Creating Calm ~ Tips for an Ecstatic Birth

Researcher and lecturer Dr Sarah Buckley challenges conventional childbirth narratives that associate birth with pain and suffering, believing that under the right conditions birth can be gentle, pleasurable, and even meditative

It’s not often you hear the word ‘birth’ and ‘ecstatic’ in the same sentence. In fact, we’re more inclined to hear the birthing process illustrated in less-than-complimentary terms! You’re probably thinking that if you turned up to coffee group and described your birthing experience using words such as ‘gentle’, ‘pleasure’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘meditative’, that you’d likely get laughed right out of the cafe.


However, contrary to birth stories from TV shows and well meaning friends , there is research to suggest that an ‘ecstatic birth’ is possible.  Sceptical?  You might want to hear more about what Dr Sarah Buckley had to say at her recent ‘Undisturbing Birth’ workshop in Auckland this month.

Expectant mothers, celebrate!

If you’re an expectant mother, then Dr Sarah Buckley has some good news for you. She believes birth can be gentle under the right conditions, and has invested considerable energy critiquing the current practices in pregnancy and childbirth birth and evaluating the scientific research and anecdotal evidence.


As a result of her research and clinical practices, Dr Buckley believes that, like all other mammals, women need certain conditions to birth effectively – that is to feel private, safe and unobserved. When these conditions are met then our hormonal physiology creates an optimum orchestration of “ecstatic hormones” including Oxytocin, Beta Endorphins, Catecholamines, Prolactin, increasing and/or decreasing at specific stages to help both mother and baby to birth safely, easily and effectively – and, here’s the exciting part ladies, even with pleasure!

Happy hormones

In her book, “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering”, Dr Buckley comments that disturbing or “interfering with this process will also disrupt this delicate hormonal orchestration, making birth more difficult and painful, and potentially less safe”.  On top of this, when these ecstatic hormones function at their optimum, not only do they ease pain and increase pleasure, but they promote beneficial post-birth behaviours such as breastfeeding and attachment.


These hormones are primarily produced in the limbic system of our brain, otherwise known as the emotional brain. This is the area of our brain that controls emotions, behaviours, learning, motivation and memory. Conversely, the functions of our neo-cortex, known as the rational brain, include conscious thought and rational and intellectual thinking.


It’s this rational thinking, usually the voice of reason, that actually seems to get us in to strife during birth. Dr Buckley believes that for the ecstatic hormone orchestration and birth to proceed optimally, women need to let go and get out of their neo-cortex rational thinking brain, shifting instead into an altered state of awareness and focused inward attention.  It was no coincidence to me that this is the very definition of the hypnotic state! A key element of birth hypnosis is teaching and conditioning my clients to easily access this hypnotic state for themselves – which they find invaluable during birth.

Time to get Zen

In her book, Dr Buckley points out that “if we were to consider giving birth as the deepest meditation possible, and give birthing women the appropriate respect, support, and lack of disturbance, we would provide the best physiological conditions for birth”.

Sounds straightforward enough, right? Then why, so often, are the environments we birth in not conducive to the qualities of making the birthing mother feel safe, private and unobserved? Thinking of a typical birthing environment in our western world, a mother will usually be disturbed by circumstances that increase conscious alertness such as bright lighting, expectations of rationality – often in the form of questions and conversation, and obtrusive medical equipment.

Create your own Calm

It may be that you don’t have full control over the environment you are having your baby, however there are still things you can do to help create a space where you can feel more safe, private and unobserved. Reducing disturbance will help you achieve the optimum orchestration and aid the shift into an altered state of consciousness, resulting in a more efficient and gentler birth.


Some tips to try:

  • Dim the lights
  • Cover clocks and technical equipment
  • Minimise conversation and avoid questions and numbers as these trigger the rational brain
  • Avoid unnecessary procedures and observations
  • Take your own comfortable clothes – don’t put a hospital gown on
  • Ask your birth partner to manage and protect your birth space, “run interference” as such on unnecessary questioning etc.
  • Relaxing music. One of the complimentary audio’s my Shine Hypnosis birth clients receive is hypnotic music that helps trigger and maintain a shift into a deep hypnotic state.

Ready, set, RELAX!

And in my opinion, most importantly, learn how to relax yourself deeply into the hypnotic state, so that even if you can’t control elements of your external environment you can create a peaceful inner environment that helps you escape the feeling of being observed. Birth is one of the most beautiful human experiences – create your own space where you can feel private and safe, relaxed and calm so that you can enjoy the optimal and wonderful orchestration of birth hormones that Mother Nature designed for us.