Gerry Gajadharsingh writes:
“I sometimes tease my wife Susie, who is from the “countryside”, that she doesn’t really feel pain. It’s a bit like the old French and Saunders sketch where two country ladies sit in the kitchen preparing vegetables, the knife slips and one of them cuts off a finger, the other one says “it’s just a flesh wound” and they carry on chopping!
We all have different tolerances to pain and pain is affected by many things including our ethnicity, culture, anxiety and expectation, to name just a few factors not just the severity of the injury or trauma to particular tissues or structure.
The thing about childbirth is that it is much easier for the mother if she is taught techniques to try and relax her as much as possible and make her feel safe and to reduce the “fear” of both the pain and the process of giving birth. Breathing is one of those techniques. I am not an advocate of “deep breathing” its rally about slow breathing, diaphragmatic breathing and concentrating on a longer exhalation, all of which calm down the nervous system and reduce pain. Then the ability to use visualisation (guided imagery) as part of meditation can also be really helpful.
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“Hypnobirthing”, if done correctly, can give you the “perfect, natural” labour and have a “profound effect” on your baby that lasts a lifetime.
These are the tantalising claims made by advocates, who say that transporting yourself into a daydream-like state during childbirth can prevent the body going into “fight-or-flight” mode and reduce pain.
The practice, recognised by the Royal College of Midwives, has its roots in the 1940s, but has been thrust into the limelight in the past few years thanks to a string of A-list endorsements and royal baby rumours.
The food blogger Ella Mills, known as Deliciously Ella, said it “empowered” her during the birth of her daughter Skye last July. “I went totally into my own space during the birth, focusing on every sensation and visualising what was happening during it, thinking of each one as a wave,” she enthused to her 1.7 million Instagram followers.
The technique, regarded by some as a form of self-hypnosis, centres on the belief that fear and anxiety disrupt the natural process of childbirth, and that it flows best when the mother feels relaxed and safe. It aims to teach women to seize control of the process, by using deep breathing, visualisation and affirmative positive thinking.
Coaching yourself into a calm state can help the body produce more pain-relieving hormones including oxytocin, which stimulates contractions and can move labour along.
Fathers, meanwhile, are taught how to best offer support. The American actress Jessica Alba said her husband guided her through a meditation during her hypnobirth. “He’s saying, ‘You’re relaxed and you’re floating on clouds,’ while you’re going through labour and contractions,” she said.
There are 368 teachers listed in the UK Hypnobirthing Association’s directory, with the largest concentration in Surrey (22).
Some NHS maternity services also offer classes. “Whether your baby is going to be born by planned caesarean, or if you need to have your labour induced, it doesn’t matter,” its guidance says. “Hypnobirthing will help to reduce your fears, keep you calm and in control of your experience, so that however your baby decides to arrive you have a positive birth experience.”