Have you considered Hypnobirthing as part of your preparation for labour?
The majority of expectant mothers plan to give birth vaginally, and therefore spend a large amount of time in the months leading up to their due date wondering what their birth will be like. Together with their support partner, they often put lots of time and effort into planning and preparing for it.
Most maternity hospitals offer a ‘preparation for birth’ course or workshop, where expectant mothers and their birthing partner can learn about what to expect, have a tour of the facilities, and have a chance to ask questions.
But this is not the only option for education regarding preparation for labour – workshops and courses led by a Hypnobirthing Consultant have become a lot more popular in recent years.
I recently invited Renee Bradfield, Hypnobirthing Consultant and owner of The Birth Space, to talk to our Membership Groups about what hypnobirthing is and why it’s not as ‘hippie’ and alternative as some may expect…
“Hypnobirthing is also known as ‘Positive Childbirth Education’. It’s a way of teaching expectant parents how to create and maintain a positive mindset for pregnancy and birth.”
They say that knowledge is power, and hypnobirthing consultants aim to empower expectant women and their support partners by providing the tools and knowledge needed to ask the right questions and to take an active role in the way that she births.
So why is it called Hypnobirthing?
Although some people associate hypnosis with swinging pocket watches and making people cluck like chickens, Renee explains that hypnosis is actually just a normal state of mind. We have our conscious mind and our subconscious mind, and hypnosis is a way of teaching us to access the subconscious mind.
She explains that there is actually a lot of science behind using hypnosis as a form of pain relief (or perhaps more accurately pain distraction). If a woman can be conditioned to view birth as a positive, empowering experience, then they can condition themselves to release endorphins during birth.
Endorphins are hormones of pleasure and love, and are natural pain relievers, whereas other hormones like adrenaline are the hormones of ‘fight or flight’ and are associated with stress.
Did you know that when the uterus contracts, it does not do so by simply squeezing inwards? Instead, it has muscle fibres that go up and down the length of the uterus, and during a contraction these longitudinal muscles pull upwards and ‘open’ the cervix that way.
However, there are other muscle fibres that circle around the bottom part of the uterus near the cervix. These muscles are linked to the sympathetic nervous system and they constrict and tighten in response to stress.
Renee explains that what can happen during labour is that fear, and the hormones associated with fear, can cause the constriction of the circular fibres. Meanwhile the longitudinal fibres are continuing to work, causing the baby to be pushed downwards against a taut muscle.
This can lead to ‘Failure To Progress’ – you may have heard of this when talking about labour. It is often the medical reason given when women end up needing to have intervention such as drugs, or an emergency caesarean.
If the cycle can be broken between pain causing fear, and then fear causing tension, and then tension causing more pain, then labour will be able to progress more easily.
So that’s what Hypnobirthing aims to do. To send expectant couples into the labour process with the understanding, knowledge and tools to help to manage pain and prevent fear.
These tools can include things like breathing techniques, the use of touch and acupressure, the use of movement and upright positioning, and tools and knowledge that can help the birth partner to be an integral part of the process.
It shouldn’t be considered ‘alternative’ or way out there – it’s a mainstream, evidence-based way of preparing for birth.
One of the recent scientific research articles written about this approach is by Kate Levett in 2016. They compared a program similar to hypnobirthing with the traditional antenatal hospital education sessions, and found much less intervention in the group who took part in the hypnobirthing style of education. There were significantly less caesareans, less use of forceps or vacuum, less perineal trauma and less epidural use.
One of the things that I love most about Renee’s approach is that it’s not all about a drug-free vaginal birth being the ultimate aim. It’s about having a vast understanding of all of the different options, and all of the possible scenarios, and being equipped with the ability to ask the right questions about your birth management. It’s about being open to the fact that there are multiple different directions that birth can take, and feeling prepared and equipped to deal with whatever ends up happening.
I would highly recommend that anyone who is planning a vaginal birth considers using this approach. Renee and other hypnobirthing instructors are available to help you, either in small group settings, one on one in person, or online.
There are two main ‘branches’ of hypnobirthing, with similarities and differences in how they deliver content but ultimately with the same goals. Check out these websites for more information: