The Gentle Mind

Reduce stress in pregnancy with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and hypnosis

What is this about?

In the last 20 years, understanding of babies' emotions in and out of the womb has increased - the sadness, anger and happiness.

There is now more knowledge on how a foetus behaves. Maternal stress is a big part of this.

Antenatal stress and the effects on the foetus and child

The mother’s emotional state in pregnancy and in the early postnatal period can have a long-lasting effect on your child.

We now know that women have as many symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy as postnatally.

For example, pregnancy can be a time of increased domestic abuse and relationship strain.

The environment in the womb can, to some extent, be controlled by the mother’s emotional state. This can negatively alter the development of the foetus with a long lasting effect on the child.

On the other hand sensitive, calm, early mothering helps attachment.

Bad pregnancy does not mean things are set in stone, but it can set off the trajectory.

Why? Because the foetal brain is ‘under construction’. Billions of neurones, trillions of connections. And the construction depends on the signals from outside - the mother.

And the older foetus can sense directly if a mother is feeling anxious. Stress the mothers and the foetal heart rate goes up.

Long-term effect of prenatal stress on neuro-development

Examples of stress that increase the risk of changes in neuro-development and behaviour:

  • If the mother is already anxiety and depression-prone
  • Daily hassles - stuck in traffic, supermarket queues
  • Domestic abuse and rows
  • Distress - for example, witnessing severe accidents, the pain of birth, will my baby be alright? Will I recover as a woman? (Looks, fitness, figure)

And pregnancy-specific anxieties:

  • Accidental pregnancy
  • First birth
  • Higher medical risk
  • Higher perceived complication (you think something will go wrong: you catastrophise)
  • Job stress
  • Lower-income
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Sexual abuse - brings back horrible memories

Also, there are increased risks when the baby becomes a child:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Behaviour - ADHD, conduct disorder
  • Impairs cognitive disorder - trouble learning
  • Difficult temperament
  • Autism, autistic spectrum
  • Possible schizophrenia

What’s the science behind this?

Stressed mothers have been found to pass cortisol via the placenta to the foetus. This cortisol can also be found in the amniotic fluid.

And this stress carries on. MRI scans in seven-year-olds show signs of stress from foetus development.

This utero cortisol is also associated with attention deficits and increased anxiety in children. Both similar to those traits seen in children with early maltreatment.

Particular stresses that arise in pregnancy

Tokophobia is the extreme fear of childbirth. There are two types. Primary tokophobia occurs in people who've never been pregnant. Secondary tokophobia develops after a traumatic event during pregnancy or labour. These may include difficult labour or stillbirth.

Tokophobia may stem from other fears, including:

How can Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and hypnosis help?

CBT is all about how you change the way you think, feel and act during pregnancy.

It gives you a better chance of relaxing, even enjoying pregnancy. Not worrying so much about all the above.

Hypnosis helps you relax. And when you can deeply relax it’s easier too take away the stress.

You simply sit back, relax and let go. Enjoy being a future mum.

And who am I - a man - to tell you what to do?

I’m James Thomas a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist. I’ve used hypnosis thousands of times to deal with clients’ stresses, anxieties, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, PTSD, overeating, low self-esteem, eczema, anger to name but a few.

Some of my most traumatised clients are those who have had a bad birthing experience and are left with depression, low self-esteem, or the fear of having more children.

I’m also a qualified hypnobirther. This lets me help mothers to feel empowered: to have a calmer experience in childbirth.

Plus, I was a dad at the birth of my two daughters. I’ve been there when there’s a panic. Not good.

I cover all of Lincolnshire with my rooms in Louth and Lincoln.

You can get in touch with me at or call 07787563099.

The medical expertise in this blog is based on the work of Vivette Glover, Imperial College address to Royal Society of Medicine.
My attendance was part of my Continous Professional Development.

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