Say the words labour and birth to most women and they will conjure up images of pain, stirrups, hospital wards and doctors. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. For those not familiar with it, Hypnobirthing is a modern approach to birthing, allowing expectant mothers to use a mind over matter approach to labour and childbirth. The method was first mentioned to me late in my pregnancy by a friend who had used the technique to have a really positive third birth, after two very difficult labours.
My friend Sarah felt anxious about her upcoming delivery, and wanted to try something new to help her manage her labour naturally and calmly. The results of hypnobirthing were so positive she said, that she highly recommended it, after experiencing a totally natural and pain free labour. She enjoyed it so much so she’d like to experience it again she mused.
Labour, enjoyable? For my whole life I’d felt fear and anxiety about labour. Like many women, I had fretted about birthing. All the images I had seen of childbirth-involved women in intense pain, lying down, legs in stirrups, screaming for drugs. It seemed scary, uncontrollable and overwhelmingly painful.
So when I went to meet with Sophie of Calm Hypnobirthing UK, I was slightly skeptical. How could anyone enjoy labour I asked? Easily, she replied, it amazing what you can achieve if you let go of fear and anxiety.
Sophie herself, discovered hypnobirthing during her own pregnancy and used the method to manage her own childbirth. With positive thinking and a calm and clear approach to her labour, she managed to breathe her son out and when he was born he didn’t cry.
She told me, ‘Bizarrely, birth is something that has become something of a modern medical condition in the UK, when in reality, it is the most natural and even, the wonderful thing that women can experience.’ Says Sophie.
She continued, ‘It’s not an illness, so that fact that most births happen in hospital is something of a phenomenon’. Home births should become normalised, says Sophie, who believes allowing women to be open to the possibility of birthing in the comfort of their own homes could change the attitude to birth in the UK.
Sophie exclaimed that a home birth can completely change an entire birthing experience, mainly because a home birth allows you to control your environment for a calm and relaxing experience.
‘Many women really enjoy their labours’ she said. It can be a pleasant experience and something some women are keen to relive again. At this point I was yet to be convinced, but anything which helped me feel positive about labour and also reduced my fear was welcome.
Hypnobirthing she explained, is a distinct retraining of the mind, it focuses on connected bonding pre birth, and it changes the misconception that birthing is a risky and painful thing. In reality, women’s bodies were made to birth. It’s a normal and powerful thing for any woman to experience, says Sophie.
By retraining your mind and using simple hypnobirthing techniques, you can change your outlook and your experience of childbirth. Natural births tend to deliver calmer happier babies too, Sophie tells me.
The class consisted of two Tuesday’s and was a mix of people who all seeked an alternative attitude to birthing and labour. Sophie trained both mums and dads to be on how to equip yourself for a secure and positive birth.
Her methods allowed the fathers to feel included in the experience, and made them an important part of the birth and labour. By understanding their wives or partners wishes they could lead the birth, allowing Mum to focus on her labour, breathing and relaxation.
The exercises we learnt freed us from negativity and allowed us to think about birth with a fresh outlook. One thing I really loved about the sessions was the focus on partner bonding, my husband was so well equipped that his support felt so comforting in the lead up to the labour. As a team we worked on relaxation techniques that allowed us to feel prepared and bonded for our upcoming birth.
After the course we practiced the exercises daily, they allowed us to stay focused and in tune with each other, and ready for the labour. Although I was prepared I was fairly surprised that the day I finished work to begin maternity leave, my waters broke.
After a moment of calm, I called the hospital, and they encouraged me to come in for a routine exam. So I headed down to Kings College in Camberwell in the early hours of Saturday morning. The midwifes and nurses were really helpful, and they explained to me that if I didn’t go into labour naturally that day I would have to be induced.
This for me was a huge obstacle, I had prepared for a calm and natural birth and induction was something I really didn’t want to have to go through. Chemically inducing labour would create an unnatural birth and therefore strong, fast and painful contractions, and would take away the option of a home birth.
I did all I could the next day to go into labour naturally, but it was not to be. So 24 hours and 5 contractions later, I didn’t know what to do. I spoke to Sophie who reminded me it was still very much my birth and my decision re the induction. Her calm reassuring voice allowed me to regain a bit of control of what was happening around me.
As I returned to the hospital that evening I decided to follow the medical guidelines and opted for an induction, which led to an epidural and almost, to a c – section.
It wasn’t my ideal situation, but once I made the decision to be induced I used all of the techniques Sophie had taught me to manage the pain. Each decision through my birth was made calmly, thanks to Sophie and her techniques. After 36 hours of labouring, on the 10th October at 11.58am I managed to deliver a healthy baby boy.
As I held him in my arms I knew I had achieved something great, and I knew that without Sophie there would have been a high chance I wouldn’t have managed my labour and had a calm birth, especially in the circumstances. The knowledge she gave me allowed me to guide my way through my birthing experience, and helped me have the courage to say no to the c section I was encouraged to take. A decision I don’t think I would have made without the knowledge I gained in hypnobirthing.
Sophie instilled the confidence I needed to believe I could deliver my baby naturally. My labour didn’t go to plan, but with the knowledge and the positive mental attitude that Sophie and the hypnobirthing experience gave me, I managed to make a difficult birth a manageable and even, dare I say it, an enjoyable one.
- Sophie of Calm Hypnobirthing is available for Hypnobirthing classes across South East London. Sophie also works as a Doula and is available for support throughout your birthing experience. For more information see: www.calmhypnobirthing.com.