Many of you may have heard of this in passing, as a distant idea or even tried it yourselves. It’s down to individual judgement what you make of it, but I’d like to share my experience of it and a few resources I found useful!
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So what is Hypnobirthing?
According to Katharine Graves in her book The Hypnobirthing Book, speaking more broadly of Hypnotherapy, it is “…merely the use of words: words used in a more focused and positive way to help people let go of some of the negative ideas they have acquired in life.” In her book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin discusses the connection between mind and body as it relates to childbirth at length, citing it as one of the most important and simultaneously one of the most disregarded factors (within the medical community) in the progression of labour. Google’s dictionary defines it as ” a method of managing pain and anxiety during childbirth, involving various therapeutic relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and visualization. “
I read these two books while pregnant in preparation for the labour I was aiming for, along with doing the guided meditation in the Hypnobirthing section of my Prenatal Yoga DVD (also done by Katharine Graves). Now – if you’ve read my blog on my labour and birth with Christian, you’ll know that it didn’t go entirely to plan! Regardless of this, I still believe that my hypnobirthing practice was one of the main things that got me through an 18-hour pessary-induced, forceps assisted labour and birth with just local anesthetic and gas&air. My husband commented afterwards that the midwives had been surprised that I had managed to keep myself so tranquil throughout, even appearing to be asleep between contractions!
From the outset, I had a cynical approach, wondering if the whole thing was just airy-fairy hokum. The more research I did and the more I got into it, the more I realised it’s simply a form of mindfulness and meditation, which has been proven on many forums and circumstances to work, when done properly. Better yet, in Katharine Graves’ book, she discusses how it can even work when the birth doesn’t go the way you planned; which, let’s face it, it rarely does!
Thankfully even the NHS have cottoned on, and while I didn’t get on their course for it in my area (very popular and oversubscribed!) they do offer one which is great; it’s helpful for your midwives to be well-informed and therefore able to help and facilitate when a rational conversation is beyond you in the midst of labour!
How does it work?
By the same principle as hypnotherapy or hypnosis, basically if you want it to work it will; if you don’t, it won’t. You have to give it a bit of credence and effort for it to be useful to you. It also takes practice – you’re training your brain to think a certain way in the face of pretty stressful feelings and circumstances! For this reason, it’s recommended you start practicing before or around 30 weeks. As I said, I went into the whole thing a cynic, being one of those people that never gets picked for hypnosis and the crowd hypnosis exercises have never worked on me. I DID have an open mind and did my research, which then changed my opinion of it’s overall effectiveness.
I’m one of those people that need to understand how something works before I can get on board with it fully; so through reading both Ina May’s book and Katharine Graves’ book, as well as learning about the link and power between mind and body, I also was well-versed in what actually happens and what your body is doing during labour and childbirth. By truly understanding what your body is doing and accepting it, to work with it instead of fighting against it, you can then implement the hypnobirthing methods to help you work through it. A positive attitude is a must.
For example, I was so happy when I finally went into labour (13 days “overdue” at this point) which helped me embrace and accept what my body was doing, and had faith that it was doing exactly what it needed in order to get Christian here. This mindset, along with very supportive midwives, and some strategic breathing (sometimes of gas and air) for the worst of the contractions, helped me stay in my “happy place” all the way through. This was where my midwives and Craig wondered if I was sleeping or passed out; I was in fact awake and aware, although vaguely, the main part of my mind being focused on the task at hand and letting my body get on with it so that I could meet my baby soon!
But what if things don’t go to plan?
Now while this makes my labour sound idyllic and straightforward, let me give you some context:
– I do not like hospitals. I’m not comfortable there. I hadn’t been a patient in a hospital since the day and hour I was born until I had Christian.
– Intermittently I had a consultant peeking in the door to check Christian’s heart rate, which was dipping with every contraction I had.
– Due to this and my slightly high blood pressure (my midwife at my last check before I was induced wanted to send me to hospital, which I knew would not help get it down!), I couldn’t get into the Home from Home unit, which I’d had my heart set on. It then got to the point where I couldn’t even try for a water birth because they needed to monitor me and Christian so closely (they got me into the one suite in the hospital that had a water birth tub and had run it for me!)
– I was told not to push when my contractions seemed to be at their strongest. Then they started to get weaker, and I was getting tired and running out of steam to push. I could hear the unsaid that without help, I was going to end up with a C section which was my worst fear, so when the doctor suggested forceps to help get Christian here, I was relieved, and that’s what we went with. At that point I think there were about 8 staff members who were relative strangers to me, in the room with my legs akimbo up in stirrups!
Throughout all this, I was calm, empowered and felt an inner strength despite the tiredness and the way things hadn’t gone to plan at all. The meditation and breathing enabled me to maintain this throughout all the unexpected – potentially negative – turns. Ina May’s book had me well informed and aware that everything, despite the way it might be presented by the midwives and doctors, was ultimately my choice. I wasn’t a mere spectator with no control. For my first pregnancy and birth, I wanted the safety net of being in the hospital. After, and indeed, despite my experience, if there is a next time, I would be more inclined to labour as long as possible at home.
How did Hypnobirthing go for you? Or do you want to try it? Have you tried any of the resources I’ve mentioned? Let me know below!