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10 ways to get the most out of your hypnobirthing preparation

Hypnobirthing

There is a common misconception that hypnosis is like waving a magic wand and through no effort at all you will somehow absorb all you need for a perfect outcome. So here are 10 tips to optimise your chances of having a positive birth.

Over the 20 years I’ve been helping families have babies, I have seen the pitfalls from inadequate and outdated generic hypnobirthing training, taught by people with little understanding of the potential complexities of birthing. So learning from an experienced birth professional should be your starting point.

1. Hypnobirthing should be something you want to embrace

If it’s just something that you choose because all the cool kids are doing it, then you may not fully benefit from all a hypnobirthing approach has to offer. When your philosophy about labour and birth is similar to the aims of a hypnobirthing course you are more likely to take on board the information shared with you and be inspired to have a positive birth experience. When your goals aren’t shared, you will be more likely to discount some of the techniques and may have less confidence in your abilities which can be counterproductive. Some courses are focused on more abstract teaching around utilising the bodies inner wisdom. Some are simply techniques for relaxation designed to be an adjunct to more informational courses. And some are more comprehensive courses. Like A Focused Birth, that combines information on what to expect, what choices you can make, and how you can influence your birth experience in a more complete way, in a variety of scenarios.

When you choose a course that aligns with your values you will be much more inspired to have confidence as you approach your labour.

2. Be flexible in your thinking

Rigid thinking around labour and birth is often the fast track to disappointment.

If a labour and birth without intervention is your preference take a course that will give you all the information you need to empower you to achieve that aim, but give you additional knowledge for other possibilities.

If you have a set of personal circumstances that dictate a caesarean is a recommendation from your care provider learn what you can expect and what you can do to make that a positive birth experience. But also have some knowledge and understanding about labour just in case you are one of the many people whose baby has other plans and makes a speedy entrance before surgery is planned.

When making mental preparations it is sensible to consider the bigger picture rather than the intricate details- particularly if you’ve never experienced labour before.

Planning for how you want to labour is useful so you are prepared, so practicalities like renting a birth pool and engaging the services of a doula might be necessary preparation for some people’s labour choices. But it’s important you recognise that you might not have time to enter the water, that on the day it might not be appropriate, or whatever you previously planned it might not sit right with you on the day, perhaps you’d be more comfortable walking or dancing than being immersed- it’s just one of those things you can’t know in advance.

In all my years as a midwife I’ve seen many families with detailed preparations that they just didn’t utilise once contractions began, and those who had a singular vision about what the perfect labour should look like and feel like, were those who are most likely to describe a sense of failure, guilt, sadness, grief and might even feel be traumatised when things didn’t go to the original plan.

3. Utilise the tools and techniques that are shared with you during your pregnancy

It’s all well and good if you have a full tool kit of the latest wizz-bang equipment but it’s not going to help if you don’t know ever get the tool from the bag. Or if you don’t know which tool does what job. Or you can’t remember how to use it.

I’ve heard women come from classes and when in labour asking ‘what was that breathing for pushing technique?’ It’s too late to learn it now. Your body and your baby needs your full focus elsewhere. When you are toward the later stages of labour is when you get to enjoy the culmination of your combined preparation- not begin to consider each technique.

In the lead up to your labour try out the different breathing techniques- give yourself the opportunity to fully learn what might be a set of new instructions, so that you don’t even have to think how to do it, it will come naturally and easily- exactly what you need when you are in labour. Hypnobirthing courses are less impactful if you treat them like an event- once you’ve sat through the classes you can’t tick that off your list. It’s not like an exam you can cram for the night before. It’s more useful to consider the possibility labour might be more like a marathon. You can’t stop 3 hours in and research how to change your stride. If you do steady consistent practice ahead of labour you will have an understanding of what tools work for you and which are likely to be useful without much conscious effort.

4. Get your partner on board

Your experience will be improved when your partner or birth support person, is fully informed about what they can do to best support you in labour. When you have prepared as a team you will have the added confidence that you are not doing this alone. Together you are stronger. Your partner will be able to suggest alternative techniques or methods to try when you know what each can offer.

Not only will they be able to offer you suggestions, but they also could enjoy the benefits of a variety of calming techniques. They are not innocent observers to what’s going on. They are having their own experience. Partner’s are also likely to be excited, exhausted, anxious, concerned, a whole range of feelings and emotions that shouldn’t be ignored because they aren’t they one in labour.

Having a range of methods to invite rapid relaxation and calm into your body and mind is a fabulous life skill to have for anyone. I have seen how stressful labour can be for partners when they have no understanding of what is unfolding, and feel they have no power to assist their loved one.

Having a sense of being powerless or out of control, in any situation often leads to anger and frustration- emotions that are simply not helpful for anyone in the birth environment. If the partner can regulate their own stress levels – it frees up the birthing mum to focus solely on her own needs.

In every series of classes I see at least a couple of birth partners opt out of practising the breathing techniques- mistakenly thinking ‘that’s labour stuff’.

I have also received wonderful feedback from all the partners who didn’t realise just how powerful some simple techniques can be, resulting in better sleep, less stress, increased confidence.

And of course, labour and birth is just a snapshot in time in this transition to parenthood. As a new parent you could really do with extra tools to help prevent you becoming overwhelmed. As your life goes through a transformation, having additional priorities and new things to consider, on top of the usual demands of home and work all with interrupted or reduced sleep.

5. Regularly listen to the audio tracks

Hypnosis is often mistaken for some form of mind control wizardry. But that’s not a helpful description when trying to explain how hypnosis can be effective for labour and birth.

One component of the hypnobirthing approach is to listen to audio recordings of hypnotic suggestions. Unlike just chatting to someone and telling them how to feel, your mind can take on suggestions in a different way when you are deeply relaxed, and because it isn’t magic this can often take more than one occasion of listening.

By repeatedly listening to the audio tracks you are increasing your chances of eliciting a positive response to the suggestions offered. Your mind will make positive associations to different aspects of the whole experience.

It goes a bit like this: ‘When I’m listening to that voice and hearing that music, I can be deeply relaxed.’

And then, ‘when I’m thinking about labour and feeling this relaxed, I can remain calm’ because those are the associations that have been made repeatedly.

So, when it comes time for labour to begin, the unconscious response to; that voice, that music, those words and those suggestions is to feel calm and relaxed. Making it easy to remain focused on the positive suggestions, whether they are about feeling powerful, being distracted from discomfort, remaining focused, trusting the process, a whole range of useful suggestions.

The alternative - not having these associations and suggestions, allows time for your mind to jump to conclusions. We are very good at filling ‘the void’ when we don’t know what to expect. And for people with a propensity for anxious thoughts, the gaps in our knowing are often filled with imagining negative or scary outcomes- the opposite of reassuring.

Having a positive soundtrack to focus on leaves no room for negative thoughts to creep in.

I’ve had families attend education sessions early in their pregnancy to get the information they need to help allay anxiety, and when I’ve asked how they are finding the audio tracks? They tell me- ‘Oh I’m saving the audio tracks until maternity leave, I’m really busy at work, I’ll have more time to focus when I leave work.’

And I reinforce for these people that the mental calm and physical relaxation experienced during these brief recordings is so beneficial for you and your baby throughout your pregnancy. Babies growth and development is affected by high levels of stress hormones in the mum’s circulation.

The people who feel they can’t take the time to relax- are the ones whose baby’s need it most. Rather than thinking about it as taking time out of your busy day, think of it as putting the time in to mentally reset and physically recharge, so you can be more efficient for the rest of your day.

When you are growing a tiny human allowing 20 minutes is so valuable for you both. A small investment in your baby’s future.

6. Have realistic expectations about the sensations of labour

It’s not helpful to suggest that if you take a hypnobirthing course you will have a pain free labour.

During A Focused Birth sessions, we explore how it is possible to experience pain and (with the right perspective) still have a positive birth experience. Unlike during illness or trauma, pain during labour is not constant, and it’s not something we can’t work with.

When we have a greater understanding of what is happening, we can stop being fearful and anticipate our body’s innate ability to reduce pain and induce calm during labour.

For most people pain is a scary prospect. Thinking about pain can be worse than experiencing it because our imaginations cobble together all the things we’ve ever heard about labour, and usually hold on to the worst descriptions and images.

Traditional classes from the biggest hypnobirthing franchise group in Australia only compound this by re-labelling the most common terms in medical use- which works fine until the woman is confronted with these ‘scary terms’ by unsuspecting hospital staff at the start of her labour and completely derails her mental composure. I’ve heard women describe a sense of failure when they had believed ‘if they were doing it right it shouldn’t hurt’. They had pinned their hopes on the ‘promise’ of a pain free birth.

At A Focused Birth you won’t be asked to rename medical terminology. You’ll come to see how intense contractions are to be embraced, how they are the wonderful force that will birth your baby and because of their power your body will respond with equally powerful hormones that support your body and transform your experience.

7. Ensure your birth team have philosophies aligned with yours

Whatever your preferences, whether that be, for as low intervention and as natural as possible, to having an early epidural and whatever else is on offer, it is important to know if your choices will be supported by those looking after you. Check what are some of your hospitals routine policies? If you have engaged a private obstetrician- discuss early what their usual practice is- preferably before you commence your care with them. Don’t be afraid to seek alternative arrangements if you preferences won’t be supported. Hypnobirthing will be much more effective if you approach your labour feeling calm and confident.

8. Create more confidence in your relaxation techniques by practicing in a variety of environments

Because there’s a perception that hypnosis resembles being asleep, there’s some scepticism that it can be useful in labour, so to prove it to yourself is really powerful.

Initially practising lying down sets a great foundation. It solidifies the associations between hypnotic suggestions and being in a state of calm and relaxation. And then to progress to listening, whilst sitting, eyes open, or standing. When you notice how it can transform a stressful situation ahead of labour you’ll have a reinforced belief in it’s efficacy.

Hypnosis is essentially is a form of useful focus. Being in labour requires intentional focus so the two are beautifully compatible.

9. Don’t forget to listen to the Hypnobirthing Audio tracks when you are in labour- and beyond

Even though the aim of a hypnobirthing approach is to inspire you to approach labour with a positive mindset, confident in your body’s ability to birth, and your ability to cope. The preparation may be so good that you forget to put the audio tracks on at the start of labour. Perhaps you will be pleasantly surprised at how contractions are something that you can work with. That sense of inner calm might be all you need to allow you to focus, but when labour intensifies it’s important to make the most of all the tools and techniques you’ve learned.

And after all that focus on the birth, you can make full use of many of the tools and techniques in the weeks after your baby arrives. The first few months of your baby’s life can be really challenging and now you have some extra coping strategies.

10. For an absolute gold standard hypnobirthing experience have a one-to-one discussion with an experienced birth professional to address any specific concerns you have

Most of my clients engage me for a private session after completing the course.

These are always transformative. This is where, as an experienced Clinical Hypnotherapist I can add real value for families. It’s wonderful to witness a weight being lifted after a few minutes with the strategic use of therapeutic techniques.

It is most common for people to have several small anxieties about birth. It might be about their ability to cope during labour, it might be concern about vaginal tearing, or the possibility of traumatic surgery. For some women, there’s the thought of losing their identity as an independent woman with a successful career or doubts about the strength of their relationship to survive the demands of a new baby. Whether it’s one dominating concern or a combination of many small factors, the results can still be easily achieved.

When these niggling doubts are addressed its like wafting away storm clouds to make way for the clear blue sky that was being obscured. After carrying around that growing knot of tension for weeks, it’s so refreshing to have clarity of mind and positivity.

To hear how women describe a sense that everything seems achievable. To watch a smile radiate into a whole body glow, as tension melts away, is possibly equal to the satisfaction I experience when present at the moment of birth. It is such a privilege to be able to have a profound impact one of the most memorable moments in a woman’s life.

The last woman to have an individual session with me said “Wow, I can’t believe how different I feel – you should make this mandatory for everyone.” If only I could.

If you’d like to know more about the A Focused Birth antenatal course, or perhaps you’ve got lingering anxiety that’s spoiling your pregnancy and would like to book an individual online session then contact me.

Midwife led Australia wide online antenatal and hypnobirthing class

I have over 20 years experience as a midwife in the UK and Australia, working in both private and public hospitals. I have helped thousands of women in every scenario, from homebirths and water-births, births with complex issues, intervention, and caesarean births.

I currently work in a busy Melbourne Hospital, and am passionate about supporting women and families be as relaxed and confident as they can be whatever the circumstances. I divide my time as a midwife between the Birth Centre and the Child Birth Education Team. This means I am upto date with current research, policies and procedures when it comes to all things birth related.

In addition, I am a government accredited Clinical Hypnotherapist, with an Honours degree in Psychology. In my private practice I specialise in treating anxiety, trauma, fertility issues, pain management and phobias, as well as hypnobirthing techniques.

Bringing together these sets of skills, knowledge, and experience I can guide and prepare you to have the positive birth experience that you desire.

What A Focused Birth childbirth education offers you

  • Comprehensive antenatal classes developed and facilitated live by a registered Midwife and Childbirth educator
  • Access to additional resources and recommended reading
  • Toolbox of relaxation techniques, coping strategies, active birth principles
  • Breathing techniques
  • In depth breastfeeding information
  • Chance to ask questions relevant to your individual circumstances
  • Birth Preference Customisable Template
  • Comprehensive customisable ‘What to pack’ lists
  • Huge list of positive affirmations to choose from
  • Opportunity to address personal issues, such as previous traumatic experiences
  • Opportunity to upgrade to include individual hypnotherapy sessions
Justine Daly, Midwife and Childbirth educator

Online antenatal and hypnobirthing class
from $395 per couple

Next course starts Saturday Oct 16

Dates and booking options