Guest post by Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHT, CI
Although pregnancy can be a stressful time for some people, there are ways to make it much easier, and becoming proactive about preparing for your upcoming birth is a major one. Many of us learn how to prepare physically for an easier birth by doing yoga, stretching, and prenatal exercise, but it is equally important to prepare our minds and therefore our emotions! Here are some steps to take that will help you feel more calm, relaxed, and confident during pregnancy, and allow you more joy.
Meditate, or do hypnosis every day. Meditating daily has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, calm the mind and relax the body. Meditating can consist of sitting quietly and focusing on clearing your mind from the usual “chatter” of thoughts and responsibilities. Ways to do that more easily include focusing on each part of your breath; slowly inhaling and exhaling, or repeating a word or phrase that means something to you (make sure it is positive), or imagining a goal of yours coming to fruition. In the case of pregnancy, that goal may be to enjoy a healthier pregnancy and/or an easier birthing experience. Taking 10 minutes a day to meditate in this way can allow you more peace of mind and an easier pregnancy!
Hypnosis often brings to mind stage hypnosis shows or images of people being “made” to do something through mind control, however, therapeutic hypnosis is very different. It’s important to understand that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis and no one else is ever in control of you while you are experiencing it. Even in a stage hypnosis show – the participants have complete control over themselves and just want to be part of the entertainment and have fun.
Therapeutic hypnosis, however, is very beneficial since it relaxes the body deeply, and then relaxes the mind so we have more access to the subconscious and can literally update its “software” to create effects in the body and emotions.
It’s important to know that we are all in states of hypnosis daily, many times a day; when watching a screen of any kind, reading, daydreaming, driving a vehicle, and waking up/going to sleep. When we use hypnosis more purposefully, however, we can create changes that will enhance our lives, and of course, assist us with an easier pregnancy and birth. Hypnosis will begin with deep body relaxation, then mental relaxation such as counting backwards for instance. Then listening in a hypnotic state to specific “post-hypnotic suggestions”, which when heard daily can achieve the subconscious updates we need to create the changes in our bodies, minds, and emotions that we desire. With childbirth, it can alter the normal sensations we feel as we give birth; pushing, pulling stretching, tightening, baby movement sensations, to feel much more comfortable than they normally would. The mind is very powerful so we can use it to create more joy during birthing, and a much more relaxed and confident pregnancy (as well as eliminating insomnia, fear of needles, and many other uses).
Listening to and/or repeating out loud positive pregnancy and birthing affirmations (phrases) daily can help you feel calmer and more confident, and even change the way you think about your body, your baby, your pregnancy, and your birthing. As you are hearing/saying these positive affirmations, they cause you to think in a more positive way.
The continued repetition of certain thoughts over time has also been proven to change your brain, your cells, and neurons, which is done via neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections.
According to neurologist Andrew Newberg, M.D.:
“Human brains respond to positive and negative fantasies (ruminating on specific thoughts) as if they were real. The more emotional we get, the more real the imaginary issue becomes. If you intensely focus on a word like “peace” or “love”, the emotional centers of the brain calm down. The outside world hasn’t changed at all, but you will still feel more safe and secure. This is the neurological power of positive thinking, and to date it has been supported by hundreds of well-designed studies. In fact, if you simply practice being relaxed and repetitively focus on positive words and images, anxiety and depression will decrease and the number of unconscious negative thoughts will decline. Indeed, just seeing a list of positive words for a few seconds will make a highly anxious or depressed person feel better, and people who use more positive words tend to have greater control over emotional regulation.”
So, through hearing/saying positive affirmations you can create new thoughts, and as a thought travels through your brain, neurons fire together in specific ways based on the [positive] information they receive. In a flash, those patterns of neural activity change your neural structure, and affect your mind, body, and emotions. Keeping your thoughts positive, then, can assist you greatly as you journey towards childbirth, and daily pregnancy/birth affirmations can be a big part of that.
Fear in general can keep us safe from real dangers by alerting us to them and creating effects in the body which allow us to deal with them. However, when we experience fear in response to a perceived threat and remain in that state, maybe for months, it can have detrimental consequences. Some people who are pregnant live with chronic fear, and some have occasional, recurring fears as they are in the planning stage of their baby’s birth. Either way, according to Louise Delagran, MA, Med, “fear often weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems, impair formation of long-term memories, and cause damage to certain parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus. This impacts our thinking and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions.” All of these effects can create difficulty in making creative, logical plans and decisions about pregnancy and birth. One way to eliminate fear is to stop and acknowledge what you are thinking and feeling. Pay close attention to your breathing, and notice what you’re sensing in the moment, the sights, sounds, and smells that ordinarily slip by without reaching your conscious awareness. Tune into your body’s physical sensations; air flowing across your skin, anything touching your body, etc. Pay attention to what is happening and remember that fearful thoughts and emotions can pass quickly and do not define you. Understanding this can help free you from negative thought patterns. Now take a deep breath, and as you exhale, release anything that does not serve you or you baby well. And now think about the things you can do from now on … to create your baby’s joyful birthing. Focus on what you *want* to happen, instead of fears, and you will be actively working on the solutions and building blocks of your own childbirth experience.
Taking some easy steps now to plan for the best childbirth experience you can have is well worth it. We all deserve it!
Founder and Director of Hypnobabies Hypnobirthing, Kerry Tuschhoff has loved being a childbirth educator, doula and hypnotherapist for over 30 years. Teaching families to trust in their minds, bodies, babies, and the process of childbirth is her passion, and hearing, reading, and watching birth stories is her joy!