Pregnancy and birth bring huge changes to a woman’s body and to her lifestyle. And like many other life-changing events, they can be both exciting and scary. In this blog we’re looking at the ways in which my positive pregnancy program uses hypnotherapy as a tool to manage the stress of pregnancy and birth.
Friends say pregnancy should be a happy time, so why am I so stressed?
Thoughts and feelings are influenced by many things. It’s not easy to feel positive when you are nauseous and tired. Neither is it helpful when other people tell you their pregnancy horror stories or when the TV show dramatic birth scenes.
If you have previously suffered a miscarriage, a difficult birth or the loss of a child, those things will inevitably affect your stress levels. Perhaps the baby was unplanned and you worry that you may not cope financially. If your partner, parents or other children are not happy about the arrival of a new baby, that’s bound to cause tension too.
There are no rules about how you should feel in pregnancy and it’s normal and natural to have some concerns. But do you really want to look back at this important time of your life and remember only tension and stress?
More importantly, excessive stress can affect your physical health and may also be harmful to your baby.
How does stress affect physical health in pregnancy?
Back in the late 1960’s, two scientists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe made a connection between stress and physical illness. They concluded that very stressful life events significantly increased the risk of a person becoming ill. Stressful events were given a score. The higher the score, the greater the likelihood of illness. The death of a spouse is at 100 on the scale, the approach of Christmas scores 12 and pregnancy hits 40 on the stress scale.
Bear in mind that these scores are an average – everyone is affected differently by life events, and that applies especially to pregnancy and birth. Remember too that the Holmes-Rahe scale was created half a century ago. Since then medical knowledge, lifestyles and expectations have changed a lot.
We know that in the human body, hormones govern body’s reaction to the way we perceive different situations. In my last blog we talked the chemical reactions in the body that create the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety. Intense or long-term anxiety also stimulates the release of a hormone called cortisol. Over time, cortisol can have adverse effects on a person’s physical health.
It’s important that Pregnant mum’s know that cortisol can cross the placenta and get into an unborn baby’s bloodstream. Research is still ongoing, but there is evidence to suggest that it can affect the little one’s health too. Conversely, it’s no coincidence that relaxed mums have easy-going babies.
Before you start feeling anxious, let me tell you that there is a way to reduce stress levels for pregnant mums. It doesn’t rely on lifestyle changes and it certainly doesn’t involve any kind of medication. It’s called hypnotherapy and it’s a major part of my Positive Pregnancy programme.
How does hypnotherapy reduce stress in pregnancy?
Hypnotherapy uses your own mind to manage the levels of stress hormone in your body. By encouraging your conscious mind to focus on the positive aspects of your pregnancy you will stimulate your subconscious mind to release happy hormones. Your body will be more relaxed, you’ll find it easier to keep worries in perspective and when the time comes, you’ll also find it easier to cope with labour and birth.
Can hypnotherapy help with IVF?
It’s not unusual for parents-to-be to be stressed out by IVF. It’s a very tense time. You might remember that earlier in the article I mentioned cortisol. The stress hormone that can have nasty side effects if it stays in the body for too long. Well, one of the side effects is that it can reduce a woman’s chance of conceiving.
Hypnotherapy aims to relieve stress. So besides making you feel generally much better, hypnotherapy can, in theory, improve the chances of IVF working for you. A study in Israel showed that the IVF success rate doubled when hypnotherapy was used.
What does the positive pregnancy programme involve?
My positive pregnancy programme involves 1-2-1 hypnotherapy sessions tailored to you. Partners are welcome to come along – and in many cases they benefit just as much as the mum to be.
My clinic is based in Belfast but you don’t have to be local to take advantage of the Positive Pregnancy programme. Modern technology means that I am able to talk to you anywhere in the world using Skype.
The programme begins with an in-depth chat. We discuss what worries you – and why. We chat about how you are feeling now, how you think you will feel during the birth and how you would prefer to feel. Then we start work.
Clinical Hypnotherapy is not in the least like a stage show. You will be in control at all times. It feels a bit like daydreaming. Your body is relaxed and your mind ignores everything that is not relevant at that time. You will be able to focus on your thought patterns and together we will train your mind to think positively.
With your goals in mind, we look at everyday calmness and also develop some pain management techniques in preparation for labour and birth.
When can I start the programme?
The stress hormone cortisol is slow to leave the body (even slower if there is a big accumulation in your bloodstream or it’s still being produced) so the sooner you begin tackling tension the better for you and your baby.
You can start the positive pregnancy programme whenever feels best for you. I recommend beginning in the first trimester and building your skills and knowledge gradually in order to prepare for the birth. If you are interested in using self-hypnosis to help you cope with labour and birth, we can work on that too.
I will post a link to an article about hypnosis and labour at the end of this blog.
Find out more about my Positive Pregnancy Programme
If you have any questions at all, then please don’t hesitate to contact me either via my website or by calling 02890 28 1234