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Birth but not as we know it….


On Friday as I was leaving for work, I explained to my 5 year old that I was running a day teaching women how to give birth.

His reply was “well that’s easy isn’t it, you just need to relax.” Pleasantly surprised that all my work on birth had begun to see the growth of positive thoughts about birth, I smiled and said “yes that’s right”. He continued, “you see I saw it on Scooby doo, and when the chicken relaxed the egg popped out. Easy.”

So not all my conditioning! But his response was interesting, it demonstrated how early our thoughts around the birth process are conditioned from a very young age. At Mindful Mamma we teach all our clients how important it is to relax and prepare, and of course when you are relaxed and prepared it can be great if you have no underlying fears or apprehensions surrounding birth.

However a large piece of research from Sweden recently showed that preparing with psychoprophilaxis (relaxation techniques) compared to those who hadn’t showed no difference at all in outcomes.

This is hugely important for us hypnotherapists as we know that any underlying fears, whether it is of hospitals or needles, or simply that the mother feels threatened within her birth environment, can trigger the fight or flight response, which feeds into what is known as the fear-tension-pain cycle. As far as we know only preparing using hypnosis, particularly work around fear release, can break this cycle if there are any underlying apprehensions about birth.

Sadly in today’s society we are conditioned to believe that birth is painful, that it’s a medical process and that it can be dangerous from a very young age. I challenge you to find a birth in a film or a TV show that is not dramatic and fear inducing! We are not taught about how beautiful it is, how amazing our bodies are at adapting to birth physically, how the baby helps itself be born, and that actually the sensations and intensity you feel during birth are manageable. When you are free of fear, relaxed and calm your body does what it does naturally.

Imagine an animal in the wild giving birth, if she senses any threat, however small, she will automatically slow labour down. We are exactly the same, when giving birth our primal brain is bought into play, and we react as animals do. We need to disengage the chattering mind to just allow the birth to happen as other mammals do..

We set up the Mindful Mamma one day class to explore this and to teach couples to prepare for the birth they want, to learn they have choice, and to help dads understand how important their role and composure during birth is. In classes you can learn how to release your fear of birth, using hypnosis, to break the cycle of fear, even if it is subconscious, and then visualizations, self-hypnosis and mindfulness to keep mums in their birthing zone.

We have even taught midwives how the impact of their voice, gestures, presence can affect mum psychologically and physically. Amazing stuff!

More and more women are becoming aware of their potential to experience the birth they want, to feel empowered and in control. If you have any pregnant friends, pass this on – it may just get them thinking.

You can download birth MP3s or buy CDs from www.mindfulmamma.co.uk.  Classes start at just £120 and are held across the UK, Australia and Barcelona.

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Does preparation really help? Of course it does!

Hot on the heels of the research earlier this week comes another linked to preparation and postnatal depression. Several studies have already identified the link between preparation and reduced risk of postnatal depression in both the father and the mother and we know from our work that mums who feel more prepared, empowered and confident about the birth, and who have bonded well with their baby prenatally, are less likely to experience postnatal depression.

This new study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education finds first-time mothers want more information about how a newborn will impact their lives. Thirty-five percent did not feel prepared for the physical experience following birth and 20% did not feel prepared for the emotional experience.

The study includes 151 first-time mothers attending community child health centers in Brisbane, Australia. Focus groups were conducted with eight mothers 7-9 months following entry to the service. Nearly half commented on some aspect of maternal health such as fatigue, postnatal depression and the work of caring for a new baby.

The situation in the UK may not be much different, prental check ups do little to prepare you for the birth or for parenthood. Some classes such as the National Childbirth Trust are great for knowledge and parenting skills but do not cover the tackle the emotional aspects as deeply. Even the NHS parentcraft classes don’t really do what they say on the tin. They are often packed, we have reports of up to 20 couples in a class, or parents have difficulty getting a place. Sometimes people just need some time to reflect and be able to air their concerns or to ask questions.

This is what one dad had to say about our one day mindful mamma class

I would just like to commend you on designing and running such a really fantastic course! It really has empowered both of us,to the point where most of our fears about birth have disappeared already. We have always wanted to go down the natural birth route, but felt that there was not enough support & advice out there about how to do it drug and pain free. Your course, although short, covered pretty much all aspects that I felt were missing from our antenatal classes & many more. Vic now feels a lot more confidant, and I actually feel like I have a proper role in the whole event, other that driving her to the hospital & sitting on the rocking chair!”

“The Australian study demonstrates that new mothers are eager for high-quality, accurate information of what to expect of life with a newborn,” says the study’s lead author, Margaret Barnes, RN, MA, PhD.

Mindful Mamma classes can empower women to have positive birth experiences and with additional services we can support confidence with parenthood, breastfeeding, handling tiredness and so on.