Liz Hogon and I have often worked with women to prepare them for giving birth by helping to release their fears using hypnosis and other powerful therapy tools.
We also have also occasionally worked with mothers who have come into therapy many years later who were still harbouring critical judgements about themselves and how they managed their birth experience as well as feelings of enduring trauma.
We've worked with some new fathers too who got caught up in a particularly stressful or distressing birth experience with their partner. Although rarely acknowledged, some men can be left feeling overwhelmed and powerless observers of nature as it's most raw.
It is most often beneficial in these cases for them to access therapy for what can be symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that if left untreated can lead to depression.
Although every woman faces this time with her unique perspective, and expectations in clinical practice we have observed several core issues common to many expectant mothers.
Here we have selected our seven top tips for you to consider in advance of your big day to help empower you to have the birth experience you want.
1. Think positive
Emile Coue was a famous French hypnotist who coined the phrase now known as Coue’s Law - ‘Whenever there is a contest between the conscious mind, and the imagination, the imagination will always win.’ Therefore the more you focus on a positive, life-affirming experience of giving birth the more likely this will be the outcome of your experience.
2. Speak up
Get clear about your birth preferences including who you want to be present at the birth. Women can often feel obliged to rely on just having their partner present when in fact they would value the support of a trusted friend or relative as well. Voice your preferences well in advance.
3. Be open and flexible
Women are often encouraged to compose a detailed birth plan which can lead to carved in stone type of expectations. When reality diverts to Plan B or even Plan C, it is easy to feel like you failed.
It can be a positive process to create your birth plan while at the same time acknowledging that whatever happens, it will be OK.
Women have given birth since the dawn of time. You are part of this amazing, and powerful continuum. You too can do this. Take this as your mantra and repeat it to yourself regularly.
Rehearse visualising your body is relaxed, and open. Take an image that works for you, perhaps a gorgeous sunflower unfurling its petals and facing into the sun or beautiful lotus flower. Whenever you have a few moments to spare, close your eyes, and imagine this effortless transformation taking place.
6. Strengthening your ‘No.’
From the day you tell people you are pregnant, the nay-sayers can target you with the exaggerated horror monologues of their own birth experiences.
The majority of women have a natural labour and have positive experiences of giving birth, but they are not so inclined to keep reliving their stories.
Interrupt the scaremongers by calmly, and assertively stating your refusal to listen.
In many circumstances, women can find it difficult to say ‘No’ to other people's demands. If you recognise this in yourself, then it is useful to practice strengthening your ability to say no in your everyday life so that it becomes easier and easier for you to state what you want. Practicing your ability to say no with clarity can be immensely helpful in facilitating you having the type of birth you want to have as you will find it is easier to speak out when you feel it is necessary.
7. Be calm
Anxiety and panic release the hormone Adrenalin which is known to increase the pain receptors in the body potentially making your birth experience more challenging than it needs to be. In preparation note down your imagined fears around your impending birth so that your negative thinking is not allowed to escalate into catastrophic thinking.
When working with pregnant clients, we use a mix of therapeutic approaches to dispel birth fears, erase negative thinking, and reinforce confidence for positive outcomes.
Many of the techniques are easy to learn as self-help tools including one of our primary therapy approaches which work brilliantly to help discover the underlying reasons for limiting beliefs.
For instance, a woman who has experienced a previous difficult birth can face the prospect of giving birth again with even greater fear and trepidation. We work to break the emotional connection to those old memories so that although the memories remain, they no longer carry an emotional charge and do not trigger fears for the future birth either.
(This feature was commissioned and first appeared on an NHS website designed for mothers-to-be.)
Contact me if you are feeling fearful around giving birth or still feeling overwhelmed following your birth experience. You may need some help to resolve your old memories and let them go. Click the button at the top of this page to schedule a call.
If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.