We all want the best start in life for our children, but the drugs commonly used in childbirth can have an immediate impact on babies and lead to complications that may affect them for the rest of their lives. Relaxation and breathing techniques have long been used to ease labor pain, but it now seems that hypnosis may be the key to drug free childbirth and mediator of childbirth pain relief in the UK.
A National Health Service (NHS) trial is currently underway in the UK to test the efficiency of hypnobirthing, with a view to reducing the number of women who need to take pain relief drugs during labor. The trial, which is being undertaken by the University of Central Lancashire, will involve around 800 women, who will all be given a 90 minute hynobirthing training session, and a hypnosis CD that they can use before and during labor. If the trial is successful, hypnobirthing could be rolled out across the UK.
The hypnosis techniques used are designed to produce drug free childbirth through a deep sense of relaxation during labor. They are based on the ideas first introduced by Dr Grantly Dick-Reed in the 1930s that the intense pain of childbirth is simply the result of anxiety and fear, which makes women fight their contractions.
The ideas of Dick-Reed have been used by Marie Mongan to develop hypnobirthing in the U.S. She teaches women to experience contractions as surges, and to relax and let them go rather than trying to fight them. When women are frightened of childbirth, the pain takes over. When they feel calm and in control they are better able to control the pain.
What are the Side Effects of Childbirth Drugs?
Depending on whether a women has an epidural or injected painkillers such as pethadine or diamorphine, the side effects of childbirth drugs can be far reaching. They include:
- The mother feeling sick or disorientated along with a rapid drop in blood pressure
- An inability to push which prolongs the second phase of labor and makes intervention more likely
- Problems with the baby’s breathing if drugs are given too close to the birth
- A delay in the establishment of breastfeeding at the most crucial time for the baby
Alternative Natural Pain Relief for Childbirth
As well as hypnosis, there are a variety of other methods of natural pain relief for childbirth that can be used during labor which will help to avoid medical intervention and the side effects listed above.
Hydrotherapy is one of the more popular alternative methods, with birthing pools becoming common in many hospitals. Water at the right temperature helps the mother to relax and eases the intensity of the contractions.
Tens, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is another effective natural method of pain relief. It is especially effective in the early stages of labor and stimulates the body to produce its own painkillers, while interfering with pain signals to the brain.
Other natural pain relief methods that have been successfully used in labor include homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, yoga, massage and reflexology.
Maggie Howell, an experienced hypnotherapist who specializes in childbirth, explained the simple science behind how relaxation can reduce the pain if childbirth; “When a woman is relaxed, breathing is even and rhythmic so she is getting plenty of oxygen which stimulates the production of oxytocin and endorphins. Her blood pressure also remains stable and her body conserves more energy for when the contractions get stronger.”