When you start talking about hypnosis and birthing, you’re guaranteed to lose the attention of a few people who think you’re off your rocker.
But there’s is a growing trend encompassing these two things that is catching the attention of pregnant mummas all over Australia.
It’s called hypnobirthing, and it’s a birthing method that works to take the fear, pain and powerlessness out of birth for scared mums. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and there are many teachers and followers of the practice in Australia. Essentially, it involves mums connecting with their body’s instinctual know-how using mediative relaxation and affirmation.
How Does It Work?
Like we said before, there’s not really one specific way that hypnobirthing works on mums. Certainly, there are no swinging pocket-watches, and no trigger words (like ‘push’) that turn mums into totally pain-free labour machines. Instead, hypnobirthing is a kind of deep meditation that helps women learn how to use their minds to manage the pain they are feeling, and to flow into the unpredictable nature of childbirth. Teachers and supporters of the practice say that mums who learn how to hypnobirth are able to enter an altered state of consciousness where labour pains become a controlled sensation.
One of these teachers is Melissa Spilsted, the founder of Hypnobirthing Australia. She says that her offshoot of the concept involves three main things: breathing techniques, positive affirmations, and self-hypnosis. These are taught to mums during their pregnancy, so that they can be used practically during labour without the teacher being present. The concepts can also be used for stress relief and to help mum focus and prepare for birth before it happens.
Of the three, Splinted considers the affirmations among the most important tool for mums. These are verbal affirmations that mums go over during their pregnancy and labour, including phrases like “My body is perfectly designed to birth my baby” and “I allow my body to completely relax” and “Every surge (contraction) of my body brings my baby closer to my arms”.
Fear And Birth
Likely, one of the biggest reasons behind the increasing trend of mums seeking out hypnobirthing instruction is the fear that our culture associates with the act of giving birth. Professor of Midwifery at the University of Sydney, Hannah Dahlen, says that fear is intrinsically linked with childbirth in our society, which is why hypnobirthing is being explored. This fear is inherently bad for the birth, because it causes muscle tension and therefore makes labour pains worse.
Even more than that, says Dr Dahlen, is the subtle fear that medical professionals often subtly create in mums-to-be by suggesting their child’s health might be impacted without medical interventions. This is very true for mums carrying larger babies, who are often told that caesareans might be a better option as they may not be able to deliver naturally.
“There’s a lot of disparaging things that we say to women … that make women feel inadequate and incapable, and therefore much more vulnerable to intervention,” Dr Dahlen said.
Of course, there are some cases where medical intervention is completely necessary, but Dr Dahlen believes that for many women, this simply isn’t the case, but mums are being overwhelmed by fear and a sense that something might go wrong.
Studies are still being undertaken into hypnobirthing, and as the practice can differ from one practitioner to another, even very slightly, it’s difficult to make sweeping statements about its effectiveness. However, a study recently published in the British Medical Journal Open has caught the attention of many influential parties. It concerns an antenatal education program developed in Australia by a woman named Nadine Richardson, called She Births.
The results, which are quite dramatic, involve 176 couples in Sydney over a five-year period. The couples either undertook Nadine Richardson’s course, or a standard hospital birth preparation course, with the differences between the two groups measured. These groups came from highly mixed demographics, but those who undertook the She Births course still experienced considerably less medical interventions, including epidurals, caesarean sections and so on. In fact, the numbers are quite astounding.
A 44% reduction in the need for caesarean sections.
A 65% reduction in the need for epidurals.
A 53% reduction in the need to resuscitate babies after delivery.
Yes, it is just one study, and it’s just the start of the research that will likely be conducted on the concept of hypnobirthing. But if it’s managing to give mums back their strength and help them to feel empowered during childbirth, that’s good enough for us.