Nine months ago I knew very little about pregnancy and maternity matters (in fact, I didn’t really know how to change a nappy!). This all changed very rapidly as soon as Adam (my husband) and I found out we were expecting a baby boy. Before I knew it I had entered a world of books about baby sleeping patterns, birth plans, breastfeeding and so much more. I started to compare hospitals, read reviews on baby products and discover the strong sisterhood that exists between mums-to-be and new mums. I discovered that there are plenty of ante-natal classes, pregnancy yoga, hypnobirthing and so much more to choose from! Pre-pregnancy, I’d never heard of hypnobirthing, but now that I am truly embedded in the world of birth and babies, I’ve become a big fan of hypnobirthing philosophies.
So, what is hypnobirthing?
The name hypnobirthing is perhaps a bit misleading. One of my friends recently said that at first she thought it sounded like hippie gibberish. Well, hippie or not, I found it to be pretty fabulous.
It’s more about practising meditative techniques during the birth process rather than actual hypnosis. It’s based on the idea of releasing as much oxytocin (the feel-good, happy hormone) when we go into labour in order to promote an easier and faster birth. The more oxytocin we release, the better it is for birthing our babies. On the flip side, spikes in adrenaline slow down the birthing process, so hypnobirthing is about boosting oxytocin, while reducing adrenaline.
What I’ve learnt about hypnobirthing
Adam and I signed up to a 2-day hypnobirthing course in Walthamstow, East London, with the fabulous Jo Redmond. Here are five takeaways we learnt from Jo:
Your birthing environment is key
Hypnobirthing is all about encouraging the release of oxytocin: the love/ happy hormone that promotes an easier birth. It’s therefore vital to create an environment in which you feel happy and at home. Whilst the comforts of your actual home are great for making you feel relaxed, the sterile bright lights and equipment of a hospital are not particularly conducive to feeling Zen. The answer is thus to recreate some of your home comforts at the hospital (unless of course you’ve opted for a homebirth). Dim the lights, light candles, play your favourite music, take a soft pillow from home to the hospital, take along something visual that you like and so on.
Practise a variety of breathing techniques
A big part of the course focused on different breathing techniques to guide your baby into the world. When ‘surges’ (or contractions) first start, focus on your breath by elongating your exhales. This type of controlled breathing helps you to relax and aids in the release of oxytocin. ‘Balloon belly breathing’ and more intense exhales are used later on in the labour. Leading up to the big day, Jo encouraged us to practise these techniques while listening to guided scripts and meditations.
Master the art of instant relaxation
Jo assured us that by practicing meditative breathing and relaxation techniques daily leading up to birth, we’d be able to slip into a state of relaxation within seconds on due day. Just a few minutes of practise a day allows you to easily enter the right state of mind for the release of oxytocin. Jo kept talking about the ‘hypno bubble’, which refers to the calming space you’re able to create in your mind, even if your birth plan doesn’t go 100% according to plan.
Your birth partner has a big role to play
One of the great things about hypnobirthing is that it empowers your birth partner – in my case Adam – to play an active role. Jo showed all the birth partners how they can use specific ‘anchors’ to guide us into a relaxed state of mind. Birth partners are there to encourage us, create a homely environment, serve as our birth-plan advocates at the hospital and keep us on track when it comes to breathing well and staying in the ‘hypno bubble’.
Don’t rush to the hospital when you go into labour
Movies make us believe that once your waters break, it’s a mad rush to get to hospital. In reality, it’s not at all like this (for the majority of women). In fact, the longer you can stay at home once labour has started the better. Home is the perfect environment to promote progression in labour. It’s where we feel most comfortable. Many hospitals will in fact send you home again if you’re not dilated enough and this alone can cause an unnecessary spike in adrenaline. So, the key is to stay home for as long as possible where you can rest, practise your breathing, have a snack and perhaps soak in a lovely bath. Another perk of staying at home for longer is that you’re less likely to be offered intervention at the hospital if you’re hoping for a natural birth. Medical professionals don’t always give us women the patience and time we need to breathe our babies into the world.
I haven’t yet gone into labour and haven’t put hypnobirthing in the true sense of the word into action yet, but doing the course and learning about these mindful techniques have made me feel very positive about birthing our baby boy into this weird and wonderful world of ours.
Find our more about Jo’s hypnobirthing course.