Do you fear childbirth? The mere mention of the word "childbirth" is probably enough to make most women cringe. Thanks to Hollywood's portrayal of childbirth in movies, it is almost programmed in us that childbirth is meant to be a chaotic, painful event filled with murderous screams. My purpose of writing this post is to reassure women who fear it that it is actually possible to have a calm birth and even a pain-free birth without the use of drugs. The following methods/tools are things I looked into during my pregnancy to help me achieve the peaceful, natural, drug-free birth I wanted (Note: I can't say I have experienced a completely pain-free birth myself but I know it has been possible for many women and it could be for you too – I am just sharing what I have researched) . I hope it helps you!
I did this course early in my second trimester and I do strongly recommend it. It is a little expensive, but it is worth it (you can look up providers in your area via Google). If you can't do the course, you should at least get the book by Marie Mongan titled "HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method". It basically teaches you how to deliver your baby naturally and easily without unnecessary drugs or medical intervention. As women, our bodies naturally know how to birth babies but it our pre-programmed fear and expectations of what birth will be like gets in the way. This fear is usually instilled from movies and other stories we have been told by family and friends. When you are scared or anxious, your body naturally tenses up. Blood races to your vital organs and your body's priority becomes keeping you alive, not giving birth. You will also naturally feel a lot more pain when you are tensed up (and expecting it). On the other hand, if you are calm and relaxed, your body is able to focus on the task, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the necessary organs and also releasing natural pain-killing hormones into your system. Hypnobirthing teaches you how to release any fears you may have of birthing and trust your body.
If it wasn't already obvious, hypnobirthing utilizes hypnosis techniques. Now, hypnosis is not some voodoo, "dangerous" practice where you dissociate yourself from all consciousness. You probably think of hypnosis as only the stuff done on stage or as portrayed in movies and all of those stuff are dramatized for entertainment purposes. Being in a hypnotic state does not mean you will be in some sort of unconsciousness state where you have no grips on reality or even who you are; it is more of a heightened, awakened state where your senses are tuned into one thing and tuning out the rest. Contrary to popular belief, hypnosis cannot make you do something that goes against your moral beliefs. The people you see acting silly on stage are usually people who are fun-loving and already uninhibited.
In hypnobirthing, the hypnotic state is induced through practice (and a supportive partner to prompt you if you wish). The key is practice. You have to be disciplined in going through the meditations daily so that when the time comes, you will go automatically into it. Now, this is not as foreign and scary as it sounds, we all do things in a hypnotic state everyday without realising it. For example, how often do you walk away from your car after parking only to stop after a few metres and go "did I lock my car?" You go back and check and see that of course you did, but you don't remember doing it. You are just so used to doing it everyday over and over again that you often do it without thinking (wondering whether you turned off the iron or the stove is also common). Clearly you were not asleep or unconsciousness when you locked your car. You've just practiced the action so many times that you now do it automatically.
As a Christian, I got a lot of raised eyebrows from fellow Christians when I said I was doing hypnobirthing because they had the misconception that it was something "new-age". The truth is, though, that while hypnobirthing is commonly practiced by people who also tend to do things like yoga, meditation, and reiki etc (as they are people who would also be passionate about calm birthing and being in touch with your body), there is absolutely nothing new-age or spiritual about it in a religious sense. Personally I found it really helped me understand what God intended childbirth to be- a beautiful, natural act free from pain and fear (and certainly not a "curse of Eve" as a lot of Christians seem to think it is- this is actually touched upon in the book), but the course is for anyone who wants to go through a natural, easy birthing experience.
I should also mention that there are also methods out there such as Calm Birth which also focus on the same outcome, but the method per se is not the same and they are created by different people. Hypnobirthing is what I did and enjoyed, but you can also do your own research and look up other methods if you think it may not be for you.
2. SUPERNATURAL CHILDBIRTH
Supernatural Childbirth delivers the Christian perspective on childbirth. If you are a Christian, it is a good read as it points out relevant biblical verses and how to declare God's promises over your pregnancy and impending birth. It's also worth reading even before you are pregnant since it touches upon praying through conception. The downside is though that the book is pretty old and probably needs to be updated with more information. I read it after reading the Hypnobirthing book and I felt just lacked so much in comparison. Honestly, the Hypnobirthing book did a far better job at explaining childbirth in the bible and the history of childbirth from a Christian perspective! If I did not learn about hypnobirthing, I don't think I could've fully understood how God intended childbirth to be. However, ultimately hypnobirthing is not a religious method so I felt it really worked for me to read both books and kind of mesh it all up in my head. Hypnobirthing gave me the tools, and Supernatural Childbirth added the God factor. If you are a Christian, I would probably recommend doing the same.
3. ORGASMIC BIRTH
Now, this is a real interesting one. Apparently, a small percentage of women actually experience orgasms with childbirth- as impossible as that may sound. This is because the same organs involved in sexual pleasure are also involved with childbirth. I know it sounds incredulous but when you really think about it, it does kind of make sense that if conceiving a child is a sexual, pleasurable event, there is no reason why delivering that child shouldn't be one too. Some might think of this as being "perverted" and "disgusting", but that is only because our society has actually perverted sexuality and taught us to associate guilt and shame with sexual pleasure.
Learning that orgasmic births existed did really opened up my mind to perceive birth as being something that is beautiful which should be cherished instead of dreaded. Knowing that somewhere out there some women have actually had pleasurable birthing experiences definitely makes you think of what the human body is capable of and makes you fear birth a little less. If this has piqued your curiosity, you can get the book or view the documentary on http://www.orgasmicbirth.com. It'll cost $5 to rent but it's a worth a look into if you are expecting.
Now, this is not a birthing method but it's a product to help avoid perineal tears during childbirth. A lot of people fear tearing during childbirth, and this can help remove those fears so you can undertake birthing with a positive mindset. Basically it is a small inflatable silicone rubber balloon that you use to gently stretch the perineum to avoid tears during childbirth (and also give you a sense of what birthing may feel like). It is recommended to use it for about 20 minutes a day and only at the end of your pregnancy (when your body naturally starts releasing muscle and joint relaxing hormones in preparation for childbirth).
I know some people are put off by the thought of this, but seriously, you cannot ignore the fact that a human being is going to be coming out of you. It is certainly not comfortable prep work, but I would rather be prepared for the event and avoid tearing, stitches, and likely a painful recovery. Before you run a marathon, do you not practice and get your body and muscles in shape? Do you not warm up and stretch to avoid injury? This is the same concept. There is no reason why you cannot practice childbirth to prepare the body and avoid injury. And for those of you who are worried that it will somehow make you "loose": Your vagina is a muscle like any other muscle in your body. It can become more flexible with stretching but it will always go back to normal after. It's certainly not going to lose its shape if you keep it in shape. Work hard on those pelvic floor exercises before and after birth, and everything will return to the way it was!
I know the product is a bit pricey but hey, what is your perineum worth? Not only is it worth it for the physical reasons, but also for the psychological benefits of being able to go into childbirth with confidence that you can do it.
I hope all this information helps you prepare for your own birthing experience or at least encourages you to do your own research to find other methods or products. Childbirth doesn't have to be a painful, traumatic event. It can certainly be a wonderful, memorable experience. I hope everything will go wonderfully for you.