It’s time the Hypnobirthing became a mainstream antenatal class
When was the last time anyone – pregnant or not – relaxed when told to ‘just relax’. I am pretty sure the only reaction of that person in question was to get even more agitated. So, you see, relaxing is not as easy, especially in today’s busy world, where we are constantly rewriting long to-do lists in our heads, figuring out how to be successful in our careers, the best friend we can possibly be, squeeze in time to meditate, do our 10.000 steps, make that spin class at 6:30am, eat healthy… aaaand grow a baby.
Every expecting mother – even if she is taking things easy and dropping that crazy to do list to enjoy her pregnancy and completely focus on growing her baby – will tell you that her mind is often racing with thoughts about her future baby. Will the baby arrive at her/his due date? Will the birth be quick and straightforward? Will it hurt? Will the baby be a good sleeper? A good feeder? Need I go on with the list of thoughts? All very valid, but all little thieves of the calm confidence that is so vital for expecting mothers… and each and every one of us for that matter.
Telling someone to “relax” is just as effective as telling someone that refined sugar, or smoking is bad for them – people very rarely completely overhaul their habits, just because they have acquired a little piece of (new) information. Those who battle fear of flying will most likely still feel the same amount of anxiety, even after a lecture on the physics of aircrafts and a statistical breakdown of how safe flying is. However, what has proven to be effective in changing habits and perceptions in all of the above cases is hypnotherapy. Which is the ‘hypno’ bit of the hypnobirthing course.
Don’t worry, you are not going to be made to cluck like a chicken, or have your mind go into a different dimension whilst your body is made to perform circus tricks. You are simply going to be invited to sit / lay comfortably, close your eyes (so you have less distractions), and listen to the teacher read out some carefully crafted scripts, or play an audio guide tailored for expecting mothers. If you have ever been to a yoga class, you may feel that the experience is similar to Savasana, where you are encouraged to relax, focus on breathing and simply listen to the encouraging words that the teacher has prepared for you, which aim to set you up for the day and week ahead.
The scripts are professionally crafted by licenced hypnotherapists and include empowering words and affirmations about your innate capability to birth your baby; words that normalise the event of birth in your mind, and even make you excited (rather than anxious) about the big day. And just like anything – a single gym workout, a single piano lesson, or cookery class – you won’t emerge from it as an Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Mozart or a Gordon Ramsey. But as with everything, the more you practice, the better you will get at being able to actively calm your mind and replace fear and anxiety with calm confidence.
There are so many benefits to be had when doing the scripts – you are obviously practicing so that you are good at remaining calm and confident during your birth when things absolutely will get very intense and overwhelming at times (but manageable!). Yet the benefits are also enjoyed every single time you dedicate some time to practice. And when you have confidence wobbles throughout your pregnancy – it is very normal – you now have a fantastic tool at your fingertips to calm yourself down. Reducing anxiety and having a calmer state of mind during pregnancy does wonders for your blood pressure levels, nausea, energy levels and general well-being. How great is that!
And this is all just the ‘hypno’ part of the hypnobirthing course. The course further goes into the right amount of detail on what exactly happens in your body at every stage of birth – which muscles and hormones are at play, what sensations you can expect, so that when things are happening to you on the day, you will know that all the foreign sensations are just the normal progression of your baby being born into this world. You learn how your state of mind –remaining calm and confident – influences the effective flow of hormones and work of your muscles to make the birthing experience easier and more comfortable. Personally, I haven’t met a single person who has come out of a hypnobirthing class not ecstatic about all the science, biology and stats they have taken in during this class! I promise, it is just the right amount so that it is educational, without being overwhelming. And not to end on a cliché, but as we all know – knowledge (of what happens “down there” during birth), is power!
So, there you have it. I could go on about how wonderful it is for the parents-to-be to be doing the class together, as a team, bonding over the knowledge that will prove invaluable to both of them on the day of their baby’s birth. But I will leave this for another article.
I haven’t addressed the elephant in the room, and it is that the word itself – ‘hypnobirthing’ – is quite off-putting. Pretty much every teacher will agree. Yet anyone that has every attended a good hypnobirthing class, will tell you that the content of the class could not be further from the initial impression that the name gives. So, please do keep an open mind when you first hear about hypnobirthing. The content of the class really deserves to be a mainstream antenatal preparation.