Encompassing eye-opening, penny-dropping birth education, simple and effective hypnobirthing techniques, local birth-setting and hospital protocol knowledge, and a “how to” navigate your way through it confidently section!
Whether you are first-time parents or not; whether you want a VBAC; whether you are a single-mum, an “old” mum, an IVF mum; whether you want your birth at home or hospital – whatever your circumstances or preferences, you will be pleased you did this workshop.
What better way to start heading towards your empowered birth, and to start growing your “village” with other like-minded people? As the old African proverb says “It takes a village to raise a child.”
The full price of the workshop is £130. The deposit of £30 payable online when you book your space. The balance to be paid at least 7 days before the event.
By Sophie Fletcher, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Doula
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
Many years ago I met a friend of my husband who was 24 and had a 10 year old daughter. The story goes that her mum phoned her dad in the pub and asked him to come home because Anna was having a baby. He replied “I’ll finish my pint and I’ll come home and we’ll sit down and discuss what we are going to do”. Then her mother shouted “ now, she’s having the baby now”. Anna gave birth to her little girl within the next couple of hours, with little more than a bit of stomach ache and sitting on the loo. So apart from thinking she had a bit of an upset tummy, she was fine. I thought “how on earth could someone be pregnant and not know and is that what you would call a pain free labour?”.
When I became pregnant I was in very good shape, it was just after I got married and had spent months toning and exercising to squeeze into my dress. Throughout my pregnancy I had intermittent bleeding, I had no morning sickness at all, and I didn’t show until very late on in my pregnancy. In fact I recall at 24 weeks, putting on my new Isabella Oliver trousers on the tightest setting to go to work and then proudly sticking my tiny rounded tummy out. When I did go into labour early my ‘tiny bump’ was commented on. I’m sure if I had been on birth control and not planning a family that being pregnant would have been the last thing I’d have thought of. In my years of teaching I have seen women with very very small bumps, and women with huge bumps. Conversely a friend of mine who definitely isn’t pregnant has IBS and is always complaining she looks pregnant, another has fibroids and her abdomen can get quite swollen.
I can see how possible it could be years before pregnancy tests, or even today if you are taking precautions that have failed. It’s rare but it happens. When researching this, I stumbled across a show that is running in the US called “I didn’t know I was pregnant”. If you want to see it, google it, it’s full of Discovery Health drama so I won’t post it, but you can read this very funny critique of it here. How could I have not known about this show!
What really interested me is how women who don’t know they are pregnant experience having a baby, do they have what would be considered a pain free labour? There are many antenatal classes today that focus on the aspect of fear and expectation; the ideology that when we are pregnant, we become anxious of labour which creates physical tension, which in turn make birth much more painful than nature intended it to be. Some hypnobirthing models avoid the word pain altogether and say birth isn’t meant to be painful. It’s certainly true that expectation of pain, whatever that pain is, increases our perception of the intensity of that pain. Prof Irene Tracey at Cambridge University has undertaken some significant work on expectations of pain and in a recent study examined how manipulating participants’ expectations of pain can influence their response to an active drug. So in theory if you aren’t expecting to give birth, you don’t have the same level of expectation could you have a pain free labour.
A study published last year by her, showed that volunteer’s experience was influenced not by the drug but whether they were told the drug had or had not been administered. This showed the volunteers really did experience different levels of pain when their expectations were changed, although the administration of pain relief remained constant.
I’ve heard an anesthetist say that he frequently goes to administer a epidural, he may put pressure on the area, insert the needle and ask “how is that”, for the mum to say “oh thank you that’s fantastic such a relief” before he’s actually put the drug in. I heard mums ask if their partner can put the tens machine up, only to get relief before the partner has turned it up.
The power of hypnosis is also undeniably a brilliant pain management tool. Suggestions used during hypnosis distract the mind through disassociation, but also embed the belief that everything is well and fine and that the more they let go the more comfortable they are, and the more comfortable they are the easier it is to let go. Effectively reducing the expectation of pain. As a hypnotherapist in my general practice, I often work with people who have chronic pain; their pain is constant and yet when they are under hypnosis the pain disappears, and remains much less even after the session has finished. To read an extreme example of how hypnosis can manage physical sensation and pain read this article by Dr John Butler on his own hernia operation using hypnosis.
As a doula I use deep hypnosis for women, that are in a long latent stage, to get rest. After a short session of hypnosis people generally feel energized so it’s a great way of helping to manage this. Recently a client who had had an epidural with her first birth said that it was amazing and as effective as the epidural, she said during the deep hypnosis she went from having a labour with pain, to it being a pain free labour.
Expectation of pain during labour can create tension, which can create pain. However there is no denying that labour can trigger sensations for some women, sometimes powerful sensations, similar to stomach aches. This can be unexpected for women who are taught that strong sensations aren’t a part of labour. If we are not prepared for the sensation of labour, our brains then fall back to default position and perceive it as pain, rather as pressure, tightening or aches.
Women who don’t know they are pregnant don’t build up that expectation of pain in labour. Even if they are in unconscious denial of pregnancy they will avoid reading up, or listening to pregnancy related horror stories.
So I googled for stories, and found that as well as the show in America on the subject, a surprising amount of stories demonstrated consistencies in how women experienced the unexpected birth of a child.
This one from Leanne Carter, who felt a bit bloated before Christmas, but was still having her periods and had no other symptoms. She did experience stomach cramps but thought they were period pains, when they got bad (probably transition) they took her to hospital where she took herself off to the loo and felt the urge to push, her baby boy was born shortly after.
Another girl, a student, again thought she had bad period pains, eventually went to hospital where they discovered she was pregnant, assumed she was 32 weeks, hooked her up to an ECG, she unhooked herself as she needed the loo. As she tried to go for a poo, things didn’t feel quite right and she reached down and could feel the top of her baby’s head. She said “a few pushes later and I had given birth. Amazingly I felt calm and focused. My oft potty mouth was expletive free. The only words I spoke were ‘I don’t need to’ when my friend told me I could make a noise”.
Someone worked a night shift in a hospital, stuck it out till she finished at 9am, went to A and E because of abdominal pains and a baby arrived just before lunchtime.
A young teenager had played a hockey match and then thought that she had a bit of stomach upset. Baby arrived a couple of hours later.
From all the stories I encountered there were consistencies on a number of things, the women complained of a stomach ache or feeling out of sorts, or back ache, but just put it down to other symptoms, went to lie down or managed in the same way they would a headache or flu. If the sensations got troublesome, usually only a short while before their baby was born, they took themselves to A&E. This is likely to be transition and that natural short surge of adrenaline just before baby is born. Without exception they all seemed to have very short labours simply because they treated it as they would a virus or stomach bug until the last moments before the baby was born.
The internet is awash with forums trying to second guess when a woman is going into labour, in many ways we are over educated and women are much more alert to the signs of their body warming up, thereby often assuming labour was longer than it was. For some women attention turns almost obsessively to those small indictors of labour being closer and the mind becomes focussed on every minute change, often exaggerating signs. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for very laid back mums to carry on with everyday tasks until they are no longer able and baby’s arrival is imminent.
I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts or stories of finding out you were pregnant very late on in your pregnancy, or anecdotal stories from your parents or grandparents. Especially if you felt you had a pain free labour. I’m sure there are plenty more out there!
Understand how your body is designed to birth your baby.
by Sophie Fletcher
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.
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.
Mindful Hypnobirthing is a bestselling book on hypnosis and mindfulness for birth. Written by Sophie Fletcher one of the UK's leading hypnotherapists for pregnancy and birth, it will help you to prepare your mind and your body for a positive experience of birth.
The downloads on this site are written and recorded by Sophie and are designed to be flexible. Whether you are doing hypnobirthing or wanting to try out some relaxation for pregnancy you will find something here for you.
If you have bought the book you can download the mp3s from the publishers website mindful-hypnobirthing.co.uk or by contacting us directly.
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