13 Jun Hypnobirthing…What’s It All About??
‘Hypno’ what?? That’s the response I tend to get when talking about hypnobirthing. If I’m honest it’s the ‘hypno’ bit of the word which tends to put people off. Perhaps it’s the images of pocket clocks on gold chains, tie dyed skirts, incense diffusers and chanting which spring to mind for most people, confirming that hypnobirthing is definitely not for them. “A little bit weird and alternative” or “definitely not for me as I am not that type of person” are often quoted. The media also play a part as hypnobirthing is often portrayed as something to be used only by those individuals who are ‘different’. I remember watching a programme called ‘Alternative Births’ (even the title suggests that this is an insight into a different world of childbirth). The programme followed a carefree ‘hippy style’ couple wanting to go against convention and do things very differently by deciding not to have a midwife present at birth and to just hypnobirth on their own. For the viewing public, this reinforced the image that hypnobirthing was something a little bit ‘out there’ and not for them.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Here in western society, we are so focused on how to achieve a perfect birth, cementing it down in a birth plan which often contains high expectations. Expectations play a large part in birth. Gone are the days of ‘going with the flow’. You only have to look at some birth plans to see this. They outline exactly what we want and don’t want and which pain relief options to choose or not choose. We try to control birth which makes us feel better equipped in some way to deal with labour. But birth cannot be a tick box exercise within a plan. To feel better equipped, you need control and that control comes from the individual. It doesn’t matter which path your birth takes, what happens or doesn’t happen, if you have control then your body can be left to just get on with it.
So how are you going to get and keep control? Well, this is where Hypnobirthing comes in. There is no other antenatal education programme which focuses on the mind, the body and the physiology of birth, following a really simple, logical concept. The mind has power over the body so how you think and feel will make you behave in a certain way. So if you are someone who has lots of negative thoughts and feelings about birth, whether that be from watching too many “One Born Every Minute” programmes, reading too many negative portrayals of birth through blogs and forums or listening to friends and family telling you how awful childbirth is, you will ultimately feel quite scared, anxious, worried about what’s to come. Therefore your body will trigger a stress response accordingly to protect you as it thinks that you are in danger and need protecting. The fight or flight mechanism was great in the days of cavemen where families needed to protect themselves from predators but these days, there are not the same dangers and therefore this response is not needed. However, it can be triggered just by walking onto labour ward which will stop birth in its tracks due to adrenaline suppressing the hormones and blood supply needed for birth. Panic sets in and then control is lost.
Hypnobirthing focuses on the tools you have already. Your mind, body and breathing. So let’s talk about the hypnosis bit as it is this which has so many myths and misconceptions attached. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of mind; we slip into a trance-like state when we read a book or daydream for example. It allows all of our conscious thoughts to take a backseat for a while and to focus on the subconscious, the inner mind. It’s a bit like when you drive to work the same route everyday for years and therefore do not need to consciously think about it so you go into ‘autopilot’ using your subconscious mind, often not remembering your journey once you’ve arrived! With hypnosis, the more you practise deep relaxation the easier it can become which is why it is vital that couples practise all the hypnosis techniques and breathing often and listen to the birth download regularly as it then becomes second nature and something which is natural and becomes their ‘autopilot’. Techniques used could be visualising, using anchors or reading scripts, all instigated by the partner who is a fundamental part of a hypnobirthing course. Whichever techniques are being used, they are all introducing positive suggestions about birth which will be reinforced the more you practise. This in turn will start to eliminate the negative stories, images, pictures of birth and replace them with more positive ones. The body bit is all about massage, active and upright birth, using the Mexican rebozo techniques of using a scarf to enable good fetal positioning.
The physiology of birth is also taught in detail to enable the couple to understand what happens, why it happens and what to expect. This alleviates any fears or worries when birth actually starts.
Breathing is key and a crucial part of birth which is often underestimated as to how beneficial it can be. The feedback I get from my hypnobirthing couples after having given birth is that it was the breathing which helped the most. It is well recognised that breathing alone can maintain calmness and keep a person relaxed. However, we have forgotten how to breath during birth. We don’t even spend much time on it in antenatal classes anymore! In years gone by, this would have been the main focus for expectant mums. This is such a natural skill and one you have onboard so use it! Different breathing techniques are taught for different times during the birth, for example when the baby’s head is crowning, when pushing etc. This keeps the focus and control.
Hypnobirthing is not just for those having a water birth or home birth as the techniques can be used for any type of birth, even if it is a caesarian section. It also does not guarantee a quick, straightforward, vaginal birth. What it gives a couple is control; control to deal with any eventuality and whichever path birth takes. Couples have got to feel ok about having a caesarian section or an instrumental birth just as they are about having a spontaneous vaginal birth. It doesn’t matter what type of birth they have; what matters is that they both feel in control and by doing so, the experience is a positive one.
As an afterthought, I personally feel that women today do not have the confidence in themselves to give birth and the men often feel helpless, not knowing how to help. Hypnobirthing gives them both the confidence and knowledge, where the woman has confidence and trust in her body to birth and the man knows exactly what he can do to help as well as staying calm himself! I believe everyone should be taught hypnobirthing and I promise, there will be no incense or tied dyed clothing anywhere!!
I stumbling across Hypnobirthing whilst working as a labour ward midwife at my local NHS Trust. I was fortunate enough to care for a couple who were hypnobirthing and was taken aback by what I saw. It was not the birth which was different but the atmosphere in the room, the calmness and tranquility, and ultimately, the complete control of the couple. I now teach hypnobirthing privately and for the NHS.
If you would like to find out more about Hypnobirthing and my private and group courses, please feel free to take a look at my website www.thehypnobirthingmidwife.co.uk or give me a call