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What is Hypnobirthing? Facts or Fantasy. | The Bump to Baby Chapter

If you’ve landed on this page then I’m sure you’ve heard this term thrown around many times … I’m sure you have heard it talked about amongst those positive birth stories but wonder whether it is all too good to be true. A good birth is something that only happens in your imagination right? So let’s look at the facts…

Clock swaying and Derren Brown type voodoo is definitely what it’s not, even though the name suggests. Without dumbing down it’s marvellousnous…it’s just science. So let’s throw it back to secondary school biology.

Fight or flight? Neither possible for birth.

So you hear a buzz of a bee, or see a spider, or you have to do a presentation at work. All these things create a reaction in our body, our heart rate increases, palms get sweaty and we get that sticky feeling in our tummy. This is a programmed response that would have served us well in the Stone Age times. Blood shunts away from our major organs to the arms and legs, our breathing increases and heart rate increases as we prepare to fight or run from a sabre tooth tiger or woolly mammoths. It would have helped us survive tricky situations.

The same would have happened for women giving birth in the Stone Age times. Imagine they’d be in their birth cave, doing their birth thing and in walks a sabre tooth tiger. That birthing Mum would have seen that tiger, thought, “Oh crap. I’m not safe” and triggered the fight or flight response. Her heart rate would increase, her blood would shunt away from her uterus causing her contractions to slow and her labour to stop and this would give her some more time to move away from the tiger and find another safe place to have her baby. As you can see, this bodily response is a great thing, it helped her body stop labour so that she could give birth in a safe birth cave. Us women, are like lionesses when it comes to their baby’s and giving birth when feeling safe is a massive priority in our thoughts. But, the difference in this situation to that of now, is that we are not cavegirls. We do not have sabre tooth tigers coming into our environments. We do not have to deal with these kind of threats …. so why does this response still happen?

Well…

The problem that we have is our thoughts. The thoughts of bad things happening. We are basically always thinking about sabre tooth tigers coming into our birth caves- but the modern day equivalent.

We think about that episode of one born every minute when the woman was screaming in pain.

We think of the story that our Mum or Auntie told us about what giving birth was like when we were 11 years old.

We think of the story that our bestie told us, about how nothing went to plan, and she had a tear and it was all very dramatic.

And when we haven’t done birth ourself, we only have our imagination and snippets of what we have seen from the TV and heard from stories, to piece together what may happen. And often it is on the dramatic side, as one born every minute wouldn’t be on its 6th series without a bit of drama to feed our drama craving minds, and a story wouldn’t be a good story without that shock factor.

So what happens when we go into labour and we feel those contractions? Our mind says,

“Ah ha… I know what happens here, I’ve seen this lots on the TV, this is when the drama happens, there’s going to be pain.”

Then our other part of the brain says,

“Did someone say PAIN? Holy crap, let’s get out of this situation. Now!”

Cue the fight or flight response…

So your feeling more pain, because that’s what you’re telling yourself is happening. You feel more fear, because you’re mind is telling you that what is happening is exactly the drama that you expected. Then because of the fight or flight response, your labour stalls, intervention is recommended so it reinforces your initial thoughts that something is in fact going wrong. You then feel more fear, more pain, more tension and more intervention…. And the cycle continues.

So now, to answer the ‘What is Hypnobirthing?’ question.

Well, it’s actually just a different type of birth prep with the focus on having a positive birth. It’s main focus is reducing the fight or flight and increasing oxytocin. And here is how, as a midwife, I teach it over here at The Bump to Baby Chapter.

1. Change your thoughts and rewrite the way you think about birth. This isn’t done by doing anything wacky… just watching positive birth stories, birth affirmations, some relaxations and a whole lot of understanding. Lots of birth stories often come with wrong information. When in fact, the more you know, the less that is unknown. This goes for what contractions are actually like, what vaginal tears are like (not as scary as how you’ve read it on MumsNet), what cesareans are like… etc? All the things that you might be pushing far down now, are only going to come to full surface if that happens bringing fear. Knowledge is power 🙌🏼🙌🏼 Always.

2. Learn ways that will help you stop the trigger of the fight or flight. How to keep yourself calm, how to cope with contractions etc. Learn what to do when you think you might be losing it. You know when you breathe out for a long time ( for example in for 4 seconds, out for 7 seconds), you actually trigger the calming response in your body that will stop the fight or flight response. Meaning that oxytocin will increase, endorphins will increase (your body’s natural pain relief) , you feel happy with oxytocin, calm, you bond with your baby more when she’s arrived, your breastfeeding is encouraged. Learning ways that will help increase your oxytocin and reduce your fight or flight is the key to a positive birth. This section of Hypnobirthing is great for birth partners too as it gives them tips on how they can help too.

3. Extra things you need to know. This is practical things that can help your birth go smoother. Things like positions that help labour go quicker, eating and drinking because your uterus is in fact a muscle that won’t work as effectively if it’s not being watered and sugared- think lucozade, jelly babies, water etc.

I think the main thing that can be learnt from Hypnobirthing is that the more you know, the more things you can do to increase that oxytocin. Oxytocin isn’t just important to help your birth go smoothly. But it’s the hormone that will encourage bonding between you and baby, it will encourage your breast milk production, but most of all it will mean that in years to come it will be a time that you look back on with fondness, love and happiness, rather than experience tainted with fear.

So what do you think? Not as whacky as you once thought!

For everything you need to do Hypnobirthing then you can enroll in The Bump to Baby Chapter’s Antenatal and Hypnobirthing online course, for the duration of the lockdown it is only £27 to give everyone the opportunity to have a great birth. This course is led by a midwife, includes antenatal education birth prep, Hypnobirthing and access to post natal sessions later down the line for baby sleep help, colic and reflux and weaning.

PHOTO CREDITS @KALINORTON @HEADYGRIMM