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Hypnosis In Labor

Labor and delivery is a human female thing. We’re stuck with it. We revel in it. Well, some of us do. And we deal with it when the time comes. Some deal with it better than others. No, let me correct that. We deal with it “differently”.

At the time of delivery and labor, women in a position of “natural” childbirth have no choice as to the focus of their attention. Their bodies scream at them. Pain can be so intense, all attempts at free-thinking are lost. This is where the practice of self-hypnosis is a rare treasure and should be incorporated into your pre-delivery regime.

The word “hypnosis” was not formally invented until 1876 when the concept of an induced sleep-like state began its journey into the light of medical and psychological journals and reports. Regardless of the infancy of the word itself, the act or concept of this mesmerized state is as old as human kind.

In temples in the ancient world, myths of “sleeping prophets” were commonplace. The Oracle at Delphi is a prime example of the use of self-hypnosis in a very grand style. The Oracles induced their trance-like state by the use of herbs strewn on the braziers of the temple and with a meditative alpha-enhancing technique.

In midwifery throughout time, breathing in steady rhythms has always been advised. The more the mother could stay relaxed and focus on her body, the easier the labor and delivery would be.

Many cultures have used drums, rattles and other instruments to softly keep a rhythm near the labored woman. This soft background beat can be an enormous help during this most emotional time. Ancient Egyptians used gold or tin beads drawn through a bone or metallic ring as a way to keep time. During the early days following the Dark Ages, a “counter” was brought in for the purpose of timing the event, although this practiced also served as a way to focus the mother’s attention.

I began studying hypnosis in my early teens. Call it what you will – hypnosis, breath-therapy or meditation, it all comes down to breathing, oxygen intake and calm. An alpha state is achieved by the rhythmic intake of breath and the slow but complete exhalation. Sleep inducing hormones such as melatonin are released and the body begins its delicious decent into a non-physical awareness.

Most people think that self-hypnosis during labor is meant to focus the attention of the pregnant woman away from her labor pains. However, this is not the case. If she does the complete breathing and begins the release of the naturally produced chemicals, she should focus her entire being on her uterus. By focusing in an alpha state, she is bringing the concept of pain from the darkness of fear into the light of acknowledgment, therefore moving it into the experience of “just another sensation”. Pain in our bodies is the product of our emotional and psychological responses. It is our fight or flight response to our own injuries or hurt. The body stresses at the signs of pain and begins to tense. Muscles that are tense or rigid cause the body to respond more severely to the pain.

The concept of self-hypnosis takes this response and reverses it. Should the laboring mother begin her hypnotic journey, her system does not have an opportunity to tense the other muscles of her body during the contractions. She focuses her breathing and attention entirely on the contracting uterus in her belly and moves through the pain with less stress and therefore, less pain.

Don’t get me wrong, self-hypnosis is unlikely to eliminate the pain for you. I used the technique in both the births of my daughters and was surprised at how focused I was able to remain. Hypnosis let me “lose touch” with the rest of my body and focus my mother-self on bringing my baby to the world. It hurt. I won’t lie. Labor is a pain indescribable in many ways. But it is a pain that will eventually cease. It cannot last forever. It must end at some point. Hypnosis makes it possible to turn the pain of labor into a “known sensation”. Without the fear of the intensity of the next wave of pain, you move toward it more relaxed and better able to control your body’s responses.

Self-hypnosis releases naturally produced chemicals which you can take full advantage of without worrying about harming your baby. Our bodies are amazing machines and if our responses can be somewhat controlled, the experience of pain can be reduced significantly. Other benefits to the use of such body-relaxing techniques are less muscle soreness following delivery, less likelihood of broken blood vessels in the eyes, a stronger and easier flow of breast milk for your new infant and a calmer mother too. You also will find that pain meds are reduced and postpartum depression is significantly lessened.

To keep postpartum depression at bay once you take the baby home, continue a short session of self-hypnosis daily. Postpartum blues are caused by hormone rushes and imbalances in your body following the extreme act of delivery. The secretion of melatonin in the system helps to balance and often reduce these hormone rushes, bringing calm to the mother. Relaxed with your new baby, breast milk flow is steadier, the baby senses less tension in its environment and healing time for your body is reduced.

Enjoy the experience of birthing your children. Don’t let pain and stress keep you from the biggest event of your life. Breath and relax through the pain and deliver your child into a stress-free world. Both you and your baby will benefit.

 

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