Hypnobirthing || What's it all about?
I filmed a little video for my Youtube channel chatting about my experience with Hypnobirthing and why I am completely in love with it. After filming a few people asked a couple more questions so rather than chatting and waffling for too long in another video I thought I'd jot down some extra thoughts here. Hope its helpful if you're expecting a bubba!
Also, just quickly before we start, a disclaimer that I am by no means a Hypnobirthing expert. I read and LOVED Katharine Graves Hypnobirthing book and based my birth around what I learnt in that book. So just see this as one mum's findings to another x
Was the hospital receptive to our hypnobirthing plans?
Yes, they were amazing. We live in Brighton: Yoga studios round every corner, vegan cafes more common than Starbucks and a hub for The Green Party. So I suppose its unsurprising that the local hospital has a very holistic attitude too (with 3 birthing pool rooms compared to the country's average of 1). But I would hope that wherever you live midwives would always respect the decisions of you, the mother, whether or not its an idea that they are used to.
Near the end of your pregnancy you have an appointment with a midwife when you chat through your hopes for the birth. Would you like a water birth? Home birth? Do you know the different pain relief options on offer to you? It was at this point that we wrote down in our notes that we would be using the Hypnobirthing method for the birth.
A large part of hypnobirthing is about protecting you during labour. Enabling you to keep your mind calm and focused and not having to think about any unnecessary details. This gives your birth partner a very important role: Henry (my lovely husband) was the point of contact for anyone we came in to contact with whilst in labour. If they had any concerns or any questions whilst I was in labour we wrote down in our notes that they needed to speak to Henry quietly before coming to me. I didn't want to feel like I needed to be chatting with and making small talk with a midwife whilst also trying to focus on the biggest challenge I had ever faced. I also didn't want to hear any concerns they had unless I really needed to, so as not to get me unnecessarily worried or stressed. So Henry was my protection, a buffer to the outside world!
We also wrote in our notes that I hoped for a water birth. Which meant when we got in to hospital in labour they were able to glance at my notes and get a pool room prepared quickly. Speed was everything at this point, every moment out of the pool felt like a lifetime!
I had also decided for myself (it is a very personal decision though, definitely no right or wrong) that I didn't want to be examined. For me it felt intrusive and I felt like it would pull me out of my calm, safe state. Basically, I wanted to be left to my own devices as much as physically possible. To let my body do what it needed to do and to not put timings on to it.
The midwives were respectful of our wishes. I did though end up having one examination when I first arrived, and although I had said beforehand that I wouldnt want it, when it came to it I actually felt fine and was quite intrigued to know how far long I was. But after that one examination I got in the pool and wasn't examined again. That's another thing with all your birth hopes. They are helpful to think through carefully and to have in your mind but it is also important to go in to hospital (or home, if you're having your baby there!) with an open mind that things might change and plans might shift) Hypnobirthing educates you in all these different scenarios so that if you are asked to agree to something you know exactly what you are agreeing to, rather than just blindly following the hospital's advice.
One example being: You are offered an injection to help expel the placenta after birth. Katherine Graves explains in her book what this injection actually does and any affects it may have on your body. Having read about it I decided that I was open to either scenario. If I was able to have a natural, intervention free birth then my preference was to avoid the injection and let the placenta come naturally but I also didn't want to spend my first few minutes as a new mum worrying about a placenta so I was also happy to have the injection if needed. It was less about the actual injection and more about feeling knowledgable and knowing that it was my body and my decision.
What daily Hypnobirthing exercises did I do?
I read the book through twice before starting any of the exercises and then slowly read through it a third time in the last few weeks of pregnancy. From 30 weeks onwards every evening when we got in to bed I would practise the different breathing techniques- Up breathing for the contractions and Down breathing for the birth. You can practise them anywhere at any time but I liked doing them in the evening as so much of Hypnobirthing is about creating a calm atmosphere. I would light a few candles (my fave vanilla ones) and relax in our cosy bed, feeling completely calm and safe. A feeling that you want to be able to remember, almost tangibly, when in labour. I would close my eyes and practise the breathing while Henry read one of the relaxation/visualisation stories. It normally didn't take much longer than 10 minutes or so but I found it such a lovely way to re centre my mind each day and to have time to think about the birth in a really calm, safe setting.
At first we found the visualisations a bit cringey. Henry couldn't usually get through one with a straight face, he'd crease up at some point whilst conjuring up images of far off desert islands. But even in amongst the jokes I found it incredibly relaxing and actually really powerful and helpful to be able to laugh together and just generally feel really casual about our impending task.
Did you find some exercises more helpful than others?
For me, the most helpful thing was practising the breathing techniques, along with the up and down visualisations (all this will make more sense once you've read the book). I practised the breathing every day, I wanted it to feel like second nature by the time the labour came around, so that I could use it to its full potential rather than it feeling forced and un natural. I also found the visualisations that go along with the breathing really helpful (e.g. bubbles floating upwards. Again, read the book and all will make sense!)
For me the relaxation stories were less helpful. We still read through them in the run up to the birth but I didn't actually use them at all in labour.
The book also talks about choosing a few positive affirmations to have ready to say to yourself during labour. Henry knew them as well and I found it incredibly encouraging to have him saying them, along with saying them in my own head, when moments felt overwhelming. Because we had chosen them and spoken before hand they felt familiar and therefore comforting. It also meant Henry had some nice, simple things he knew to say that would help me rather than him floundering and not really knowing what to say/how to help.
When should you start practising Hypnobirthing?
It's never too late, even if you're due date is tomorrow I would still thoroughly recommend you get your hands on Katharine's book asap! But the general idea is that you start putting it into action from 30 weeks. I think any earlier and you're not quite ready mentally to start thinking about labour. With still so many weeks to go its better to focus on the pregnancy and looking after yourself. But from 30 weeks onwards is the perfect time to start your training! I found the book got me really excited for birth. Rather than the fear of this impending, un known battle I found myself feeling positive and calm and excited to take on the challenge.
If you are drawing closer to your due date and any fears are setting in my last thoughts, before I stop waffling on, would be to remember that your body was designed to do this. Birth feels like an impossibility but it is incredible the way your body adapts to the challenge. Picture the baby that you are going to meet at the end, remind yourself that you were made for this challenge, practise those long, calm deep breaths and know that you have got this!