Let’s Talk About Hypnobirthing
Let's Talk About Hypnobirthing
Ok, I'll admit I'm petrified of childbirth.
Now, that's a bit of an issue when you're 32 weeks pregnant.
Even though I've produced a tiny human once before and am immensely grateful that my wonderful daughter and I both made it through, I didn't have the birth I planned. When we talk about a birth plan, it becomes pretty clear that 'birth' and 'plan' don't necessarily belong in the same sentence. It's far better to think in terms of preferences.
Or is it?
After my first experience, which began as an induction and ended in an emergency c-section via a drug-filled scenic route, it really couldn't have been further from my vision of a natural water birth. The loss of control left me feeling strangely disappointed, guilty and, frankly, with a bigger scar in my mind than on my belly.
Since then, I have always believed that labour and birth is a matter of sheer endurance. That you need to be realistic and open-minded. That planning leads to disappointment. I felt proud to share my experience as a survivor.
And then I discovered Hypnobirthing.
Whilst, of course, you can't guarantee a specific birthing scenario, you can plan to take control of your experience, irrespective of what unfolds. Hypnobirthing is for everyone, even for those of us who have our babies through the sunroof, planned or otherwise. This time around, I'm hoping for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) and have been swatting up on Hypnobirthing techniques which focus on creating and maintaining a sense of calm.
Oh, and I need all the calm. Inside, I'm an anxious type, which is basically a rubbish disposition for labour and birth. Not a great start for me then.
However, I'm desperate for a more positive experience in July so I've been taking time to understand the principles of Hypnobirthing and its roots in science rather than hippy-way-out-ness. It's incredibly empowering and instead of just continuing to shrug with a 'what will be will be' attitude, I've realised I can plan. Do you know just how many decisions you can actually make to shape your experience? I've thought ahead about the various potential scenarios and, whichever way things go for me, I feel I now have greater power to create a positive experience in most circumstances.
Here's how you can do it too:
You can get super clued-up on the many types of pain relief before the big day so you know you won't be faced with making big decisions on-the-spot.
You can change your environment for al your senses and even your language to create conditions more conducive to productive labour.
You can request or decline anything which makes you feel comfortable/uncomfortable.
Plus, your birth partner is encouraged to massage you every day and be your complete servant during labour and birth. Like.
And here's me with my very own birth servant... or my ‘Keeper Of The Cave’ as she likes to call herself...
So, as a new convert hoping to use Hypnobirthing for a VBAC but as non-expert and without an actual Hypnobirth to my name (yet), I interviewed two ladies who can shed more light...
Firstly, allow me to introduce Christy of Kent Hypnobirthing:
Christy, how would you explain Hypnobirthing to parents-to-be?
Hypnobirthing is a complete preparation for labour and birth with an emphasis on mindset and preparing parents for a positive birth. It incorporates techniques that directly deal with anxieties or fears around birth which is often why it's popular with women who have had difficult previous birth experiences. The training shows women how their body and mind respond during labour with a view to helping the birth unfold in the smoothest, most comfortable and enjoyable way possible. It looks at why labour commonly goes awry and how to counteract that before it happens as well as how to cope should the unexpected occur. Women come away feeling empowered and confident as a result of learning about their rights and choices and look forward to their labour starting. Birth partners are vital to a smooth birth and when they have shared in the preparation, they also feel empowered to actively help and support their partner in the way they both hoped. Hypnobirthing completely puts families at the centre of birth. Your experience matters, and what a wonderful way to begin life as a new family when it's a calm and joyful experience.
What are some of the key takeaways of Hypnobirthing?
The key takeaways from Hypnobirthing vary hugely from person to person and what they hope hypnobirthing will give them. It often comes as a surprise to people, particularly those who were feeling very anxious, just how quickly those fear and worries dissipate. It also tends to surprise a lot of partners (who often are not the ones who have looked into hypnobirthing beforehand) how scientifically based the techniques are. I think a lot of people expect it to be quite 'hippy' or 'airy fairy' with little basis in evidence or fact and that's just not the case. It really can 'work' for anyone and the mindset and techniques are for life, from coping with birth to parenthood to the dentist, to a new life venture! It translates perfectly to any personal challenge!
Who can Hypnobirthing help?
Hypnobirthing is for everyone. You don't have to a 'spiritual' person or someone who meditates, for example, to benefit from hypnobirthing. It's about getting informed on what to expect from your body and preparing your body and mind for birth. Understanding the maternity services and your options around birth can be hugely helpful in preparing for the unknown. It doesn't matter if you're a first time Mum or Mum of many, hypnobirthing can shine a light on birth in a whole new way to emphasise that any birth, can be a positive one.
Why do you think Hypnobirthing is becoming increasingly popular?
It's becoming better known, particularly over the past five years or so. It certainly helps when a celebrity (or a Royal) use the training and techniques and go on to talk about their experience as it gives it influence in the mainstream. As more and more people benefit and go on to enjoy their births and have empowering experiences, it's difficult to keep quiet about! So many of the ladies who come to me are on a personal recommendation. It only takes one woman to speak about her wonderful birth for others to want to know how she did it - especially when we seem to be surrounded by negative or downright scary birth stories.
How do you tackle misconceptions about Hypnobirthing?
I tackle these straight on! The name ‘Hypno' birthing does us no favours as people make associations with the stage shows of the 90s where people were hypnotised for entertainment. I start out by explaining that by using the word 'hypnosis' we really mean, a state in which we are deeply relaxed but still conscious, aware and in control.
Why has Hypnobirthing become so significant to you?
Hypnobirthing became significant to me through the births of my children. Following a long, difficult birth with my first child, I found myself facing my second birth with nothing but dread and fear and I knew I couldn't go through that again. I needed it to be different, preferably much much better! I took a hypnobirthing course and my outlook was completely turned around - I looked forward to the labour! I went on to have a drug free, intervention free birth which was euphoric. I went on to train as a Hypnobirthing Teacher fuelled by this revelation that this kind of birth was completely possible, and I fell pregnant again. Due to complications, this was the most medicalised birth I'd had so it didn't look like a 'typical hypnobirth' but for me, this is when I needed hypnobirthing the most. It saw me through this very difficult time and out the other side. Yes, it's the way to your best birth but perhaps, more importantly, it's the way to cope with the most trying of experiences too.
What does a Hypnobirth look like?
I think the overall idea is that a hypnobirth is in a pool, probably at home, with fairy lights, affirmations on the walls, spa music while the woman gently and silently 'breathes' her baby out. In reality, a hypnobirth is every birth where the mother had learned about hypnobirthing beforehand and used some of the techniques. It is a positive experience where the mother knew her rights and options and felt empowered and supported. It is my opinion that there is no right or wrong way to employ what you've learned. If you take on board what you've learned and practice the techniques which appeal to you, your birth will be the best birth you can have on the day.
What advice would you give couples who feel particularly anxious about labour and birth?
I would say get informed. Fear is accentuated by the unknown so read up, take a course, speak to someone who knows about what is worrying you. Once you've found out the whys and what ifs around that, let it go. In life we tend to get what we focus on, so focus on what you do want from your labour and birth and get excited. If fear or worry is really taking hold of you, breathe. Take a few deep breaths, in through your nose if that's comfortable and out through your mouth. Count to four on the In breath and count to seven on the Out breath. Repeat two or three times, it will help to calm you in the moment, which will help you to think more clearly and rationally about the problem.
Tell us about you and your business!
My business is Kent Hypnobirthing, we run small group and private (one to one) hypnobirthing courses throughout Kent for expectant mothers and their birth partners. Established in 2009, we've been supporting expectant parents for 10 years now! I have two other wonderful women teaching with me and between us, we have a range of skills and experience to share with our couples. I am passionate about women (we are utterly amazing in every way) and our birthing experience. I am also passionate about how women are supported after birth and offer a postnatal massage and ceremony called 'Closing The Bones Massage' for those feeling they may need a little new mother nurturing. I am so privileged to work with women at such a special time in their lives. In my personal life, I am a mother of two boys and a girl who all work to keep my wits sharp, step-mother to one gorgeous young woman and Step-Nanny to her baby daughter! In my quiet moments, I can be found behind a sewing machine, making clothes for anyone who'll let me!
How can we find and reach you?
Also on FB and Insta!
And now let's hear from Hayey, who's a Hypnobirthing Leader in training...
Hayley, tell us your birth stories!
December 2016, I gave birth to my son by c-section after a very long labour. I was left feeling like I’d been completely out of control and my whole experience of becoming a mother was affected by it. Not because I had a c-section, but because of the events leading up to that point. October 2016 was a different story altogether. I went to bed at 10pm with a tummy ache and my daughter was born by 10am the next morning using just a TENS machine and breathing techniques. The labour was mainly spent walking around the hospital to keep things going, and bouncing on the birthing ball in the room. I actually used the delivery suite as I was a VBAC and Group B Strep Positive so had antibiotics via IV. But the setting was brilliant - dimmed lighting, great music on the radio, and a lovely onboard midwife. My aim had been to use the birthing pool but we didn’t have time. In the final few minutes, I agreed to an episiotomy but felt completely happy that this was best for the situation. Feeling my daughter be born was the most amazing feeling - I literally felt like a superhero! Amazing positive birth experience!
Why did you decide to use Hypnobirthing?
My first birth was in December 2016. I told myself I wasn’t worried and just watched every single episode of One Born Every Minute as ‘preparation’. I was not at all prepared and resulted in a traumatic birth ending in c-section. Fast forward to October 2018, I had the most amazing VBAC. I decided to do a hypnobirthing course to help me feel more relaxed as my anxiety over birth was through the roof, and it was just amazing. A friend of mine had done a course so I thought I would look into it and I’m so pleased that I did! I originally thought it’d all be a bit ‘hippy’ for me with incense sticks and chanting!! It was nothing like that and actually, a lot of the course involved explaining the science behind birth and why things happen.
What was the best thing about using Hypnobirthing?
Being able to have the birth that was right for me. It’s meant that I could draw a line under the traumatic previous experience and move forward.
Why do you think women aren't given Hypnobirthing techniques as standard in antenatal education?
It probably boils down to money unfortunately and the NHS just being too stretched already. I literally wasn’t even invited to one antenatal class with my second pregnancy (there was one with my first).
How did your experience inspire you to train to become a Hypnobirthing pro?
After my daughter’s birth, I kept saying to my husband that I felt like I needed to tell people what I knew! It was like a calling! If the potential to have such an amazing birth experience was there then women needed to know about it.
What does your training involve?
I am training with The Little Birth Company and I am currently studying two sides to Hypnobirthing; ‘birthing foundations’ and ‘hypnosis for birth foundations’. Once these are completed I have a face-to-face training weekend and then this is followed up with an assessment and 2 case studies.
How are you hoping to support women with Hypnobirthing?
When you’re pregnant, it seems everyone wants to tell you a birth horror story and I really want to help to change this. Birth can be a really positive experience and women need to be supported to know this.
What tips can you give those of us aiming for a Hypnobirth?
Keep reading the scripts and remember to read as many positive birthing stories as you can. Remember that things can’t always go to plan with birth - babies have their own agenda, but if you can know what your options are for different situations, then you will feel more in control. Your body is designed to birth and you can do this.
What would you like everyone to know about Hypnobirthing?
Just that it exists! Not enough people have even heard of it and those that have often think it’s too ‘hippy’.
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