Why we need to stop talking about contractions

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Expecting your first baby and starting to wonder about birth? Specifically - what DO those contractions feel like?! I remember this fear of the unknown really eating at me as my first labour approached. I'm here to tell you now - contractions don't need to be a part of your birth experience.

Ladies, it is time to reframe and make friends with your amazing birthing body.

Firstly it is good to understand what exactly is happening. In a nutshell, when you go into labour, your uterine muscles go to work to gradually open your cervix in preparation for baby to come out. This is their natural job, and the purpose of these muscles.

To describe this ebb and flow in your body, we don't like to use the C-word in hypnobirthing - we call them surges, or, if you prefer, waves.

Does it make any difference what we call them? YES. Words matter - they have huge implications and connotations that impact on how we feel and experience things.

Not only is surge or wave a much nicer word, it is also much more descriptive of what you will experience. It is NOT a sudden tightening with no let up like the more usual word might suggest. There is a gradual build up that reaches a peak and then goes away again, there is a gap, and then the gradual build up starts its crescendo again.

It is something that you can powerfully visualise - a hugely helpful tool in a calm birth - and the knowledge that it is not a constant, but that there is built-in time to rest, is incredibly beneficial.

So what does it feel like? In the early stages, like period cramps, or like a dodgy tummy. As labour progresses there is an increasing amount of pressure and power. Pain? This is individual, as our bodies and pain tolerances differ. But for any pain that the surge brings, it is helpful to remember that your body is not breaking and that nothing is wrong; your body is being efficient and, with every surge, bringing your baby closer to you. And wherever you are on the continuum of pain this much I can say: mums who have followed a hypnobirthing course and have done their preparation invariably feedback that their birthing experience was more comfortable, that they were able to cope better, stay calm, in control and focussed thanks to the techniques, knowledge and confidence they had gained in my course.

I know this from my own experience too; from a first birth of panic and pain (totally connected, of course) to a second of control and power, hypnobirthing made every difference.

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