Recently my husband and I decided to do a private hypnobirthing session with Mamacan hypnobirthing. Obviously still being pregnant, I’m the wrong side of being able to tell you whether it “worked” for us in labour, but I still wanted to tell you all about it and why it’s been such a positive experience.
I’ll openly admit I was a hypnobirthing sceptic. First pregnancy I bought a book on the subject at about week 37 having started to hear that the world and his wife were doing it and felt that I therefore needed to jump on the bandwagon. Truth is a few pages in I started reading about shoals of colourful fish and called bullshit on it, deciding it really wasn’t for us.
To give some context on why I started thinking about hypnobirthing again this time around… I didn’t have what I’d describe as a traumatic birth but it was far from easy. My waters broke before contractions started which meant we had to go to the hospital far sooner than we would’ve like to be on IV antibiotics. We subsequently spent hours and hours in a paper cubicle on a hospital ward, broken up by endless laps around the hospital grounds, pausing for contractions all the while. When I was at home I had felt like I was progressing well but as soon as I got in the taxi to go to the hospital at my allotted time it honestly felt like everything stopped. So it was a very long, drawn out process which ended in induction, an epidural, and an assisted ventouse birth. I don’t regret any of the decisions which I made in that time as they were right for me and my baby during the birth, and at the end of the day I had a healthy baby boy in my arms. Still it wasn’t the experience I’d quite hoped for, and I’ve given a lot of thought being pregnant again as to the reasons for that.
The more I’ve gone through this pregnancy the more people have told me how much hypnobirthing helped them in their birth. Not saying every one of those people promised a hypnotic state with no pain. Far from it in fact (though one woman did tell me she felt in a trance like state, so it does happen). What they did promise though was more of a sense of calm, and control. At a time when essentially everything that is happening is beyond your control, this sounds pretty bloody appealing to me!
Still, going in to our session with Nicky I remained a little sceptical. Before she arrived I was nervous she’d be a little hippyish, and have bells to chime and incense to burn, and expect us to chant our way through 3 hours in an enforced state of ‘relaxation’. I couldn’t have been more wrong, which is why hypnobirthing could really do with a rebrand as it’s not the hippyish practice many people imagine. Nicky was a lawyer before training in hypnobirthing and it showed in her approach; she was straightforward, matter of fact, and totally got where we were coming from. We started the session talking in detail about the physiology of birth, how the uterus responds through different stages, and what it means for Mum and baby. Even just being able to visualise this and learn some breathing techniques for how to manage the different stages was so helpful. It just made complete sense! Nicky also explained at bit more about the hormones at play during birth, how they can help or hinder the process, and some of the ways to ‘manage’ their production to support the whole process going more smoothly (more on that later).
From the breathing techniques and physiology we moved on to talking about some of the scripts you can use / listen to to aid relaxation. Again Nicky picked the least flowery of the options available so we could embrace it easily, and even my husband is open to both practicing them, and using them through the birth – no shoals of colourful fish for us I’m afraid.
My husband was an even bigger sceptic than me going in to the session, and even he was won round. I think we lost him a little on the affirmations, which I’ll admit I’ve always previously thought we’re nonsense. However, after 20 odd weeks of yoga with a teacher repeating “every contraction is one step closer to meeting your baby” I’ve even started to see the sense in these, and know I’ll be taking this one particularly in to the labour room. I think having a few simple sayings which focus your mind through contractions makes a whole lot of sense. It’s a time where you need little things to visualise / hold on to to keep you calm and focused and hopefully keep any fear at bay.
Finally we talked through how to create the optimum environment to give birth, not just about picking the place you choose (Home/ birthing centre/ labour ward) but about how to create a space whatever the place which makes you feel as relaxed as possible during birth. Ultimately that’s the key to hypnobirthing, and how it can support your birth – your body can do what it needs to do most efficiently if it’s relaxed and allowed to do what it was essentially designed for, rather than being inhibited by stress.
First time round when our NCT teacher mentioned candles and aromatherapy with none of the science behind it, I thought it just sounded silly. I wondered why anyone would stress themselves with all that extra prep when there’s already enough to think about, and hospital bag lists as long as your arm! But with Nicky explaining it that all those things work to make you feel like you’re in a safe space in a very primal way, it started to make way more sense. If you’re in an alien environment, especially possibly a hospital which can have many negative connections, the more you can do to convince yourself that you’re in a homely, space space which your senses recognise, the better. Again that’s the thing, at every stage of talking through the principles of hypnobirthing it all just seemed very logical. It was like little lightbulbs going on at every step. And they’re so simple, this time around I’m asking the question why wouldn’t you do them, rather than the opposite as I did last pregnancy.
You might not want to take on every practice of hypnobirthing. Affirmations might not be for you, or you might not feel comfortable having your birth partner talk you through scripts or use massage, but chances are they’ll be parts which will resonate with you, and could transform your birth experience.
I only wish I’d pursued it sooner / more fully in my first pregnancy. I think it could have really helped me manage my birth experience (not in a sense of controlling it), but having better tools to manage my reactions. We now have a plan of how to hopefully keep me relaxed in the transition from home to the hospital. That part might not seem like a big deal to most people in the grand scheme of things, I didn’t know it was an issue for me, but I can see looking back that my fight or flight reflex definitely kicked in and slowed everything down. Having a plan for how to manage that time better is helping to alleviate my fears of that drastic slow down in progression, which will hopefully support the whole process being smoother.
Plus we now have a few things thought out for how to make the most of whichever place in the hospital we end up, whether it be the birthing centre or labour ward. Whilst we’d given this some thought last time around, I’m not sure everything we chose was the best decision. Being more informed this time, hopefully that hospital bag will have much more than just good snacks to offer!
Reflecting on how we’ve approached hypnobirthing, I still don’t think reading alone will do it justice, especially if you have a particularly sceptical partner like mine, as you really need them to be on board too. So check out Mamacan, who does private and group sessions, or look for options local to you which will work for you.
Practising Hypnobirthing won’t guarantee you the perfect birth, if it could practitioners would be millionaires. It might though help you have a calmer, more relaxed experience which you come to cherish. That’s pretty much all I’m hoping for from it! I will update on the other side how things went, and how much we were able to put in to practice!