In our society it is a miracle if a woman gets to adulthood without taking on the belief that childbirth is inherently painful. We have been taught this since a young age. It’s the way childbirth is portrayed in the media, and it’s reinforced in all of the horror stories that people love to tell us (particularly when we are pregnant).
One reason our beliefs are so important is because we all suffer from a cognitive bias called the ‘confirmation bias’. This bias causes us to preferentially seek out information that supports our underlying beliefs while also ignoring or misinterpreting information that would disprove those beliefs.
Because of this, two people with differing beliefs can experience the same exact scene in very different ways. Behind the scenes, our brains are subconsciously on the lookout for information that supports our beliefs. This information will jump out at us, while the contradictory information we may not notice at all.
The stronger the belief, the more biased we become. When you believe that birth is going to be painful, dangerous, frightening or hard, your brain will set to work in the background, trying to find evidence that this is true.
Unfortunately, the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight or flight response, doesn’t differentiate between real and perceived threats. Sometimes fight and flight response does succeed in completely stopping the labour, but more often than not, the result is a long and slow labour with painful but ineffective contractions. And so the self-fulfilling prophecy is complete.
The fearful mother searched for evidence of danger (why did that machine beep? Why did the midwife make that face?), the ‘evidence’ she found caused her autonomic nervous system to activate fight or flight mode, her labour became painful and she was proven right.
But it doesn’t stop there either, this woman will now share this experience with her friends, cementing their negative beliefs about birthing and setting them up for the same vicious cycle of fear, tension and pain.
By contrast, the mother who has worked on her beliefs and has confidence in her ability to birth will be seeking out any evidence that birth is safe and manageable. The evidence she finds will help her to relax and stay calm and focused, and her birth will be much more pleasant.
This is why it is essential to take the time to examine beliefs and critically assess whether they are based on sound reasoning or not. Identifying unhelpful or limiting beliefs is the first step in the process, and once this is done , begin to replace those with more accurate and helpful alternatives.
The effort put into this preparation is well rewarded when you can fully relax into birth and avoid the pain of a fearful birth.
Reducing fears about childbirth is a highly effective way to reduce pain and improve birth outcomes. While physical preparation helps immensely with stamina and strength, in my view it is the emotional preparation that has the most impact on how childbirth is experienced by the mother, both physically and psychologically.
What is an expectation?
In the case of uncertainty, expectation is what is considered the most likely to happen. An expectation, which is a belief that is centered on the future, may or may not be realistic. A less advantageous result gives rise to the emotion of disappointment. Wikipedia
What is a belief?
Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty. Wikipedia
If you would like to spend some time getting deeper into your own beliefs and expectations about birth and creating a realistic, relevant and powerful birth plan WITH all the tools and techniques to make it happen PLUS the back up plan (because birth is unpredictable and there are factors that are out of your control) then [LET'S CHAT.](http://thevirtualmidwife.setmore.com/)