Many of my ante natal Pilates participants in Epping ask me about hypno-birthing.
Does it work?
Who to choose.
Should I do it in person or online?
So many questions.
I didn’t do it with either of my babies. To be honest, I was a bit sceptical. Sometimes when you grow a bump you can feel like those in the baby business suddenly want every last pound before the pennilessness of maternity leave begins. However – with hindsight, I wished I’d learned more about it.
For the uninitiated, the idea behind hypo-birthing is that birth doesn’t have to be a scary, painful ordeal. Labour and birth tends to be portrayed as a scream fest (and on TV dramas as a rather unrealistic speedy scream fest with few complications). We also tend to use words like pain to describe it and the actual word ‘labour’ sort of sums up the fact that it’s pretty hard work.
The Fear Factor
The main premise behind hypno-birthing is that when women get scared, labour and birth becomes painful. Fear also slows things down. Just as in life, when we’re afraid, our bodies go into ‘fight or flight’ mode, the same is true of fear during labour. For a labouring woman this can often make things slow down. What woman when faced with a tiger in the wild would consider that a great place to deliver her baby?
Hospitals, the unknown, even pain itself can all induce fear in a woman. Labours might slow down or require more intervention. The whole idea of hypno-birthing is that you labour and birth fear free.
I would stress though that there’s no shame in having a fear of medicalisation and hospitals. If you’re fortunate enough to have escaped hospital stays and now is your first time, it can be scary. It’s worth discussing with your caregivers and letting your midwives know. Try familiarising yourself with the hospital or ask questions at clinic appointments.
Does it go against midwives advice?
Some hypno-birthing guidance will recommend you allow your pregnancy to progress naturally, with minimal intervention, To let nature take it’s course. This might be refusing induction or other intervention. But it is always your choice. Be informed and explain to your caregivers your plans for birth so you can work together.
My experiences of hypno-birthing
When I was expecting Isaac, my lovely friend Rachel was expecting her first a day after me, on Christmas day. Our babies eventually came into the world a day apart but nearly a week after their due dates. Whilst I’d had a three day marathon with drug intervention and more time spent in hospital than at any other time in my life, Rachel had a quick home birth.
Rachel had done hypno-birthing. I think persuaded by the fact that as a sub-editor, she’d spent a lot of time on one of the UK’s biggest baby and parenting magazines so knew all the tried and tested tricks and gadgets out there. Now I’m sure Rachel won’t mind me sharing that she isn’t the toughest cookie in the jar when it comes to pain and illness. And if you met her you’d probably agree that her stature and manner is more waif- like catwalk model than Crossfit champion. However, Rachel pushed out Maya in a couple of hours with absolutely no pain relief.
This got me thinking a bit more about hypno-birthing. I spoke some more with hypno-birthing experts and doullas and researched a little more about pain and anxiety.
Between my babies I was also teaching Pilates at our local ‘all things baby’ store, Bababoom in Loughton. The proprietor and midwife is big on hypno-birthing. She was an NHS midwife now turned private. She explained that as a midwife, when a woman has done hypno-birthing, the indicators that she is progressing through labour are very different. She said midwives need to be experienced in hypno-birthing mothers to help, since they are often so calm at around the 8-9cms dilated mark that you could be fooled they are much earlier on in their labour.
I’ve had many class participants who have had positive experiences of hypno-birthing. Both those who have birthed naturally and those who have required intervention. One class participant commented on the fact that with a history of miscarriage, still-birth and various complications, she did hypno-birthing to develop the mental tools required to let go of real fears caused by past events. Whilst her labour did eventually require intervention and a C-section, she felt hypno-birthing helped her to stay calm and have a positive experience.
Alternatives to a course
Whilst I didn’t go on to complete a hypno-birthing course for my birth with Naomi I took a lot from the conversations I’d had and from my research. I’d also attended a fantastic pregnancy yoga class with an NCT teacher, Sandra. She did some great end of class relaxation I was able to take into my labour.
I was much calmer when my labour started with Naomi. To be honest, I was trying to stall things since my nephew had expressly requested I didn’t give birth on his birthday and – you’ve guessed it – my contractions started to ramp up on the evening of the 21st, the night before his birthday. So I took some paracetamol and went to bed.
… Ha ha!
Things progressed – but I was much calmer. I had little meditative activities to do whilst I laboured like patch working a teddy for Naomi and reading my book. But when things got really painful and it felt like I couldn’t cope, I simply told myself, “girl – this is just your job to do.” For me it wasn’t about meditation, it was the reminder to myself that I’ve been made to give birth. No-one else could do the job of birthing my children. All those years of periods and hormones and breasts and spots were about birthing these babies. All the angst and the worries about money or houses or career or pride are nothing like the primal ability to give birth to your own children. And so I told myself to get on with it!
With hindsight, I struggle with sitting and ohm-ing meditation, preferring instead to meditate through walks in the forest, wandering thoughts whilst I bake, run or craft or indeed through prayer. What better meditation than to leave those anxieties with a God in whom you trust? So I did my own kind of hypno-birthing, authentic to the ways in which I meditate. I prayed, I sewed, I wasn’t in the mood to bake cakes at 2am, nor did I think my family would appreciate the less than gentle hum of a food mixer at that hour, but I’ve heard other women in labour have. I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and I reminded myself this was my job to do.
So whilst I know others have had incredible hypno-birthing experiences, I think we can all find those things which calm us down when we may get anxious. Ways to go into your zone and switch off from the clinical surroundings or brashness of the world. Find what works for you. That could be hypno-birthing, it could be a class where you have an opportunity to focus on you and baby, it could be a walk by the sea with your partner.
For more information on pregnancy Pilates and birth preparation with Karen click here