Birth Anchors: Using Your Senses To Help You Relax

By Clare Burgess - Hypnotherapist -

birth anchors

We already know that fear and tension reduce the birthing hormones oxytocin and endorphins which causes pain and hinder the birth process. Staying relaxed is key to labour progressing smoothly and you staying as comfortable as possible.

We experience the world through our five senses. Our brain interprets if we are safe, if we can relax or if the fight/flight response is needed each moment through the 2 million+ bits of information coming in through our senses every second.

As you prepare for birth, remember the role of your senses in this process. You might want to start to consider your birthing environment and ways to encourage a relaxed state through each of your senses.

Your Birthing environment:

Ina May Gaskin is one of the pioneers of positive birth and talks about ‘sphincter’s law’. She is one of the most influential people who helped us recognise that the environment in which a women is labouring has a profound effect on the progress of birth. The birthing hormones are ‘shy’ and the birth sphincters will only open if the mother feels totally safe. During birth the body goes into a primitive bodily process which needs privacy, low lighting, respect and quiet.

In a hospital this means keeping traffic in and out of the room very low, dimming the lights, staying warm and supporting a mum to feel safe.

Installing your birth anchors:

In most hypnobirthing or pregnancy relaxation classes they will introduce ways of anchoring relaxation for birth so here’s an overview for you.

A positive ‘anchor’ is a stimulus through the senses which elicits a positive and relaxing state. Anchors are a natural phenomenon we all experience. For example have you ever listened to a song and been taken back to a very happy memory? Have you been shopping and smelt or seen something delicious which makes you crave that food?

For birth we can install positive anchors which stimulate the senses to elicit the relaxation response.

The key is…. repetition, repetition, repetition!!

Here are some examples for you:

Visualisation & internal ‘pictures’ – Take a few deep breaths and remember the most relaxing place you have been to. Imagine being there and how it felt, what you saw, heard or even smelt. Now focus on what would make that place even more relaxing in your mind. Take yourself to this place for few minutes a day whilst using some of the below and notice how much more easily you go to that memory and how relaxing it makes you feel. This is one of the simplest ways of installing positive anchors.

Comfort objects – think about having photos with you during birth which make you happy, or something from your home which makes you feel safe and happy.

Relaxation music & sounds – each time you relax and rest listen to the same birthing music so that it becomes a trigger for relaxation.

Positive Affirmations – an affirmation is a positive statement in the present tense to support you through birth. Create your own or download some from the internet and print them out. Repeat them every day and have them with you during your birth so your partner can read them to you.

Essential oils suitable for birth – Smell is the most powerful anchor you can have because it bypassing the thinking part of the brain. Choose a pregnancy safe oil like lavender* and each time you practice relaxation have this smell as part of your relaxation.

Massage & Touch – our skin is so sensitive and we can increases endorphins through touch. Have your partner practice some simple back, hand or feet massage with you. You might also have a favourite blanket to have with you during labour or something else you like to hold.

So think of each of your senses when you are preparing for birth to help you stay relaxed and calm.

If you have any questions about relaxation for birth, feel free to contact me on

*Please check an essential oil is safe to use in pregnancy or birth before use. Lavender is known to be safe but there are others if you don’t like that smell.

To read more about Clare click here

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