Mother and Baby

Wednesday Lunch Club Q+A With Natal Hypnotherapist Maggie Howell

Missed our Wednesday Lunch Club with natal hypnotherapist Maggie Howell? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice she shared here

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Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your parenting questions from a top expert. This week, natal hypnotherapist Maggie Howell was on standby to answer questions.

Natal Hypnotherapy is recommended by over 3,000 birth professionals and Maggie’s one of the UK’S leading campaigners who are helping fight the fear that surrounds child birth and pregnancy. Through her business, she’s helped over 100,000 women have a better birth experience. She’s an experienced and articulate broadcaster and is passionate about supporting women through pregnancy, child birth and beyond.

If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…

How can I convince my husband to attend the workshop with me (he doesn't quite get it!) and prove to him that it's worth the money?

Maggie Howell: Very good question! That is probably the battle that many women may come across. Many guys often have a slightly misguided understanding of what hypnotherapy is (based on Little Britain type portrayals) or think they will be going on an earth mothery, bead jangling, incense burning workshop (I have nothing against those!), however they are then very surprised to find the workshops very professionally run with PowerPoint presentation, professional hand outs and often run by Midwives. Some key points to mention would be:

1) Lots of ‘tough’ blokes have done the workshop and commented on how much they got out of it e.g. Matt Dawson and James Cracknell.

2) The Natal Hypnotherapy workshops are very focused on practical hands on tools to help the dads as well as the mum to keep calm and relaxed.

3) We teach dads quick and easy ways to take mums into a deeply relaxed state and help her stay there (this can be really uplifting for dads as they can visually see how their words and actions can have such a powerful effect to help mum relax.

4) We work with the dads to put together a plan on how to keep everyone in the room calm and focused and how best to work with the maternity support team.

5) On the workshop they learn a lifelong skill – we have had so many dads use the self-hypnosis techniques for other areas in their life e.g. improve their sports, overcome fear of flying, become better at presentations etc.

Hello. I'm very interested in natal hypnotherapy – currently 30 weeks pregnant. Is there any evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) to indicate the increased efficacy of workshop led hypnotherapy versus ‘DIY’ natal hypnotherapy with Maggie's book & CDs? I have found a workshop reasonably near me, which would be at around 37 weeks and I was wondering if perhaps that may be cutting it rather fine as I would be almost full term by that point? I fully intend to continue my DIY practices but any information would be most helpful!

Maggie Howell: We have not any formal comparisons for a while, however we did a small sample study a few years ago and of the 50 couples who attended the workshops, the C-section rate was 9%. This compared to around 15% for women using the CDs (this was a larger study of 1250 women).

However, I want to stress that the courses are so much more than thinking about reducing C-section rates. They offer a whole of host of practical tools, tips and ideas for both the mother and her birth partner to do together which are essentially about reducing fear and being more confident. As a result the couple feel so much better equipped to deal with any situations or challenges which may arise.

In terms of timing, 37 weeks is not too late at all – we have had couples attend on their due date (although I would not recommend leaving it that late). Many couples like listening to the CDs early on and then attend a course nearer their due date as all the practical exercises are then very fresh in their mind. We had one couple a few weeks ago who went into labour the night of their workshop and said they were so chilled they did not know they were in labour until just before their baby was born.

One couple went into labour and said they were so chilled they did not know they were in labour until just before their baby was born

Ever since I heard about Natal Hypnotherapy, I've wanted to do it. Just 11 weeks pregnant now and using the CD which is so relaxing! Keen to attend my local workshop in Durham ASAP. Is it too early to book onto this? Should I wait until closer to my due date? But this seems so far away! Keen to get started as I really want to absorb it and feel as relaxed and prepared and positive as possible!

Maggie Howell: How great that you are actually planning so far ahead! I wish more mums-to-be did that as the earlier you start the better. Yes it is a bit too early to do the workshop, however I would defiantly suggest contacting Samantha Parker in Harrogate to see what dates she has for the new year. The way we run the Natal Hypnotherapy workshops means that you could do the Natural Pain Relief module at around 25 weeks and then the Practical Birth preparation module close to your due date.

I've never really taken to yoga or meditating, but I'm keen to try hypnobirthing. How do I make sure I stay focused (and don't get the giggles)?

Maggie Howell: Like you I had never done yoga or meditating. I also thought that hypnosis was all a bit airy fairy (it was actually my husband who suggested use self-hypnosis for the birth of our son 13 years ago!) However I soon realised that the great thing with hypnosis is that there is nothing you actually have to do. It is just like someone is quietly talking to you and telling you a story.

Also it does not matter if thoughts come in to your mind or if you feel like you have wandered off a bit. I would suggest that you start just by getting a CD or download that you can listen to in the privacy of your own home. That way no one else is watching or listening and you are far less likely to feel silly or giggly. The CDs start using a normal speaking voice and then slow down as you become more relaxed. You can listen to a sound sample here.

The CDs start using a normal speaking voice and then slow down as you become more relaxed

Hi Maggie. I'm pregnant with my second baby and have been attending pregnant relaxation classes with Faye Hatch (holistic hatchlings, Sutton Coldfield) I've enjoyed it so much that I have signed up for another course. Faye has taught me to stay relaxed and use the correct techniques during my labour. I'm looking forward to putting them into practice. I would highly recommend women who are anxious about labour to try natal hypnotherapy.

Maggie Howell: Hi Stephanie, that is great - Faye Arrowsmith Hatch is just wonderful! Have you done the two day workshops as well as the relaxation hour?

Hi Maggie, Love natal hypnotherapy. Any new CDs on the horizon, and if so what will they be for?

Maggie Howell: Hi Elizabeth, yes I am currently trialling a new CD which is to help women (and men) who have had a traumatic birth experience. The process for creating new CDs is quite a lengthy one as I do a lot of research into the subject, then write and create a first draft CD, test it, get feedback, change it to make sure there are no words or images that anyone did not connect with and then finally bring out the CD.

The CD is to help heal birth trauma is in the final stages and should be ready by mid November. I have another three planned for next year.

Hi Maggie, I have been using the Birth Prep CD for a few weeks now and my baby is due today. What advice would you have as to how to use NH during the birth itself? Would you recommend playing the CDs during labour? And how does having an induction (and likely more intervention) affect the likelihood of NH working?

Maggie Howell: Hi Liza, wow due today! Great that you have been using the CD. The first thing to point out is that when you go into labour you will have done all the work already in terms of the hypnosis. Natal Hypnotherapy is very much about the preparation - emotionally as well as physically.

It is like you have mentally ‘rehearsed’ a calm physiological birth over and over again so that when you go into labour, all the suggestions (i.e. when this happens, you respond by breathing deeply, staying calm) just happen. However you can help yourself to ‘trigger’ those suggestions by repeating some of the phrases on the CD such as ‘321relax’, ‘breathe down to my baby’, ‘Turn down the dial’ etc. I suggest that you listen to the cd in a waking state and make a note of any particular suggestions or phrases that you like then write them out on cards for your birth partner to read out to you during the labour.

You can listen to the birth prep CD but even better would be the Relaxing Birth Music CD and the Labour companion CD. The first is the same backing track music as the birth prep cd which acts as a very powerful trigger - if you have been deeply relaxed every time you have herd the hypnosis cd, your subconscious will associate the music with deep relaxation. Many women report having the music on for hours (sorry dads you may have to put up with that).

The Labour companion CD is designed as a direct suggestion CD which will help at different stages of the labour. This can be particularly useful if you suddenly feel a bit of a wobble or want to get back on track if you have had an adrenaline blip e.g. just moved to the hospital, a change of staff. You can get both of those CDs as downloads from our site.

In terms of induction, we have had many women who did need to be induced and have still found the techniques extremely useful (several of our practitioners had this and felt the NH was so amazing they went onto train to run courses). Inductions do not have to mean further intervention.

The more you can stay as relaxed as possible and as focused on letting the contractions ride over you, the more likely you are to not need any additional support. One point however would be to check it is really necessary to be induced and that it is not just a guideline – some hospitals say 10 days, some 14 and some not at all. Induction saves lives when it is medically necessary but sadly it is now more just routine.

Induction And Intervention

Read more about induction and intervention here.

I do find the CDs soothing enough to doze off during them. I do find great for unwinding after the stresses of the day and thoroughly recommend them.

Maggie Howell: It is completely normal to feel like you have fallen asleep. The natural state of hypnosis can often feel exactly the same as sleep. However, the subconscious part of you is still hearing what is being said even if you do not feel like you are actively listening any more. When do you normally feel like you "wake up"?

Really refreshed and soothed. I do wake up as it is finishing.

Maggie Howell: The fact that you wake up as it is finishing completely confirms that you are still actually listening to everything being said as at the end, the suggestion is I will count from one to five and on the count of five you will open your eyes to be wide awake. The fact that you open your eyes then and ‘wake up’ means you have been following the suggestions. Therefore you will have also heard all the other suggestions even though you felt like you were asleep. We have so many women who are concerned over this issue and then go on to have really positive birth experiences, so thanks for your question.

Why Natal Hypnotherapy can help new mums:

1) If all you seem to hear are awful horror stories and complaints around the topics of childbirth and pregnancy and would like to hear something more inspiring and positive

2) Help you look forward to the birth, to be filled with excitement not dread!

3) In my book Effective Birth Preparation and in our workshops we explain why it is that some women have such positive experiences while others are left traumatised from birth, we will help you understand the difference and how Natal Hypnotherapy can help you have the birth you want!

4) We can help you feel empowered and prepared for the birth

5) Meet other mums-to-be and our friendly practitioners at our workshops and make new friends

6) We remind you of the magic, beauty and the miracle of giving birth

7) If you are newly pregnant or wondering how you are going to get through the next nine months we can help, we have a CD for every stage of pregnancy and we have a friendly, supportive Facebook page where we are happy to answer any of your worries or questions

Hypnosis is completely natural, easy to learn and safe. It is not dangerous. It is a natural state of mind that feels both relaxing during and afterwards and it has many benefits similar to meditation.

9) It is the perfect excuse to take some time out for you and your baby

10) You can practice Natal Hypnotherapy no matter what kind of birth you plan to have, be it a home, hospital or caesarean birth or expecting twins or triplets!


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