Learning and practising visualisation techniques can help you become more relaxed for labour and birth. Visualisations can help prepare your mind for a more positive birth experience and change limiting beliefs about birth, as well as become a valuable tool to help you relax during labour and birth.
The most powerful tool we have within us is our imagination. In Dr David Hamilton’s book, ‘It’s the Thought that Counts’ he talks about how what we imagine creates chemical changes within our muscles and even down to a cellular level. He shows how it’s been proven that we can influence our emotional state and our physical state using the power of visualisation.
Here I will briefly outline why visualisations are so powerful for birth and a few techniques you might want to practise.
Mind and body connection
The mind and body are completely connected which is why your mind plays such a major role in how a birth progresses. Birth is a natural bodily function which throughout evolution is designed to stop working if danger appears or work well when a mother is safe. This design of the stress hormones stopping a labour progressing was key for survival for our caveman ancestors who might have faced wild animals or other tribes attacking. However it is no longer helpful when most of the fears women have today are imagined dangers rather than real ones.
If we imagine or expect things to be a certain way, our unconscious mind will help create that experience. Here’s a useful phrase – ‘what the mind perceives, the body conceives’.
Athletes spend a lot of time mentally rehearsing or visualising themselves winning as it trains their minds to believe they can win. With repetition an athlete can use visualisation in the moment to put themselves in a confidence mind-set in the moment. If we imagine birth to be natural, manageable and safe, we’ll help ourselves feel more confident now and be more prepared to relax when the time comes.
Sometimes people worry that they can’t see anything or they won’t be able to visualise but if you dream then you can visualise. If you closed your eyes now and remembered the last time you were in a beautiful garden or park, can you do it? If you were to imagine a pink elephant with blue spots now, how would you have it in your mind? With either of these you are using the same part of your imagination that you’ll use to visualise so relax and give yourself time to practice.
Here are a few visualisations you might find useful to practice as part of preparing for birth:
- Imagine each contraction or surge as a wave. A wave rises up to a peak and then it ebbs away. Waves can build up and some might be very powerful. Like a surfer though, if you ride the waves you can feel empowered. In birth the more you allow the contractions to work efficiently and surrender to their energy, the more efficiently your body can work to help your baby come into the world safely. By visualising the waves you can practice going with the power of the wave and then letting go once the contraction is over. This also helps you focus on a rhythm Take few deep breaths and imagine yourself in the most relaxing place you could go to which is very relaxing for the mind. Try syncing this with some relaxation breathing too.
Take a few deep breaths and imagine yourself in the most relaxing place you could go to. It might be a memory or from your imagination. Choose somewhere completely safe, comfortable and relaxing. People often find places in nature most helpful. Practice going there and seeing, feeling and hearing everything that makes this place so comfortable. Each time your practice make the pictures in your mind brighter or clearer to help you relax even more. During labour if you’ve practised going to this place, you can easily go there in your mind even when things are getting more intense. It’s a great distraction technique to relax yourself but needs familiarity in pregnancy to become easy to access during labour.
- Imagine yourself the moment after you’ve given birth feeling the way you want to feel however the birth has played out. The moment where your baby is safely in your arms and you get to meet him or her for the first time. Imagine your baby’s eyes looking at you or how their skin might feel. Take a few moments to build this scene in your mind, imagining everything you’d see, feel or hear in this magical moment. This mental picture can become a guide during birth to help you stay focused.
- As you close your eyes and relax, imagine your muscles becoming limp and loose all through your body. Imagine the soft pinkness of relaxed muscles or some other way to guide your unconscious to release the tension in each muscle. In labour, you can imagine the muscles around your baby becoming looser and your cervix becoming so soft it can easily open. Some people like imaging muscles like ribbons or loose elastic.
Give these a try and allow your own creativity to flow as you find the right visualisations for you.
Practice & repetition are key!
Clare Burgess is a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and personal development coach. She first discovered the power of hypnotherapy when she was pregnant with her second child. A positive birth experience aided by hypnotherapy and hypnobirthing inspired Clare to train as a hypnotherapist. Clare is passionate about helping people overcome anxiety issues and emotional blocks in their lives through her work. To read more about Clare click here
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