By Megan (@Birth_ed)
The concept of hypnobirthing has grown in popularity over the past few years, sometimes with positive reviews, sometimes less so! But what is hypnobirthing and perhaps more importantly, does hypnobirthing work? Megan Rossiter, former-midwife, birth educator and hypnobirthing teacher, founded birth-ed to help empower mothers-to-be whilst cutting through a lot of the myths surrounding birth. Here, she answers your questions on hypnobirthing.
What is hypnobirthing?
The simplest way to break it down is into two parts; the ‘hypno’ and the ‘birthing’.
The ‘birthing’ is simply an approach to antenatal education. Providing you with an understanding of how birth works and how it can be supported; how it may unfold; possible interventions and an in depth understanding of what your options, choices and rights are.
The ‘hypno’ comes from the practise of hypnotherapy which is used to help reframe any fearful or negative ideas about birth which may impact your mindset; to build confidence and trust in yourself and to provide you with a toolbox of techniques you can use in pregnancy, labour and birth to help you remain calm, comfortable and in control.
Is hypnobirthing just for ‘Natural Birth’?
Absolutely not! Whilst understanding physiology is central to most hypnobirthing preparation; the tools and techniques you learn should enable you to advocate for yourself in any circumstances. They will help you to remain calm and in control, even if plans change or you choose or need to opt for a more medical type of birth. Hypnobirthing shouldn’t put one ‘type’ of birth on a pedestal above all others. The crucial thing is using the education, advocacy and decision making skills and relaxation tools to help you achieve the birth that is right for you on the day. Hypnobirthing isn’t a regulated practice, so some courses or teachers’ approaches may be different, which is why it’s crucial to choose someone whose values you feel align with yours.
Am I going to be hypnotised?
Nope! It’s nothing like the kind of stage hypnosis you might be used to seeing on magic shows! There’s no swinging pocket watches or clicking fingers. No one is going to make you cluck like a chicken or drink a pint of vinegar without noticing. It’s more comparable to something like sport psychology. Marathon runners may use similar techniques to help them break through the ’16 mile wall’; footballers may be conditioned by their coaches to picture themselves scoring. In essence, we are utilising the power of the mind to help the body perform at its best physically.
Can you still use pain relief though?
Of course you can! You will likely find that many of the tools of hypnobirthing (from breathing to massage, movement to hot water bottles, guided relaxations to affirmations) certainly buy you time in terms of reaching for medical methods of pain relief. But, there are certainly circumstances where medical pain relief can be helpful alongside hypnobirthing. Since the tools of hypnobirthing support the physiological unfolding of birth well (encouraging your body to produce oxytocin and supporting instinctive movement to encourage optimal foetal positioning), it may even help mitigate some of the risks that something like an epidural comes with.
Does hypnothing work? Does it guarantee you a positive birth?
Decent birth preparation is an important start to achieving a positive birth. Ideally something which doesn’t groom you into compliance, but empowers you to ask questions, make individual choices and base decisions on fact and instinct rather than fear or blanket guidance. The maternity system as it exists, isn’t always set up to provide individualised care with time for nuanced conversations about options, risks and choices. So hypnobirthing is a great way to navigate that and take you several steps closer to the positive experience you deserve.
However, there is of course more that influences your birth than simply education, preparation and your own approach. This could be anything, like who is in your birth space, how you’re spoken to and cared for and the choices that you feel you have or don’t have. Interestingly, a person’s emotional experience or recollection of birth isn’t always directly related to ‘what’ happened, but how it happened and how they were made to feel on their journey. If hypnobirthing tools aren’t also presented in a balanced, personalised and nuanced way, sometimes people find this contributes negatively to their experience of birth.
There should be space and opportunity for everyone to share their birth experiences, from the wholly wonderful, straightforward and positive to the complex and emotionally or physically traumatic. As a parent to be, you can choose which ones you feel safe to hear during pregnancy or after birth.
Megan is an antenatal teacher with a qualification in Hypnobirthing offering support to pregnant women. She is able to provide advice and guidance antenatally during pregnancy, labour and delivery, encouraging a positive birth experience through online and in-person courses.
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