Let's talk head lice. They are absolute blighters aren't they, the way they scuttle about and make you itch.
You probably weren't thinking about head lice 30 seconds ago but perhaps you are now and perhaps just thinking about them makes your skin crawl and your head feel itchy. Maybe you are now giving your head a good scratch.
So, what does giving birth have to do with head lice ....
If you found yourself scratching your head or feeling a bit itchy, this is called the ideomotor effect. The ideomotor effect causes small, unconscious physical movements because of preconceptions and expectations. We expect head lice to be scuttling about making us itchy so much so it triggers a scratching response in the body.
How are you feeling about giving birth?
Now, let's think about birth. Where does your mind go to when you think about childbirth? Perhaps it is the last birth you saw on TV or in the movies or perhaps you are thinking about a previous birth experience or a birth story you heard from a friend or read online.
It is a generalisation to suggest that most people's ideas of childbirth come from TV or film but how many people actually get to witness childbirth for real? Instead we see images of birth where women are often frightened and there is much drama and hustle and bustle going on - proper popcorn munching stuff.
These images stay with us and are stored in our subconscious (where beliefs, emotions and memories lie) and then when we are asked to think about childbirth our default thoughts tend to be that it is scary and painful and women are often out of control.
So, back to the head lice. If thinking about head lice can subconsciously make you itch due to preconceptions and expectations, what effect does thinking about childbirth have on the body when you are expecting it to be just like you have seen in an episode of EastEnders?
Want to feel calmer, more empowered, more knowledgeable about birth? My Complete Birth Preparation Package is an antenatal course which includes hypnobirthing so your mind and body can work together to enable you to have a positive birth experience.
How do hypnobirthing skills lead to a 'better' birth?
In essence, hypnobirthing and hypnobirthing scripts work on telling the subconscious that the ideas it has about labour and birth are not ideal, that you as a labouring person are strong and capable and that the body is designed to do this. With time, the subconscious goes 'ah ok,' and replaces negative images of birth with more of a 'can do' attitude and physically you are more relaxed about the process.
If you are expecting birth to be like you have seen in EastEnders you are more likely to feel frightened and concerned. Your mammalian body then decides it isn't going to produce all the necessary hormones for labour to progress because you are producing adrenaline, your muscles have tensed up and you are in 'fight or flight' mode. Your labour may slow or stop and then other interventions are then suggested, compounding the fear that birth cannot be done without medical assistance.
Read more about how hypnobirthing works here
If you are calm, have an understanding and acceptance of the process then the knock of physical reaction in the body will be different. Your body will be more relaxed, you will produce oxytocin and endorphins, your uterine muscles will work beautifully and labour will progress.
In the 1930's a British Dr. called Grantley Dick-Read observed labouring women and noted this:
Hypnobirthing can change expectations and preconceptions about birth
Learning how the process of labour and birth works, how your body needs to be relaxed for it to progress and how your mind has to be in sync too is one of the wonders of self-hypnosis. If you quieten your mind during a hypnosis session, the subconscious becomes more suggestible and can be 're-programmed' so you can approach birth feeling okay.
Combine that with other self-help techniques like massage strokes, breathing techniques and working with your body, it is no wonder that women who practice hypnobirthing feel so much more empowered.
The British Journal of Midwifery reported that women using hypnobirthing experienced:
Shorter length of labour
Labour is easier and more comfortable
Mum feels more confident and relaxed
Mum feels more in control
Lower rates of caesarean birth
Lower usage of epidural
Birth partners are more involved and supportive.
That sounds pretty good to me!
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