Yoga Mama online booking system.

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