During my interview on If Only They’d Told Me we touched on phobias and a client I worked with who had aquaphobia (a fear of water) who now happily finds being in water a pleasurable activity, and is enjoying the freedom that brings.
A phobia is a high anxiety response such as fear or panic to an object (e.g. snakes), a situation (e.g. public speaking) or even a thought (e.g. if the plane hits turbulence I’ll panic).
Fears and phobias are learned responses that are formed as an imprint by the part of our brain designed to keep us safe. When it perceives an experience to be a threat it learns to create fear and anxiety symptoms next time we encounter a similar situation with the aim of acting as a warning system to keep us safe. All of this happens outside our conscious awareness – it has to because if you are in a situation that your survival depends on quick action, you don’t have time to consciously ponder your options, you need to be mobilised for action (i.e. fight or flight).
Sometimes this process means we can learn to have an out of proportion response to things or situations. Fortunately because phobias are learned, when you access the part of your brain that is responsible for creating the phobic imprint you can just as easily unlearn the phobia.
So here’s part one of the transcript from my Birth Hypnosis podcast interview with Natalie Cutler-Welsh on If Only They’d Told Me, which includes us talking about phobia’s…
N. Hi, I’m Nat and welcome back to another episode of If Only They Told Me, all the things you wish you’d been told about pregnancy, parenting and relationships in the early years. And today I’m talking to a lovely lady – I’m talking to Rebecca Armstrong fro Shine Hypnosis. And we are going to be talking all about birth and labour.
Now today’s episode is really also about sometimes overcoming some barriers. I’m actually talking to a lovely lady named Rebecca Armstrong from Shine Hypnosis. And birth hypnosis is not something that I personally have done. I think it’s really cool and that is why I invited her to come onto my show, to talk about how she can help people basically. Because I know there’s people out there that had a horrendous experience with their first labour and they’re really scared about the second one and she can help people with that. There’s also people out there listening, possibly, who are having fertility issues. Again that’s not something that I have experienced; that is actually something that Jackie did experience. But it’s really common and I did not know that hypnosis can help with that as we’ll. So I think that is really cool. And also of course other fears and phobias, not solely related around childbirth, but really that’s kind of the angle that she’s going to be talking about today.
So, without further ado, sit back and relax and enjoy this episode all about birth hypnosis and having a gentle and relaxed childbirth.
N. Hi Rebecca!
R. Hi Nat.
N. Hey, it’s so great to have you here in the studio. This is something that I’ve been wanting to cover for a while so I am so pleased that we are going to talk today about birth hypnosis. So can you start off by telling people a little bit about you and how you help people.
R. Great. We’ll I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist and my main areas of specialty, other than helping people prepare for a gentle and relaxed childbirth, I also work with people to help them overcome fears and phobias, and I work with people to help them with their fertility, whether naturally or working alongside assisted reproductive technologies like IVF.
N. Ooh, you talk quicker than I do! My gosh! That’s so, it’s amazing. I personally have never done any hypnosis but I know when I was pregnant with number one and number two I had friends who did hypnosis and they really raved about it so I’m really excited today to be talking a bit more detail about what exactly it is and how the process works. Because I know it can have a huge impact for people.
So, can you tell me a little bit – how did you get started in this area?
R. We’ll I actually used to be in the corporate world doing Online Marketing before the advent of Facebook. But through to my own health experience I had to come home from London and I explored hypnotherapy as a way to help with the pain management and healing. Which I found fascinating, the whole mind-body thing, but it wasn’t actually until I went across to Australia and had a hypnotherapy session around my snake phobia that really cemented it to me – if I could get up close and personal to a snake, what else could hypnotherapy do? So that’s what kind of started me on this journey. So I retrained, got my Diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy, and also did the Birth and Fertility Hypnosis training on top of that.
N. Yeah and that’s amazing.
Is most of your Hypnotherapy work with women who are pregnant and scared about the labour?
R. I’d say that 60% of my clients is Birth Hypnosis and I’m really passionate about it – that’s the area I love. I love working with birth clients as it’s such a special time to be part of their lives and helping empower someone to have a birth experience that is what they want and how they’d like it to go rather than feeling anxious and fearful. Because where there’s, let’s be honest, Nat, most people believe birth has got to be painful, because where there’s tension and anxiety in the body there is pain. But, if you can learn how to relax yourself and get rid of that old conditioning about how birth has to be painful, then birth can actually be a pleasant experience; Mother Nature designed us quite efficiently to do birthing.
N. I think that when I went into my first labour I had the mindset of, like, this is going to be painful but it’s going to be good pain because I’m getting a baby. It’s not that I just had an accident and my leg is bleeding or something; you know, its good pain (if there is such a thing as good pain or bad pain).
R. The way my clients (and I) talk about it: so pain is a concept and what we do is we work with that and instead of feeling ‘pain’ they feel ‘sensations’. And the ‘intensity’; sometimes they describe the last kind of phase – most of them are quite surprised when they get to the last phase of intensity, especially if they’ve come to see me because their first birth didn’t go the way they wanted it to go and they want to be more relaxed about their second birth – so they know what they’re lined up for and when they say the baby is crowning they’re kind of like, “Hold on a second! I’m supposed to have a few hours ahead of me, aren’t I?” So they’re quite surprised how far they’ve progressed without feeling what they were expecting to feel, because they’ve realised from the first time what that was like.
N. And we will get into a case study later on about somebody who had a traumatic birth and then got pregnant again and was a bit nervous about going through the next experience.
Do you have a case study for us about someone benefiting from hypnosis, not necessarily birth but just from hypnosis from a fear or phobia?
R. Oh certainly. I worked last year with a lady, a mum of two preschoolers, and she’s had an intense water phobia from a child herself. She was really concerned, now her kiddies were starting to get a little bit older, they’d know she was too scared to get in the water, and she was scared they’d learn that phobia from her because phobias can be learnt. We had 3 sessions. At the end of those 3 sessions she could walk alongside the waterfront. Previously walking alongside the waterfront she’d have to walk on the other side of the footpath, not look at the water, and she’d have heart palpitations, she’d be sweating, she’d be dizzy, and in her words she’d be ‘a crazy mess’. We had the 3 sessions in winter: this summer she said to me that she enjoyed a holiday up North where they spent lots of time in the pool with kids.
N. Did she go in the pool with the kids?
R. She did, yeah! She loves water now, she has no qualms about going in the water, she has no symptoms, no panic or phobia symptoms being around water now.
N. With that experience, did she have a bad experience and that’s why she’s scared of water?
R. She had, yes.
N. Ok. And also, when you were helping her, was there water involved, or no? Like, did you actually go to water or put her hand in a cup or something?
R. No. I mean, she could obviously drink glasses of water – it was just being beside a body of water, whether it be a pool, a lake. As a teenager growing up she couldn’t enjoy pool parties with her friends, or the beach.
N. Very limiting.
R. Yes, very limiting.
R. And in her words, very freeing to be free of it.
N. Yeah. And also I mean, New Zealand obviously – lots of water, a big way of life and with kids, to be able to embrace that and enjoy all those memories instead of trying to not encounter water at all.
R. She can now give her kids the childhood experience she didn’t have, because she was scared of the water.
N. Oh that’s so amazing. It’s amazing to be able to facilitate those breakthroughs
So that concludes part 1. In part 2 we talk more in depth about birth hypnosis – how it can help if want a more relaxed experience or if you’re anxious about childbirth, or if you’ve had a previously traumatic childbirth experience and are really scared at the prospect of going through it all again. In part 3 we talk a bit more about birth hypnosis, and how hypnosis can help with fertility.
Listen to the full podcast