#208 | Achieving a Pain-Free Birth with Karen Welton @painfreebirth

April 12, 2023

If you are pregnant for the first time or even the second or third, we all want to know the secret ingredient to experiencing a "pain-free" birth experience.  Today, we brought on a leading voice in the pain-free birth world, Karen Welton, to go deep on what it takes.  Do you know the most important step in accessing a "pain free" birth? Hint: It's not about what you do in labor. It's not about position. It's not even about your birth location or provider. It's about your brain. It begins and ends with your mindset and focus. The key to mastering your birth is mastering your brain's influence on your physiology.  Can you create an environment for birth where you could be so relaxed and embodied in your physiology that you could have sex in that space? Join us in this enlightening discussion and take the first step to finding a "pain-free" ecstatic, even pleasurable birth experience.

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View Episode Transcript

And I asked them, like, were you so comfortable that you could have sex in that in your birthing room. And if you're not like that level of relaxed where you could get turned on and you could just take a nice warm bath and have your partner massage you like that's the level of relaxation and embrace and surrender required to really experience a birth without pain or an ecstatic birth or birth with like surges of oxytocin. It's really this interplay between, are we going to partner with our bodies and releasing surges of oxytocin that floods our body and blocks pain receptors, are we going to partner with the fear and anxiety all around us, in the culture in the hospital, even in our providers, our friends and our family? And those are really the two paths you're going down that mountain, and you get to choose in your heart, Mama, am I going to follow the path of fear and anxiety and doubt? Or am I going to follow the path of surrender and openness and trust?

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Hi, my name is Karen Welton, I'm the owner of pain free birth, I'm a mom of three girls, and the owner of pain free birth, you can find me in pain free birth, Instagram, or pain free birth.com. And I love sharing about physiological birth and how women can actually have a pain free birth experience.

So Karen, when we asked our audience about who we might want to bring on the show in 2023, you got quite a few votes. So we know our audience is very aligned with your thinking and very interested in what you have to say. And I think pretty much any woman who is pregnant, especially for the first time is looking for that secrets to a pain free birth. But what does that really mean? Because, you know, we know birth is intense, and that moments painful maybe? So how? How do you define a pain free birth?

I love that question. And I agree with you. I think for most women, especially first time moms who get pregnant, if they you know, live in, in the US or in the West, we have this very cultural view of birth, that it's really scary and really painful. You know, it's the most painful thing you'll ever experience. And we throw a lot of fear on these new moms. So by the time we get pregnant, you know, there's all the excitement and then there's like this reality of now I have to give birth. And all I've heard for the most part are negative birth stories of how scary and painful it is and interventions and it'll ruin your body and you'll never sleep again all of these bad things. And it certainly is that you know, I'm not here to say Oh, Bert, I'll Bertha's all painfree and rainbows and sunshine, it is hard work and it's intense. And but I also really want to challenge the narrative that is supposed to be painful. And I think that's the the lie that we get taught as women is that it's supposed to be this way, this is just how it is for whatever reason. And you there's no way around that like you just have to suffer through it and hope that you end up on the other side. You know, with a good experience or a healthy baby, right? Like that's the the standard and the bar that we set. Like, as long as you had a healthy baby, it doesn't matter what happened in your birth. I'm like, I'm here to call BS on that. I think birth can be so much more than that. I think it can be a beautiful, sacred spiritual transformational experience. And when we really dive into the reality of the full dimension of what birth can be, as I learned and leaned into that as a first time pregnant mama years ago, when I first got pregnant, I was just blown away by the design of birth and I entered birth in the same way a lot of first time moms do being scared of the pain of childbirth and thinking can I really do this this sounds really intense and scary and I don't know if I'm cut out for this. I don't have a high pain tolerance. I'm not sure how this is going to go like it's nerve racking. Right? And I'm not someone who's who likes particularly likes needles or has had hospital stays and is comfortable with that whole medical you know, feeling of being Giving birth in a hospital with needles and interventions. And that just didn't feel right. But then you've got the pain and well what if I can't do it without an epidural. And so there's all of this like confusion. And if maybe many of your listeners is first time moms or even second time moms, if you've had that experience, and you didn't particularly enjoy your hospital birth of your medicated birth, there's a lot of women who say, You know what, I want something more. And I don't want to be drugged. I don't want to be strained to my bed. But I also don't want to be screaming and pain.

You know, it's funny, you know what I'm hearing? That's really funny. So, you know, I teach HypnoBirthing. I've been doing that since 2007. And my life story in this field began just like yours, I was terrified of birth. And that's what changed everything for me. But when I, you just perfectly demonstrated when you asked most pregnant women, what do you want for your birth? They have no idea what to say. And if they're really pressed, they start saying all the things you just said exactly. Like, I don't want to be bullied, I don't want needles, I don't want to be pressured. I don't want to feel this way. I don't want to feel that way. They're much more aware of what they don't want than what they do want. Because they've been presented unconsciously and consciously throughout their lives. With all the negative stories, they've become so clear on what they want to avoid, it's very hard to develop the longing. And that's the word that I love to use, because that is what it feels like the longing for the birth that we do want. And when you speak to a woman who's had a lovely, satisfying birth, she'll never describe it in the terms of the negatives that she was able to avoid. Yeah, she'll never say I didn't feel scared, I didn't feel pressured. It wasn't painful. She'll say like, it felt wonderful. It felt intimate, it felt doable, whatever she says. She's naming what it was not what she was looking to avoid. So I think that leads us into what you and I both know, is step one, in preparing for your best possible birth outcome. And that begins with the most important birthing organ, which also happens to be the most sexual organ we have the brain. Yeah. So how do you begin that teaching couples about the mindset? Like the very first step is the mindset? Yeah, and you tell them about that is so important.

And when when people come into my world, you know, there's that question of like, what is pain? Free birth? How does that what does that mean? First of all, like, how is is that even possible? Like for you, a lot of people just come in and they're like, This is crazy. That's not possible. And when we look at what's required, like what what birth actually is, a lot of people want like an easy button, like, tell me the tips tell me the five things I have to do. Check my box, give me the pain free birth, like what is the technique? Well, how do I position dragon? And how do I breed like, all of that, and we really have to the backup, like you said, and started the mindset because I love that, that the brain is the most important organ. Because I can give you all the tips in the world. But if you're still walking into birth, scared and focused on the pain, you're gonna likely have a painful birth, you're gonna you're gonna struggle. And I mean, what you said is, it reminded me of like this concept that I've heard recently that you know, these downhill skiers, like these Olympic skiers that go downhill and swerve in and out of trees, right? And you wonder, like, how do they do that? How do they not hit the tree, they're going like 80 miles an hour. And they'll say, if you're focusing on the tree, you're going to hit it. But if you look at the path, and you can see the path winding in and out, you can zip through those trees. And then we sit back and go, Wow, that's amazing. And I think birth is a lot like that. If you're focused on the contraction, or the sensation or the pain, you're going to, you know, magnify that negative thing, if you're focused on what you don't want, if you're so hyper focused on not getting the epidural, or not getting the intervention or on, you know, overcoming the pain. And that's all you focus on, you're probably going to experience more of it and empower the thing you don't want. But if we focus on birth, as power and strength, and something that transforms us, and something that we can embrace. And and I talk a lot about this in my, in my courses, and on my Instagram is the good side of birth. And I just think we don't talk about that enough. Let's talk about the birth height. Let's talk about the hormonal physiology. Let's talk about what happens in the body and how the body is perfectly beautifully designed to open and your baby rotates. And there's all these Cardinal movements and the hormones know exactly when to peak. And there's just like such a brilliance in the blueprint of the hormonal physiology of birth. And the more I get fascinated by that, the more I have so much confidence in our innate ability to birth as women, and the more we step into that reality, we really embody that power. And then the pain is like, just diminishes in importance and diminishes in our sensation. And it becomes like a non issue.

So the thing is that innate wisdom is within every single female body on this planet, there's not one woman on earth who doesn't have that within her. Totally. So why do we have so much fear around it? I mean, it comes from Yeah, it right. It comes from all have that like it comes from society, it comes from the movies, it comes from our own our own family, you know, I heard growing up my mother telling me your birth was the most painful thing I've ever experienced. And you were postpartum. And, and, you know, it was horrible. Or I was not postpartum. I was posterior, excuse me, and, you know, horrible back labor. So I grew up hearing my own birth story as being this horrible, painful thing, hearing from friends how, who had unmedicated births, that it was the most pain they'd ever experienced. We see in movies, you know, women's screaming and, you know, sitcoms like screaming and holding their husband and the over this overly dramatized emergency. So experience of birth, you know, your water breaks, you rush to the hospital, it's this emergency, it's high stakes, it's scream until that baby comes out and, you know, yell at your husband. And we we have this, essentially what we're being it's been modeled to us and almost like indoctrinated into us that this idea, this belief that birth is scary, it's painful, it's bad, it's going to hurt you. It's an emergency. It's high stakes. All of that is cultural. And what we don't understand often as Americans is that we're raised in this culture. And if you travel the world and go to other countries, they don't have the same fear of birth that we do. They understand it's hard, they understand it's often painful, but they don't enter it with this emergency, you know, high stakes and pressure, you know, this, this fear, they don't have the same not medicalized it is a medical problem anywhere else on Earth, other than places that prioritize birth in the hospital. And that by putting birth, the day we put birth in the hospital is the day that we ruined women's trust in their physiology and themself.

Yeah. And when we hand it to experts and obstetricians who haven't experienced it, and don't understand the physiology behind it, they want to manage it. And when you manage a woman like me, you know, Michelle, or Don says, you when you, when you manage a woman, you you disempower you disempower her instincts. And so they, you really can't have someone managing your birth and following your instincts, they're contradictory. And you're right, like when we outsource our power, and we don't even realize how we do this, but it starts even in pregnancy, where we go to the doctor, and we take the tests they tell us to take and we do you know all it's all based on tests and numbers and the scales and the way and the blah, blah, blah, and there's really very little we know, like it's everything is hidden almost in the womb. And I feel like that's on purpose. It's a trust exercise, like pregnancy is a giant trust fall. We don't have that our mothering instincts empowered in pregnancy and birth. It's really hard. In postpartum, I found and so my, one of my main passions is empowering the women in pregnancy and labor. And when I see them, own that power, and take that power on and experience those highs and lows and that the incredible relationship with their own power and autonomy. It does something inside of you that it like awakens this mama bear instinct in you where you go, Oh my gosh, I can do this. If I can do this, and I can birth a baby, I can do this motherhood thing. Not that it's not hard, but it like cracks open this like super woman inside of every one of us.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when we traumatize women in birth, we instill a fear in their ability to be the mother that they know that they can be, you know, we enter it at birth as a rite of passage and how we enter motherhood, how we go through that transformation has a really big impact on our early mothering experience. Yeah, 100% it's so important. It's so important and it's so unnecessary the way we steal that power from women, which isn't just in their birth. That is the what they carry with them for a very long time after that, baby, it's in their arms. Yeah, absolutely. I 100% agree.

I wanted to make a point about about the brain that we were saying it's, it's the most sexual organ as it is the most import and birthing Oregon. And just to demonstrate what that means when we're talking about sex, if you're a heterosexual woman, you're attracted to men. Having sex with any random man on earth is not equally as pleasurable, your body would shut down and close off with certain men, and it would completely soften and open and relinquish in a different scenario, well, why is that? It's 100%, the response of what's happening in your brain. So I just want everyone to realize that this this brain conversation in this talk of culture is, it's just paramount in this in this story. And one more thought I want to share right now that I find very empowering. Your birth isn't predestined. You are not predestined to have a long or short birth, you are not predestined to have a painful or comfortable birth, you can take a woman who's having a completely comfortable birth, force her on her back with her legs up so you can do a vaginal exam. And all of a sudden, that woman who was perfectly comfortable is in significant discomfort. And we can also move the needle on how long her labor lasts based on the extent to which he's relaxed in her body. So I just there's so many things we can say about this topic. But I just wanted to give those examples because we want people to understand how important it is. And it's the first thing your partner needs to understand how she feels through her birth is the biggest determinant of how this birth will go. So the best thing that partner can do, because that's the one she has sex with, that's the one she does trust, is make her feel safe. It's the most powerful thing you can do as the partner.

Yeah, absolutely. And she herself has to learn how to make her feel safe. If she doesn't feel safe within her own body on a day to day basis, which many of us don't, you know it many of us walk around feeling untrustworthy of ourselves in the world. You know, that's, that's anxiety is abundant in the world. And first and foremost, before you can even begin to think about the steps that you might take to, you know, achieve this unmedicated ecstatic birth or whatever we want to call it. The work is first in learning to trust your body. But that's hard work.

It is and so much harder than ever, it's so hard. And when you're fed these lies that it's supposed to be painful, it's the most pain you'll ever experience. And that's our expectation going in, it's very hard to trust your body, because what that does is it puts you at odds with your own body, and with the contractions or the sensations of labor. So when they start, your brain interprets this, as this is bad, this is going to hurt me. And that is the core belief that I teach women to throw away. And that's really where the mindset work starts is this belief that this what's happening in my body is supposed to hurt me or harm me, or it's bad, or I have to grin and bear through it or race for it. And that belief we have in our mind creates an energetic, cellular, you know, tension in our bodies, and what we don't understand what providers don't understand what hospitals don't understand what even many birth workers don't understand, and women is that your mindset toward labor toward every sensation you have will show up in your body, your body will manifest the internal trust, or tension and anxiety that you are carrying. And so if that contraction starts, and we get scared, oh no. Maybe or you know that one hurt a little bit. Inside internally, we we tighten, we brace for it. And that belief that our mind starts in the mind. It always starts in the mind that this is scary. It's going to hurt me Oh no, I don't know if I can do this. That translates to tension in the body. It's the fear tension pain cycle. So pain free birth is really about mastering your physiology. Because when you look at your anatomy, like if we were to just back up and go, Okay, it's supposed to be painful, doesn't have to be painful, like, it's easy to look and go, Wow, there's a baby coming out of your body That must hurt a lot. But if we look at the design of the sphincter, if we look at the design of the uterine muscles, if we understand that they move in contract and muscles are designed to contract at work, like if you were to make a fist, you know in Flex your biceps, that's a contraction. It doesn't hurt for me to do this. If you were to do it right now it doesn't hurt but you can feel the tension. You can feel the literal muscle contraction happening. And you can do reps and you can work out and you can build strength. When we understand that and then we apply that to the uterus and the birthing muscles. We go oh, the uterus is a bag of muscles. They're designed to contract in labor. They pull up they stretch they push the baby down, they expand. The sphincter is designed to Open when pressure is exerted onto it. And when oxytocin is released that softens the cervix. All of these things work in harmony and in synchronicity in our bodies in our anatomy, and our bodies are designed to open and push our baby out. And all that happens without pain, just like any other physiological process, I should say it can happen without pain. And without fear intention, your body's designed to function just like every other physiological process is designed to work in a state of health and relaxation, without causing pain. So you blink that's physiological your digestion works. There's muscle contractions in your, in the digestion and an exercise and in everything we do in life, that is natural physiological, procreation is no different. Even in sexual intercourse, there's, there's contractions and surges of hormones, and there's contractions in orgasms, and there's peak oxytocin. So all of these things are part of the natural physiology of human experience. And we have this mindset, though, that like this one physiological process that just like probably the most natural primal thing women can do, it's just supposed to be painful, and there's no way around it. And a lot of --

Go ahead, sorry. Just I just had this thought come to my mind, like, imagine if every time we went to work out, we were told, okay, now we need to work out in the hospital, because you know, something might go wrong. And while you're working out while you're running on that treadmill, we're going to have monitor hooked up to the muscles on your leg, and we're going to evaluate how well or not that muscle is working, and analyze, you know, every little part of this process and you know, start intervening anytime we think that your your five muscle is working too hard, or whatever it is, like imagine if, if the culture around that became pathologic, like we're just on the brink of something going wrong, every time your heart rate gets just a little too high, that might just be the reason we got to rush off to the or that's what we've done to birth.

I give that example a lot in my class, I say, for those of you who've run a marathon or done a triathlon or anything, imagine if you know, because there's always the point where they make the decision to do it. And then they tell everyone, and everyone's cheering them on. Like you're they make them feel like rock stars. But imagine if everywhere they turned, everyone said, Are you crazy, you could die doing that they have an ambulance there in case you get hypothermia in case you fall down in case you die, you could get dehydrated, this could happen that could happen. Now imagine that person who's preparing for that marathon turns on the TV, someone's running a marathon on television in some fictitious movie, and they dropped it and they get carted away. This is what happens to birthing women everywhere they turn. They're seeing trauma around birth. And yes, there is risk in all of these things. But it's the culture around celebrating the athletic feat, as if it has zero risk. And then traumatizing women planning to give birth, as if it's all risk. And frankly, between the two things. The one thing that's in arguable is we are absolutely meant to give birth, I can't say we're absolutely meant to run over 26 miles in one shot. But we're actually questioning the one thing that we're obviously designed to do, that every single generation throughout history has done, every mammal on earth does its lesson, it's a head game message, you throw the child in that picture to imagine if we told you that if you run a marathon and something goes wrong, you're also going to lose your child, you're going to harm your child in the process, right? So don't be a hero.

And that way, we have no chance, you know, like who would do that? Right?

Yes, we're pathologizing a normal human experience and not to diminish the the need for medical intervention in some Labor's that certainly does come into play. You know, there are there are times where it's necessary or needed. And it doesn't always go perfect according to plan and there. You know, our bodies don't always function at optimal in optimal ways. But when we're fed that information all the time of all the things that could go wrong and how horrible it is, we really set ourselves up to go down that path. Majority of the time when in reality, it might be two or 5% of women truly need medical intervention to, you know, a prevent something worse from happening in labor. So there's absolutely a need and I do want to make sure I say this because I'm not, you know, I don't ever want to just talk about birth as if nothing will ever go wrong. And it always works out perfect and your body is perfect and all of that like there is absolutely a place for medical intervention. There are times medical interventions needed whether that's epidurals or Syrians or assistance of some kind, there are times that baby gets, you know, stuck. There are a lot of things we can do to get them unstuck. But there are some times where you know, preeclampsia blood pressure issues, like all there's lots of things that sometimes So our bodies do need that help and labor can go smoother. And women can still feel empowered in that process. So I don't want to like poopoo any medical intervention, but we do. As a culture as a sector society, we have to get back to this all in reverence about birth, that is a woman's rite of passage, that women are fully capable of doing this, and that it doesn't have to be a horrible, painful, traumatizing experience. And so when I coach women, when I walk women, through my programs in my courses, that first thing we focus on, is that mindset that you talked about, and you asked about, you know, tips of how to How is this even? How can women have a pain free birth experience? And and I do start there at that, at that mindset, and we look at what's in your bag, and what are you carrying with you into your birth experience, because let me tell you, every woman has stories that they have, that they are carrying, into their birth experience, subconsciously, and those stories manifest energetically in their body, those stories almost lay out the path for them, like the skier in the woods, and you can run into a tree, if you've heard over and over again, or you've meditated on, oh, my friend, my best friend had, you know, this happened in labor, and she ended up with a cesarean because you know, baby was stuck, or they had to cervical lib or the heart decelerations. And that's if that's the story we're meditating on. And that's the focus, we're going to that path leads us into a tree. But when we can shift the focus to the majority of women can birth physiologically, you know, without any medical intervention, and those that need it, there's no shame in that. But for the majority of us, we can when we can dismantle the fear. And that's really, I think, when we get down to that core level of what is going on in our society that we have, you know, a 30% cesarean rate or 95% epidural rate, and so much birth trauma, and so many babies needing assistance or like struggling or and mothers struggling postpartum, and it just compounds when we really break it down. It really comes down to fear, fear and mothers fear and providers fear in the whole system, fear from family members saying Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to go unmedicated, don't be a hero, are you sure you want to have that home birth. And that's really what my goal is to really dismantle that fear. And to know that women are so capable of this, that it is such a rite of passage. And having the mindset and understanding the physiology and how your body is designed to birth really empowers us to take our power back and go, Okay, there's nothing anatomically in my body that says I have to experience pain, like we just have to sometimes understand the basics of birth and know, this is how my spine, the sphincter works. This is how the cervix opens and dilates, and it faces this is how the uterus contracts. This is how the baby descends. And when we understand like, the not just like the anatomy, but even more importantly, at a deeper level is the physiology and the hormones, and how fear impacts what hormones our body is releasing, how and fear a lot of women will say, Well, I didn't have fear, but it's still hurt. Well, fear doesn't often, you know, fear can look like a lot of things. Fear can look like I don't feel comfortable with my provider, I felt rushed, I felt uncomfortable with all the noises and the lights and the strangers and the brightness. And when we look at the whole picture, and we go, and I asked him like were you so confident, were you so comfortable that you could have sex in that in your birthing room. And if you're not like that level of relaxed, where you could get turned on and you could just take a nice warm bath and have your partner massage you like that's the level of relaxation and embrace and surrender required to really experience a birth without pain or an ecstatic birth or birth with like surges of oxytocin. It's really this interplay between, are we going to partner with our bodies and releasing surges of oxytocin that floods our body and blocks pain receptors? Or are we going to partner with the fear and anxiety all around us, in the culture in the hospital, even in our providers, our friends and our family? And those are really the two paths you're going down that mountain and you get to choose in your heart, Mama, am I going to follow the path of fear and anxiety and doubt? Or am I going to follow the path of surrender and openness and trust?

I think that's so spot on. Because I think we don't realize the extent to which our hormones are respond in the body to things we hear, think and say. Yeah, and sometimes I give the example of if the receptionist is so much as rude to you, when you check in. That is enough to feel bad, and I've experienced that when receptionists aren't particularly warm or friendly and it just it feels bad. The whole experience at any dentist or doctor's office just feels is bad because someone didn't treat you kindly. So now we're talking about a woman in labor. I love that you boldly say like, could you? Do you feel relaxed enough to relinquish and have sex in that moment? And people listen to that, and they think it's, they think it's such an absurd comparison. That's exactly what we're talking about. That's exactly how it should feel because we're talking about the same hormones and the same body parts. Yeah, we're so conditioned to think about sex as pleasurable, and birth is painful. So yeah, they just they cannot see the link, even though it's literally the out the other side of it, just the river. It's like full circle.

Yes, it's the same. And it's the same hormones, when you really look at at a molecular level, what's happening in your body during sex, and climax and orgasm and what's happening in birth. It's oxytocin, it's endorphins. And that's the hormones that that really move the needle and shift a birth experience from being hard and painful, to being pleasurable and ecstatic, or just simply manageable, or just manageable. And, yeah, even if it's not pain free, you can still feel like wow, this is incredibly hard, and intense. But I can do this, I can manage this, I feel like I'm in control to a degree like, I know what's happening in my body. And I'm not scared and panicking, like there's a big difference between suffering and like, natural birth intensity or pain. And I think even how we define pain is such an interesting topic. Because when you, your brain can perceive pain on so many different ways. And although I would say my birth experiences were incredibly intense, huge amounts of pressure, you know, at times, I would even say some of those surges almost hurt just because of the sheer intensity of them. It like they took my breath away, my whole body was like, like contracting and I had to fully surrender. But I wouldn't call it pain. Because to me, pain says, There's something wrong. Yeah, pain is a disturbance in your body where your body's actually sending the signal to your brain, out danger, get away, fight or flight, runaway get to safety, take your hand off the hot stove, you know, put a bandaid on the on the cut that it tells you it's a it's a survival instinct. And it's designed to keep you safe as humans that any creature like pain tells you it's a danger. But in labor, the message pain sense is not danger, get away, run away, get to safety, but that's how we interpret it because we're conditioned that way to think birth is painful. And so when we characterize that sensation of a contraction is pain in our body, we have the the natural script of the narrative in our head that says out, run away, get to safety. And that response creates more tension in the body, which creates more pain. But if we shift the script, we change the tape in our head and say, This isn't painful. This is powerful. This isn't painful, this is intense. This is my power, suddenly that takes us from a victim, mindset and state into this empowered woman state that can handle hard things that can do hard things with her body that can not be derailed by a really strong surge, or even a receptionist that looks at you with a dirty look or a doctor that says something you know, not disrespectful. And what I teach women in my courses is that it's not just about the external environment, we talk about that a lot in the natural birth space. Like we want the the twinkly lights and we want you know, the provider choices, a huge, huge factor in this and just your provider believe in birth and trust birth, you know, do they have the same values that align with yours, I preach that right. But we also have to take like radical responsibility here as birthing women, and save the the only reason the external environment matters at all, or that provider choices is a huge deal is because of how it affects our internal environment. And everything starts there. You know, if you have an internal environment where you are so resolved in the fact that you know, your body is capable of this, that it is designed to do this, that it knows what to do, even if you don't even if your brain doesn't know where you're what station your baby is at or what number you are dilated, that this process is so intelligently designed, that that your body and your baby know what to do safely and effectively without trauma or pain. And if you can be so confident in that it really doesn't matter what's going on around you. If that result is strong and you are protecting your internal environment because what that does is it protects your physiology. It protects the release of oxytocin. And when you have oxytocin, it will block pain receptors. It literally attaches to the pain receptors on your uterus and prevents pain signals from reaching your brain. So your body can do these incredible things like open to set it to 710 centimeters, like contract to push a 10 pound baby down your vagina and out like it is incredible. And it can do that when you so much easier and more effectively when you have surges of oxytocin and endorphins in your body. And you can only get that when your mindset is in that state of total trust and relaxation, and even joy and euphoria you when you know how to partner with your physiology, you know how to like, cast off the doubt and the fear and let it slide off of you. And go inward and ignore the lights and the doctors and the noises and the disrespectful attitudes and your friends, you know, all of the questions and all those things that rattle around in your brain and you can go wait a second. No, I'm not going to entertain that I'm going to protect this inside, I'm going to protect this internal environment that says I know what to do. My body knows what to do. I'm going to trust, I'm going to surrender and we go inward. And that's the state of being. That's the internal environment that will always trump the external environment. Because I see women make everything perfect in their birth. They have the doula they have the homebirth and the twinkly lights. But if they don't deal with the fear, and they don't really master their physiology and protect the internal environment, they'll get tripped up. And not to say that we don't like every one of us can, can get tripped up and hit those walls. But it's what do you do with it? What do you do with it? When you have that really painful search? What do you do with it? When that doubt creeps in and says this is taking too long? Or I'm a burden? What if I'm inconveniencing people, and I'm telling you the moment those thoughts come in your head, that contraction hurts more, that contraction feels painful. And that is right there. Like the evidence of how powerful the mind body connection is. Because if we don't master that, like all bets are off, you can have the perfect everything and it still have a horrible birth experience inside. There's all that tension and fear and anxiety and self doubt and freaking out.

And HypnoBirthing we call that focus. And I say listen, this is the most important thing you have to learn. It's one thing to learn how to relax your physiology, it's another to learn the breathing techniques, they're all important. But those are easier to learn than the focus and don't ignore the focus. Because you have to be mentally impenetrable. You have to view your body, everything you're focusing on is happening within your skin and nothing outside of your skin is worth your focus. That's for your partner to deal with. But you have to be absolutely impenetrable. So then the question becomes, what do you focus on? Now where do I put my mind because I'm not going to allow it to be subjected to whoever walks in the room speaking out loud and sensitively or whatever they're saying, I'm responsible for my focus, I have to choose what I will focus on. And I have to attach my mind to that like glue, while I relaxed my physiology to my breathing stay in the proper position. But the it's the it's the big secret to your most comfortable birth. But it's the part that's hardest is the part no one really wants to put the energy into because look at how everyone I think believes in meditation. But how many people do it because the challenge to meditation is the focus. It's not finding time in your day. It's the focus, it's the discomfort of sitting down and having to focus on your breath. It's uncomfortable, but there is nothing more powerful than controlling your own focus.

And it's the ability, it's the ability to return to focus, right, nobody's going to go into labor, and be focused 100% of the way through, there's always going to be disruptions. And when you observe a woman in labor, you can see it happening, you can see, you can see the difference between the contraction experience when she's in that pain free zone, and the contraction experience when something has disrupted her from that. And you can see where the fear comes into the face and the sounds are different and the body moves to finish, she doesn't feel at peace in her body in that moment. And so then that becomes the job of the people around her to help her you know, to help her bring to help bring her back into that safe space. But the practice of the woman in pregnancy or pre pregnancy that she must get good at is her own ability to return from distraction. Yeah, and this is why yoga and meditation and you know, cold showers or whatever your you know, your choices to train your mind are so helpful because it's the return. It's like that's the hard part like getting yourself back. Yeah.

It's like returning to that internal peace and trust and developing and cultivating that is so important. And really I think that's the work of pregnancy is to really develop that internal trust and peace. And I just want to say here too, like I don't want to make the sound like you have to be this like monk or You know meditative guru, spiritual guru to have a pain free birth or an enjoyable ecstatic birth or birth. You know, that's comfortable. Like, that's not the goal isn't to like, you have to be special, right?

Yeah, it's not it's not that tell me about this spiritualist you don't have to be some super spiritual guru like this is for every woman, it's within your reach, it's within your reach, it's possible for you to not disqualify yourself. And the work of pregnancy is to bring up and surface all of our internal fears, and doubts. And if you feel like you're going a little crazy, if you feel like you're a little, you know, hormonal, quote, unquote, if you feel like you're losing your mind, in pregnancy, you're supposed to, that's the work of pregnancy, like the whole physiology, not just labor, but pregnancy, this journey from like, made into Mother, this whole transformational experience is designed to set you up for success. So often, what I hear is that women will feel bad or feel like they're failing when they have this fear, the self doubt pop up in pregnancy or in labor, or they have a painful contraction. And the interpretation is like, Oh, I'm failing, I'm not spiritual enough, I'm not good enough at this. And in reality, those are all designed to, like bring the physiology, and the whole process of childbirth. And motherhood, it's designed to bring those fears and self doubts to the surface, so that we can overcome them. So it shines a light on what's happening internally, so that we can then look at it in the face and stare fear in the face and go, Oh, you don't own me. I can still, I can still receive, I can still surrender. And it's it's taking all of the disruptions, because there's always good to be disruptions, like you can't insulate your whole motherhood, pregnancy birth experience in a giant bubble, and make it perfect. Like, there's always going to be distractions, whether those are your own internal fears, coming up your own traumas, your own stories, the ones you were fed, from our culture in our society, were the ones that happened in the moment in that birth room, there's always going to be distractions that come up, and what do you do with those training your mind to have the resolve that goes, Okay, I can sink in again, oh, that was a really painful contraction, or I'm freaking out about something that I don't even know why I'm so emotional about this. But there's always a reason there's, the body is so wise, and it brings these things up, so that we can learn to master what is happening on the inside, we can learn and look our fears in the face and go, Oh, this is telling me the story that I'm not I'm not capable of this, or I'm gonna be a bad mother, or, you know, someone's there, my partner is gonna leave me when XYZ like all of these fears, and they're so unique to each individual, when they pop up, it allows us to look and have this like, flashlight, this, this, this window into our soul. And I think that's the gift of pregnancy, it truly is a gift. And we look at it like it's a burden or a curse, that all of these emotions and hormones are, you know, happening, we feel like we're out of control, really, it's a gift that's giving us a window into our soul, and allowing us to see these things so that we can heal them. It's not defective, and it's not broken. Just because I had trauma or just because I had a previous birth that didn't go well or I had some sexual abuse happened like I can actually trust that my body is safe. It knows what to do. It is wise. And so all these things that manifests these fears and anxieties that manifest in pregnancy, and even in the middle of labor, it's a gift. When we receive them as a gift, we get the revelation from them, that empowers us to really take more and more of our power back. And when those fears come up, if you've worked through them in pregnancy, and you honor your honoring that process, that journey, you'll know exactly what to do with them. When they show up in labor. You'll hear that doubt and fear and it pops up in your head and it goes oh, this is taking too long. Oh, the doctor doesn't like this, or oh, they want to do a cesarean or Oh, I'm such a burden or Oh, my body it's too painful. And all of a sudden you go oh, no, that's just a fear. That's just a voice. That's just the narrative. That's just the story. It's not the truth. The truth is uncapable The truth is my body is wise. I it knows what to do. I can surrender I can trust. So reframing your whole mindset throughout pregnancy and labor and birth is what this journey is about. And it's the gateway it's the door to experiencing a birth, that that can have so much more potential, not just not be painful, but have joy and euphoria. And that's really it's so much an inner work. And it takes practice and focus and a lot of self awareness. And that that journey of facing our fears and overcoming them is truly what prepares us for motherhood.

Thank you for joining us at the Down To Birth Show. You can reach us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or email us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com. All of Cynthia’s classes and Trisha’s breastfeeding services are offered live online, serving women and couples everywhere. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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