As a busy mum of two with another one on the way, I can barely cast my mind back to yesterday, let alone seven years ago. Back then, we were eagerly and anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first son, Oliver, and I was adamant that I didn’t want to be one of those terrified women giving birth on a bed, shouting obscenities at the midwives and using my nails to draw blood from my husband’s hand. I was pretty sure that something so natural, normal and wonderful didn’t have to be as awful as everyone was depicting it to be.
Or did it? That seed of worry was still there, so, after chatting to a colleague and doing some research of my own, I decided that we would try something called HypnoBirthing to help me relax and get rid of any anxieties about the birth.
HypnoBirthing is not only an antenatal preparation programme but a birthing philosophy in itself; birth is normal and natural – our bodies are perfectly designed for this! As well as providing tangible and useful relaxation, breathing and visualisation techniques for pregnancy, labour and beyond, HypnoBirthing also helps couples understand that sometimes it is fear that stands between them and more comfortable birth.
My husband, being a logical ‘numbers man’, was more than slightly sceptical. Initially expecting to embark upon a course of incense-burning hypnosis led by a hemp-wearing hippy, he was pleasantly surprised to find a group of like-minded couples and a lovely
HypnoBirthing Practitioner who used the first class to explain the physiological and psychological benefits. After this he was totally on board!
“I was devasted that my plans for a natural HypnoBirth had been cruelly snatched from me.”
Fast forward a few weeks and Oliver’s early arrival at 35 weeks meant we didn’t even get to finish the full course. Having developed pre-eclampsia and hospitalised for a week before being induced, I was devastated that my plans for a natural HypnoBirth had been cruelly snatched from me.
Regardless, from my hospital bed I practised HypnoBirthing relaxation exercises daily and visualised a positive birth. I even used the specific imagery of an opening rose to help the induction process along, which I had learned in my classes. In the end, labour was fast and intense, and the circumstances meant I was unfortunately mainly on my back strapped to foetal and blood pressure monitors. However, I am adamant that my HypnoBirthing breathing techniques and deeply relaxed state made the birth so much more comfortable than it could have been under the circumstances.
I started telling everyone how great HypnoBirthing was. If it could be so amazing in special circumstances, then how amazing must it be for low risk, normal births? I felt so passionately about it that I decided to train as a Practitioner myself. Eighteen months and three different courses and assessments later I was a fully certified Practitioner ready to unleash my knowledge on the world. Or at least on the small Perthshire town in which I lived.
The HypnoBirthing philosophy and approach is not just for low-risk women planning natural births.
Shortly afterwards I gave birth to my daughter in a birth pool in my local midwife led unit. It was an entirely different experience to the birth of my son; a more relaxed, hands-off birth where I was able to listen to my body and go with the flow rather than being led by doctors and machines. Again, HypnoBirthing gave me the deep relaxation and breathing techniques to enjoy a calm, gentle, natural (and quick!) birth, and forget the worry and fears surrounding my previous labour. As bonkers as it sounds, I really thoroughly enjoyed it. I would have done it all over again there and then!
These days I am fortunate enough to teach many other expectant couples, helping them to achieve the positive birth experience they are looking for. Of course, every birth is different and no-one can truly know which path theirs will take, but it’s important to remember that the HypnoBirthing philosophy and approach is not just for low-risk women planning natural births.
It can be hugely beneficial for mums who know they will need to be induced or even have an elective c-section, helping them stay relaxed in pregnancy, avoiding stress and anxiety and to allowing them to take back control of their births. It’s very important that these mums look forward to the birth of their baby with excitement and joy rather than worry and disappointment
80% of hypnobirthing mothers have normal births with no analgesic treatments.
In fact, one of my most uplifting ‘birth stories’ is from a mum who ended up needing a caesarean due to complications later on in pregnancy. HypnoBirthing helped her feel in control and approach the experience much more calmly than she might otherwise have done, and, afterwards, she attributed HypnoBirthing to helping her heal well and establish breastfeeding easily.
The benefits of HypnoBirthing speak for themselves. More NHS trusts are recommending and including HypnoBirthing in their antenatal preparation provision and some, such as Wolverhampton Trust, have reported 80% of hypnobirthing mothers have normal births with no analgesic treatments, compared with 60% of the general population who have a normal birth.
As for me, I am now expecting the arrival of my third (and final) Hypnobaby. This time, we’re planning to have the baby at home and I know that HypnoBirthing will once again give me the tools and techniques I need to make this a positive and unforgettable experience – with no hemp or incense involved!
My top five HypnoBirthing tips
I know that this is easier said than done, particularly if you have other little ones running around but I can’t stress how important it is to build a relaxation routine in to your day. Relaxation releases endorphins which are beneficial for both mum and baby. I often suggest that mums go to bed half an hour earlier to listen to relaxing music, a meditation CD or even just light some candles and enjoy a long soak in the bath!
2. Visualise the birth you want.
The power of the mind is incredible and birthing is no exception. Just like an athlete visualises victory, you too can visualise a birthing goal.
3. Stay positive!
If we are worried we create tension in the body and won’t help us in labour. Instead, focus on positive thoughts throughout pregnancy and birth. Positive affirmations can really help with this. There are specific HypnoBirthing affirmations or you can find some other lovely versions on Pinterest.
4. Attend a class.
There are lots of HypnoBirthing ‘self-teach’ CDs available but there is no substitute for attending a class where a fully qualified Practitioner can guide you through all of the techniques and exercises and provide further material and information. It’s also a great way to meet other couples in your area.
5. Preparation is key.
If you are keen to try HypnoBirthing, find a practitioner early on and book in to classes around the 25 week mark. Although HypnoBirthing is beneficial right up to late pregnancy, the earlier you start the more you can practise.