We are on to part 3 of our Hypnosis for Birth series! In case you missed it, check out part 1, where we detail what hypnosis really is. In part 2, we talked about the benefits associated with using hypnosis for birth. And today in part 3, we are going to talk about the crux of using hypnosis for birth: How to use hypnosis for labor and birthing.
In short, the message is that the words that you use when you speak about pregnancy and birth have a tremendous impact on your birth outcome.
We often take for granted the power of words in our modern world. Particularly with the invention of texting, communication has been reduced to rudimentary acronyms for blurbs that we wish to communicate on a whim. It’s a shame because language matters a great deal!
And in birth, language is how we communicate with our subconscious and with our bodies to accomplish the greatest and most heroic feat of all mankind: bringing forth life.
So, what kind of language is used in our culture today to discuss birth? Grab any book off the bookstore shelf for expectant mothers today, and what kinds of terms will you find?
What do these all have in common? These are medical terms. Yes, they are anatomically correct. But they are all somewhat detached from the human element and they are medical and physical in nature. For the purposes of medical study and physiological understanding, these are fine.
But from within, as a birthing woman, birth is about so much more than simply the sum of interrelated anatomical parts and their respective roles.
What effect does it have on our psyches to refer to a perfectly normal and healthy process that involves the mind, body, and spirit, using only its anatomical and functional terms?
We come to see ourselves as only a function of medicine, and we therefore think we are dependent upon it in order to birth.
And our subconscious mind comes to see medicine as necessary for healthy birthing.
While it’s absolutely true that medicine has a place in rare complications, it is not a requirement for birthing to be healthy or safe in most situations. In fact, evidence supports physiological birth as the safest option for both moms and babies.
Consider this. Every other branch of medicine has common, everyday terms for organs as well as their processes. For instance, you wouldn’t tell your friends that you had a myocardial infarction. You would say you had a heart attack. Similarly, you wouldn’t say that you had pyrosis. You would say you had heartburn.
Why is it that we do the opposite in birth? A woman is not a vagina who births a fetus. She is a whole human being whose mind, experiences and spirit are all in this birthing experience together! And the words that we use to communicate everything about the experience impact all of those parts of her.
So, how can we change our language in birth to better reflect and communicate with our minds and bodies?
Take a step back – and examine the language we’re using to communicate with our subconscious mind.
Rather than saying “I am dilating,” use the phrase “I am opening.”
Rather than saying “I am effacing,” use the phrase “I am softening.”
Rather than saying “My baby is at a zero station,” use the phrase “My baby is moving down.”
It’s a pretty big difference!
The word “contraction” is one in particular that is neither accurate nor useful. Because you see, the uterus is not actually contracting! The uterus and cervix are not, in fact, two separate organs – they are one organ doing several separate and distinct jobs! The word contraction means to tense up and to make hard. During a “contraction,” the uterus and cervix are actually doing the opposite! They are pushing, softening, opening, and moving the baby!
Furthermore, a “contraction” involves more than just the work of the uterus and cervix. A “contraction” demands the entirety of a woman including her mind, the movement of her body, and the willingness to surrender to a process that feels bigger than herself.
In hypnobirthing, the term “contraction” has been replaced by the term “surge.” So rather than saying “I’m having a contraction,” use the phrase “I feel a surge building.” The term “surge” more accurately captures what is happening within a woman – both mentally and physically.
In addition to the types of words that we use, the way they are communicated has a huge impact. For instance, imagine the way a woman would experience these two phrases from her provider:
“You’re only 6 cm.”
“You’re doing great and you’re at 6 cm!”
One plants a seed of defeat, the other of encouragement. The facts remain the same. But the language used to communicate those facts portray opposing mindsets.
Which one do you feel would be more productive for a laboring woman?
I can speak from experience as a doula, as can thousands of other doulas and midwives, that what a woman thinks about in her pregnancy is nearly almost always exactly what she gets for her birth. For instance, say a woman decides she wants to have a natural birth, but she keeps thinking she’s going to need an epidural. What ends up happening? She has an epidural.
What was she thinking about while she was preparing for her birth? The epidural.
Now hear me: This is NOT to say that epidurals are bad. It’s only to illustrate that what your mind fixates on is ultimately what leads to your experience. What you think about is what you are unintentionally telling your body to do.
So, what are you thinking about as you prepare for birth? Are you thinking about what you DON’T want? Or are you thinking about what you DO want? Are you visualizing your cervix opening, your baby moving down easily, your being in control of your surges, and holding your baby in your arms after it’s all done?
Or are you staring down your impending labor with a terrified longing?
Because what you fixate your mind on and the messages you give it will ultimately determine the way your birth plays out. The subconscious mind does not judge what we give it. It only receives and acts accordingly.
So how do you train your subconscious mind to be ready for birthing?
Practice visualization. This gives your mind the exact messages you WANT it to have as you prepare. Visualize your cervix softening and opening easily, your surrendering to the process of birth, and your surges peaking and subsiding. Visualize and practice deep belly breathing every day during the entirety of your pregnancy so that your mind and body are already practiced in the art of relaxation.
Use intentional language that creates a positive expectation for your birth. “I’m terrified to give birth” is the general feeling in our world today. “I’m confident in my body’s ability to birth” is much more productive.
In conclusion, simply being aware of the language and messages that you are taking in during your pregnancy can go a long way toward creating a healthier and more satisfying birthing experience for both you and your baby.