What’s hypnobirthing really all about? Is it fact or fiction? Some kind of hippy mumbo jumbo… or can it really help you to have a positive birthing experience. A year on from the reportedly royal HypnoBirth last year, Norfolk and Norwich birthing expert, Jackie Heffer-Cooke explores the truth. (And to hear more from many many couples who have done hypnobirthing with Jackie, go to our birth stories page).
What is Hypnobirthing?
In the last couple of years HypnoBirthing has been in the popular press. Hollywood actress Jessica Alba HypnoBirthed, Caitlan Moran talks about how much it helped her in her bestselling ‘How to be a Woman’, and of course there was the royal HypnoBirth of last year, as Kate Middleton reportedly HypnoBirthed Prince George of Cambridge, in what was a celebration of natural, normal birth. It’s not usual to hear good stories about labour, so it’s nice to hear birth getting positive press at last! So why? What is HypnoBirthing?
According to Marie Mongan, founder of – ‘HypnoBirthing* the Mongan method’ – it “is a unique method of relaxed, natural childbirth education, enhanced by self-hypnosis”. Sounds good, but does it actually work?
Birth, and how not to do it!
9 years ago, before I knew anything about HypnoBirthing, I gave birth to my daughter Megan. Or at least I’m pretty sure I did. We lovingly call it ‘the Fawlty Towers birth’. At 36 weeks pregnant, at 5am the morning after my works ‘leaving do’, my waters broke.
We had just finished the NHS ante-natal classes. The three classes basically told us which drugs I should take and how much pain I could expect. At the end of the final session I asked the training midwife if there would be anything at all to look forward to when giving birth. The others giggled apprehensively, she looked at me sympathetically. I guess not.
That time there wasn’t. To be honest, me and James kinda panicked, and that never really stopped. I look back on that birth as ‘what the hell happened’, and promised myself I would never do it like that again.
One day, two years later, whilst working on a pitch for a programme for a complementary health show in my old role as TV Producer I came across HypnoBirthing. And, well, without meaning to sound melodramatic, it changed my life.
And then there is HypnoBirthing….
My research took me to www.hypnobirthing.co.uk and somehow I ended up driving to Northampton to spend 4 days on an HypnoBirthing practitioner course. As I drove up the A14 I wondered whether my whim of curiosity was worth it and who the hell I was going to find in the Holiday Inn conference center when I got there. I imagined a whole host of hairy arm-pitted hippy earth mothers, but instead I met a cheerful Jenny Mullan, our tutor, an ex-teacher who now runs her own very successful Hypnotherapy practice in Northampton, and around 12 female students of mixed ages, all professional, intelligent, some HypnoBirthing mums with inspiring birth tales to tell and a lot of curious Midwives.
For the next two days we learnt about hypnosis. Apparently it’s not about turning Freshers into chickens at their end-of-year ball (he didn’t manage to put me under ‘hypnosis’ thankfully, just my mortified housemate), it’s more about allowing yourself to breathe and relax, to take yourself into a place where you are calm, centered and perfectly in control. Passing through your critical mind (the part that responds in a way it is ‘expected’ to and says ‘ow that hurts’), into the subconscious mind, which is calm, without ‘expectation’ and open to suggestion.
In this case the suggestion is that ‘Birthing is natural and can be enjoyed’. Yep, even enjoyed!
During the course we heard a lot about suggestibility and convincers, deconstructing and reconstructing thought patterns and language about childbirth, really making our expecting parents believe that birth can be a beautiful experience, one they can look forward to and remember as an amazing day in their lives. Personally the best HypnoBirthing convincer for me was indeed the amount of midwives taking the course who had witnessed HypnoBirthing mums, seen it actually work and had come to find out more. Ironically over dinner as the evenings wore on, one-by-one these charming women talked about their love for their work, but their frustration at the NHS, at the bureaucracy, the paperwork surrounding childbirth.
So, what does it do?
So, what does Hypnobirthing actually do?
- HypnoBirthing teaches you to understand your pregnant and labouring body, therefore not feeling vulnerable or afraid of what your body is doing in labour. You are talked through conception to birth, strains on the body, imbalances in hormones, how your muscles are used in childbirth.
- It promotes self awareness and self-control. The training in self-hypnosis assists you in reaching a level of relaxation and relative calm at the times when you need it most. The aim? To stop your body tensing at a time when release is all important (for obvious reasons).
- It encourages you to be emotionally strong. Understanding your body during birth is empowering, helping mum (and dad!) stay calm and focused. The shared experience of learning HypnoBirthing with your partner, or birth partner, leads to appreciation and support of your needs during this incredible time, leading up to the most important moment of all – meeting your baby for the very first time.
By the end of the course I found myself really believing, it is possible, “you can have a better birth!” and then I proved it to myself when I had my second baby in 2009.
In my experience, and in the experience of many, many mums and dads who email me later after their births, HypnoBirthing is a philosophy as well as a bunch of useful techniques and the breathing, positive thinking and learning to relax and ‘let go’ has stayed with me as a mum, and now it helps my kids too. HypnoBirthing seriously changed my life! Take the opportunity and find out how it can help you too 🙂
Jackie Heffer-Cooke runs HypnoBirthing courses from The Orange Grove Clinic in Norwich. Go to our birth stories page for many many birth stories and testimonials or to www.norwichhypnobirthing.com. Jackie Heffer-Cooke is Co-Director of The Orange Grove Clinic and Director of BeCalm HypnoBirthing, ‘YogaBumps’ Pregnancy Yoga and ‘YogaBubs’ Baby Yoga. She is also a Pregnancy Massage Therapist and author and presenter of ‘How to take the labour out of labour’. To tune in regularly go to her, ‘The Inconsistent Earth Mother’ blog in The Baby Centre section of the Orange Grove website.
To find out more about HypnoBirthing at The Orange Grove Clinic in Norwich, please go to our HypnoBirthing portfolio page or contact Reception on 01603 631 900, email [email protected] or go to our contact page.
If you would like to book your place on the next HypnoBirthing course at the Orange Grove Clinic, they can now be booked via our on-line shop.