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How long should a hypnobirthing course be?

How long should a hypnobirthing course be?

By Sophie Fletcher, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Doula

Hypnobirthing course with mindful mamma There has long been a debate on the web about hypnobirthing and how long a hypnobirthing course should be – how many classes and over what period of time you should attend. I’ve taught several different methods, including Mongan and Leclaire methods, Mongan teaches over a 5 sessions, LeClaire a day, and others over a weekend.

Having taught all these methods if I’m honest I’ve seen absolutely no difference in outcomes however many sessions and over which amount of time.  I’m very careful about recording my outcomes as well.   There is no evidence at all to show that a hypnobirthing course over 5 sessions is better than a day or a weekend; when I stopped teaching the same course over a weekend and spread it over the 5 sessions I had the same outcomes.  In fact many women would only really start focussing on the birth quite late in their pregnancy, and it wasn’t uncommon for someone to go into labour before the hypnobirthing course had finished if they were doing it over 5 weeks. Now that I teach a day class I get people attending the class the week before they are due and go on to have a great birth experience.  It can be a lightbulb moment for women and they can change their thoughts about birth,in a way that will impact positively on their experience, in less than an hour sometimes.

When we founded Mindful Mamma the aim was to create a hypnobirthing course, which was effective, short and affordable.   You can read about our ethos here. Both Mia and myself have had 16 years of experience as hypnobirthing practitioners, Mia is also a clinical psychologist and I’m a hypnotherapist.  The shortest we could condense, what we considered, the requisite learning into was 6 hours.

Going to a class taught by experienced practitioners, either trained in psychological techniques or as Midwives or NCT teachers makes an enormous difference.  I am constantly blown away by feedback from clients who say that their practitioner moved them and their partner forward preparing for the birth in ways they couldn’t have imagined.  I think that skilled practitioner is able to do this quickly even in a group situation.

The secret in a good hypnobirth is not coming back each week, the secret is taking responsibility for what you have learned and applying it yourself by practicing every day.  When I used to teach a hypnobirthing course (Mongan) over 5 weeks I found that many women didn’t always practice everyday, they waited until the next session and weren’t taking ownership of what they were learning. In fact the person that taught me HypnoBirthing was ruthless and would threaten to throw people of the course saying “you’re wasting your money, your time, my time and taking up a place of a couple that really want to do this”.

So why and how can you learn effectively with a shorter hypnobirthing course?

 Pavlov’s dog the earliest experiment in body conditioning is an example of how simple it is. The researchers would play a metronome and feed a dog, until that dog would salivate at hearing the metronome even if the food wasn’t there. If you are taught simple easy to use techniques you can confidently do this at home. For example burning lavender each time you listen to your relaxation mp3, means that after doing this regularly your body will relax just to the smell of lavender without the mp3 even being on.  We even embed direction on using the techniques into the mp3 we give out in the class so that when you listen to it, you are learning the techniques unconsciously as well as consciously.

You can continue to learn after the hypnobirthing course as well; we have a book list written by mums for mums that will teach you about birth in a positive way.  Again you make the choice to pick up or read a book on that list.  Reading it yourself is important. If I were to read the outline the book or read excerpts in a class for you, it would not necessarily have the same impact, and the unconscious process that you experience would be different.

As an experienced hypnotherapist I know that I can make great changes in my clients whether it’s anxiety, phobias, or confidence by teaching them to take ownership of the changes they wish to see.   I always teach them self-hypnosis and other cognitive exercises, as I know that being an active participant is the greatest tool in change and achieving what you’ve chosen to achieve.  As a hypnotherapist I rarely see a client for longer than 4 sessions (four hours) and I like to inspire change from within them rather than my clients being dependent on me to do it with them or for them.

Whether you do a hypnobirthing course 5 sessions, over a weekend or a day, the emphasis should be on practice and simplicity. You should feel confident enough to adapt those techniques because you understand the basics of how they work. In this way I know that Mindful Mamma is empowering women and their birthing partners to take responsibility and to make their own choices.  How do I know? Because of the feedback I get from them.

Occasionally there is someone on the class that I think would benefit from longer contact time, but they have an option to come and see me privately which some do, but for no more than a couple of sessions.   Personally I feel that the option of doing a class, then further work on a private basis if I needed it is a great one and means that someone can engage as much or as little with it as they wish.

So if you are looking for a hypnobirthing class and it includes the following then it sounds about right, irrespective of length.

Any hypnobirthing course should be long enough to include the following

  • How your hormones respond to external environments, (people and places), and internal environments (thoughts)
  • Understanding choice and confident questioning
  • How your birthing partner can support you using hypnosis
  • The techniques themselves
  • A hypnosis fear release

Happy hypnobirthing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beginner’s Guide to a Confident Birth

Confident Birth
Birthing Confidently

By Sophie Fletcher, Mindful Mamma

Sophie Fletcher is a founding member of Mindful Mamma, Doula, Clinical Hypnotherapist and specialist advisor for the National Council for Hypnotherapy on Pregnancy and birth.  Her book “Mindful  Hypnobirthing” will be published by Vermillion in 2014. Classes are run across the UK, it’s a one day class to hypnosis and mindfulness for birth. Sophie also does private classes for couple in London and the East Midlands. www.mindfulmamma.co.uk, www.sophiefletcher.co.uk, sophie@mindfulmamma.co.uk

A friend this week asked if I could signpost them to some articles on confidently birth and that could help some people they knew feel a little less afraid of birth and to prepare for a confident birth.   So I searched all my resources for an appropriate article, something that was an overview and that inspired confidence. Importantly something that made them think, “yes I can do this and it’s going to be ok, actually better than ok!”.

So I searched, and I couldn’t believe it. A simple comprehensive blog entry on confident birth, that was an overview totally eluded me. Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds of fantastic blogs on confident birth, hypnobirthing, home birth, normal birth but they’re a patchwork quilt of specific articles about one tiny part of birth.

If I were considering a normal birth, a confident birth,  that made me think about the birth with calm excitement, and helped me to think that it could be different and better than I had imagined, with some basic resources to get me started,  I would be unlikely to stumble upon it.  I would just feel overwhelmed with all the information. I needed to write something on confident birth for the beginner!

Seasoned bloggers and natural birth advocates know where to look, but to a mum just beginning her journey who is frightened or apprehensive, and just come across the term normal birth, or confident birth, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. A haystack that is stuffed full of comments and threads from pregnancy forums, compounding most fears about birth.

So for my Mindful Mamma clients and others who are interested in a normal confident birth I thought I’d write a condensed resource, a beginner’s guide to a confident birth and a springboard into the vast network of information on the internet about how birth can be powerful and amazing.

There are some bullet points to get you thinking about confident birth, a couple of videos that show you what you can do, and links to blogs and birth stories of mothers that have done it.

  1. Your body is designed to birth, you CAN do it and do it well. You can have a confident calm birth.   Women birth every moment all over the world about 49,000 babies are born every day and the large majority of those babies are born healthy and well.
  2. You have choice every step of the way, you can change your midwife, you can choose any hospital you wish, you can choose a homebirth, you can have as many birthing partners as you wish, you can choose to have a vaginal examination or you can choose not to have a vaginal examination, you can choose to have more time, you can choose the birth you want.
  3. Birth is not the worst pain ever, but fear of pain can make it worse. Some women say they don’t experience pain, others do and find it very intense.   I broke my elbow a few years back it was awful, it was constant and it lasted for weeks. If you are contracting over a period of 8 hours 4 mins apart you are perhaps only having contractions for 2 hours.  The trick is to remain focused and do a class that teaches you great coping strategies.  Many second time mums find it easier, not because their physiology has changed or they ‘know how to do it’, it’s because they lose the fear and they know that they can do it.  It’s amazing what we can do when we are in the right mind set.
  4. Stop watching anything like One Born Every Minute, I find that programme incredibly upsetting sometimes, and find it difficult to get rid of some of those images in my head.  I can’t imagine watching it a few weeks before I’m due to deliver.
  5. Understand the truth about any fears you have during pregnancy, concerns about a big baby, concerns about tearing, or being out of control.  Do some research so you can really understand how your body works and take preventative measures or do some good reading. Odds are that you’ll find research that contradicts common pregnancy myths and  you’ll feel more confident.
  6. Learn about how your hormones work, and what your body is designed to do.  You’ll learn that the more you let go of your fear, the easier it is to focus and to be in control of your birth.
  7. Do a good class, hypnosis for birth or yoga or even one of our Mindful Mamma classes.   This will build your confidence and help you to see birth in a different way to how it’s generally portrayed in western society, a medial event and helping you stay in control. Even some confidence building Mp3s will help.
  8. Don’t always believe what you are told, if you don’t want what you are offered there is always an alternative. It’s up to you to ask.
  9. A cliche I know, but listen to your instincts. We are animals at the end of the day. Animals don’t come with manuals, they instinctively know how to birth.
  10. Focus on your baby, often forgotten, this is baby’s journey and your journey into motherhood.  It’s a labour a love, bringing your baby into the world and into your arms.  A good friend recently who is mother to two young boys said “there is too much focus on the birth, when becoming a mother is so much more”.

Links for a confident birth

  • If you are worried about having a big baby visit this Big Babies myth busting website.
  • If you are worried about malposition visit this site Spinning Babies which is a great resource.
  • Essential reading. I would urge every mum-to-be to read this. Learn the truth about pain during labour, this article Ecstatic Birth, by Dr Sarah J Buckley is a must and helps you understand what your body is doing.
  • This site has been going for years and hasn’t changed either!  It’s called Home Birth UK but is a superb resource for all things around natural birth. I refer all my clients to this site.

Favourite blogs on normal birth

  • This blog, The Midwife Thinking Blog written by a midwife in Australia, gives you great insight into common interventions and why they are not always necessary.
  • Milli Hill is a doula and founder of the positive birth movement. Her blog The Mule is a great insight into how to have a normal confident birth within the UK.

Favourite articles on normal confident birth

Find a group near you to connect with others in a positive way and inspire you to have a confident birth:

The positive birth movement have classes all over the UK run by Midwives, doulas and mums. This a great place to meet others before you have your baby and to become more informed.

Two videos of normal birth

 

Please feel free to add your blog or any other resources that I have missed in the comments section.  Or even some reassuring comments for first time mums who may be frightened of birth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birth Time, Magical Time. Finding depth and space to birth in timelessness.

Birth Time, Magical Time

By Sophie Fletcher

There is a reason why I say no clocks or watches in the birth room, it’s birth time not day time. Focussing on the passing of time can actually slow it down, doesn’t time go faster when you are not fixated on a clock or watch?

Birth time

I recently came across the word Kairos, which is an ancient Greek word meaning opportune or supreme moment. The Greeks had two words for time chronos and Kairos. Chronos is about sequential time, but Kairos is time in between time, moments when we are displaced from time as we know it and when something special can happen, something out of the ordinary.  This is where I think birth time is.

It struck me that this is how it is at birth, a time between time when something transcendental happens.

Could we access this place, this birth time through intentional techniques like hypnosis or meditation, or do we do it naturally? It can be either I think. When working with hypnosis in our classes we do a very deep relaxation, it only lasts about 20 minutes, but inevitably people always assume that it was 5 or 10 minutes. This is what’s known as time distortion; when we are in an altered state like hypnosis it’s as if we tumble out of physical time, and have the opportunity to roam freely in a timeless state. It’s a great experience and is incredibly energizing, it’s as if your inner psyche somehow refocuses its lens on life.

It’s very similar with mindfulness, though they way we access and experience that state can be different. During birth time, mindfulness is about being in the moment, being aware of those sensations in the right now, accepting them in that moment, without experiences from the past or expectations of the future leaking into that moment. It’s a state of clarity and of connection with your body and your baby. If you are in the moment during birth, you just experience a sensation and you manage it whether it is pain or anything else. However, if you become afraid of that sensation, projecting things you have read, seen and heard onto that sensation it becomes worse and you can lose your sense of perception.

Using hypnosis during birth can be about accessing a deep state of relaxation but can also be about adapting the current situation through subconscious change,  or it can be for disassociation, separating ourselves from things we do not wish to experience, such as pain.

When we are in the moment or deeply relaxed hypnotic state we are not thinking of the past or the future, those are where our fears or apprehensions lie. We are between time when we are in birth time. Both meditation and hypnosis correspond with a theta brain state, the state when you brain waves slow down to a rate that is comparable to the stage when you are just slipping into sleep – you know that state, just as you are drifting off.

Being deeply relaxed whether you are using mediation or hypnosis can help your body to do what it does naturally, allowing your muscles to work optimally.

When I teach my classes, I say to couples I believe that whilst sometimes hypnosis can be useful during the birth, for example to get you back in your birthing zone, you can do it perfectly well without. I’ve met enough midwives, watched enough women birthing, and spoken to women who have birthed without hypnosis to know that women automatically enter into an altered state, a theta state during birth. As a hypnotherapist I see people in that state all the time. Some women say it was as if they weren’t actually in their body but were observing what was happening.

The trick is to train yourself to let go of the fear that stops you from being in that moment, and to change how your subconscious reacts to birth. This allows you to automatically switch into a comfortable birthing zone. Hypnosis is a brilliant way of doing this. Preparation is vital, listening to our Mindful Mamma mp3s, going to a class or seeing a hypnotherapist can help you prepare your mind and your body so that when you birth you are able to be in that moment, free of worry or fear and able to experience something extraordinary.

Trust me and trust yourself; what a remarkable gift, to be given access to a space between time, where something magical happens that will bring you one of the greatest gifts you’ll ever receive.

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Seven months pregnant and counting.

Seven months pregnant

Seven months pregnant and counting 

By Sophie Fletcher

Seven. This seems to be a significant number when it comes to birth and the feelings that arise at seven months pregnant.

Phone calls from mums enquiring about our Mindful Mamma antenatal classes often come when they are seven months pregnant, a frantic “I’ve only got 12 weeks to go, is it too late?”“The fact that I’ve got to give birth in 8 weeks has only just dawned on me”.Why is it that mums to be suddenly make a psychological shift to thinking about the birth at this stage in their pregnancy?

The pragmatists amongst us would say, well of course the closer we get to something the more we think about it, so it stands to reason that the closer we get to birth, the more prominent that event becomes in our thinking until at one point, at about seven months pregnant, it begins to dominate our thoughts.

Putting pragmatism aside, I still believe that it is uncannily consistent and this interests me; why always when women are seven months pregnant? Then I read some research by Cyna et al, one of the better meta analyses of hypnosis for birth, and their findings showed that the best time to start preparing for birth using hypnosis was when women were around seven months pregnant.

I’m sure that it’s because there is shift in the mother towards the birth. For me this is similar to a microcosmic maternal individuation process, an unconscious shift, that begins to integrate the parts of the mother, the baby and the father as well as the surrounding community, in preparation for their new relationship as father and mother and their unit as a family.

Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst, talked about individuation as being a process that we undertake largely in the second part of our lives, but I strongly believe that a similar process of individuation takes place, on a smaller scale, in a mother during pregnancy and the birth itself and that this process begins in earnest at around seven months pregnant.

“Jung understood individuation to be something that began in the second half of life, when individuals reach the zenith of their lives and suddenly find themselves facing an unknown vista or some unforeseen upheaval. Sometimes this turning point takes the form of a crisis: such as a financial failure, a health problem, a broken relationship, or a change of residence or profession – something which upsets the status quo. Sometimes this experience assumes the form of a profound self-doubt, a loss of meaning or religious conviction, a questioning of everything previously held so dear. Sometimes it presents itself as a deep yearning or a call to change direction. And many times, it can manifest itself in powerful dreams and fantasies.”

We all know that women have pregnant women have powerful dreams, often difficult to understand.These dreams surface from a maelstrom of feelings and emotions during a time of profound change in true Jungian style.

At this stage all sorts of doubts and worries may begin to come up to the surface, doubts in their ability to birth, doubts as to whether they will be a good mother, feelings about their own childhood or their own relationship to their mother might arise.I’ve even heard some women say that they were faced with their own fear of death, during labour, something described by Leboyer in his landmark video “Birth without Violence”.But how empowering. Imagine being able to face your deepest fears, knowing you are loved and supported by all those around you, and to be able to conquer those fears and to come out on the other side, richer for the experience.

Just as with the formal process of Jungian individuation, with birth we become stronger, different, more aware of our own abilities to reach deep within our own resources and to come out understanding the extent of our own personal power. It is transformational, a gift and it upsets me that this is taken away, damped down and denied by unnecessary interventions or drugs during birth. When people ask me “why not take the drugs”, “what’s the point in experiencing a normal birth when you don’t have to feel anything”, I want to tell them that it is important to feel something, to be aware, to be in command, to be immersed in your true capabilities, but it’s quite an abstract concept to describe to someone who is set on an epidural.

It’s my belief that for some reason 7 months pregnant marks the start of this process.In the wonderful book ‘Birth Traditions’ by Jacqueline Vincent Priya different traditions across the world are explored, and they are remarkably consistent, the same themes emerge, but in different ways.One of those that is the ‘7 month ceremony”.

Priya writes that “Seven is a number with magical and spiritual significance…in many places this is the time for a special ceremony. Often this is carried out in the first pregnancy so that as well as protecting the couple and their unborn baby, preparing them for birth, it also established the couple socially in the status of potential family”.

Nowadays I see more of my clients undertaking what’s known as Bessingways to begin this journey when they are seven months pregnant and see it as a more meaningful alternative to a baby shower. It’s an opportunity to invite just a few close friends and have a celebration of the baby’s life and your journey into motherhood.

Here are some suggestions for a few things to do if you wanted to created your own blessingway when you are seven months pregnant, to begin your journey towards birth.

Poems – Each friend can bring a poem that represents something they want to share with you as part of your birth journey.

Beads – Some women like to create a bead bracelet for the birth, each friend gives you a bead with a few words to take into the birth with you. So that each time you twist or touch each bead, you are reminded of that friend and their support for you.

Belly Casting– Another popular activity for a blessingway.

Welcoming Wish – Each person writes a small wish for your baby onto a card and ties it to a tree, the mother can then take these down to read during labour and to save for the baby.

Welcome Gifts – Each friend makes a promise to do something to help you after baby is born, eg. your ironing, meals for a few days, to take your baby for a walk while you get some sleep…use your imagination!

These little steps which begin the gentle transformation from mum-to be, from when they are around seven months pregnant, to mother in a way that unconsciously strengthens you and prepares you for the incredible experience of birth.