Tuesday, 16 September 2014

How hypnobirthing helped with my birth fears

In August 2014, the Yahoo Contributor Network was shut down. All the copyrights to articles thereon were returned to their authors, so I decided to publish certain articles of mine, originally written for Yahoo UK on my own blogs. This is one of them.

When I was expecting my children people often asked if I was afraid of giving birth. My surprising answer was "No, not at all." I practiced hypnotherapy in my pregnancy in the hope of an easier birth, without the side effects of drug-based pain relief. 
If reports are to be believed, I am in good company. Kate Middleton is said to be planning to use hypnobirthing techniques when she gives birth to the royal heir. This should not be such a surprise when we consider that the Queen herself had four home births, which by necessity, involves only natural pain relief.
Reported as "self-hypnosis", hypnobirthing is often regarded as being a 'bit weird' or complicated, but actually it is a very simple way of relaxing and maintaining a positive attitude.
Oxytocin, the hormone that makes birth progress and acts as a natural painkiller in the brain, is only released when we feel safe and loved. Adrenaline, released when we feel anxious or fearful, inhibits oxytocin, slowing labour and increasing the perception of pain. In my work as a doula, I help mothers-to-be to feel safe and supported through their labour in a number of ways. I have witnessed the effectiveness of hypnotherapy as women tackle even the toughest parts of their labour with calm confidence.
My hypnotherapy consisted of a session with a qualified therapist, and follow up using recordings on a CD. In the session with the live hypnotherapist, we used relaxation techniques and imagined a calm, peaceful place where I could go in my imagination, when labour became tough or tiring. We also put in place certain phrases that my birth partner could use to remind me of this place, and help me regain the same deep relaxation. The CD I used reinforced this, and told the tale of a positive birth experience, so that when it came to my real labour, I would feel like I had already practiced it.
After a few sessions with my CD, I not only was no longer afraid of giving birth, I could not actually recall ever having been.
I did not have the natural births I planned. Some people use cases like this to discount the effectiveness of natural birth choices. This is a gross misunderstanding. I laboured at home, beyond hours and into days, both times; for the most part, it was a calm, positive experience. I am convinced hypnobirthing helped me to prepare and make the best of my very difficult labours. I wish Kate a gentle, relaxed birth experience.

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