How did you get into hypnobirthing?
I was facing redundancy in the NHS after an 11 year career as a health promotion specialist when I first heard about hypnobirthing. A close friend of mine was doing it as she was terrified of giving birth and had a phobia of needles, and someone had suggested that a hypnobirthing course might really help her. As a result of doing the course, I saw radical changes in my friend’s outlook on giving birth: she was much brighter, more positive and confident – and was singing its praises. She suggested I train as a teacher as she and her husband had struggled to find one in the North East and she thought I would be very good at it. Once I’d read more about it and what it involved I signed up for a course in London in August 2015 and the rest is history.
How popular is hypnobirthing?
It’s becoming increasingly popular due to articles in the media, word of mouth, recommendations from midwives and celebrity endorsements (Fearne Cotton, Angelina Jolie, Gisele Bündchen and Jessica Alba have all raved about it). It was relatively unheard of 10 years ago but it is fast becoming the go-to antenatal program of choice for many parents-to-be.
Why are more women opting for this kind of birth?
I think there’s a variety of reasons. Firstly, I find women are generally quite terrified of the prospect of giving birth for the first time due to being surrounded by negative portrayals of childbirth and labour in the media, particularly soap operas and films. It also seems like some people love to scare pregnant women by telling them their horror stories about birth, which really doesn’t help!
Other women who opt for this type of birth might have had a difficult first experience and decide upon hypnobirthing after reading about it online or having had it recommended by a friend or birth professional. Hypnobirthing helps women to feel more in control and relaxed during labour and can help to reduce the need for any intervention, induction, stitches or pain relief by practising certain techniques. I also think many women (and their partners) who rave about their positive hypnobirth experience and the difference it has made to them and their babies helps to spread the word too.
Describe what happens during a hypnobirth.
As teachers, we aren’t actually present during the birth. Instead, we teach couples the techniques to practice and then use themselves. However, we receive many positive stories and an ideal hypnobirth generally consists of a calm, peaceful environment with minimal interruption and intervention, dim lighting, privacy, soft music playing in the background and maybe a birthing pool. A hypnobirth is often smoother and quicker than a non-hypnobirthing birth with a faster recovery. The mother is usually more focused and confident, knowing how to breathe and ‘visualise’ getting through each of the stages of labour. Some mothers find they don’t need any pain relief at all. The birth partner knows what to do, how to ask questions of the professionals, and can offer some practical relaxation techniques to help keep the woman calm throughout, no matter what happens. It is often reported with hypnobirths that babies are much calmer, ready to bond more quickly and settle into healthy sleeping and feeding patterns more easily.
Does it take the pain away?
Hypnobirthing is all about having a positive mindset and using mind over matter, so we teach couples that rather than thinking about labour as being a painful experience, it will be a very powerful one with some intense sensations. We associate the word pain with very negative connotations and feelings, and if women are told they are going to have a painful labour then they probably will as the seed has been sown.
What's the best part about your job?
I love empowering pregnant couples with knowledge and awareness of all things to do with labour and birth and how to work with the body rather than against it. I get to witness actual physical and emotional changes in the pregnant women I work with as a result of them feeling more excited and confident in their own bodies and their abilities to give birth. I find that dads-to-be in particular are often the biggest advocates of hypnobirthing by the end of the course and are so grateful for everything they’ve learnt as a result of doing the course – and that is hugely rewarding to hear.
And the worst?
I honestly can’t think of any! I really feel lucky to do what I do.