Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Did you know you don't have to be pregnant to use Hypnobirthing techniques?

Yes you read that right, this is just one of the many unknown facts about this incredible antenatal preparation and life skill that is taking the world by storm. Let our Hackney based hypnobirthing teacher Katrina Berry illuminate you further on dispelling the myths and mystery surrounding Hynobirthing.  
It’s not new!
You might be surprised to learn that the first recorded use hypnotherapy for birth was in the 1850’s when hypnosis was used to induce labour. There was widespread use of hyposis for birth in Russia during the early part of the twentieth century, which spread to the US through the 40s. Hypnobirthing - the use of hypnosis and hypnotherapy to help to improve the experience of childbirth has been used for decades in the UK and is now being offered by many NHS trusts in the UK although most people seek professional teaching from those who are qualified.
There are now five main “methods” of hypnosis for birth in the UK, it’s important to know that they all have the same philosophy and goal and are based on the pioneering work of British obstetrician Dr Grantly Dick-Read. He postulated, way back in 1930, that the fear experienced by a woman in childbirth caused the blood to be diverted away from her uterus in order to be used by other muscles to enable her to escape from danger. The result of this was to deprive the uterus of oxygen therefore prevent it from carrying out its intended function without pain. This phenomenon he called "the fear-tension-pain syndrome of childbirth”.
Dr Dick-Read believed that if a woman were able to eliminate the fear, her uterus would return to its normal function, thus eliminating the pain. Concluding that fear and tension was responsible for 95% of labour pain, he suggested this could be eliminated through education and relaxation techniques.
Hypnobirthing is not hippy trippy
Far from it in fact, hypnobirthing programmes are rooted in science and all teachers pride themselves on encouraging evidence based birth practice. They will often teach parents-to-be about the NHS health system, the roles of midwives, obstetricians and doctors and give them the confidence to be able to navigate hospital policies and guidelines to make informed decisions. Most courses will also look at physical aswell as emotional and psychological preparation for birth too.
Despite recent decades of scientific research into the benefits of hypnosis, it’s surprising how it continues to be misunderstood and judged negatively on the basis of misinformation and simple prejudice. People still often react negatively to the word hypnosis but virtually never react negatively to the description of the process of hypnosis.
Everyone has experienced a trance state many times, but we don’t usually call it hypnosis. All of us have been so absorbed in thought – while reading a book, driving or on the bus to work – that we fail to notice what is happening around us. Conversely we can be so “in the zone”- a pianist performing a complicated piece of music or an athlete tuning out a crowd to focus on their best performance - that we are not conscious. While we were “zoned out”, or “in the zone”, another level of consciousness which we refer to as our unconscious mind, took over. These are very focused states of attention similar to hypnosis.
Whilst early approaches to the use of hypnosis for birth placed an emphasis on using hypnotic techniques as a pain management tool, it’s more common now that a hypnobirthing programme is much more comprehensive. Often a complete antenatal course, all of the hypnosis for birth courses and books educate women and their partners about nature’s design of the birthing body and how best to create conditions conducive to natural birthing. Couples are taught how beliefs and thoughts affect our nervous system and can they help or hinder the birth process. Facing fears and releasing concerns, through hypnosis, allows a couple to approach their birth with calm confidence. Building a woman's confidence and trust in her body's ability to birth allows her to be able to step gracefully out of the way and allow her body and baby to do what they know how to do.
It’s not just for a particular kind of birth
Let’s get one thing straight right away: there is no one right way to give birth; every baby’s birth is unique. Hypnobirthing is not just for those planning a natural birth. A “hypno birth” is not necessarily at home, in water, in the dark, surrounded by whale music. Of course there are many women who choose that for themselves but there are also those who give birth in birthing centres, labour wards and those whose babies come unexpectedly in the strangest of places (I had a couple who welcomed their son in a hotel room!).
There are those whose babies need help and, thankfully, we have a wonderful maternity system that offers medical assistance. Some babies need to come through a caesarean section, sometimes labours are induced, some women are told they are “high risk”and they need to make decisions about their care. Hypnobirthing helps in all these scenarios - hypnobirthing helps birthing mothers to feel calmer and in more control over decisions about treatment options. It truly is about being prepared for any and all birth experiences.
The skills taught in hypnobirthing are life skills, not just for birth.
Hypnobirthing is very different from other antenatal preparation. You’ll find yourself becoming aware of your emotional, mental and physical approach to giving birth; understanding how your mind and body work and how you can have more control over them is incredibly empowering and often spills into other areas of life. It will prepare you in many more ways than you first imagine. Bringing a child into the world throws the rest of your life into perspective and it’s often a time of transition and change in more ways than one. Life can be challenging, there’s an unwritten law somewhere that when pregnant you should move house, renovate or at least redecorate.
I encourage couples to use the approach and techniques to help them with every day life as well as for childbirth. This allows it to become your unconscious, automatic approach to life.
Learning to focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want, thinking positively, calming your nervous system, all these things help you when feeling anxious about a meeting or presentation at work, if there’s someone annoying near you on public transport, with being nervous before an antenatal appointment, trying to stay calm when a toddler is throwing a tantrum. Indeed integrating the approach and techniques to help you with the challenges of daily life means you’re more able to reach for these tools when you need them most.

Hypnobirthing isn’t just for mum
Paternal instinct is often overlooked but can be just as powerful as the maternal instinct. It is to protect and provide. HypnoBirthing preparation for a birthing partner helps them not only understand how a woman’s body functions most effectively but how they can use their own instinct in the most helpful way.
Whilst other antenatal classes will help a father (or partner) understand the basics of what’s going on at birth, hypnobirthing will provide a partner with a thorough understanding of the hormonal interplay and how to help create conducive conditions for the cocktail of helpful hormones needed.
Using the approach and skills learned in hypnobirthing for life, I’ve had many partners tell me that they’re sleeping better, working better, improved golf game gets mentioned a lot (!) and I even had one dad tell me that hypnobirthing helped him pass his driving test.
The benefits of doing hypnobirthing will ripple out into all areas of your life, before, during and after your baby’s birth. It always makes a difference, sometimes in the most unexpected of ways.

Katrina Berry is listed on Mumsnet Hackney HERE
“Why Hypnobirthing Matters” by Katrina Berry launches a new series of books by highly respected publishers Pinter and Martin in April 2015.
Looking at the origins and rationale for using hypnosis for childbirth, she explains what you can expect from hypnobirthing and dispel common misunderstandings in a lively, informative way giving readers a firm framework from which to make confident, informed decisions of their own. Ideal for new parents, health professionals and all those with an interest in birth and parenting. 

To pre-order this book click HERE