What is hypnobirthing? What are the benefits?
I have worked with many pregnant people and their birth partners as a hypnobirthing practitioner, friend, and birth partner for many years. Unless it was a traumatic experience, anyone who has watched someone give birth will probably agree that it is the most incredible thing you will ever see. It never dampens, birth always leaves me with my jaw dropped in awe. If you ever get the chance to sit alongside someone as they birth their baby, I urge you to do it.
The (typical) hours are spent working together as midwives, birth partners and birthing person connect. Working as a team through an intense and challenging experience. Birth partners feeling powerless to do anything other than cheerlead – which actually is incredibly powerful. Followed by an emergence of life, slowly teasing us as we see a small part of a baby that slips back slowly. Suddenly a glimpse again before the same thing happens. This continues for what feels like forever, but isn’t. Then magically a baby, a new life, appears right there. The mind-boggling feeling that just moments ago the same baby laid squished perfectly inside of the body.
My name is Juliet, I qualified as a hypnotherapist in 2008 and wrote the fertility2birth hypnobirthing programme with my colleague in 2010. To complement my hypnobirthing work I support pregnant people as a birth doula. A doula has the experience and qualifications to support others through a significant health related experience, as a companion rather than a healthcare professional. You will find doulas that support others through abortion and miscarriage or stillbirth and death.
My goals and roles as doula are to help my clients feel safe and comfortable, complementing the role of the healthcare professionals who provide medical care. Unlike a doctor, midwife, or nurse, a doula cannot administer medication, medical treatment or give medical advice.
In 2010 we were one of the only hypnobirthing schools in the country. I could probably name you five others. Hypnobirthing was something that we believe all pregnant people, alongside their birth partners, would benefit from but appeared to only attract those that were seeking something that others might consider a bit wacky. A simple home birth is sometimes considered different and, in some countries, illegal.
Nowadays hypnobirthing is mainstream and popular, regardless of birth preferences. Many hospitals offer hypnobirthing classes as part of their antenatal package. Most people acknowledge hypnobirthing and almost everyone has heard of it, certainly since the Duchess of Cambridge commends hypnobirthing and shares her experiences of hypnobirthing with all three of her children.
What is hypnobirthing?
In essence, hypnobirthing is a birth education programme that pregnant people use to understand and feel in control of their pregnancy and birth experience.
Hypnobirthing covers the physiology of birth and any conflicts with the regulations of the care provider and includes hypnosis techniques that help the birthing person and birth partners remain in control and informed. This helps to ensure that the entire experience is consent based.
Human beings are born to procreate – we now have many other things in life that are meaningful if we choose a life without children. However, from an evolutionary point of view, the purpose of life is to make babies, so genes survive through the generations.
For young people there is little education that covers the intricacies of what happens and how a pregnant body births the baby. It is important to understand what happens in the body during the hours leading up to birth, with descriptions of the hormones and their purpose. Exactly how the muscles of the uterus work to push the baby down and out.
The process of birth is something that the human body can do with instinctual and primal reactions. It requires no conscious effort. Someone in a coma can give birth! Yet we hear of many women being asked to start or stop pushing. Why? A hypnobirthing course answers questions like this.
Due to technology in our developed world causing disrupted interoception, few of us follow our natural instincts and intuition. Medical advancements make it possible for us to avoid suffering like no other generation could. However, medicine just masks the symptoms without addressing the underlying causes. Most medicines take away the feelings, leaving us less aware of the natural workings of our human body. We have less ability to feel, understand and explore what is happening within our bodies. We start to fear anything that contrasts our expectations – this is very relevant for birth which is something no one experiences that regularly!
Hypnobirthing increases awareness of the physiological process of birth so new physical feelings become expected, rather than frightening. The fear reduces, and the body has the resources to function efficiently. Hypnosis techniques heighten a person’s capacity to focus. Just as a sports person gets into what we often call ‘a zone’ before a big event, hypnosis techniques learned through hypnobirthing and practised regularly before birth, enable someone to get into their zone, fully connecting their mind and body.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence write clinical guidelines for the UK, we call these NICE guidelines. They are “recommendations on how healthcare and other professionals should care for people with specific conditions. The recommendations are based on the best available evidence”. (NICE)
The NHS adheres to the NICE guidelines. Unfortunately, the guidelines cannot be personal. As a result, care is less personalised than we would choose. Some people hire an independent midwife to personalise their care, however this is a big financial commitment so not possible for everyone. When you choose hypnobirthing, you take authority of your body and your experience. The tools and knowledge received in a hypnobirthing course enable you to command informed consent and ensure you receive personalised rather than generalised care.