Hypnobirthing is about experiencing birth in an atmosphere of calm relaxation, free of the fear and tension that prevents our birthing muscles from functioning as nature intended them to. Using breathing techniques and self-hypnosis, parents can mutually benefit from a programme that will help you overcome your fears and learn to ignore the traumatic stories that seem to circulate and scare us about labour.
Meet Caron Newton, a professional hypnobirthing practitioner who first encountered Hypnobirthing whilst studying to be a student midwife back in 2006. The couples that she stumbled across were few and far between but she was fascinated by how calm and controlled they were during birth. She tells us that the midwives at her unit would remark, ‘that lady cannot be in labour…she appears too calm’, but after careful assessment, they were found to be in established labour. Inspired by her experiences, Caron decided to train as a Hypnobirthing instructor in 2013, with the Association of Hypnobirthing Midwives, and her passion for birth education has only grown over the years.
We asked her all about it…
Why do you believe hypnobirthing is important?
Both women and men are often led to believe that childbirth is going to be a painful, uncomfortable and scary journey. When I had sex education at school, I always remember watching a video of a woman on her back, screaming in distress whilst in childbirth. This image etches itself in our memories and the more horror stories and images we come across, the more we expect childbirth to play out that way. As a result, when women go into childbirth with fear, they produce adrenaline which increases the heartrate, causing the heart to demand more blood supply. The womb is a big muscle and in order for it work correctly, in needs to be relaxed, by receiving a good oxygenated blood supply. As the heart is demanding more blood, the womb isn’t able to relax, becoming stiff and rigid, so takes longer to do the job it is designed to do and causes more discomfort in birth. When the womb is relaxed, mum and baby will have a more comfortable birth journey – that’s where hypnobirthing comes in and why it’s so important.
Where does the idea behind hypnobirthing come from?
One woman who played a part in the revolution of Hypnobirthing is Michelle Leclaire O’Neill, who wrote about the phenomenon of natural childbirth in her book published in 1987. Giving birth on your back, under spotlights, in a clinical environment, is not a natural way to have a baby. Janet Balaskas, founder of the The Active Birth Centre, has been working hard since the early 80’s, to educate women and health professionals to help women to find positions of comfort in childbirth. A relaxed, controlled birthing woman will achieve much more of a comfortable birth experience.
Does hypnobirthing work for everyone?
Birth education is invaluable for everyone and although parent education classes are offered on the NHS, they revolve more around the practicalities of preparation for birth, with a focus on pain relief options. I teach The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme, which has elements of Hypnobirthing threaded through it, and the focus of the programme is tailored to the individual, ensuring that everyone has the right birth on the right day. The tools that couples are taught will benefit them along their birthing journey, whether it be a vaginal water birth or an emergency caesarean section. The birthing path doesn’t always go 100% to plan, but I always get unanimous feedback that the hypnobirthing process allowed each couple to stay calm and in control, coming away from their birth experience feeling empowered.
What are the main techniques you teach?
Through Hypnobirthing, we teach women and men to tap back into their instinct for birthing. For the majority of women, we are able to both conceive and grow our babies, so why does birth have to be any harder? Using techniques of relaxation and breathing, along with positive images and words, I can equip clients to go into their birthing journey feeling a lot more positive and relaxed. We link emotional attachment with background music and words, through a series of repetition, which allows couples to associate sounds with feeling calm or even excited about labour. We all put ourselves into a state of trance on a daily basis i.e. daydreaming, fixation and this is the same feeling we aim to achieve in Hypnobirthing. A woman has to seek a conscious desire for change in order to achieve the mind and body connection, otherwise the mind will continue to draw you back to the negative, fearful thoughts that dominate. Women can naturally achieve a state of trance in childbirth - but the majority of women will need to learn the tools to allow this to happen.
Is it just for women or can fathers or birthing partners benefit from hypnobirthing too?
From a midwife’s perspective, I always feel that the birth environment can be a daunting place for the birthing partner. When starting a course of hypnobirthing, partners tend to come in one of two mind sets: the keen to learn or the sceptical. But after the first session together, even the most sceptical are sold. It empowers birthing partners to feel prepared, knowing how best to support their partners in labour. Watching couples empowering each other is the way birth should be. The programme I teach is taught over ten hours and couples often tell me they enjoyed the course so much, they felt sad when it had to end. Dads have fed back that conversations down the pub have changed from football to birth preparation!
When is the best time to learn hypnobirthing techniques during pregnancy?
I would normally suggest that the best time to start the course is between 28-32 weeks into pregnancy, as this will allow the couples time to practise the techniques learnt in the run-up to the birth. Although, I have taught it as early as 22 weeks for some mums suffering with anxiety, and as late on as 38 weeks for couples that have stumbled upon me late on in pregnancy.
Do you think it’s important to take a hypnobirthing class or can you learn the techniques at home?
I think personally it is better to attend a course, it gives parents a better understanding of the techniques, allowing questions to be answered by the teacher. But of course, to prepare, it is always useful if you have read a book about understanding that fear is the enemy in birth. Also, attending the course will allow couples to make friendships. Becoming a new parent can be a daunting and sometimes lonely place, so once the course is finished, I always set up a WhatsApp group for the couples to share tips and advice. I also meet with the group after all the babies are born to encourage regular meet ups and get the mums and babies out and about. Postnatal depression can affect 1/10 women so having a support network around after birth is a great way to help reduce this.