The P Word
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Pain. There, I said it.
This one little word is responsible for causing a lot of anguish in pregnant women. Whether you've had a straightforward pregnancy or not, you may have experienced some pain already, and we haven't even got to the main event yet!
If there's one word that is synonymous with childbirth, it's pain. But what is pain exactly? The International Association for the Study of Pain defines it as "an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage." Interestingly, "Pain not only includes the perception of an uncomfortable stimulus, but also the response to that perception."
This implies that a proportion of pain a person might feel, is actually their response to it! That is something we have a degree of control over. That is why in hypnobirthing we focus on re-framing 'pain' as 'strong, intense sensations'. Not because there is anything inherently wrong with the word 'pain', but if we give our physical experiences that term, then chances are that is what we will start to experience! Your subconscious mind is very susceptible to suggestion. I remember vividly in my childhood someone pointing out to me that the back of my leg was bleeding. I hadn't noticed, but as soon as I turned to look I started to experience pain. Before that I was completely oblivious. It's amazing that as soon as my attention was drawn to it, it was only then that I started to feel it!
What is also interesting is how pain is very subjective. The degree to which someone experiences something cannot be measured exactly, the perception of the same experience may differ dramatically from person to person. Again, this in part comes down to the mindset beforehand, if you are expecting to feel a particular way then you probably will! A good example of this is contractions. If we welcome each contraction (or 'surge', a more accurate description of the sensation) as we know this means you are one step closer to meeting your baby, then before you know it the surge has passed. If you dread each contraction, then labour is going to be an ordeal from the outset.
Although hypnobirthing cannot guarantee a pain free birth, it does help immensely with altering your mindset going into labour. Hypnobirthing techniques will give you the ability to remain calm and controlled, and the antenatal education will give you an in-depth understanding of what your body is doing. Couple that with the ability to enter into self-hypnosis/deep relaxation and you have the odds stacked in your favour of being able to manage the intense sensations of childbirth.