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  • Libby Clapham

Getting Prepared with hypnobirthing

When we first announced that we were expecting our first child I had a handful of friends (who are all mothers) get in touch to tell me about hypnobirthing and how wonderful they’d found using the technique during labour. Let’s face facts – we’ve all heard pretty traumatic childbirth stories (people just love sharing them – they revel in the horrified expressions they get in return), so I was ready to try anything to help get me through the ordeal… what I wasn’t prepared for was just how lovely I’d find hypnobirthing, and how it would change my whole perception on the day we welcome our little Crumb into the world.

For me, the main message is that by the time I’m ready to give birth, my body will have managed for nine whole months to create this little human. It will have done that all on its own with no outside guidance and instruction… so why would that suddenly all go to pot? Why not trustfully listen to what my body wants me to do and roll with it?

I know some of you might be wondering what on earth I’m talking about – so I’ve asked my teacher to answer a few questions to help explain it all:

What is hypnobirthing? Hypnobirthing is a completely logical childbirth education programme, but one with a difference. Instead of looking at how a woman can merely “get through” or cope with birth, it focuses on teaching a woman how her body is designed to birth comfortably and gently, and empowers her to do so. We look at where the fear of birth comes from, how it affects birth, and primarily the impact adrenalin has on how our birthing muscle – the uterus – works during labour. Hypnobirthing teaches deep relaxation, breathing and massage techniques to stimulate the production of endorphins – the love hormone – during labour, along with defining the very valuable role of the birth companion.

Does it involve hypnotising the woman so that she’s in a labour-loving trance? Rather than the hypnosis we see on stage, hypnobirthing teaches self-hypnosis as a deep state of relaxation with a heightened state of mental awareness. When our mind is deeply relaxed, so are our muscles, and learning how to achieve this is the key to a lovely labour. At no point are women in a trance or out of control, hypnomums tend to describe how they felt in labour as safe, empowered, calm and goddess-like! There are no pocket watches involved.

How do hypno-births differ from the births we see on television shows like One Born Every Minute(must stress, this is one of my favourite shows, although I’m currently banning myself from watching it) or in films? Sadly we’re very used to seeing birth in a set way in our media. More often than not, women are on their backs, legs up, sweating and screaming, whilst poor old dad is watching on helplessly and getting pummelled or sworn at. It’s dramatic and predictable, but it gets ratings. When I show my couples videos of hypnobirths, they’ve rarely seen anything like it before – and not because it’s anything weird or voodoo – but just because the whole atmosphere is so different. Hypnobirths tend to be very relaxed and loving, you’ll see couples completely connected, able to have a laugh, and working as a team to bring their baby into the world. Another big difference is in the babies when they’re born – instead of being bright red and screaming, hypnobabies are often born asleep and calm – a clear reflection of the gentle birth they’ve just been part of.

What has surprised you most about the hypnobirthing technique? Probably it’s simplicity. I stumbled across it when I was six months pregnant with my son, and quite honestly I thought it sounded too good to be true (and a bit new age). I thought I’d have to buy into something, but in fact, all I had to commit to was the practice. Just understanding how birth worked opened my eyes hugely, and also learning to appreciate that it was a real team effort between me, my husband and our baby. I wasn’t alone, and having someone there who knew exactly what to do for me and how to create this safe environment for our birth was paramount. The other thing that surprised me was the obvious impact it had on our son. He was calm from day one.

What advice would you give mums-to-be about what’s to come? First, don’t listen to horrible birth stories. If you haven’t had your own experience of birth, your subconscious mind grabs hold of these and stores them as your own. Not helpful. Second, put a lot of thought into your birth environment – have your own music playing, nice lighting, aromatherapy oils. Whether you choose to birth at home or in hospital, you can create a space where you feel safe and nurtured, and this will have a massive impact on your birth. Third, step aside and let your body do what it’s perfectly designed to. Freeing your mind and turning within as this incredible experience unfolds is something I can’t describe. You are bringing a human into the world, and that makes you amazing.

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