The most frequently used word to describe labour is probably pain. It comes up in every single hypnobirthing class that is taught, every media depiction of birth and is plastered all over the news. This post is not to deny anyone of what they felt, everyone will have their own perception and memory of birth and if it is/was painful for you, it is important to acknowledge that. Instead, we are going to chat about what pain is, what makes it better and worse and how you can reframe your thoughts around the experience that is to follow.
What is Pain?
Pain is a signal to your brain, to say that something needs to stop or that something is wrong.
An example of this, is if you burnt your hand when cooking. You would hardly keep holding your hand on the boiling hot pan, you would have an instant reflex to move your hand away and think to yourself ‘(insert swear words) I will not do that again!’
Or if you had a broken toe your body would signal this with pain in your toe, a message to let you know something is wrong.
Our bodies are very good at interpreting sensations, those that feel good and those that feel not so great.
Physiologically, when we feel pain, our brain will process it as something you want to avoid in the future. We will create memories for that event and perhaps feel a sense of dread towards it happening again, especially if the pain we felt was very severe. Let’s apply this to labour and birth.
A Little Science Lesson
The hormone which fuels labour is known as Oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone and it is produced when we feel safe, secure, comfortable, happy and loved. It is the hormone that we produce when we are having sex. Keep this in mind.
Why would the same hormone we produce in all these incredible situations want to make us feel so uncomfortable?
Ahhh. But then we have the nemesis hormone. Adrenaline. We can all relate to a time when we were pretty frightened, and our bodies just went into survival mode. Our hearts racing, breathing heavily, sweating, dizzy, ready to run.
Adrenaline makes blood move to our arms and legs in the fight or flight response and away from our central organs. You heard me right, this means you will have a reduced blood, oxygen and energy supply to your uterus (womb) where your baby is currently taking residence. The uterus is a muscle and needs blood, oxygen and energy to function effectively, but if you are producing adrenaline, it won’t be getting these things.
If your muscles are not getting what they need, they will begin to spasm. Ever had cramp in your leg or foot? It hurts! You don’t know what to do with yourself.
This is the exaggerated response that your uterus will have during labour, if you are stressed out.
If you are calm and relaxed, you will have effective blood flow to your entire body, your muscles will be getting exactly what they need and in theory, you will feel more comfortable. Many people who have practiced hypnobirthing have noted that although they felt uncomfortable and intense sensations during labour, they would not perceive their surges as painful.
If we think back to what pain is, a response sent to our brain to say that something needs to stop or that something is wrong, it doesn’t quite fit with what is necessary for labour.
If our surges stopped, our baby would never come out.
If we are stressed, labour can take longer. Perhaps because our brain and body are not in sync, they need to work together to have an effective labour.
If you take in all of the ‘horror stories’ you have heard, they will be so deeply ingrained into your brain, that you could have that fear response instantly. These are NOT your reality.
It is sort of like a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you think something will be a certain way, it probably will.
Instead of anticipating the ‘pain’ that is to come for the rest of your pregnancy, remember that the sensations have a purpose.
They are powerful. Your body is powerful.
It has an ending. Whatever you feel, will not go on forever.
You will have breaks between the sensations. They are not continuous. They are bringing your baby to you.
Whatever we feel these sensations as, we must accept them. Acknowledge them. Do what we have to do to get through them, whatever that may be.
If you would like to learn more techniques to make this a more comfortable experience for you, then book a course with one of our instructors. They have so much magic up their sleeves! We hope that this post has allowed you to think rationally, remember, your experience is YOURS and will never be the same as anyone else’s. This is ok. This is normal, and you can do this.
10 June, 2019