Breaking the fear-Tension-Pain cycle of labour & birth with hypnobirthing

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The Fear Tension Pain Cycle in labour & birth

It’s completely normal and natural when you think about birth, to think of the word pain. It’s a product of our modern society, of our western culture, it’s what we see the portrayals of birth in the books, films, newspapers, tv dramas and soap operas we have seen through the whole of our lives. It’s the dramatic (and sometimes pretty horrific) birth stories we have been told by friends, relatives, colleagues, even random strangers on the bus. This fear and the pain is embedded deep in our minds. It’s not our fault. It’s a product of our time and culture. Sadly we rarely hear, see or read the other side. The straightforward, physiological, some might say ‘boring’ birth stories. Ones that were pretty ‘uneventful’ (well except of course for the birth of a whole new human!!). Or ones that were actually uplifting, magical, empowering, positive and full of love and joy. The ones that women and their partners actually looked forward to - yes really. Yet this is what birth can be for everyone - something positive, something to approach with confidence, something to look forward to. Something that is very much a ‘human’ event, not a ‘medical’ one.

So what if you could let go of the fear that you feel about giving birth to your baby? How would it feel to be actually excited about giving birth? How does learning how to let go of the fear change the physical experience of birth? Well that’s where hypnobirthing come in. Read on folks.

Why do some women experience pain?

When we experience fear, our body's response is to release adrenaline and to tense our muscles in preparation for a ‘fight or flight’ reaction. This is an automatic, physical response to fear, that we can't control. It’s a primitive mammalian response to fear, helping to protect us from the unknown.

The problem is that when our muscles are tense when we are trying to use them, we often experience pain. So as the uterus is made up of layers of muscle, and the process of labour is those muscles contracting and relaxing to open the cervix (hence the word ‘contractions’) if you have physical tension in your body (because you are fearful) those muscles do not work as well - and cause feelings of pain. Then this feeling of pain generates more fear, and our body becomes increasingly tense as a result, which causes....yes you’ve guessed it - more pain. This is called the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle. 

This cycle was first discovered, or discussed, in the 1930's. Simply put it says that when there is fear, the body tenses. When the body tenses, it amplifies pain. When pain is amplified, it confirms our fears and we become even more fearful, and the cycle continues.

Breaking the cycle - how it can be different with Hypnobirthing...

So how can you break the fear-tension-pain cycle? Well it’s actually quite simple, if you know how. And that know-how comes through the birth education and techniques of hypnobirthing.

If we can release all that fear and anxiety about labour and birth in pregnancy, then we are far less likely to experience pain in labour (or at least it will be far less strong). So with hypnobirthing we use simple to learn yet brilliant techniques rooted in hypnotherapy (the science of the mind and words) to release fear, and we learning the skills we need to put our body and mind into a totally relaxed state. This benefits us both in labour and in pregnancy too. It stops you spending your pregnancy worry about labour and birth. When you remove fear from the cycle, then your mind has no need to worry and your body has no need to produce stress hormones and to tense the muscles, and so no reason to interpret sensations as pain. By letting our muscles relax, we also make it much easier for our body to do what it's designed to do and birth our baby. And labour can take less time, as well as being more comfortable and less painful - its all good!

To can also reduce fear we want to educate ourselves and become knowledgeable of the birth process and what the range of "normal" looks like. So in my Hypnobirthing and Birth Preparation Courses we look at the process of what is happening in your body and why in labour, and at evidence-based books and websites, I show you how to work with your midwife and other health care professionals in a partnership to increase your knowledge and confidence. By feeling knowledgeable and informed, and working in partnership this will also lead you to be empowered, and you will feel empowered to make the best decisions for you and your baby during labour, and you will feel empowered to trust your body and the birth process.
Another way to reduce fear in labour and childbirth is to have a solid support system around you. Having a brilliant birth partner who is also totally understanding the process, is attentive, and knows what their (really important) roles are will help you to feel safe, calm and confident in labour and birth.
And having trust in your support system, your amazing birth partner, the process of birth and most of all YOURSELF and your amazing body Trust your body, trust your baby, and trust the process! And on my Hypnobirthing course you’ll learn how to do that too.

In addition to help the body release tension you can use techniques such as breathing techniques, touch & massage, hydrotherapy (bath/shower), heat and guided relaxation and visualization, aromatherapy (to name a few) to help relax your body and release tension. So by learning these relaxation techniques in advance of childbirth, and spending time practicing them - we know and feel confident in what works for our body and so that we can implement these techniques with ease and without much effort during labour. And these are all techniques you’ll learn and have resources on in my Hypnobirthing courses.

In summary

Fear - it’s normal to feel fearful about birth (our culture assumes this). But with good antenatal classes and education, and building your knowledge you can come to understand that birth does not have to be painful. Labour and birth are not scary, if you understand what is happening in your body and why.

Tension - fear leads to tension and tightness in your whole body. A tense body means that your contractions can feel way more painful.

Pain - understanding the amazing process of birth, how your body was designed so brilliantly to cope, and learning brilliant hypnobirthing comfort measures to help with discomfort, can hugely help you cope and approach birth confidently and calmly. Without fear, and actually look forward with excitement!

So, armed with this information, I hope that you feel more equipped to prepare yourself for the experience of labour and childbirth, and to experience it in a way that is not only manageable, but positive, calm and empowering. To learn all the techniques to break the fear-tension-pain cycle then do come along to on of my Hypnobirthing & Birth Preparation courses.

Susan xx

Of course please drop me an email with any questions, or head for more details to these pages of my Hypnobirthing courses in York website.