10 ways to get the most out of your hypnobirthing preparation Antenatal anxiety - How to reduce it in 3 easy steps Knowledge is power when it comes to reducing anxiety in labour 10 most common myths about hypnobirthing Hypnobirthing, does it work? How do I choose a childbirth education class? Choosing a care provider Make choices without fear
Today’s blog post came as a result of a really touching conversation I had recently with one of the mums from my antenatal course. She rang me to tell me about how her birth had gone, and then really generously agreed to write it down to share because she puts it so much better than I ever could.
(Names have been left out for privacy, as she details how she had been a hypnotherapy client of mine).
“I’m really happy to talk about my births because I want people to know they don’t have to suffer in silence and that there is help available.
The births of my two children could not have been more different. My first labour started in the middle of the night when I was a couple of days past my due date. The contractions weren’t very strong to start with and I couldn’t see a pattern to them except when I sat down they would be worse and I couldn’t lie down at all. When I rang the hospital the midwives were helpful but said I’d be better staying at home as it might be lots more hours yet. By the next evening my membranes broke and I made my way to the hospital, it was rush hour and the journey in the car was so intense, it should have taken 20 minutes but this day was an agonising 45 minutes, made worse by me vomiting several times.
At the hospital I was checked and was 9cm dilated and was so happy it was nearly over but when I got to the labour ward I became really anxious and my contractions slowed right down. Eventually I started to push but it was another 4 hours from arriving in the hospital until my son was born. I had an episiotomy even though I don’t remember it, I feel like they didn’t ask if they could do it. It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened. I was having flashes of memory of the car journey and the fear and feeling out of control. I wanted a large family but I didn’t know if I’d ever be ready to face that again.
A friend told me about how hypnosis had helped her with panic attacks and so I plucked up the courage to give it a go. There wasn’t anything available in my area, so I was happy to find online sessions with Justine. I can’t tell you how great it was to be able to talk things through with an experienced midwife. Justine knew what was likely to be happening at the time and really helped me to have a new perspective on my son’s birth. It’s really strange I was hoping to have the memory erased from my mind so I couldn’t think about it, but I can still remember everything, but now it doesn’t upset me at all. I used to cry when friends asked me how his birth was, but not anymore. After a couple of appointments, I felt much calmer about the prospect of going through labour again. And I’m really happy to say I was pregnant again soon after. And yes, she is a lockdown baby!
Something that I didn’t think would be as helpful as it was, was attending A Focused Birth antenatal classes. I thought because we’d already had a baby, they wouldn’t tell us much more than we knew. I also thought hypnobirthing was kind of pointless, I had visions of chanting with essential oils and candles. But the classes were really a great mix of theory and practical techniques. Justine gave us so many different ways of coping with labour that I felt more and more positive after each week. Learning about how the things we tell ourselves can have such a strong influence over how we experience events was new to us, and we still talk about how it’s changed the way we talk to ourselves and especially our son. Because we did the classes early in the pregnancy I was able to keep practising the calming techniques, and used them during stressful moments at work, and during a scary time when I had some antenatal bleeding.
And then for my daughters amazing birth. I started having contractions just before bedtime. And thought I’d probably have all night to go, but 2 hours later they were regular and I was really needing to focus on breathing with every contraction. I almost forgot to use the hypnobirthing tracks because I didn’t think that I could actually be in labour so soon, but when we made our way to the hospital my partner reminded me it might be a good distraction for the car ride. I’m lucky my lovely neighbour was on standby to come and stay over with my son, so we didn’t wake him.
I don’t even remember the journey this time I was so focused on breathing and listening that it went in a blur. At the hospital they said I might have to wait a while to be transferred to the labour room because I didn’t look like I was advanced in labour but when they checked me I was 8cm dilated. I was in a room in minutes and got straight in the shower and not long after I started feeling that pushing pressure. 10 minutes later she was born and was so alert. She stayed skin to skin with me for a few hours and it was such a contrast to how I felt last time. Looking back I can’t remember all the details but my partner said I was really focused and listened to everything the midwife said. I did have a small tear but thankfully it didn’t need stitches.
And now I cry thinking about this birth but they are tears of happiness. I feel really proud of myself and my partner and how we worked together. That feeling is worth more than any amount of money could buy. I lived with awful memories for such a long time and now I know what it feels like to be glowing with mumma pride. I can only imagine how that will change the relationship I have with my daughter and thankfully now my son as well. And any other babies we might have in the future. The first few weeks with our little family has been really magical.
I can’t thank Justine enough. I will always be grateful for her wisdom, her warm personality, and her support. It’s really clear that she truly cares for us families and their experiences. I won’t hesitate to recommend her and A Focused Birth classes to anyone and everyone who is pregnant.”
How lucky am I that I get to be part of such a great transformation.
I’ve recognised for a long time as I’ve worked in the birth centre helping babies come into the world, that whilst I can do everything I can to make it as positive as possible on the day, sometimes it’s too late to make a more impactful difference. A woman’s mindset as she approaches labour is so important in how events unfold for her. The statistics suggest that many women would describe their experience as a traumatic birth. And that’s why I got into hypnobirthing - I wanted to provide a more meaningful influence.
For this family it was a past traumatic birth that was contaminating her potential for subsequent positive births and even pregnancies. For others, it’s hearing so many negative recounts (either in person or depicted in movies and TV) over many years, that invade the emotions making it really hard to know how it’s possible not to be fearful. It’s not surprising that consistently research has shown how having any form of quality antenatal education can lead to a more positive birth experience. And it makes sense. Imagine being asked to prepare for something that most people describe as the most painful thing you’ll ever experience and I defy you not be fearful - until you know what you need to know to make birth something that can be accomplished.
To reframe peoples thinking by sharing with them the many ways that nature has got it all sorted, that as a society we would have discontinued thousands of years ago if we didn’t have the capacity to reproduce, to birth our young, and to feed our young. All the interventions and procedures that we have come to consider as essential for birth are incredibly recent. Most of them less than a hundred years old. And yes, they absolutely have a valuable role in changing outcomes for many, but the general narrative has shifted to making it sound impossible to birth without them. Advocating natural birth is not about declining potentially life saving interventions, it’s about normalizing what is possible for the majority of women.
As part of A Focused Birth antenatal classes we explore how our bodies are designed in a way that facilitates birth, how it’s not an freak of nature that just when we need them our hormones assist in temporarily changing the pregnant woman’s anatomy, how throughout pregnancy your body is getting ready to breastfeed your baby. How the birth hormones assist not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. We use practical examples to illustrate clearly how what we are thinking can affect how our bodies respond.
Looking at what happens in each stage of labour can be useful for many but often there is too much emphasis on the need to have a clear understanding of exactly what is anatomically happening at what time. It’s valuable for decision making, but crucially women need to understand how it is not essential to know how to birth- after all when was the last time a primate took a class? Or read a book about giving birth? Sometimes knowledge is power and sometimes too much knowledge can get in the way of letting your body do what it is designed to do. And this is where hypnobirthing principles can be so helpful. Allowing women to understand how their thinking impacts their hormones, which then impacts their bodies, their emotions and ultimately their experience.
But understanding this is only part of the equation, having the tools and hypnobirthing techniques to enable women to have the understanding that they have possibilities, they have options and they have skills that will be useful, feels empowering. Knowing that they have some level of control over their actions and their experience is valuable in having a positive expectation.
So many more people describe themselves as having anxiety these days, and it’s a label that is often shorthand for ‘I don’t cope well with certain situations’. And most people with anxiety would agree that unfamiliar situations are very difficult for them. For these people pregnancy anxiety is a logical follow on from generalised anxiety. Which is why antenatal education especially in the form of hypnobirthing can be really valuable. Hypnobirthing is like giving people a roadmap, and a toolkit. The chance to know what is ahead of them and, providing them with resources with which to cope. A sense of being in control. Many studies have examined birth trauma and negative birth experiences and one of the common themes reported is having a feeling they had no control over the situation. So it’s easy to see by being armed with options is highly likely to reduce that feeling of helplessness.
It’s only through my education to become a hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner that I’ve come to understand just how important our self-talk is. And why Positive Affirmations are so much more than wishful thinking. When you fill your awareness with a positive thought it leaves little room for the negative thoughts that most of us are very good at focusing on, in the problem areas in our lives. Imagine what would happen if a toddler continually said to themselves ‘I can’t do, I’ll never stand up, I’ll never walk, I’ll never be able to work out how to run, it looks too hard’. They’d stop trying. And so much of what children engage in, we call playing, but playing gives us the ability to keep trying and practicing. Doing things over and over again until it comes easy to us, or we give up.
Positive affirmations give us the opportunity to strive for a positive intention, to keep our focus on the positive thoughts so that we don’t revert to the negative ones. Negative thoughts lead to avoidant behaviours, positive thoughts lead to taking action. So when I’m asked ‘Do positive affirmations really work’, my answer is, the words alone aren’t what’s creating a positive outcome, but they enable you to want to take the first step in the right direction, rather than turning the other way. If you only told yourself you ‘Couldn’t’, why would you bother even trying?
Having a sense that you did everything you could to prepare also goes along way to having a positive birth experience, as opposed to personal regret. And I make it clear when I talk about all the possible pain relief options that they are available for a reason. Whether you feel you need to plan for an early epidural, or would prefer to use any or all of the new skills you’ve acquired, before having the possibility of choosing an epidural, you will be making an informed choice. Understanding the potential benefits and potential risks of each option in advance is empowering.
Hypnobirthing has the potential to create possibility. It expands knowledge and facilitates choice for women as they prepare for their babies arrival. And that can only be a positive when someone has previously experienced birth trauma or has pregnancy anxiety.
10 ways to get the most out of your hypnobirthing preparation
Antenatal anxiety - How to reduce it in 3 easy steps
Knowledge is power when it comes to reducing anxiety in labour
10 most common myths about hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing, does it work?
How do I choose a childbirth education class?
Choosing a care provider
Make choices without fear
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.
Next course starts Saturday Aug 21