If you’re pregnant there’s a good chance you will have heard friends or colleagues talk about the benefits of hypnobirthing. Thanks to a lot of positive media attention it has grown massively in popularity.
When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she may start taking vitamins, pay attention to her diet and stop drinking alcohol, to keep her body and baby healthy. But how many women think about giving their mindset a makeover?
Birth is Normal
Birth is a normal, natural event. It is certainly no walk in the park – but we are fortunate that it is a generally safe uneventful process. However, a large proportion of women are absolutely terrified of giving birth – and it is no wonder, when you consider all the ‘horror’ birth stories women have heard portrayed by the media, friends and family. The problem is that unless you have given birth positively before, these negative stories and images are the ones that engulf your mind when you are in labour, and this can dramatically affect how your body works.
The good news is there is a lot you can do to reboot and re-programme the ‘birth section’ of your mind – and that’s what hypnobirthing is all about.
So what exactly will I do during a hypnobirthing course? Does my partner need to attend too?
Hypnobirthing courses are antenatal preparation that will leave you feeling confident and optimistic about your upcoming birth. It is recommended that the woman and her chosen birth partner attend the course so he/she knows exactly what to do to keep her in a calm space. Most couples attend from 20 weeks onwards to allow for plenty of time for the all important practice.
A good hypnobirthing course should cover the following:
- Look at what your concerns are around labour and birth and revisit this at the end of the course to ensure you are now in a good place about all of this.
- Discuss how your mind affects your body and how you can harness this in a super useful way during your birth.
- Leave you with a clear understanding on how your body works during labour.
- Make you aware of the situations where you should absolutely seek guidance from your midwife (reduced movements, for example).
- Explain what helps and hinders labour and what you & your partner can do about this.
- Give you time to consider where you want to have your baby.
- Allow for time to talk through the things that may be offered to you during your pregnancy and labour and the benefits and potential risks of these interventions
- Get you thinking about your birth preferences – what would you ideally like? Yes, birth is unpredictable, but writing a birth plan is a great way to become aware of all the options available to you so you feel prepared for every eventuality
- And of course, the hypnobirthing techniques – understanding the rationale behind them so that you are 100% behind it and can’t wait to get going with your practice!
So what are the hypnobirthing techniques?
As well as the above, hypnobirthing involves self-hypnosis; specific breathing techniques; guided relaxations; understanding the power of the mind-body link; the effects of language; massage; fear-release practice and the rationale for active birth (movement and positions during labour and birth).
The ‘hypno’ part in hypnobirthing can be off putting for some, but it’s simply self hypnosis and getting into a lovely, relaxed ‘light trance’ state whereby you’re not focused on your immediate external surroundings. When we are in this relaxed state it’s the perfect environment to create in, and to focus on possibility (in this case, a positive birth experience).
We all enter into light trance states several times a day so everyone can do this. For example, ever relaxed watching a film and become totally engrossed in it? Or started reading a novel and before you know it time has flown by in what felt like a short space of time? How about driving a familiar route and suddenly you are at your destination but you don’t really remember the driving part? So any time you have a narrowed point of focus.
As part of your practise you’ll repeatedly enjoy the guided relaxations and listen to any MP3 audio clips your course may provide. When actions and ideas are repeated over and over they become habits and beliefs which are very powerful. This relaxations/self hypnosis practise is not only very pleasant, but is also one way to get your beliefs around labour and birth to be positive.
If you do this regularly enough, when you go into labour, your mind will access this positive birth information you’ve shelved in your subconscious. You’ll think ‘birth is OK and safe’, which can prevent the ‘fear-tension-pain’-cycle from starting, and the negative knock-on effect this has on birth hormones, resulting in increased pain and a slowing of the whole process.
You’ll spend time visualising your birth, how relaxed and calm you will be. It is thought that visualising an event in advance primes your body to respond in the same way on the actual day. It is like a mental warm-up, encouraging your mind to recognise how it will act positively in response to certain events, such as giving birth.
If you’d like to you can use affirmations. The idea of affirmations is that when we repeat something over and over, by saying it to ourselves and/or reading and writing it out, it convinces our mind that it is true.
How birth is depicted in our culture means that many women are understandably fearful of it. What we focus on tends to become our reality, so spending time before your birth releasing your fears and turning them into positive feelings can be really powerful. This is a big part of hypnobirthing. Releasing fear is important for birth partners too – if they can address their concerns about birth before the big day, they won’t be bringing unwelcome anxiety, adrenalin and stress into the birth room.
So perhaps after reading this, you may consider using hypnobirthing to give you and your baby the birth preparation you all deserve. Whilst many women hypnobirth successfully with just a book and the MP3s you get so much more out of it having talked it through and tried it out during the sessions, and from the ongoing support and materials you receive when you choose to book on a course.
Investing time and yes, the expense too, into hypnobirthing was the best gift I ever gave myself, my partner and our daughter and I only wish I had known about it first time around.
Jackie Kietz is a NCT & Hypnobirthing instructor and reflexologist offering courses in South East London. For more information visit www.baby-bumps.net. For a free ‘breathing for labour & birth plus positive affirmations’ MP3 email firstname.lastname@example.org.