Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Giving Hypnobirthing a Try




EDIT: So, I was finishing this post when I stopped to make dinner. After we'd finished I sat back and felt some odd twinges. Those twinges were the start of labour. I've now finished this off and kept it as it was. I wanted this to be about my thoughts before trying hypnobirthing so I haven't let the experience change it. I'll be following up with how the labour went very soon.


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With my due date getting closer and closer I’m very aware that I’ve got to get myself ready for labour. My last pregnancy was to put it bluntly, a breeze, and to be honest my labour wasn't awful in the grand scheme of things. Obviously it wasn’t the most pleasant experience but I had quite a positive outlook on the whole thing and I was pretty laid back about it. It was all new to me and I left everything to the midwife as I was confident she knew what she was doing.  I had no real birth plan, just a ‘we’ll see how we get on’ approach. I only really breastfed because I tried it and I found it came naturally. I think being calm about everything was a huge factor in why the labour hasn’t left me traumatised. 


This time I’d like something similar but I want a little more control over the situation and see the midwife as someone there with the knowledge to help if needs be. This is where Hypnobirthing appealed to me. I’m all about being in a positive head space to get you through things.

hypnobirthing-positive-birthI've been met with a few puzzled expressions when I mentioned I was going to look into hypnobirthing. This was mainly from the older generation, but I think it’s down to lack of knowledge- but then if you aren’t planning on doing it why would you really bother learning about it? I had no idea what Hypnobirthing was before I was pregnant. All I knew was that Harry Kane praised his wife for it and a lot of people decided to get offended. *sigh*. 

The word 'Hypnobirthing' automatically makes us think of hypnosis and a watch swinging in front of your face which gives us the impression that it could all be a load of rubbish. It's not like that at all. There is a lot of logic involved. 

I’ve ben through a lot of pain over the years with various health complications and the main reason for trying this out was that I hoped I could learn some techniques to help channel any pain into something I could deal with. If i learnt some lessons I could use after labour then that was an added bonus. Once I started looking into Hypnobirthing I was fascinated, anything to do with the mind is right up my street. I got very into it.

Why do we have  negative thoughts about birth?
We get into our heads that pregnancy is a lot of screaming and shouting and telling your partner to never come near you again. I’ve often heard conversations between men and women trying to decide whether childbirth is more painful than being kicked in the balls. Why are we focusing on the pain side of things rather than what the end goal is? We don't see other mammals giving birth screaming - that would make for a rather traumatic trip to the farm! With films and TV we’ve been lead to believe that labour is dramatic, loud and scary, this makes for far more interesting viewing but in real life it's the opposite of what we need or what it has to be like. 

Hypnobirthing is a way to manage pain throughout labour by getting you into a relaxed state through breathing techniques and trusting your body which in turn makes the experience far more bearable. Many women talk about their hypnobirthing experience as something wonderful to look back on. 


Language and understanding your body
The language used is a big part of it. It changes your perception.  
In hypnobirthing a contraction is referred to as a 'surge' which makes perfect sense to me. The word 'contraction' makes me focus on the tightness that I feel while the term surge is like a feeling that is coming and going, it’s temporary.  I’ve always said that stomach pains I’ve felt with my past health problems are bad because they are constant, they don’t come and go like surges do. So in my last labour I saw it as something positive, that it was going to have an ending a few more deep breaths and they are gone -even if only for a bit. I plan on focusing on this the next time around too. 


You’re also encouraged to use the word ‘pressure’ instead of ‘pain’ which takes away the negativity a little bit. Pain isn’t a word you need to be focusing on but understanding that there is pressure is fine. It’s not about switching off from what you feel, it’s about understanding it and taking control while focusing on being calm and relaxed to help your body do it’s thing.

When we are afraid (which is a common feeling during childbirth) our body diverts blood and oxygen away from the uterus to essential defence organs which means it can't perform its functions efficiently without pain. If we remain calm and relaxed, the uterine muscles are are free to work comfortably as they are not starved of blood and oxygen. Even the science makes sense. If you don’t expect it to be painful you’ll feel more in control.

Fear makes you tense up and that results in pain. Knowing what exactly happens when there is a surge makes me understand what my body is doing. Think of it this way, if your leg suddenly hurts for no reason you’ll panic more than if you know you just knocked it. It’s the unknown that makes us uneasy- children aren’t scared of the dark, they are scared of what might be in it. I’ve become more aware that I need to trust my body, it  does a lot of the work for you if you let it. During my time being a mum I’ve often surprised myself when I’ve just gone with my gut and used my instincts only to google what to do afterwards and find I was right.

I remember being in labour with M and I thought to myself ‘If I could stop this pain right now, would I?' And I answered 'no' because I knew this was what my body needed to go through for me to meet my baby. It was such a clear moment for me and I was in that mindset from that moment. This was just what my body naturally needed to do next. 

hypnobirthing-birth-affirmation-cards

You need to tell yourself that you can do this. Women have always done this. One way to keep the fear at bay and picture the birth as a positive experience is with birth affirmations. Reminding yourself that your body is working with you and replacing the worries with good thoughts will really help with the pain. 

Hannah kindly sent me these from her Etsy store and they’ve been great to look through and keep me uplifted. Any time I start to feel a slight worry about labour I concentrate on one of these at a time. The affirmations allow your mind to relax and prepare yourself for a positive, confident birth. 

They’re great to have next you your bed, on your desk or pinned around your mirror to look at while you get ready in the morning. They can help to remind you that this isn't a scary experience and it's one you are naturally ready for. 

Each card has positive phrases such as
- Each surge brings me closer to my baby.
- My body was designed to birth my baby.
- All I need to birth my baby is me.
- I trust that my body knows what to do will give you great things to focus on. 

and they are great points to remember, even if you just focus on a couple that appeal to you. 

There are lots of ways to keep you in the right mindset. Hospitals can be a daunting place so you want to make everything feel right for you. Some people opt to have home births for this reason. I feel relaxed at a hospital as I've been in them so many times so it's not a huge problem for me but it's something to consider if you find hospitals a bit to clinical or frightening at all. 

Visualising places that make you happy or having music playing that keeps you calm can help. I’m not saying this has to be whale music, for me it’s a playlist of songs that always make me smile. The song of the first dance at our wedding, the song that Mason dances to, the song that is about my family, the song that takes me back to my childhood.  ‘Under Pressure’ by Queen is on there but we won’t focus on the irony there! If hospitals make you uneasy then you can make the environment feel more comfortable for you using lighting, your own pillow or even smells to keep you calm. Nobody is going to judge you for doing this your own way. You do whatever makes you feel calm. 

Remember that endorphins (the ‘happy hormones’) are more powerful than fear -which results in pain so it’s important to try your best to stay as positive and calm as you can. 


hypnobirthing-birth-affirmation




Involving the birthing partner 
A massive plus for me is how involved the birthing partner is. Sam and I are very into state change. Your mind is a powerful thing and just focusing on the right things can make a big big difference to so many things. I knew this would be a great thing to us to learn together. It’s been really fascinating to talk through  together in the evenings. 


Partners can feel a bit helpless at the birth and I love that this way he can be really involved and know what he can do to help. It’s as much Sam’s birthing story as it is mine. If he knows whether I’d like to be touched or not, or if he should talk to me during surges for example, it’s less likely to end in tension. He's helping me along and I won't feel so alone. 

A lot of pregnancies  are very ‘mummy’ focused. Even through to school age you see ‘mum groups’ and school activities  focusing on just the females. The dad is very much a part of the process too and as much as it's my body changing it's both of our lives that are going to change and the more they understand what you’re going through the easier it will be on the relationship.

Both of you are encouraged to address any fears and not bury them. Discussing things with your partner brings you together and once you’ve got a fear out in the open you can work through them which helps the brain to relearn that birth is safe and not something to fear. 

There is no way to fail
The biggest misconception being hypnobirthing is that it all has to be 100% natural or that you’ve failed if you need assistance in any way. It’s in no way a competition, if someone wants all the drugs available then go for it -they are there and we are very very fortunate to have that kind of thing offered to us on the NHS. 

We need to get away from this defensive nature. ‘Natural’ isn’t code for better, it’s natural to walk but if you have a broken leg, pain killers and crutches are a massive help and you wouldn't think any less of someone who used them. Harry Kane wasn’t trying to insult anyone by being proud of his wife for giving birth and I’m sure he’d have said exactly the same thing is she’d had medication, either way she’s just brought a life into the world. That in itself is an amazing thing. The birth is yours, not anyone else's so you do what is right for you. 

I only had gas and air last time but that was only because my labour moved so fast there wasn’t time to even consider any more meds before it was time to push - who knows if I had taken it or not if the labour had been drawn out for hours..? 


 I’m very much prepared that my labour  might not be such an easy ride this time. The rumours are that the second pregnancy is quicker,  but complications can happen for any pregnancy and every birth is different. 

In the moment a lot of plans can go right out the window so who knows if I'll even use what I've learnt - time will tell! But it’s good to have the knowledge there if I'm able to use it. 

I appreciate it's not for everyone. But if this sounds like something that you want to look into there are courses you can book locally as well as ones online which are easier to fit around your own schedule. I listened to the Audio book of 'Your Baby, Your Birth' by Hollie De Cruz which was great and really down to earth. I also watched a few youtube videos of people telling their own hypnobirthing stories which was really eye opening. 

Even if I take away a few bits of what I’ve learnt I think it will help me massively.  I just want to have this little mental boost to give me a nudge in the right direction. I’m definitely less anxious about this birth and I'm genuinely excited to get started. After all, after labour I get to meet my baby girl and that is the light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope this has helped anyone thinking about trying hypnobirthing and I'll be sharing my thoughts on how it all went after the labour! 






*the affirmation cards were kindly gifted to me but I wasn't obligated to feature them 





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