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Dispelling Myths about Hypnosis Birth Preparation

Myths about hypnosis  birth preparation
Busting myths about hypnosis for birth preparation

Myths about hypnosis birth preparation

by Sophie Fletcher  @mindfulmamma

I’m writing this article on hypnosis birth preparation when I should be doing the final edits on my book .  But I’ve been reading a thread on hypnosis birth preparation on Facebook that has pressed a few buttons. It’s 7am and the children are STILL asleep,  so I thought I’d use this small window of time to write about what hypnosis birth preparation is and isn’t.

Thankfully hypnosis birth preparation is becoming more mainstream, but at the same time its true potency as a tool to prepare for birth is in danger of being diluted by people who are jumping on the hypnosis birth preparation bandwagon.

Hypnosis is a serious therapy, I’ve been a hypnotherapist for 8 years, I’m a Fellow of the National Council for Hypnotherapy, and I’ve have always taught hypnosis birth preparation.

Hypnotherapists have used hypnosis for years as birth preparation, in fact I have a book sitting on my desk right now from the 1950’s which extolls the value of hypnosis birth preparation.  My interest is in the psychological process of birth – what happens to us as women beneath the surface – and the impact of social cultural conditioning in how we automatically behave towards birth.  I have a Masters in European Culture, specializing in symbolism and individuation (okay that’s a bit too academic for a blog) and am a slightly obsessed with how our bodies and minds respond automatically to external symbols at birth. Sheela Na Gigs – bring it on!

I’m really excited about my book “Mindful Hypnobirthing” being published by Random House, as the more I read, the more I realise that the real value of  hypnosis birth preparation is forgotten or buried beneath hearsay. I really want to shout about it.   Bringing people’s attention to the fact that it does work and is important, but also why it works and when it’s a good tool to use.  At Mindful Mamma we work with the women who are frightened of losing control (I talk about the different guises of control in the book in detail), or just want some additional techniques to keep them focused during the birth, through to women who have been under psychiatric care for anxiety and women who are booked for a caesarean birth because they are too scared to have a normal birth.

Here are common myths about hypnosis birth preparation

Myth #1

Hypnosis Birth Preparation is the same as relaxation

No it’s not! When you are using hypnosis birth preparation you are entering into a brain state called an alpha (light hypnosis) or theta (deep hypnosis) state.  It feels a bit like going to sleep. You choose to enter that state, usually with someone trained in hypnosis.  Messages (positive suggestions) are sent to your limbic system in your brain. This is the old part of your brain that holds all your automatic responses, from making a cup of tea while chatting to your friend, to driving your car on a familiar journey while thinking about something else.  We are conditioned to respond to the world around us through repetitive action. This is also where automatic responses we don’t like so much are stored. Have a phobia?  Think it’s entirely irrational and feel an idiot when your body jumps up and down, screams, freezes and cries when you see a spider/beetle/get on a plane?  That’s your limbic system saying “hey, we don’t like this, we saw your loving mum, the person that keeps you alive, run away from a spider when you were 6 months old, so it’s dangerous”.  The limbic system overrides rational and logical thought when it’s about survival.

Many women are pre-conditioned to be frightened about birth by what they have heard and seen.   Imagine your mind as the British Library, every experience you’ve ever had is stored there under its own reference section.  So when your body needs to know how to respond it goes to your birth section; if your birth section is filled with negative stories, about trauma, pain and loss of control, your body doesn’t want to do it – it’s dangerous and the automatic response is similar to a phobia – flight, flight or freeze.  Hypnosis changes that response by working with that part of your brain. I’ve seen people overcome severe phobias in as little as an hour or two hours.

Relaxation exercises are not the same. The SHIP trial on hypnosis for birth found they had more uptake when they described hypnosis as ‘deep relaxation’, which misinforms women and perpetuates the myth that deep relaxation is the same.  If you learn relaxation for birth, it doesn’t stop that unconscious fear rearing up whenever your feel threatened or something unfamiliar happens during your birth and triggering fight or flight.

Myth #2

You are keeping your neo-cortex active when it should be shutting down

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Well you shouldn’t anyway. I do know some ways of teaching hypnosis birth preparation where women have so many techniques they haven’t had the time to condition them properly and, during the birth are actively thinking about which technique to use and when. This defeats the whole purpose of how I believe women should be using hypnosis birth preparation.  I’m not saying my way is the right way, but my view is from teaching hundreds of women and being a doula.

The aim is to prepare a women using hypnosis, so when she goes into birth her reference section in her unconscious library is full of positive images/messages about birth and her body relaxes into it rather than fighting it and thinking it’s something she doesn’t want to do.  Her neo-cortex should be resting; women naturally go into a theta or alpha state during birth when they are unconsciously accepting of the process.  Hypnosis birth preparation should be about giving women the confidence to birth.  When they are confident at deep level, then all they have to be is be mindfully aware. Following their breath and turning within.

Myth #3

It disassociates a woman from her birth

See above myth #2; good effective hypnosis birth preparation means the opposite.  It helps a women become more aware and more accepting of what is happening during the birth.   I’ve seen women who have used hypnosis birth preparation really turning within, using mindfulness techniques during the birth. It brings attention to the physical process but also the psychological process; women are more able to observe feelings that arise as part of the birth, such as fear of letting go or fear of death.

(I’ve heard the disassociation one often and it’s such a shame that some famous birth advocates still have this belief)

Myth #4    

With hypnosis birth preparation you are calm and quiet

There are a lot of women I have on my classes because they want hypnosis to keep them calm, quiet and in control.  For me this often tells me what her fear is; women are driven to hypnosis birth preparation because of the fear of losing control, a result of cultural conditioning. ‘It’s not socially acceptable to ‘lose it’ in front of strangers.’  In fact hypnosis birth preparation should give a woman the confidence to express herself, in any way she chooses, and for her support/partner to support her unconditionally in that.  I’ve been at births where you couldn’t tell a mum was having a contraction, and I’ve been at births where mums have screamed “get me an epidural” at transition.

I’ve even heard midwives say when a woman had made a lot of noise, “that’s not proper hypnobirthing”.   A woman shouldn’t have to suppress that natural expression during labour, it’s part of the process and sometimes it feels good.

The birth partners attending our class are taught to let go of their own judgment around pain and fear and to know that if she roars like a lion, it’s ok and you don’t have to offer her gas and air.

Hypnosis birth preparation
I can’t make a mother have a pain free birth if that’s not really what she wants.

Myth #5

A hypnobirth is pain free

Now this is an interesting one.   I talk a lot about sensations of birth and how our brain interprets them.  A lot of our experience is perception, but also anxiety. Personally I feel that if a woman is birthing normally she can feel very strong sensations, but not label them as pain.  Hypnosis can also change sensations and it can dampen them completely, based on the skill of the practitioner and the work the mother has done in her birth preparation. People have operations under hypnosis – need I say more.

The Mongan approach that women should not feel any pain if they are free of fear, I was unable to subscribe to, not because I don’t believe it’s possible, I understand the principles and the concept. The theory is sound, but I think that women are faced with too many challenges in some units and that also a woman’s own pathology and belief system contribute to their physical experience of birth.   I get very upset by women feeling that they’ve ‘failed’ because it hurt.

BUT what is very interesting about this is whether women CHOOSE to have a pain free birth. (hypnosis is about choice – I can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do). When working with couples privately I always say to mothers, on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being the strongest and 0 being nothing, how do you want to experience birth?  It always ends up at 4/5 – these women at some level want to embrace birth and see those sensations as important.   Hypnosis allows them to be, just be with those sensations, and to be able to embrace and surrender to them.

 Myth #6   

Women who have done hypnobirthing would have had a great birth anyway

Maybe, maybe not.   But to be honest 4 out of 5 women have anxiety about birth and are focusing on intervention and pain relief before the birth. If you can work with them and help then tap into their own coping mechanisms, reframe their belief around birth it creates a shift. Where focus goes, energy flows.

The women we work with are not always already converted to normal birth.  As a doula I’ve been at births where I could see the trajectory of the birth if they weren’t using hypnosis for birth preparation.

And this brings me on to my next point…..

Myth #7

Hypnosis birth preparation is just for normal birth

This is the one that saddens me the most. I work with a lot of women who have medical complications, for some reason as a doula I seem to attract them. I have only had three homebirths, the rest in high risk obstetric units.   I have had doctors with their jaws on the floor watching a mother contract on a syntocinon drip while she has a conversation with him in early stages, I’ve seen consultants thank me for ‘whatever I’ve done’ with women who have collapsed veins so they can get a cannula in first time.  I even had one midwife at a home birth, disbelieving at first, ask me to do a hypnosis visualisation whenever she did my client’s blood pressure, as it stopped a transfer.

I have been at caesarean births, prepared women for them, and I know that hypnosis works amazingly at many different types of births by giving women the confidence to make a choice that is right for them.  I don’t judge them, I don’t steer them, I allow them the space to find their own informed birth journey and it’s always amazing when they meet their baby – whatever birth they have they know that they made choices with a clear head and that they had their best birth.


The truth about hypnosis for birth is that hypnosis birth preparation is about a positive birth experience, not just a normal birth experience.







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Birth Meditation

Birth Meditation

by Sophie Fletcher at Mindful Mamma UK

I wrote this birth meditation a few years ago after I attended a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, a well known Buddhist monk. He’s written a very beautiful pebble meditation which I do sometimes with my children, but which I’ve adapted for pregnancy. I just thought that it fitted perfectly.  We give it out as an additional birth meditation or a slightly different way to do your affirmations in our class, it’s not for everyone but give it a chance as it can be a very peaceful thing to do.

You can either do this birth meditation on its own,  just read it out loud somewhere quiet to yourself on a daily basis, or actually do a pebble mediation with it. To do this go for a quiet walk and collect 4 pebbles on your way. Each time you do the birth meditation, for each element take a pebble in your hand, a round one can be reflective or pregnancy, and turn it over in your hand observing the pebble closely, it’s weight, how it feels in your hand, what you can see on it then read the affirmation with that pebble before moving onto the next pebble and next affirmation.

You can continue to do this birth mediation with you baby, then toddler after they are born. It’s a very simple but lovely exercise as it does connect you unconsciously with the true depths and heights of your being during pregnancy.


Mindful Mamma Birth Meditation

Birth Meditation
I am like a flower.


“I am beautiful like a flower, aware of this tiny baby blossoming like a flower within me. I am unique, my baby is unique. I promise to nourish and love myself, thereby nourishing and loving my baby growing within. By watering the flower within me, we both grow strong and healthy. At birth I unfold like a flower unfurling in the warmth of the sun.”



Birth Meditation Mindful Mamma
Strong like a mountain


“I am strong like a mountain. I touch the earth and sky, at one with nature and with my baby. In my strength and my solidity I support my baby. With this strength I empower myself and prepare for my incredible birth”



Birth Meditation
Moon birth reflection lake


“I am like a lake. Crystal clear, calm and tranquil. Still – as if you could take the perfect picture. In my tranquility and peace, peace and tranquility in others are reflected. My baby benefits from this calm and their development and birth is also reflected in my tranquility. When I smile, others see this peace deeply within me and I reflect on my love for my baby developing within his or her calm and peaceful waters”



Birth Meditation
Space around and within me.


“I am like space. I have movement all around and feel my baby moving freely within. My mind is free and still. My focus is clear in this space and I have freedom and a deep sense of peace and of who I am and how I communicate with my baby growing within me. Space gives me clarity and comfort both while I am pregnant and during my baby’s birth”



Adapted from the pebble meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh

Copyright Sophie Fletcher 2009.



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I’m going to give birth! How is my body going to do it?

Understand how your body is designed to birth your baby. 

by Sophie Fletcher

Birth we can do it
Our bodies get on with the task of quietly and painlessly growing an intricate human being.

I never really thought much about how I’d get the baby out; to be frank I’m a genuinely in the moment person, I tackle things as they happen and I don’t get scared of much, expect for missing my train and being late. It often bemuses me that women get so frightened about the birth, and that the main worry is ‘how is that going to get out of there’.  This seems especially perplexing when women aren’t often frightened by thoughts of, ‘how is that baby going to grow in me?’, ‘how is that tiny small fist sized womb going to grow and expand so my baby is going to fit in it?’. The body expanding and growing to accommodate baby is something we are largely accepting of and don’t spend too much time focusing on.

While pregnant women generally just carry on with their lives, complaining of tweaks and pressure here and there,  the more unfortunate ones may have more physical challenges such as SPD, or bad reflux as the baby grows and the stomach is pushed upwards.   However, women don’t fear these, they accept them, find ways of managing and just carry on with the pregnancy.

So why do we trust and accept that our bodies are going to expand and stretch enormousl?That our womb will grow from the size of small fist to the size of a large basketball and that all our internal organs will reorganise themselves, but we don’t accept that our body is designed to actually birth our baby?  WE GROW A BABY, with tiny hands, ears, eyes, arms, legs and a heart.  How incredibly amazing is that?  And you know what, we generally don’t think about it at all, our body just does it and we just accept it.  We don’t question that our heart gets larger, that our organs are pushed upwards and that our lung capacity gets smaller. Do we think, “oh no, I won’t be able to breath properly, I need help to expand my chest and get more oxygen in me”, no we don’t. This video shows how your internal organs are designed to reorganise themselves during pregnancy.

Grantly Dick-Reid, the man whose ideas underpin many other modern approaches to undisturbed physiological birth, understood that fear can slow labour down. He spent a good amount of time in his antenatal classes reassuring women and teaching them how their bodies were designed to birth by telling them exactly what happens as they go into labour.  His book Childbirth Without Fear is still a great book to read if you want to know more about what your body is designed to do.

Nowadays some antenatal teachers will demonstrate how our vaginas expand by pushing a doll through the neck of polo neck jumper, explaining how the muscles of your vagina relax and stretch. Others might use the example of an erection to help women understand that soft tissue in their body is designed to expand and that it’s soft tissue for a reason. When a man has an erection his penis always stretches very easily and very comfortably!  Then it always goes back to its normal size.

One midwife I know made me laugh when she said to me once, “I wish I could say in a class that your vagina is like a bucket, because it is during labour”. Many mums I know describe that second stage when baby is being born as the easiest as that’s the moment they realise that they’ve nearly done it and it’s ok.

Here are some facts about the birth that may help you understand how incredible your body is during labour as well as during pregnancy.


 The hormone relaxin relaxes the body’s muscles, joints, and ligaments. Not surprisingly, the effect centers on the joints of the pelvis, allowing them to stretch during birth. It also softens and lengthens the cervix and helps relax and smooth muscles in the uterus and elsewhere throughout the body.  The vagina is like an accordion; it can stretch and return to its normal shape with the help of relaxin.

Baby’s head shape and a stretchy vagina

The baby’s head must be small and flexible to fit through the birth canal. The bones of a baby’s skull are soft and are able to mold into different positions. This is why babies that have been resting low in the pelvis waiting for delivery sometimes have pointy heads. The pieces of the skull are like a jigsaw, and can move easily to allow baby to move through the birth canal and then grow and expand over the first years of life to accommodate baby’s quickly growing brain.

To allow it to do what it’s meant to do, mum should be as relaxed as possible, this is something else we teach on our classes. Like any other tissues or muscles in our body, tension can make the job harder than it’s meant to be.

This great article explains the history of how our heads changed in utero to accommodate evolutionary changes in humans.

This one also explains the changes in your baby’s head from birth to ex-utero .

If you are worried about sex and the shape of your vagina this great little article talks about how incredible that soft tissue is.

A flexible coccyx

Your coccyx is designed to move out of the way as your baby’s head descends. This is why not lying on your back is important; if you have freedom of movement, it allows the coccyx freedom to move. The sacrococcygeal joint, the joint between the sacrum and the coccyx or tailbone, also softens in pregnancy; it is designed to swivel backwards to widen the outlet of the pelvis as the baby emerges.

If you can get your hands on an artificial pelvis you can see how a woman’s coccyx moves but a man’s doesn’t.

Increased discharge/amniotic fluid

As you near labour your body might be producing more discharge and it may be thicker, this is due to hormonal changes as you near labour, but also helps baby to slip out. Equally amniotic fluid can help moisten the vagina and assist baby’s descent.  Babies can sometimes be born very quickly once the head has been birthed and the midwife catches a slippery baby!


Oxytocin is our best friend during labour and an incredible hormone. When we go into labour oxytocin levels go up, which increases beta-endorphins (feel good hormones) which help you body naturally manage any strong sensations in your body by producing your body’s own natural relief.

At Mindful Mamma we love oxytocin and on our classes we focus on how to make sure that you give birth in an an environment favourable to oxytocin.

Read more about oxytocin here

 Baby helps itself out

Just as you know instinctively how to birth and to get into the correct positions during labour to help your baby out,  your baby knows how to help itself out. Often this is a good reason not to take drugs that can cross the placenta and make baby drowsy. An alert, unmedicated baby will help itself out by  wriggling, and moving about to help its way into the world. This little video shows how this is, and I love the little kicks the baby gives as if it were diving into the world.

 If you’re a practitioner or a mum who knows of a particularly interesting description of how birth works that may have be a lightbulb moment for you or for the people you teach, please share your descriptions. 



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White Coat Syndrome in Pregnancy.

White Coat Syndrome in Pregnancy

by Sophie Fletcher

One of my clients at the moment (I have permission to post this) is having a tough time of it and suffers badly from white coat syndrome. She is absolutely set on a homebirth, because she feels anxious in a hospital environment, but has been challenged every step of the way. Not overtly, as I’ve heard other mums being told – “it’s your first birth you can’t have a homebirth or “we’re too short staffed, you have to go into the hospital”. But her confidence is subtly being undermined by certain tests that will determine whether she is low or high risk and whether she will be ‘allowed’ to have a homebirth or not.  As she really wants a home birth these tests become a threat to her choice and consequently  the tests themselves cause anxiety, which can impact negatively on those test results.

This mum-to-be is excited about her baby’s arrival, has a wonderfully supportive husband, and is fully conscious of her connection with her little one. So it nearly broke my heart when she said last week,

“I guess I thought it would be a wonderful lovely experience and everyone working in that environment would be so full of love and positivity, its just taking me this long to realise that its just a job to most full of red tape, the ladies at Sainsburys checkout are happier and full of more love… what a shame.”

Ironically the stress being created by her treatment is probably causing more problems than if she were being treated with honesty and compassion.  Did you know that there is such a thing called white coat syndrome, which is a associated with people becoming more stressed in a clinical environment. Commonly it’s also called white coat hypertension in people with high blood pressure. Very often if someone has to go into hospital or to the doctors to have their blood pressure taken it goes up, if they take the machine home, their blood pressure can go down and be perfectly normal. The NICE guidelines on Hypertension note:

“White Coat Syndrome is reported to occur in as many as 25% of the population, especially where their BP is close to the threshold for diagnosis. It is more common in pregnancy and with increasing age. Failing to identify WCH makes inappropriate treatment for hypertension in normotensive patients a possibility. Similarly, hypertensive individuals can also exhibit WCH and may receive inappropriate dose titrations or additional antihypertensive agents. Patients have historically been enrolled in trials using clinic BP values, and these trials will almost certainly have included a proportion of patients with WCH. It is unknown whether benefits of treatment differ substantially in those with or without WCH.”

This study puts white coat syndrome as high as 32% in pregnant women.

White coat syndrome can affect pregnancy in several ways. Common antenatal tests such as gestational hypertension and gestational diabetes can to respond to stress in a negative way, sometimes skewing potentially normal results and pushing women into the higher risk category and maybe unnecessary induction before baby is ready to be born (my client was told she would have to be induced at 38 weeks, despite perfectly normal readings at home and diet management).  Other conditions, especially skin conditions such the itching due to cholestasis can worsen in relation to stress. For those of you with eczema you’ll already know that stress can cause skin conditions to worsen. In addition, viruses are harder to fight off if stress levels are higher. As a hypnotherapist I work with many different types of skin conditions, which see massive improvements after reducing stress and anxiety.

Reducing stress is crucial in pregnancy to maintain the best possible health both emotionally and physically and to avoid the implications of white coat syndrome. Here are several ways to reduce stress:

  1. Take time out every day for just you, whether it’s a bath, some relaxation, reading a book. Prioritise it for you and your baby and make sure that you don’t postpone it
  2. Learn self-hypnosis and stress reduction techniques that you can use before going in for a hospital appointment. Many classes, including our Mindful Mamma class, teach this. I’ve heard of women actually being able to reduce their blood pressure when they switch into self-hypnosis and rapid relaxation techniques
  3. Ask if you are able to do any monitoring tests at home yourself so that you get a better picture of the patterns of your reading (place, time of day etc)
  4. Hire a doula, a caregiver, or a consultant or midwife you trust or feel comfortable with.  You can request a change in consultant or midwife.  You can also choose to have an independent midwife or even to have private antenatal and postnatal care with an independent midwife if you can’t afford to pay for a full package.
  5. In the absence of other symptoms, if you know you are stressed in a clinical setting having tests, talk to your doctor or midwife about monitoring in a different way
Please note, although White Coat Syndrome is common during pregnancy, and although you may think you have WHS, it’s important that you are checked and monitored by your caregiver,  but at the same time being aware of what you can do to reduce stress and anxiety around those tests. 
Further Reading:

Michel Odent on Gestational Diabetes

Heni Goer on Gestational Diabetes

False diagnosis of hypertension leads to increased rates of intervention

Impact of stress and link to diabetes

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Why the Amish Birth So Well.

I’ve been really interested in how Amish women birth recently as they nearly all birth at home, unless there is a medical risk. This is partly cultural but also because of expense of going into hospital or antenatal care, many Amish don’t have insurance.  Interestingly, research shows that despite a higher prevalence of several risk factors for perinatal and infant death among the Amish, neonatal and infant death rates for Geauga Settlement Amish in Ohio have been very similar to the corresponding rates of white children in Ohio State.

Amish women do not tell people apart from their midwife or husband that they are pregnant, it’s said that when they go “they go quick”, probably because they are not tied to due dates. Neither do they have pain relief during labour. They don’t believe in birth control so they often have huge families, sometimes around 10 -12 children. As a result pregnancy and childbirth is a normal part of everyday life, someone is pregnant or in labour all the time and they don’t fear it. Children see this natural process and, as they grow up, girls are not exposed to the international culture of fear and uncertainty around childbirth. Amish children don’t grow up  fearing that there is something wrong with their bodies or that they are incapable of a normal birth.

Amish women birth quietly, often just with their husband a birthing mother, and older woman from the community, who often plays a similar role to a Doula. When in labour, very often they continue doing their daily chores around the home until they are unable to any longer. They certainly aren’t preoccupied with imminent birth or early labour itself!   Research also shows a link between their psychosocial state, which is typically secure and unstressed, and positive birth outcomes.

Ina May Gaskin works closely with the Amish communities, which are close to her birthing centre, in fact it was from the Amish that she first learned breech birth was possible. Nowadays we know that the Amish have a c-section rate of around 2% similar to the Farm, Ina May Gaskins Community.

What is also interesting is the absence of autism in Amish communities. Amish women are very rarely induced as they don’t have ‘due dates”. Recent research shows that some forms of autism are associated with oxytocin deficiency, and questions are currently being raised about the links to this and the use of artificial oxytocin, syntocinon (Pitocin) or other drugs routinely used in labour. There have been very few studies done, but there are calls to investigate this link further. This article explores that link further.

Here is an extract dictated by a midwife with experience of working in Amish Communities.

Taken from

Sarah* is a direct-entry midwife in New York state. She practices in rural dairy country near the Canadian border among the many Amish and Mennonite families living there. Currently, Sarah attends more than three-fourths of the births that take place within these close-knit, insular groups of highly-religious families. In Sarah’s own words, here is what is like to attend an Amish or Mennonite childbirth at the beginning of the new millenium:

“The women I work with give birth at home, almost exclusively. This is a matter of finances, for these folks mostly milk cows, which isn’t a big money maker if you have a small herd and milk without machines, as they do. They do not carry health insurance because of their religious beliefs. Additionally, they feel very suspicious of the medical establishment not honoring their beliefs and treating them with respect. They prefer to remain at home, where they have control over such things as allowing nature to take its course rather than, for instance, trying to save a very premature baby.

When the time comes time for an Amish woman to give birth, there is always an older woman from the church community with [the birthing mother]. The mothers have their husbands present as well, but the whole thing is a big secret to their other kids. The Mennonites usually do tell their other kids. Many of the Mennonites prefer to birth with only their husband present. When a young woman in either of these communities gives birth for the first time, she has never really heard much about what the birth experience is going to be like. I usually tell first-time mothers what to expect and that’s all the education they get, except for what their mothers tell them. The pregnancy is absolutely hidden until the baby is born.

I have never seen one of these women ask for medication for the pain of childbirth. I don’t know why they don’t use pain relief. The one time I asked, the woman acted as if she had never heard of the idea. They just don’t seem to have terrible pain.

These women have between ten and twenty children each. They give birth well into their forties. The Amish seem to have as many babies as a human can, spaced according to how long they can go without having another child, usually one per year or year and a half. I have personally delivered the sixteenth baby of a forty-six-year-old. The Mennonites–some of them–use birth control.

The women almost always give birth in a semi-sitting position.They wait until the baby is about to crown to even lie down. They stay clothed the entire time, but the women have special dresses that they wear at birth where the belly can be exposed so that the baby can be immediately placed on the mother’s belly after birth.

The Amish women in the community who attend births are called “catchers,” but since Amish religion prevents anyone from getting an education past the eighth grade, the catchers are not formally educated, carry no equipment or drugs, and generally do not know how to treat most serious complications, although they are very well-versed in herbal medicines and I have learned a lot from them. Their main role when I am there is taking the baby immediately after birth and wiping it from head to toe with baby oil, binding its belly, and dressing it in a special dress and bonnet. The young brides seem to take great pleasure in sewing the dark blue baby dresses and caps and quilting a baby blanket. They like to get the baby dressed as soon as possible, with his belly bound and feet wrapped, and covered with many blankets.

One thing the Amish believe is that there is no breastmilk at first, and some don’t feed the baby until the next day. Some give the baby things like jello water or watermelon seed tea, which is supposed to be good for preventing jaundice.

For postpartum women, they use sheperd’s purse tea for bleeding. For a month after birth, the new mother has a ‘hired girl’: an Amish neighbor who, for $15 per week, lives there and does all the household chores including cooking, child care, canning, and quilting. Occasionally another one will stop by to help with laundry.

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You pass your due date and it’s “have you had the baby yet?”.

Due date
Clock watching can slow labour down.

The due date countdown and friends who can’t help asking is the baby is here yet.

by Sophie Fletcher

“Have you had the baby yet?” is a question that you may here more and more as you approach your due date. As much as they love their friends and family this text or call can be one of the biggest irritants to mums-to-be as when they go past their due date.  Ironically, the worst culprits are often other women who, without thinking, feel they are being attentive to their friends and bombard them with texts, saying “just checking that you’re ok”, “oh so you haven’t had the baby yet”.   An acute example is my own mother, who phoned the hospital and was buzzed through by reception to the intercom in my room, during labour, at least twice to ask if I’d had my baby!

Most people automatically send a text round when baby is born; I’ve received numerous texts at 2, 3 or 4 am.  So the rule of thumb is if you haven’t received a text then baby hasn’t arrived into the world yet and if baby is on their way, and mum knows, she’s unlikely to want to text you back or chat to you.

Friends and family should fight the urge to call the mum when she is reaching her due date, she may be at the receiving end of dozens of texts from well meaning people.  At the same time mum-to-be may be under pressure for induction because she’s gone over her due date – the texts or phone calls  may become  a reminder that she’s over her due date and cause even more stress.

You may think, “I’ll switch my phone off” when I get close to my due date.  But the sound of an answer message  can just stir up the excitement even more, because if your phone is switched off everyone who calls assumes that you are in labour.

I know and you may know that you are not at term until you reach 42 weeks, and that the majority of women birth their babies before this date, but very often over their 40 week due date.  Only around 3-4% of babies come on their due date.

We also know that any stress or apprehension can stop labour from starting, as it releases stress hormones that can slow labour down, so it’s incredibly important that mum doesn’t have these reminders everywhere around her due date, and that she is able to go, stress free, into labour when she and her baby are ready.

Tips to help you minimise this disturbance as you approach your due date:

  1. Don’t tell people your due date.  Tell them an approximate time, eg. The end of August, middle of September.
  2. Tell your friends that you will message them straight away when baby is born.
  3. Ask them not to text you, to ask “how you are”, or “if baby has arrived” after your due date but maybe a “I’m nipping to the supermarket, do you want anything” text is fine.
  4. Get some lovely relaxation music to reduce stress after your due date when you may be getting anxious. Try the Mindful Mamma Mp3 on itunes.




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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.,,

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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Make Birth Your Own.

Recently a mother who had been on one of our Mindful Mamma hypnobirthing classes gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, without pain relief in a major regional hospital.She had a wonderful experience, and even when ventouse was needed she continued to use the techniques she had learned in the class, relying on her body’s natural endorphins rather than having artificial pain relief.

I had quite a few conversations with this particular mother before her daughter was born, and I was struck by the way in which she really took on board the information she had learned in the class and made it into her own support system for birth.She was quietly and inherently confident in her abilities to birth, practiced regularly, and translated what she had learned in the class into pictures and images that would remind her of her purpose during the birth. In other words, she put the work in.

The midwives commented on how good her birth plan was, and she built a lovely, supportive relationship with the midwifery team in the hospital.

I always say everyone is different and every birth is different. In our class we teach some fundamental principles about how your thoughts can affect your physical response during birth, and some very simple but effective hypnosis techniques, but we don’t prescribe how your birth should be. It doesn’t matter whether you chose to have a hospital or a home birth, whether you chose to have the baby rubbed down first or put straight onto your chest, whether you chose to have a lotus birth or not. It all comes down to feeling secure and safe, having all the information and being able to make a choice. If you baulk at the idea of a lotus birth, then don’t have one, other people may baulk at the idea of not having one. There is a huge spectrum in terms of what a normal birth could be regarded as; in fact One World Birth only yesterday published a video that questioned what ‘normal’ birth was.Denis Walsh, Professor of Midwifery in Nottingham, called it an optimal birth experience, and a physiological birth, which is absolutely the same philosophy that I would agree with.

What is normal for you is right for you.Taking on board a different belief system for birth, that you don’t really feel comfortable with, would defeat the purpose of what hypnobirthing is.For me hypnobirthing isn’t a dogma, its a way of looking at birth differently, teaching you what your body and your hormones are capable of, that you can do things differently, what you could do differently and importantly that you are in control of how you choose to experience your birth. Whatever you choose should be based on your wishes for your birth and your baby. Most of all it gives the confidence to trust your instincts and to bring your baby into the world your way.

Classes like Mindful Mamma, give you the space to pause, to think, to explore and consider how birth could be different and why it may matter to you, how you can work with partner and your midwife, and what alternatives there are to managing your experience comfortably – with techniques, and in a way that is right for you. It’s a springboard, and you can choose to get off, just tentatively jump up and down, or dive in!

I always say to people who have bought the mp3s, great, it’s a start, but doing a class makes an enormous difference and to those who have done the class, fantastic, but now the work begins!

Practice is enormously important; hypnosis is all about conditioning your response to birth and conditioning happens through repetition.Through practice you will also uncover different, and better ways of doing things for you.You may find that it feels better to tweak the suggestions and say them in a different way, you may want to change the breathing slightly, or you may wish to have different images.

One client changed her breathing with a little mantra that went “3,2,1 release release, release’ during each of her contractions, another printed off a picture of a baby on a little surfboard, surfing the wave to look at each time she had a surge.Another had what she called her oxytocin photos laid out on a table.

The message that the mother at the beginning for all other mums was that you have to make it your own and she was absolutely right.This is your baby, your birth, have the confidence and the self-belief to do it your way and practise, practise, practise

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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.


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The womb is where it all begins…

I’ve been playing den’s with my children this week – a lot. They love den’s, but don’t all children and even adults? I have to admit I’m a bit claustrophobic but I do love curling up in a den every now and again.

This week we had a new fluffy red blanket which we draped over the den – it gave off a warm red glow inside. Rory my son, refused to come out and curled up into the corner, comfortable and calm. I too felt very at peace sitting in there with the sounds outside muffled and tucked up, cosily next to him.

The symbolism may be obvious, but what is so interesting is that after years of being born that I still now get that sense of peace and security when I’m in that den. Certainly I have no recollection of being in the womb, but I have a sense of it.

Often you will hear of people talk about birth memories, memories of being in the womb, or of a birth imprint or body memory. As adults we very seldom have a cognitive memory of being in the womb, rather we may have a sense of what that may have been like through games such as building, hiding out in dens or even listening to the muffled beat of a heart.

The unborn child is just like the newborn in that it is permanently learning and coming to terms with everything new in its environment. Things learned in the womb remain influential later in life. So hiding in dens, listening to the sound of the mother’s heartbeat can have a calming effect even after birth.

On the other hand research looking into prenatal stress indicates that babies who that have suffered from stress in the womb have shown increased heart rates later in their lives. A study by Gerhard Rottmann (1974) suggested that the more conflict, ambivalence and rejection the mother demonstrated in her relationship with the unborn child, the more the child was affected after the birth.

In a study by Theodor Hau some of the things that were shown to be connected to the above were : less sleep, irritability, excessive screaming, apathy, underweight and gastrointestinal problems.

So what am I trying to say with this post? I suppose I want to get more to grips with this idea of body memory, of the feelings imprinted upon us in the womb and at birth and how that affects us as children and adults.

I have absolutely no doubt that the baby feels what the mother feels, and that’s not just while they are in the womb. My children are acutely sensitive, they know when I am upset or down even if I hide it really really well. Being mindful of this and being present enables a mother to spend time with her child and to be calm and at peace. Benefiting not just herself but her child as well.

During pregnancy by remaining calm and relaxed, you are giving your baby the benefit of all those feel good hormones which we know affect them positively in the longer term. Babies that are born to mothers we have worked with are extraordinarily calm. In the longer term we are beginning to see the toddlers with remarkable focus and patience.

Here are 4 simple things that you can do everyday during your pregnancy to slow yourself down, relax and focus on the baby – If you are too busy then prioritise – ask yourself what is important in your life.

  • Take 10 minutes out of the day to meditate or reflect on your baby.

  • Practice slow belly breathing while listening to music

  • Talk to and play with your baby

  • Listen to the Mindful Mamma relaxation cd or some other relaxing music