Understanding Phobias and Fears during your Pregnancy and Birthing Experience

“I really want a calm birth experience but I feel stressed/anxious”: Understanding your phobias
(fears), stress and anxiety and how I can help.

As with any conditions that we may experience or develop there are different categories and
levels. Not everyone will have a phobia (fear) but we all experience stress and anxiety at some
point, at some level.

Stress originates from a disturbance of a person’s mental and physical well-being, which passes
as the situation/threat is resolved, but left untreated can lead to anxiety. Contrary to popular
belief, anxiety does not arise directly out of dangerous or painful situations but out of thoughts.

In a given situation, it is the thought of potential danger, not the actual danger, that produces the
symptoms of anxiety. [Hypnosis for Change, 3rd edition, 1996, Hadley, Straudacher, pg 211].

It is perfectly normal to feel anxious from time to time and similarly to stress it is essential as these
feelings help to focus the mind, problem-solve and protect us and those around us. Whilst
anxiety can also pass, avoiding it will not make it go away as it will grow, returning in waves
resulting in a feeling of apprehension and further developing into phobias/fears.

Phobias/fears are much more extreme than anxiety as it most commonly may have been
something that has been witnessed as a child or in young adulthood built up over time. It is key
to note that many phobias/fears are acute stemming from the subconscious, which can be
treated.

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself” [First inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt]. We are
born with only two fears – the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds thus phobias are either
learnt behaviours or can stem from an individual’s initial sensitizing event (ISE) and in some
instances can be hereditary. In the early 1900s an American Psychologist, John B. Watson and
his graduate student, Rosalie Rayner carried out an experiment to explore if humans can be
conditioned by learned behaviours. Watson believed that the fear of loud sounds is an innate
unconditioned response and wanted to test these principles, now known as “classical
conditioning”, with the aim to condition a phobia in an emotionally stable child. The result of the
experiment found that the association from the loud noise and a furry animal (in this case a rat)
caused the child distress thus conditioning that child to a phobia of the association of the fear of
a loud noise with a furry animal.

As with stress and anxiety, there are also a number of different types/levels of phobias from
simple to complex. Talking openly about anxiety, stress and phobias have become increasingly
acceptable in the current day with many businesses and scientists looking to offer alternative
treatments thus avoiding medication including Oxford University developing a virtual reality
therapy, which first looked to address the phobia of heights. Richard Bandler, co-creator of
Neuro-linguistic Programming, used a tennis ball with his clients, passing back and forth to both
hands, thus passing the hemispheres and whilst it reduced anxiety it didn’t remove it
permanently.

Indeed scientists and researchers have been studying the effects of mental health
conditions such as anxiety and stress for a number of years and through research have found
that hypnotherapy can help relieve stress, fear and anxiety.

So if hypnoBIRTHING isn’t hypnoTHERAPY how can I help?

In the first instance, it may reassure you that my training is accredited to the Royal College of
Midwives. Whilst not a midwife myself, the content of my learning and delivery is important for
me to enable your utmost care. The Pregnancy Relaxations and the BBB Workshop I provide at
Heal Oxford Wellbeing, will include many skills and theories I am qualified to deliver. I have alluded to the subconscious above, which is how both my classes will start as we understand and respect the mind. Both classes will enable a relaxation of mind and body with the BBB Workshop providing in-depth knowledge where the brain and body can work together to move to a calm, efficient birth. I have received many comments from my classes of how much that is learnt can be taken into everyday life as well as in preparation for birth. Is it mind over matter? No, it is the mind AND body working together.

Why not book onto my next relaxation or workshop, alternatively you can read more on my work
as a qualified hypnobirthing practitioner on my website.

Pregnancy Relaxation
5 Nov Book here
3 Dec Book here

Brain, Body, Mind: Master the 3 pathways to a comfortable, calm, confident birth
workshop
15 Oct Book here
26 Nov Book here
10 Dec Book here

Written by Emma Saville

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