My Experience of Hypnobirthing
The birth of my eldest daughter, Jemima, was fairly traumatic so as the birth of my son drew nearer, I began to feel increasingly anxious. Last time, I had felt frightened and unprepared for the pain as my labour progressed; this time, I wanted to feel as calm and relaxed as possible.
Several friends recommended hypnobirthing to me. The more I found out about it, the more interested I became and, with just two weeks until my due date, my husband and I booked onto an intensive course with Emma Harwood-Jones. She taught us breathing techniques for each stage of labour: calm breathing, surge (contraction) breathing & birth breathing. She also did a fear release hypnosis on me to dispel any fears I had about giving birth and to help me feel relaxed about the labour. I read the book Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan and also listened to the recommended hypnobirthing tracks every night. A key part of hypnobirthing is the use of positive affirmations and language: ‘pain’ or ‘hurt’ are not referred to and contractions are known as ‘surges ‘.
In the run up to the labour, I definitely felt a lot more relaxed than before and found myself feeling positive about, and even looking forward to, the whole experience of labour and birth.
My due date was 18th February but our little boy did not want to come out! I tried all sorts of natural induction techniques (reflexology, acupuncture and spicy food to name a few) but nothing worked and, on 1st March, I went into hospital to be induced.
The birth was extremely quick in the end; less than 6 hours from start to finish. Once the surges started, I remembered to do the surge breathing, which helped me to cope, especially as they got more intense. My husband was fantastic and kept reminding me of the various techniques we had learned. We walked all around the hospital in order to speed up the labour. After about 4 hours, my surges were coming every minute and a half, lasting for 30-40 seconds. My husband was keen for me to be examined as they were so close together, but I didn’t think they were lasting long enough for me to be too far along. However, we were taken to the birth centre and I was given the good news that I was already 8cm dilated. I wanted to try gas & air at this point, but found that it did not help me at all. The surges started to get very powerful and intense, and I have to say that I was definitely aware of the pain! My waters broke and baby Joshua was born 30 minutes later. I did not have much chance to use the birth breathing techniques as, by that stage, everyone was shouting at me to push!
Overall, I would recommend hypnobirthing to anyone feeling at all anxious about giving birth. It instilled in me a sense of calmness about the birth and I am sure that it helped me to relax as the labour progressed. I think that the breathing element of hypnobirthing really helped me to cope with the surges, particularly in the earlier stages of labour and I am delighted that I was able to experience a drug free and uncomplicated natural birth.
What is Hypnobirthing?
Our hypnobirthing instructor, Emma Harwood-Jones, has kindly provided the concluding paragraphs of this blog. She explains what hypnobirthing is and a little about the crucial role of the birth partner, and I am delighted to quote her:
Hypnobirthing is a way of giving birth which involves using breathing, visualisation and relaxation techniques to relax the body and mind during labour and birth. Hypnobirthing prepares women for birth through the daily practice of guided relaxations and birth affirmations (positive statements about birth designed to replace any negative thoughts about birth held at a subconscious level). The relaxations and birth affirmations are also listened to during labour and birth to assist in relaxation. Hypnobirthing uses fear release therapy before the birth, to release any fears or anxieties about birth at a subconscious level so that women can approach their birthing day feeling positive and at ease, enabling them to fully relax on the day. Hypnobirthing is based on the understanding that fear, stress and anxiety leads to the release of stress hormones which causes oxygenated blood to divert away from the uterus (where it is needed most for birth) to the arms and legs, in the body’s fight or flight response. It also creates tension in the uterine muscles which causes pain as the outer layer of muscle pulls up against a taut inner layer of muscle. This also reduces the effectiveness of the muscles to open the cervix, thereby prolonging labour. The stress hormones block out the body’s natural tranquilliser, endorphins, making the contractions (surges) much harder to manage. With hypnobirthing techniques, women are able to relax the body, particularly the uterine muscles, allowing them to work effectively together to open the cervix, and enabling the body to release the hormones it needs (in particular, endorphins and oxytocin) for an easier birthing experience.
Hypnobirthing gives birth partners an important role to play, supporting mum with light touch massage, relaxation prompts, words of encouragement and a calm manner, all of which assist in keeping mum relaxed, thereby helping with the release of oxytocin and endorphins. The birth companion also ensures the environment is kept quiet with the relaxation music playing and lights dimly lit. He acts as an advocate for the birth plan, communicating with the midwives and he makes sure mum is snacking and drinking water regularly to keep up her energy levels.
For information on available face-to-face or online hypnobirthing courses please visit, www.togetherbirthing.com.