What is Hypnobirthing and how it can change everything?
“And I did hypnobirthing”, she said with a sigh. After telling me about her elective caesarean due to a breech baby. When I questioned how it felt, I knew the hypnobirthing was worthwhile.
Hypnobirthing was traditionally considered a pain relief technique. However, from my perspective, the pain management is an indirect result of you feeling in control of your birth experience.
In this person’s situation, the hypnobirthing helped her command the choice and decide to have an elective caesarean instead of a natural birth. It helped her take control of this choice and feel comfortable at all stages. This can help you avoid birth trauma, which is generally the result of a birth in which you felt out of control irrespective of the birth story.
The Four Facets of Hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing has four elements that combine to create a standalone antenatal programme for your pregnancy.
A hypnobirthing course will give you a thorough understanding of your body during birth. You will learn the stages of birth, including the hormones present, exactly how your body moves your baby through your birth canal in its transition from womb to world. You will learn about the NICE guidelines that all NHS midwives must follow, and why they may recommend something that is not necessarily personalised towards your situation. This knowledge will help you ask questions, which will give you the answers to make informed decisions throughout labour and the birth of your baby.
Your breathing – amongst other things – regulates your heartbeat. When you take a breath in, you stimulate your sympathetic nervous system, which increases your heart rate. When you exhale, you stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases your heart rate. The rhythmical nature of calm steady breathing creates a steady heartbeat. When you lose control of your breathing or breathe in an anxious way, your heart rate changes. This has other physical effects that may impact your birth experience. When you breathe into your abdomen, making your exhale slightly longer than your inhale, you calm your body and mind. Your body will fill with the oxygen it needs to work efficiently, and your mind is less likely to perceive the situation as dangerous. It can prioritise the reproductive system and direct all resources there so you have an easier experience.
A hypnobirthing course includes visualisation techniques and positive affirmations that will help you prepare for and look forward to the birth of your baby. In the late 1800s, Émile Coué, a French psychologist, developed the technique he called conscious autosuggestion. He asked his clients to repeat the mantra “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better” twenty times a day. He found these clients recovered quicker than those who didn’t use the mantra. In hypnobirthing, we use positive affirmations to help you generate a positive mindset about your pregnancy and birth.
Hypnobirthing helps you prepare for labour and birth using visualisations. When you prepare for something in this way, you set the intention of what you want to happen, and experience it in your mind before the real thing. Although your experience may end up different to the image you create, it is valuable preparation. Pregnancy, labour, and birth are all natural experiences, as natural as breathing and digesting food. However, you do not live a natural life, and your labour is unlikely to happen in a completely natural environment. Preparing by using visualisations will help you feel prepared and comfortable with the situation when it happens.
Hypnobirthing includes mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness helps you live in the present without judgement of feelings, physical and emotional. This will help you accept the natural feelings of labour and birth. When you accept the feelings, you learn how to permit them, without wanting to run away or eradicate them. You will have the tools to experience all aspects of your labour and birth without judgement. This will prevent your body from unnecessarily switching into the fight or flight response, so you can still think rationally, have important conversations, and make big decisions.
When the final part of the puzzle is put into place, you will feel confident about your journey. This confidence is one of the most important things, because it will help you question your care team and hold conversations with them that put you in the position of ultimate decision maker. You will have enough knowledge to know when to ask ‘why’. There is an acronym people use to remember the questions to ask when your care team makes a recommendation. This is BRAIN and reminds you to ask,
are the Benefits?
are the Risks?
is the Alternative?
does my Instinct say?
happens if we do Nothing?
It’s easy to remember, but not always easy to do when you feel subservient to the people surrounding you. When you take a hypnobirthing course, you regain control of your birth experience, so regardless of the specifics, you significantly reduce your risk of birth trauma.