Using Visualizations and Affirmations in Labor with Lisa Newhouse: Podcast Episode #196
August 1, 2023

Using Visualizations and Affirmations in Labor with Lisa Newhouse: Podcast Episode #196

Kristin Revere chats with Lisa Newhouse of Gold Coast Doulas about the benefits of using affirmations in labor.  Lisa is a birth doula and HypnoBirthing educator with Gold Coast Doulas.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am here today with Lisa Newhouse.  Lisa is one of our advanced certified birth doulas, and she’s also a HypnoBirthing educator.  Welcome, Lisa!

Lisa:  Hi!  How are you today?

Kristin:  Doing well.  So excited to chat with you.  Our topic today is all about affirmations and using positive language for labor and delivery.  So let’s get into it!

Lisa:  Yeah!

Kristin:  So as a HypnoBirthing educator, language is such an important part of your curriculum, correct?

Lisa:  Right.  For sure.

Kristin:  Yeah, taking away fear, which part of the fear of labor and childbirth is around some of the language we use.  Even in the hospital, there’s always that bulletin board rating your pain.  The nurse will come in after delivery and ask how much pain you’re in.  And it’s more we use the term discomfort and a contraction, which you think of contracting being tight and tense, is “surge.” And what are some of the other language changes that HypnoBirthing uses, Lisa?

Lisa:  Yeah.  Well, I think one of the most important ones, and probably the first one I do teach, is that whole pain scale and saying maybe if we rephrase that – because when someone says what is your pain, that invokes an image and a feeling, right?  Like, oh, I should be in pain, and let me think about that.  What is my pain?  And the first thing I instruct individuals that I work with is, like, what if we rephrase that and said, what is your comfort level?  And that – so your mind is not automatically going to that pain.  As you mentioned, switching out the term contraction with surge is also a very positive flip on that feeling that we have in our body because who wants to have a contraction?  It doesn’t sound pleasant.  When I think of a contraction, I’m thinking something that’s tight and hurting.  So thinking about it as a wave or a surge, which is really more accurately described, right?  I mean, it’s coming – it builds like a wave, and it comes down like a wave or like a surge, right?

Kristin:  Exactly.  And partners can see that on the monitor.  You see the contraction start to ramp up.  It peaks, and then it decels.  So those surges are like waves.  And I know you not only use affirmations, but also visualization.

Lisa:  Oh yeah, for sure.

Kristin:  Your students and doula clients can utilize whatever works for them.  I know you have that thermometer scale and a lot of different ways to cope with some of the perceived discomfort.

Lisa:  Yeah.  So when we think about other terms – I mean, I usually start out with just kind of going through a list of things and have people think about it for a minute.  So a simple one is like, who’s going to deliver the baby?  Well, no one is delivering this baby.  That’s like a pizza being delivered, right?

Kristin:  Exactly.

Lisa:  It’s like, no, there is a lot of effort involved with this, and it’s having agency.  No, I birthed this baby.  No one delivered it for me.  I like that one because I think it switches the agency and it gives the empowerment back to the woman where it rightly belongs.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And women can even receive their baby if they want to, or the partner can.

Lisa:  Exactly.  Exactly, and that’s another term is that instead of “catch the baby,” we replace that with “receive” for either the partner or the mother.  Because again, no one should be catching a baby.  That kind of sounds dangerous to me.  We’re receiving this baby.  We’re receiving it with love and saying hello to it.  So it’s just changing that language from something that maybe invokes an image that is not very pleasant to a more positive image, as well as changing it from a medicalized language term to something that describes it more accurately.  Not our waters breaking, but our waters releasing; our membranes releasing, because that’s what they do it.  It doesn’t break.  It doesn’t break down on it.  They just release.

Kristin:  Exactly, yeah.  It’s so beautiful when you change and shift the thought process around labor and certainly for me and my labors, I liked to again use that wave image for visualization and think of myself, like, riding the waves.  Body surfing.  And it really got me through.  Combining that language with some visualization and affirmations can be so powerful.  So what are your tips for our listeners as far as some visualization cues that they can use?

Lisa:  Well, I think the one that does come to mind the most is the wave.  And I know when I’m working as a birth doula, as well, I use language that supports that.  If they have a visualization they have shared with me that works with them.  Surges do build, right?  So I will use language with them: okay, it’s building.  We’ve reached the top.  It’s going to start coming down now.  It’s coming down.  So them having that visualization in their mind with me giving the positive reinforcement through verbal language, I think helps with working through those surges as well.  And I’ve noticed the partners pick up on that pretty quickly, too, and if they start stepping in and doing that, that’s obviously a direction I want to go in, too, like yes, go with that lead.  That’s working.  You go with that, and I’m going to focus on something else to help our birth moms out there.  I also like the image – when you learn how the muscles and the uterus work and how they work together during the surges, our uterus expands and we work on breathing to let that expansion occur optimally.  A good visualization to do with that is thinking of it like there’s a balloon inside your uterus.  And as that surge builds and you’re inhaling air, the balloon is enlarging, right?  It’s getting bigger and it’s rising up.  And as you exhale and the surge comes down, that balloon is going down.  So that’s a helpful visualization.  Or maybe even visualizing the baby in our uterus like in a bowl during the surges, and the baby is rising up during the surge and the inhale, and the baby is coming down during the exhale with the surge coming down.

Kristin:  Love it.  So helpful.

Lisa:  It can be very helpful.

Kristin:  And as you mentioned, the partner’s role is so vital in this, and of course, not everyone has a partner, so if you don’t, a doula or other support person, but really in encouraging and noticing if the birthing person is carrying tension or pain or looks even the breathing, which breath is everything in HypnoBirthing, is more fast based and the moans are high pitched.  It’s all about opening up and relaxing and releasing any tension or fear.

Lisa:  Yes, absolutely.  Fear, anxiety, which caused our adrenaline hormones to activate.  That’s not something we want in the birth space.  Obviously, there’s times in life where we want those hormones to be activated if we are concerned regarding, do we need to fight; do we need to run.  That type of thing, we want those type of hormones then.  But during our birth space, at a birthing time, we want those dampened completely and we want to be able to relax and go with that because our bodies just work so much more efficiently when that happens, right, and we have so much more of a comfortable birth.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And HypnoBirthing also utilizes download tracks that clients can use as part of their tools for labor and birth.

Lisa:  Absolutely.

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Kristin:  So let’s talk a bit about how some of those can be helpful in creating that calm birthing space.

Lisa:  Well, the two primary tracks that HypnoBirthing utilizes, the auditory recordings, one is called the rainbow track, and the other one is the positive affirmation track.  And when you’re in the HypnoBirthing course, you receive those, and I encourage the students that I work with to start listening to that on a daily basis because embedded within those tracks, particularly the rainbow track, is all the pillars of the HypnoBirthing platform.  It’s the breathing techniques.  It’s the progressive relaxation, the positive imagery and the visualization.  All that’s embedded within there.  And when you’re utilizing these tracks, I’ve also taught the individuals how to start some calm breathing.  The calm breathing is the breathing that you’re going to come back to time and time again throughout your pregnancy as well as during your birthing time.  Whenever you’re feeling a little stress or anxiety, start some calm breathing.  And then particularly during your birthing time when you start feeling surges.  Maybe when it’s time to take the trip to the hospital or when you’re in triage, or even if it’s just during a special appointment that you have for – maybe it’s non stress testing.  Okay, do your calm breathing.  But utilizing that calm breathing during these tracks helps your body start to learn how to relax effectively.  And the more you keep practicing that, the quicker and more efficiently you can get into those relaxed states.  So it’s so important to start that practice, to learn that muscle memory in regards to, how do I get myself relaxed when I’m feeling stress, anxiety, or maybe fear?

Kristin:  Love it, yeah.  So helpful.  So Lisa, what are your favorite affirmations to use as a doula or HypnoBirthing educator?

Lisa:  I like – the one I tend to come to time and time again is that I trust in my body to birth my baby naturally, calmly.  That is one I love because to trust your body is the first thing, I think, you need to do in order to work through this, right?  So often when I ask students, what is it you fear, the first thing they say is the pain and the second thing they say that follows right into that is, will my body do this?  Can I do this?  So I think saying the affirmation, that positive affirmation, put it somewhere where you see it.  On the bathroom mirror when you brush your teeth, and you have to verbally say it each day: I trust my body to birth my baby naturally, calmly.  Next would be probably, I trust that I’m going to have a positive birth with positive feelings, positive feelings regarding this birth.

Kristin:  Love it.  Some of my clients write out affirmations that they want to be read by their doula or partner during labor so they know what appeals to them, and I’ve seen them done beautifully on banners that are hanging in the hospital room or just on a simple notecard.  And then of course, there are affirmation card decks that can be purchased.  Mama Natural is one that I use quite a bit.  But there are so many options.

Lisa:  Yeah, and the birth affirmation track that HypnoBirthing provides – I mean, it’s a recording of all these positive affirmations.  And initially, you just start listening to those, but eventually, some of those might start resonating with you.  It feels like that is the one that really speaks to you, and when that occurs, that’s the one you want to grab onto, right?  Let’s grab onto those that resonate with you that make you feel calmer, more positive, more empowered.  And those are the ones I would suggest to moms.  Write those ones out.  Put them up, again, so you can visually see them, but also, it’s so important to not just see them and say it in your mind but to actually verbally say it out loud.  I think that just cements it to just another level.

Kristin:  Right.  It sticks when you hear it.

Lisa:  It really sticks, yeah.

Kristin:   So any final tips for our listeners, Lisa?

Lisa:  Probably number one tip is to really focus on positive language and positive imagery.  So it can be so hard, right, when we’re expecting – everyone you meet kind of wants to share their birth stories as well.  And that’s a wonderful thing.  It’s a community sharing, right?  We want to share.  But I would suggest to moms to maybe just pause real quickly when someone starts and just say, I really only want to hear positive and empowering birth stories.  If yours is not positive, I just really can’t hear that right now.  And don’t watch – don’t get sucked into those medical shows.  They’re always going to go too drama, right?  And how do we create drama?  We bring in all these situations that are these special circumstances that are not easy to watch.  You know, birth is not drama unless there is a special circumstance, and it can be a very positive experience that we really want to start cementing within ourselves.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Thank you so much, Lisa, and I can’t wait for our next chat soon.

Lisa:  Oh, yes.  Thank you so much.  This was great.

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