Guest post by Deborah Pryn.
So the word ‘hypnobirthing’ can make people think our antenatal classes might be a bit weird or hippy. ‘Hypnosis’ often makes people think of
a) Paul McKenna b) Swinging pendulums c) People clucking like chickens or d) All of the above.
But, hypnosis is simply a state of deep relaxation that we go in and out of many times a day, often when we give our focused attention to something.
Here are a few examples:
You’re in a boring meeting but your mind is off somewhere else, perhaps you’re on a beautiful beach in Thailand (that’s where my mind goes) or somewhere you’ve been on holiday – that is until someone asks you a question!
Well, I’ve got your attention now, plus it seems only right to mention sex when we’re talking about birth. When you’re having sex you’re often so in the moment that that’s all you can think about – you’re focused on what you’re feeling and your mind is quiet… and perhaps that headache you had just disappears.
Watching a good film or reading a book
The narrative grips you: if it’s sad it might make you cry, scary, you get goosebumps, or feel tense. This is a great example of how much your state of mind impacts on your body. Think about it; someone else’s story can provoke a physical response in you, even though it’s not actually happening to you.
So, if we think about this in terms of labour, if someone is feeling afraid and believes labour to be dangerous or scary this will have an impact on how the body works.
I was a Wise Hippo mum before I became a Wise Hippo instructor, so I’ve experienced hypnobirthing in action. Put simply, it changed how I thought and felt about childbirth – I went from being a very scared pregnant lady to feeling excited about labour. That may sound a bit far-fetched but hypnobirthing changes your mindset. It removes fear and builds confidence in your body’s ability to birth, by understanding the birthing process and learning ways to stay calm and relaxed.
Here’s a photo of me with my daughter a few hours after our homebirth (I surprised quite a few people, including my mum, by having a drug-free birth). As someone who’s a wimp – I passionately believe that if hypnobirthing could help me, it can help anyone.
Why fear is the enemy during childbirth
The uterus is made up of a bag of involuntary muscles, which work together to move the baby down. The hormone oxytocin (the love hormone – produced when you feel happy, nurtured and safe) is needed to make these involuntary muscles of the uterus contract.
But, if you go into labour feeling afraid, then adrenaline is released,
The presence of adrenaline also means that blood and oxygen are diverted away from the uterus (and baby) to essential muscle groups – the heart and lungs. This means that the uterine muscles will tense up and not work properly, causing discomfort.
Adrenaline also reduces the levels of oxytocin you produce which causes contractions to slow or stop – failure to progress –this makes interventions or pain relief more likely.
The release of adrenaline goes back to our instinctual fight, flight or freeze response – good for animals in the wild, who can pause giving birth and move away from predators to a place they feel safe (amazing), but not so helpful for us.
So, this is why it’s so important for couples to think about where they’d feel most safe when giving birth. One of the great things about The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme is that the emphasis is on choice – for some of our couples that’s at home and for others it’s in hospital.
How does The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme help?
Sometimes teaching hypnobirthing is a bit like treating a phobia of giving birth. Many people I teach are first time mums. They’ve never given birth before, but feel afraid because of what they’ve seen or heard about birth.
In the first lesson we learn about where that fear comes from, and how certain TV shows (naming no names) or films show birth in a certain way – well one way – as dramatic, scary events that makes gripping TV. Instead, throughout the course, we watch calm, gentle hypnobirths like this one: Daisy’s Birth which is beautiful but not…er, dramatic.
Once we understand where our fears around birth come from and how the birthing process works, we can think about the birth we’d like to have.
Then we work on becoming experts in relaxation, because when you feel relaxed you can’t feel afraid. We do this by changing outdated beliefs, positive affirmations, and through hypnosis (like guided meditation at the end of a yoga class). The relaxation tools you learn through hypnobirthing are useful for life, especially when baby arrives! Plus birth partners get really involved – by helping to write a birth plan and learning soothing strokes, which can be used during labour.
Hypnobirthing is about empowering couples to have a positive birth experience, by being fully informed about the birth process and feeling confident. Confident to ask questions during pregnancy and labour and confident to trust their instincts. Having a positive birth experience is about feeling in control, no matter what happens.
Hypnobirthing is really about encouraging women to tap back into their natural birthing instincts. When you’re pregnant your body is growing and nurturing your baby, without you thinking about it! In the same way, we want to get our minds out of the way and allow our bodies to work at their best.
Here is a picture of one of my client’s thoughts about birth before and after completing a full course. Read more testimonials on my website.
Deborah Pryn runs Riverside Hypnobirthing
Group and private classes run each month and one-off workshops are held at Caversham Children’s Centre, Reading