We’ve heard all the horror stories so I won’t repeat them here. The stories our ‘loving’ friends and family share with us as soon as we announce we’re pregnant. What’s the deal with that anyway? “Here, let me tell you this terrifying tale about something you’re going to have to do too”. It’s awful!
As with anything, there is going to be a huge variance in experiences but let’s explore a little. Each woman has her own personal experience, and there’s no doubt that labour is a powerful and intense experience, but it doesn’t have to be negative.
The brain goes through significant changes during labour. In early labour, women get a burst of adrenalin to signal to them, that birth is on its way. This creates a wave of excitement for the woman so she can finalise her nesting, alert her partner and settle into her labour zone.
From there, women can think about many things. Women may be focusing on HypnoBirthing techniques, concentrating on her breath or thinking about how her labour will play out.
She will get thoughts around position changes and things to try that might increase her comfort.
She may have thoughts of doubt that creep in. We recommend sharing those doubts with your support team so they have the opportunity to work through those fears with you, to encourage you and get you back in a positive headspace.
As labour progresses, mums thoughts generally start to quieten down, and if she let’s go to the experience, she accesses her mammalian brain, where birth becomes instinctive. Her body is working hard now, meeting new challenges and finding unknown strength.
She may have 1 or 2 simple techniques she is using, like a visualisation, or an affirmation.
Normally, once the birthing phase has begun, mum will find renewed energy, as she knows her baby is close. That finish line is in sight and she becomes more positive and determined.
All thoughts will be to her breath and her baby, breathing love and life to them.
Occasionally during crowning, mum can again have fears creep in around the stretching her perineum is doing, although for some women, this stage is more comfortable for them.
Once baby is born, mum can experience feelings of relief, amazement and even shock that it’s over. There can be tears of happiness, disbelief and just pure emotion of what was just achieved.
The physical process of labour tends to be what people focus on but it can be very personal for everyone, especially HypnoBirthing mums who have plenty of endorphins (natural pain killers) on board.
Incredibly, some women experience orgasmic birth, which is a far cry from the horror stories we’ve heard. Can you imagine having the most amazing orgasm of your life during labour?!
Unlike what we typically see in Hollywood movies, generally surges are the first sign of labour, rather than an embarrassing gush of membranes releasing.
Those first surges, what I like to think of as ‘secret sensations’ are mild. They might be similar to menstrual cramps or they might feel like a muscle tightening. Again it is different for everyone.
These types of sensations can continue for many hours, or they can increase quite smoothly to becoming more intense. Some would describe these feelings as a cramp similar to bowel cramps when unwell. Others, like a strong tightening. I had a client describe her surges as ‘like someone behind me was holding shoe laces around my tummy and pulling them tight’.
Women may also experience labour in their back too, or in their back alone. This can be achy or sharp sensations during the surges.
Mum may feel the need to wee or poo a lot, or not at all. Some women labour sitting on the toilet to make this a little easier.
As the pelvis gets wider, the joints starting to separate and shift, walking and changing position can become harder. Mum starts to move very slowly and may need assistance. This is to protect her body from hurting itself, while her pelvis is in this new wider state.
When membranes release, often there is a build up of pressure during a strong surge and at the peak, the membranes let go and the relief from the pressure is instantaneous.
When the birthing phase begins, and the natural expulsive reflex kicks in – this can feel quite different. It may sound a little strange but it can be similar to vomiting! A strong, involuntary squeeze of the mid section, accompanied by a downward motion (vomiting would be upward). Mum feels the baby move into the birth path and can sometimes feel pressure on the rectum.
As baby crowns it can be a strong stretching feeling. Again, this could be the greatest sensation of your life! If we relax and let go to the sensation (just like when making love) this powerful sensation can be ecstatic. Many women are frightened of this stage, but in fact this birthing phase is easier than the thinning and opening phase.
Once baby is born, the relief is immediate. Mum may feel energised and ready to bond and breastfeed, or may feel exhausted and ready to sleep. This is a time to go slowly as the body readjusts to being empty of baby. The pelvis needs to slowly go to its normal shape and the internal organs need to find their previous home in the body.
Emotionally & Spiritually
What a life changing event birth is. Women travel through time in a bubble of labour often experiencing every emotion out there. She may be excited, nervous, challenged, loving, turning within or seeking support.
It can be a rollercoaster of emotion as women navigate the particular labour and birth her and her baby have been presented with.
Women in labour are very vulnerable and open to suggestions. Their care team needs to be very careful and aware of what is being said in the room and even what the energy of the room is like.
A labouring mum is like an emotional sponge, soaking up the calm of the birthing environment or unfortunately sometimes, the nerves or stress of people around her. We need to be so careful to control that birth space as much as possible, so that it is relaxing and mum feels safe and supported.
Childbirth is a rite of passage and not just as simple as physically getting a baby out of mum. We shift from woman to mother and this takes time, reflection and processing.
Often when baby is born, women need some time to put back what was unravelled and exposed during birth. This is a delicate process and when confronted with having to hold your new baby, talk to staff, birth a placenta and celebrate with their partner – it can be overwhelming.
We need to go gently here. Give mum the time and space to acclimatise to her new phase of life.
Birth is a life changing experience, and one that you will hopefully feel positive about. When a woman is prepared physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually, she can experience birth in a more calm and comfortable manner. Take the time to find out more about preparation with HypnoBirthing so that you can learn how to relax your mind in order to let your body work as nature intended.
When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change – Marie Mongan.
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