One of the first questions I ask my clients in a KGHypnobirthing course is what they want and what they don’t want in their upcoming birth. Some parents come with a long list, others are just starting out in their birth preparation. Five years ago I was asked the same question and if I’m perfectly honest, I just didn’t want it to hurt. I was told I would have an induction and I had heard that this would make the experience even worse! My most common thoughts: how could something that big come through something that small? If someone could just knock me out and hand me my baby when I woke up, that would be great thank you; a c-section - perfect! Who really cares if it is major abdominal surgery?!
Hypnobirthing seemed like the perfect solution - hypnotherapy for pain relief was my understanding. But this was my mistake. At the start of every hypnobirthing session I remember telling my teacher that it was not working, I didn’t feel any differently. But as Katherine Graves herself reminds us and as I now tell my clients, if you think it’s not working then probably it is just different to what you expected it to be. Of course we all dream of a pain-free birth and certainly, with hypnobirthing we know you are less likely to reach for the medical pain relief options, but actually having a great birth experience is not just about having a pain-free labour. It is much more than that. Hypnobirthing transformed my birth experience in ways I just didn’t expect. The benefits are many - you can read the full list here, but below you can read how hypnobirthing truly helped me and why I now choose to dedicate so much time to helping other parents enjoy the same privilege.
1. It made labour manageable and more comfortable:
The issue when we talk about pain is that the sensations of labour are both subjective and personal. What I would consider painful, you may not and vice versa. Every labour is different. I would never describe my labour as painful. I would describe it as powerful, exhausting and hard work. In our hypnobirthing course we spend time talking about the sensations of labour. We try to avoid the negative suggestion of pain, instead choosing words such as sensation, and surges instead of contractions, as we know words are powerful and can become self-fulfilling. But equally, it is important that women feel confident that they can manage the most powerful of surges. We talk about all the tools and techniques available, the natural and the medical so parents are equipped for birth regardless of the path it may take.
2. It gave me back control:
If we do not feel in control of what is happening during birth it has the potential to massively impact how we feel about it, if things don’t quite go according to plan. Before hypnobirthing, I was not in control of my birth. I felt forced into a birth path that I didn’t want, didn’t feel was right. I was surprised at what was suggested but remained regretfully passive. Without hypnobirthing I could easily have become a victim of my birth experience instead of an active participant, shaping the path my birth would take. Hypnobirthing gives you information; a full understanding of what your body needs to do during labour and what it needs to be able to do it. We learn about the common interventions and the reasons why they might be offered. We learn how to question the advice we are given and where to go to for good, balanced information that can support discussions with medical teams to come up with the best birth plan for us.
3. It helped us work with, not against, medical teams for a positive birth:
The best part of being a hypnobirthing practitioner is the positive change you make to a mum or couple’s experience. The most frustrating part is the lack of acknowledgement amongst birth professionals of differing views, which may leave parents confused about which path to take.
Any KGH practitioner will tell you that there is no one right way to give birth. We talk to parents about different perspectives on birth, attitudes to risk and we encourage them to question the advice they are given. It is not about refusing all intervention or medical support, but instead appreciating that absolute certainty is rare so we need to ensure that the decisions parents make are the best decisions they can be for mum and for baby.
But I believe hypnobirthing works best when it works hand in hand with medical expertise. It is hard for parents to go against the advice of those we trust to be experts. It is much easier for mum to relax and birth effectively if she knows she and her birth preferences have the support of her medical team. Hypnobirthing helps you understand and evaluate all your options. You always have choices. It gives you the confidence to discuss these options with your consultants - obstetricians and midwives.
We were able to approach birth knowing we had the support of both our consultant obstetrician and our consultant midwife and they knew that we were actively listening and considering their advice. We did decline intervention but we did it in an informed way and in discussion with our medical team. I remember talking to my midwife after the birth and it was clear that she probably didn’t fully align with hypnobirthing, but it didn’t matter. She respected our birth preferences and did everything she could to support us. Isn’t that what we want? Someone who supports us but is there for the ‘what ifs’ and to advise us ,with their expertise, if we need to consider something different.
4. My birth partner knew exactly what to do:
We had a doula at our birth. She was amazing and if it’s an option for you then I can’t recommend it enough. She was invaluable but invisible - the definition of a good doula I would think. But I actually remember most clearly what my husband did and just after our son was born I recall the midwives congratulating him, not me incidentally (!), on a job well done. We expect birth partners to be in the room with us but we haven’t exactly told them what we want them to do. Unlike many antenatal courses, KGHypnobirthing is as much for birth partners as for the women birthing babies. It ensures birth partners have the knowledge they need to really support a mum prior to and during birth. It gives them a voice and a real part to play. A good birth partner, trained in hypnobirthing, is invaluable. Most partners will want to support mum-to-be; they just need to know how.
5. I learned valuable tools and techniques which are useful in all aspects of life:
…early parenting in particular! Five years on and I still use the tools and techniques I acquired during our hypnobirthing course. I use relaxation techniques whenever I feel tense; I use the questioning techniques whenever I need to make important decisions; I use positive affirmations to get the results that I want; I’ve learned to trust my instincts when rational thinking stalls and I use breathing techniques when I go to the dentist! These techniques are not just helpful for birth.
So the benefits are extensive and if I can sum up for you the difference a good hypnobirthing course can make, I went from dreading and fearing the experience to looking forward to birth and excited to see what I was capable of. Isn’t it right that we should look forward to this most momentous time in our lives? Things didn’t go exactly according to my plan, but it didn’t matter: it was an amazing and empowering experience which I would happily have repeated, after just a few days sleep!