Hypnobirthing… what do we actually mean?

There has been a bit of a debate over the last week in my online “birth community” about whether the term “hypnobirthing” puts people off, or gives the wrong impression, makes false promises or just won’t work for everyone, and this had come from practitioners themselves.

The term “hypnosis”, the argument goes, can be off-putting but only, I believe, if it isn’t explained properly. Every day each one of us spends some time in a state of natural hypnosis, when daydreaming, or even reading or watching TV. We switch off from our surroundings but our senses are still aware of all that is going on around us. In a state of hypnosis, a fire alarm, or even a whiff of burning smoke, (unless in a therapy session with a hypnotist who is working on sensory perception, but then you would expect THEM to recognise the signs) will have everyone heading for the door, no question.

SO what does hypnobirthing do? The term was first used by an American hypnotherapist, Marie Mongan, but has come into widespread use over the years. There are various types of training to be had, all with similar aims but varying methodologies. I chose to train with Maggie Howell as a Natal Hypnotherapy practitioner, as there was no change to language used to describe birth: we call a contraction just that, as how often might a midwife say “that was a good contraction”? The key is repetition and the teaching of self-hypnosis, using “3,2,1 relax” by now a very familiar trigger for me which can send me way down into hypnosis in a heart-beat! Continue reading

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The power of positivity

I was chatting to a Mum at a social gathering this evening, a get-together with the Community Choir my husband sings in, and we started talking about birth, which happens a lot I am sure to anyone like me, working in antenatal education. We discussed how amazing women’s bodies are, how she LOVED giving birth, “opening up” she said, how each pain she felt knew meant her baby was doing something and was on the way. Her second baby was induced and she found herself surrounded by what felt like hordes of medics, waiting for her to give consent and sign for the epidural. However she could not understand why they would want to her to miss out on feeling the awesome power of her body, with a little help from the drip to which she was attached, opening up and pushing her baby out.

In over 20 years of preparing women for birth I have rarely come across such spontaneous positivity. We agreed that women could have many different experiences, that labour was unpredictable, that babies could get themselves into awkward positions, but my goodness I came away feeling such a lightness of heart.

Why is it that this is such a rare occurrence? Continue reading

Be positive, but no preaching please.

An article by Jenni Murray in this week’s Daily Mail has really struck a chord with me. She writes about the NHS’s proposed move to encourage women not to choose a Caesarean or even an epidural, as it is too costly. In fairness, she is clear she does not approve but then asks the following questions:

“Why can many women today not envisage giving birth without drugs or even surgery? Have we, with painkillers and surgical techniques, turned a natural function for which the female form is perfectly designed into a terrifying medical procedure? Have we sapped the confidence of women to do it their own way and persuaded them, wrongly, that the doctor always knows best?”

Well actually yes, it is true that many women today feel unable to contemplate giving birth without pain relief. Childbirth is a terrifying concept for far too many and we only have to consider how much negativity we are surrounded by to discover why that is so. How many pregnant women are subjected to the blow-by-blow accounts of their friend’s long, complicated labours, recently referred to by one of my NCT clients as “war-stories”? What are we regularly subjected to on television and in other media?

In a comparison of attitudes to birth involving women from the USA which has a very high rate of medical intervention and women from the Netherlands where home birth is still relatively the norm, it is clear which group had a significantly lower perception of labour as very painful and frightening. I am sure I don’t need to spell it out for you. The more medical “help” available, the greater the expectation that it must be REALLY bad.

And finally,  yes we HAVE sapped so many women’s confidence in their bodies’ innate ability to give birth. Listening, acknowledging fears and concerns and then educating women in any number of ways that may be helpful for them are what will build their confidence. Through the evidence-based approach (i.e. client-led discussion interspersed with physical skills) that I use in my NCT classes or the more direct methods using hypnosis that I teach in my Natal Hypnotherapy workshops, I find that women feel more empowered as a result.

I acknowledge that the sharing of positive birth stories is in fact what we need to see more, but Jenni, please don’t use your own experiences as a lesson to us all, as preaching rarely works when it comes to giving birth.

Planning for the unpredictable

Labour and birth are unpredicatable. Anything can happen. Babies can get themselves into the most awkward positions and need a little help and women can become exhausted for a variety of reasons. I was discussing the concept of writing a birth plan with my current NCT group earlier this week. The general consensus was that this was a good idea and for a number of reasons. Continue reading

Less is more

Something that often comes up, talking to women about their plans for labour and birth, is the idea of keeping control. There is talk of birth plans, options, to have an epidural or not. For some, keeping a sense of control means planning to labour and give birth in their own homes. For many it is having access to help, knowing that the epidural is available and requesting it on arrival. Continue reading

START AT THE VERY BEGINNING (it’s a very good place to start)

Monday 19th March 2012

Where to start? Not easy as there are SO MANY amazing blogs out there which are really thought-provoking and inspiring. However I am going to begin by introducing myself and tell you also a little bit about my family.

Nick and I have been married for over 32 years and we have two sons, Tom, 23, and David, soon to be 16. Before becoming pregnant the world of parenting seemed very remote and throughout the weeks and months leading up to Tom’s arrival there were moments of doubt, in that we both probably felt quite clueless. We attended NCT antenatal classes and I was also going to yoga – the most enjoyable bit was of course the relaxation at the end and I have no doubt that the ability to relax and let go was the key to a very positive birth experience. More of that at a later date. Continue reading