Every woman’s birth is different, and every expectant mum deserves the birth that’s right for her.
However, there’s a lot of misconceptions around many of the options that are available to help you bring your child into the world – not least, says expert Katharine Graves, when it comes to hypnobirthing.
From not being allowed medication to having to give birth at home, Katharine talks us through what it’s really like to have a hypnobirth, and busts the most common myths about the method…
Does hypnobirthing mean you can’t have drugs?
‘You are always in control of your own body and it’s up to you if you want to have drugs or other pain relief or not. Drugs are certainly not frowned upon but they do carry risks,’ Katharine explains.
‘Hypnobirthing breathing techniques support your body in accessing its own pain relief which is much more potent than morphine. Of course, gas and air, opiate drugs and spinal blocks will work effectively alongside hypnobirthing should they be needed. Everyone is different and there are no rules!’
Does hypnobirthing mean you’ll have a pain-free birth?
‘Whilst hypnobirthing is effective in supporting mums throughout birth using breathing techniques designed to maximise oxygenated blood and boost essential painkilling and relaxation hormones within the body, it doesn’t not mean pain free for everyone,’ she continues.
‘Pain is such an individual thing and we all have our own threshold. Many mums report that they do feel a reduction in pain (if it is their second birth and they did not use hypnobirthing first time around) and some report that they simply feel pressure and not any pain and some experience orgasmic births!’
‘Your body is perfectly designed to give birth – the systems are already in place. What prevents calm, comfortable births is fear. When we are afraid, our oxygenated blood diverts from the muscles (for birth, the uterus) in preparation to give flight. Adrenaline blocks oxytocin and it’s oxytocin alongside oxygen that allows for the uterus to work gently and efficiently with pain that is bearable and manageable.’
If I didn’t fall asleep, will the hypnobirthing CD still work?
According to Katharine, most hypnobirthing CDs are a special mix of hypnosis and NLP which works on the subconscious. ‘Our subconscious is like an iceberg and we only know what we think we know therefore our subconscious will absorb all of the CD whilst you sleep and the key is in the repetition and practice so that our subconscious creates new patterns and opinions all by itself,’ she says.
Is hypnobirthing just for ‘hippies’?
‘Hypnobirthing is for everyone!’ Katharine exclaims. ‘The name can be a barrier to some people as it does suggest that only ‘hippies’ will benefit from it – the name can conjure up images of incense and chanting but it couldn’t be further from the truth!’
‘Hypnobirthing classes usually take place in bright and airy yoga studios, church halls or in the privacy of your own home. Whilst relaxation scripts where you will be guided into a deep state of meditation, you will be learning essential breathing techniques and everything you could expect to learn in other antenatal education classes.’
‘Hypnobirthing is a complete course, we cover everything! The relaxation is actually a very tiny part of the course (and you’re in charge of this at home) because the emphasis is on understanding the labouring woman’s physiology and how hormones interplay during birth plus interventions, decision making with your care providers and active birth preparation including positions and birthing environment.’
Is hypnobirthing just breathing?
‘Hypnobirthing is a complete education programme – the emphasis is on breathing as it is the breathing that produces the oxytocin and carries oxygen to the uterus,’ she adds. ‘The boost of oxytocin and oxygen to the uterus is essential because it is these factors that dictate the length, strength and frequency of surges (contractions) and can reduce or increase pain sensations depending on the amount of measured, slow breathing directed down to where baby is.’
Do I have to have a home birth if I do hypnobirthing?
‘Nope! Whilst hypnobirthing works wherever you are, our mammalian brains take over during acts such as sex, orgasm, going for a poo and having a baby!’ Katharine reminds us.
‘This means that to achieve the best of the aforementioned, our primal brain which has not caught up with modern day living due to being around for zillions of years, wants a quiet, calm, safe space free from observation. This is why many women end up doing beautifully at home but once at hospital are told they’re not far enough along, go home and give birth in the car park or the loo!’
‘Once free of strangers, noise, and observation birth hormones will kick back into relaxation mode and birth will speed on ahead. When mums feel frightened, we shoot into fear mode and adrenaline spikes blocking the birth hormones needed to make your birth comfortable and relaxed. Home birth provides everything your mammal brain wants, and many women who do a hypnobirthing make the decision to stay home for that reasons however many women opt for birth centres and labour ward and are still able to have wonderfully positive Hypnobirthing experiences. Birth centres are completely au fait with the mammal brain and as such design their birth centres to reflect the needs of our subconscious and allow birth to flow smoothly.’
Can I do hypnobirthing if I’m having a C-section?
Katharine says it’s quite the opposite – in her course, there is a special CD for C-section mummies and the benefits are still abundant. ‘The breathing not only makes surges more effective and less painful, but it also provides relief in between surges to baby, giving them the space in a tension free womb to move into the best position,’ she details. ‘The reduction in adrenaline benefits the baby too as all of our hormones affect baby’s wellbeing – being calm and relaxed can only be beneficial for baby and allows them to enter the world in a calm manner.’