Hypnobirthing – it’s draped in the mystical, shrouded in mystery and it’s becoming an increasingly popular way to bring new life into the world.
Mum’s Grapevine expert and Hypnobirthing Practitioner Stacey Astley-Clark lifts the veil on Hypnobirthing and reveals six things you’ll learn in a Hypnobirthing class.
Whenever I teach a Hypnobirthing class, I always start by asking who has told people about their birth plans and what kind of response they’ve received. This question is typically met by nervous laughter and the obligatory references to pendulums, trances and dodgy stage hypnotists. So I’m here to set the record straight!
Despite its slightly ‘alternative’ name, Hypnobirthing is one of the most normal and natural ways to bring your baby into the world. And while the news has recently featured a wave of celebrity (and royal) Hypnobirths, this is far from a passing trend; women have been Hypnobirthing for thousands of years.
And had we not been bombarded (almost since birth) with movies of red-faced women screaming in pain and swearing at their husbands, this is how we’d instinctively birth. These scenes have programmed our brains to associate the act of creation with scenes of carnage and terror; which is tragic, because we’ve essentially been robbed of the chance to marvel at what is actually the most profound thing we will ever have the privilege of participating in.
Overcoming the fear of birth
When it comes to giving birth, your biggest enemy isn’t the size of your baby or the position of your baby or even the pain; it’s fear. From my experience, fear is the single biggest contributor to labours that (to coin a classic disempowering medical term) ‘fail to progress’. Fear has the power to create immense pain, cause your baby to feel distressed and actually shut down your physical body.
Yet this isn’t how childbirth needs to be.
One of the best possible ways to eliminate this fear is through Hypnobirthing – and thankfully no pendulums or chicken impersonations are required. Just you, your baby and some easy to learn (yet pretty nifty) labouring techniques
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a very normal, natural state of mind which you enter every single day; when you’re engrossed in a book or a film or when you’re driving ‘on autopilot’. And every time you fall asleep, you pass through a hypnotic state.
In essence, all hypnosis really is, is a place where you feel very calm, relaxed and totally present. It’s almost like a state of intense mindfulness where you are utterly focused on the task at hand and very receptive to the things said to you at that time.
Can you think of a more lovely state to meet your baby in? It’s a far cry from the screaming, panic-stricken movie births … and is totally achievable with the right tools. But what’s really clever is that because the mind-body connection is so strong, Hypnobirthing not only makes you feel calm, it can even affect how your body operates during labour.
6 things you’ll learn in a hypnobirthing class
1. To release and let go: When you feel stressed, your body seizes up and this tension can actually stop your labour. This is the main reason why women who are labouring beautifully in the safety of their home, shut down when arriving at a brightly lit, intimidating hospital. Hypnobirthing teaches you how to release this tension, stay relaxed and allow your labour to progress smoothly and easily
2. Natural pain relief: People often express surprise when they discover I birthed two 8lb babies without pain relief. But in reality, that’s a bit of a lie. What most people don’t realise is that a labouring woman’s body is able to produce natural painkillers that are 40 times stronger than morphine – so you can be high as a kite without ever touching a drug. In a Hypnobirthing class, you’ll learn how to release these painkillers on-demand using powerful breathing, touch and hypnotic techniques.
3. The best birth positions: Did you know that lying on a bed (in the classic ‘TV birth’ stance) is one of the least beneficial positions to birth your baby? Not only does bub have to climb a hill to get out, your pelvis is constricted and for many women, it hurts like hell! Hypnobirthing will teach you the best positions for each stage of labour, how to open your pelvis by 30 per cent (speeding up birth and reducing the likelihood of fetal distress) and how to prevent vaginal tearing.
4. How to navigate the medical system: We’re very fortunate to live in a country with such amazing medical care. Yet having a baby is not a medical event and shouldn’t be treated like one unless there is a genuine reason; in fact, doing so can actually increase the risk to you and baby. However, negotiating with obstetricians and midwives can be daunting, confusing and stressful. In a Hypnobirthing class, you’ll learn the science behind what happens during labour, what the evidence says about different interventions and gain a framework for asking the right questions to enable you make empowered and confident decisions.
5. What your partner should do: Pacing up and down and panicking with every contraction (or ‘surge’ as they’re known in hypnobirthing) or calmly supporting you with massage, gentle encouragement and practical suggestions? How would you prefer your partner to be during labour? Hypnobirthing is a brilliant way to make your partner part of the action by teaching them just how important their role is and giving them hands-on ways to support you. Despite some initial reluctance, by the end of the course, partners are often the most passionate advocates.
6. How to Eliminate fear: This is without a doubt the biggest hurdle standing between you and your beautiful birth. Tackle the fear and 90 per cent of all the other stuff will fall into place. Yet fear is often so deeply ingrained in your subconscious, it’s impossible to simply ‘get over’. Hypnobirthing enables you to rewrite past programming and transform your attitude towards birth, so that as labour approaches, instead of dreading it, you feel confident, excited and ready to meet your precious baby.
This is how birth should be.
A word of caution
As hypnobirthing is a generic term (meaning ‘to birth using Hypnosis’) not all courses are the same. There have been reports of some Hypnobirthing programs giving couples unrealistic expectations about the sensations of birth and failing to prepare them for unexpected or special circumstances. This is more common with the older-school Hypnobirthing courses, so be sure to shop around and ‘interview’ the practitioner before booking to ensure they share your vision of what it means to have a positive birth.
What I really like about the course that I teach (the Hypnobirthing Australia program) is its focus on preparing for a calm and natural birth but having the tools to meet whatever turn your labour may take. Because my aim as a childbirth educator is simply to help couples have a beautiful birth, whatever that means to them. And while many women will go on to have drug-free births, it’s not because pain relief is ‘banned’ in Hypnobirthing. Not at all. It’s simply because after doing the course many women simply feel they don’t need them.
Stacey Astley-Clark is the founder of Buddha Babies; a social enterprise that helps expectant parents experience beautiful births using the power of Hypnobirthing and prenatal yoga. She teaches the official Hypnobirthing Australia™ course and donates 20 per cent of all fees to the fight against child trafficking. For more information visit Buddha Babies.