Hypnosis for pregnancy and childbirth



Facing Pain

Pain in labor is a reality. And the expectation of pain, as well as some means for coping with it, goes a long way toward healthy birth outcomes. The hippocampus plays a major role in this respect, for it mediates between the expectation of an experience and its actuality. One researcher notes that when differences between expectations and realities remain minor, the hippocampus "inhibits the reticular activating system," but as soon as major differences emerge, the hippocampus stimulates the reticular activating system "to alert the entire cortex to these discrepancies" and, in the process, precipitates higher levels of tension in the central nervous system.(11) Another researcher suggests that women who experience cognitive dissonance between what they expect and what they undergo have more birth complications than women who experience no such dissonance.(12)

Uterine inertia, or the cessation of contractions, is one such complication; another is the occurrence of strong, unrelenting contractions that produce no cervical dilation. In both instances, the involuntary processes of the uterus go haywire due to the firing of conflicting messages from the limbic system (a.k.a. the emotional center of the brain). Accompanying the message for labor to proceed comes a new message, elicited by the woman's response to unexpected pain or fear, for labor to turn off. When both "fight" and "flight" polarities of the limbic system are activated in this way, labor can easily become dysfunctional. When the expectation of pain is addressed in advance, however, the limbic system is better prepared to create a self-regulating feedback loop that will facilitate the progression of labor.(13)

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