So the much awaited hypnobirth was on One Born Every Minute last night. This programme is so far off my radar that I normally don’t know which nights it’s on, but social networks were tantalizingly awash with excitement, declaring there’s a hypnobirth on OBEM tonight – so I followed suit recommending that mums watch it. I recorded it so I could skim through the other births, which I’m glad I did, and watched it early this morning.
It was then that I realized it should have come with commentary, as the editing was appallingly bad and after seeing one colleague’s Facebook Status where she’d simply written “Hypnobirth?” I realized that the entire meaning of hypnosis for birth was lost in poor and sensationalist editing.
The couple preparing were lovely, it wasn’t clear whether they had actually done any classes though, or seen a hyponotherapist. Doing classes makes a big difference as it puts the CDs into context and builds confidence in using them or understanding what to expect on the day, and how to work with each other using hypnosis during birth.
The midwives described hypnobirthing in the little interlude and talked of doing ‘relaxation sessions’ with the mums, it may have just been my scepticism but I’m sure one midwife had a slight smirk on her face – whereas we often find the midwives we come into contact with are very aware and supportive of hypnobirthing. This view of us teaching just relaxation is so misplaced, and becoming endemic, as other copycat classes simply offering relaxation classes for a gentle births spring up everywhere.
Birth hypnotherapy is not about just relaxation, it is so much more than that. Research last year showed that birth outcomes between women who had used relaxation techniques and those who hadn’t were not significantly different – so people assumed that our type of classes don’t work.
Yet, what people often fail to understand is, that the role of hypnosis is to prepare your mind for labour at a deeply subconscious level, it triggers a whole shift in your underlying perceptions of birth, so subtle that you are not even aware of it at a conscious level – apart from perhaps “just feeling better” or “calmer”. And it is this deep shift that allows the physical switch from tension to relaxation in the muscles in your body during birth. We always teach the ‘the tiger in the bush’ story to emphasis just how important it is to be completely free of fear both conscious and unconscious.
The reason the editing was so misleading is because when she “lost it” she was probably nearing transition, or as we like to name it, ‘the resting stage’, however she was shown to be much calmer in the next shot – suggesting to the viewer that she found she couldn’t cope half way through the labour – I would put money on it that the edit was nonsequential. Although some hypnobirthing mums do not hit that wall and just go seamlessly into second stage we are taught that even hypnobirthing mums are known to reach this wall and if it happens it’s a reinforcement that your baby has very nearly arrived.
It was interesting to listen to the language used as well, some of which was positive some of which was negative and it’s true the music wasn’t very relaxing, and was quite upbeat – something to note for mums using hypnosis for birth. Her mum did well, but I got the impression that they hadn’t done classes as her husband seemed to be quite excluded from the birth and didn’t really seem sure of what to do. I could feel his anxiety through the screen, so there is no doubt mum would have sensed it as well.
Birth can bring a couple together, practicing hypnosis and breathing together can be wonderful and when used during the birth give a real sense of the parents working together as a team, completely in tune with each other. This is almost certainly achieved through preparation together and is immensely precious. When watching other hypnobirthing DVDs I’m always struck by the dads, and by their calm, gentle presence keeping that space free of anything that might make the mother anxious.
In summary? I should have known better and watched it first before recommending. But to give it its worth, with a few caveats in place and running commentary it gives a glimpse into the world of hypnobirthing.
How to have a hypnobirth.
- Find a practitioner that is a qualified hypnotherapist or a psychologist or therapist with training in hypnosis, as all Mindful Mamma practitioners are. It does make a difference. www.mindfulmamma.co.uk
- Make sure that you have a therapist who understands the link between the mind and the body and is able to teach you the philosophy around fear and pain during birth. Some hypnotherapists just use standard pain management techniques, and this isn’t always the best approach
- Do a class if you can. Mindful Mamma classes are designed to be short, small and affordable as we believe mums should have access to classes and be able to actively engage in those classes without feeling intimidated. Before I trained, I only used CDs when I had my son and while I had a good birth I now know that I would have made very different choices, had I done a class, that may have altered the outcome of my births.
- Practise! I always emphasise practice, the more you practice the more automatically your body will respond during labour to suggestions and prompts. It’s like learning a musical instrument, the more you practice the less aware you are of the steps you need to take to make a tune. Practice will encourage you to tune into the natural rhythm of your body and to move with it.
- Reeducate yourself with positive stories of birth, books about normal birth, positive articles, videos and so own and, stop watching programmes like One Born Every Minute!