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An introduction to hypnobirth with Wendy from WondrousBirth

We wanted to find out what hypnobirth was all about so we thought a good place to start would be a chat with a hypnobirth teacher. Here’s what we asked and what we found out. It’s all about relaxation and practice.

There are lots of assumptions about what hypnobirthing is and people can feel quite confused about whether or not it’s for them. Can you explain to us what hypnobirthing really involves, please?

To understand hypnobirthing it’s good to come from a place of understanding how the body and brain work together during labour and birth. As you will know as a doula and if you’ve had a birth doula, birth is something the body does and anything that stimulates our neocortex (thinking brain) can cause us to produce adrenaline which is the natural enemy of the hormone oxytocin. Our body needs oxytocin to produce the contractions which allow birth to happen. Adrenalin also stops us producing our own natural pain-relieving endorphins. So we need to switch off our thinking brains to give birth the best opportunity to unfold without any assistance. This will help us to feel safe and let our bodies get on with the job.

Hypnobirth provides practical tools to really deeply relax and allow our bodies to let birth happen.
It’s not just ‘woo’ and it’s not just putting on some relaxing music and hoping for the best. For hypnobirthing to work as it should the relaxation exercises need to be practised consistently through the pregnancy until your body relaxes without you having to think about it when you use the prompts. It needs to become second nature.

Some people are concerned because they have an idea about stage hypnosis appearing to show people being controlled by the hypnotist but not only is hypnobirth nothing like that neither is stage hypnosis. When ‘hypnotised’ no one is completely out of their own control. People may be open to suggestion (like eat an onion or cluck like a chicken) but they still have the ability to say no, I’m not doing that. No one can make you do something you’ve already decided is dangerous or not for you by hypnotising you. Likewise,
when you use self-hypnosis as a relaxation tool for birth you are able to take yourself to a relaxing place in your head and feel separate from what’s going on around you but you’re equally able to switch back on to what’s happening around you and interact with other people if you need or decide to do so.

Some people compare the relaxation they experience in hypnobirthing to that feeling you get when you are between waking and sleeping. They say it’s like when you’re aware that your alarm is going off but you choose to keep on drowsing through. Others describe it as being like when you drive somewhere that’s very familiar and your body takes over and gets you there on auto-pilot and when you arrive you can’t really remember the journey but you’ve made it to the destination.

So if we practise the hypnobirthing relaxation we’re definitely going to have a zen floaty birth and be completely serene and pain-free?

Maybe you will maybe you won’t. Hypnobirthing cannot promise you how your birth will go or how you will feel but what I can say is that by doing hypnobirthing you will maximise your chances for a straightforward birth if you acknowledge the conditions for enhancing your birth hormones. Hypnobirthing will reduce fear and stress and you will have the tools that will enable you to be calmer and therefore more comfortable no matter what path your birth takes.

Some people find they don’t experience labour as painful and some people labour silently. But not necessarily. Using hypnobirth tools won’t change who you are as a unique person and your birth journey will be unique to you. If you don’t feel zen or stay silent it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong and it doesn’t mean you’re not relaxing. Sometimes and for some people, the best way to relax and allow your body to work hard at contractions is to let all the feelings go in a vocal way. Sometimes, despite everything we do, things don’t go according to our plan for our birth but the relaxation tools you learn in a hypnobirth class can be incredibly useful even in these situations to help you keep calm and focused when your plans need to change. There is evidence to show that the more relaxed you are during surgery, the better your healing time is afterwards.

I always loved the mantra ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’, although we can’t make any guarantees that things will go according to our plans for birth this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what’s in our power to increase our chances.

What practically speaking can people expect from your classes?

The classes are a complete antenatal preparation so you can expect to cover all the birth basics, what happens when things don’t go to plan, how dads can support the mums complemented by how hypnobirthing works, what tools and visualisations to use, breathing, positions and techniques for dads to physically support mums. I try to make the classes as interesting as possible so we mix things up and get everyone involved and try to avoid a typical death by powerpoint scenario.

There are 4 sessions that last 2.5 hours long and they can go away and practice something after each session and come back for more support at the next session setting them up to practice little and often up until the birth so that everything becomes second nature.

For the dad’s, I prepare a cheat sheet to help them prioritise the most important things on the day as on the day, mum needs to be able to relax and dad is charged with sorting things out which can be a lot of pressure.

Dad’s are my biggest cynics but funnily enough, they are often the biggest converts too. During the classes, the parents get the opportunity to bond with each other and with their baby in a way that our busy lives often limit. They have the chance to really focus on each other, on their hopes and choices around the birth and on their feelings about becoming parents.

I am also a trained doula and have attended many births supporting mums and dads navigate the minefield of birth choices that are out there. I feel this helps me deliver my classes in a very informative manner always keeping the parent’s right to choice at the forefront of my teachings.

The relaxation tools can become tools for life not just for labour and birth. The principles can be useful in the early days, for example, if they want, there’s a script you can use for breastfeeding and the principles are relevant for later for any stressful and challenging situations we come across in life, both for mums and the dads.

The relaxation has positive health benefits for mum and also for baby. There’s some evidence that mum being stressed during pregnancy can affect baby’s brain development so that they will be more sensitive to stress. We can’t control if stressful life events happen when we are pregnant so having a tool to use to keep our bodies calm can not only benefit us but can even have positive effects on baby’s development.

As someone who has experienced hypnobirth for their own birth what was it like for you on the day?

I’ve watched the video of my third child’s birth and it does look like it was a wonderful zen calm birth. In some ways it was but inside my head, it still felt really intense and fast and I had to really focus on relaxing my body. I’ve always been a mind over matter sort of person so for me the hypnobirth tools were great because they allowed me to get quickly into that relaxed state.

When it came to the birth itself I felt really present in my body, really aware of all the different sensations and what my body was doing as it pushed out my baby. The breathing techniques were key in helping me to consciously work with my body slowly allowing my body time to stretch and not tear. I found being so relaxed through my labour had allowed my body to build up such a great amount of oxytocin that the high of holding my baby for the first time was amazing. The same oxytocin resulted in no blood loss at all, my midwife was amazed and said she would have to write 100ml in my notes as no one would believe her if she said none at all.

That said, I am very aware that every birth is different and we all have our own challenges to overcome and I try to be sensitive to that at all times and encourage a couple to find what works for them to empower them as they begin one of life’s greatest adventures.

You can get in touch with Wendy and Erika via their website https://www.wondrousbirthhypnobirthing.co.uk/

On the website, you can book a taster session or a whole course group class or private classes just for you.

You can also find Wondrous Birth on Facebook 

All of our Hampshire Doulas will be happy to support you with hypnobirth if it is one of your chosen tools for birth. Find the right doula for you on our find a doula page. 

 

Hypnobirth in Hampshire

Home breech birth

During World Doula Week we have the privilege to share a series of interviews with people who have benefited from doula support. Kirsten had a baby who was in the breech position and decided to have a home breech birth. For more information on why some women prefer to choose vaginal birth rather than caesarean for a breech baby, this website is a good place to start reading.

How did you hear about doulas?

When I had my first son in New Zealand I had a pregnancy massage with an English girl. She had been a doula in the UK and told me all about it. I thought it sounded lovely but as I had an independent midwife, I didn’t feel that I needed a doula.

Why did you want a doula?newbornskintoskin

When it came time to have my second son I had moved to the UK. Since NHS midwives are not guaranteed to be at your birth (unlike in NZ), I really wanted someone that knew me and my birth preferences to be with me through the birth (apart from my hubby!).

How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?

My hubby thought it was a great idea.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

My doula gave me lots of positive affirmations which I stuck around my house to help me keep feeling positive and prepared for my baby’s birth. She was happy to answer any questions I had. If she couldn’t answer she would find out the answers for me. She came to meetings with me. I was planning a home breech birth which was outside of normal hospital protocol so I had some meetings at the hospital about this. My doula supported my decisions and choices throughout the preparation.

What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?

My doula was available on the phone to discuss options/plans. When I asked her to she came over to my house (I had a home birth) and helped calm the atmosphere. She coached me through the contractions reminding me to slow my breathing and relax my shoulders. She encouraged me. She answered the door when the midwife arrived. After my baby arrived he was a little slow to breathe deeply (which is normal for breech babies and he remained well with a strong heartbeat throughout). The midwife asked my doula to call an ambulance so that she would have any equipment and fast transport if needed. As it happened the ambulance crew weren’t even needed in the room as baby began to breathe deeply of his own accord and the midwife was able to give him a little oxygen and was happy with how well he was doing after a couple of minutes.

What did she do after the baby was born?

Cuddled him! While I was feeling faint and my husband was engaged in necessary practical tasks and my midwife looking after me it was good to have my baby still held in loving arms. My doula then looked after my placenta ready for encapsulation and tincture. She gave me a small piece of placenta for under my tongue to help prevent excess bleeding. She was able to remind my midwife that I did not want the injection to expel the placenta. She made me Vegemite toast and a glass of chocolate Nesquik! Later she brought me an amazing chocolate cake!

What was the best thing about having a doula?

The total unbiased support. Knowing she’d be in my corner.

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

Without hesitation. Every woman should have a doula in my opinion!

Home birth after c-section

Home Birth After C-Section Birth Story

During World Doula Week we are sharing a series of interviews with people who have benefited from doula support. Emily and Stuart’s first baby was born by c-section and their second baby was born at home in the birth pool with the support of both a doula and an independent midwife.

How did you hear about doulas?

I met a doula in a breastfeeding support group who explained what doulas were.

Why did you want a doula?

In my first pregnancy, I felt clueless and unsupported. I felt I had to go along with everything I was told to do without having it explained to me. I felt that with a doula to support me I would be more confident finding all the information I needed to make decisions. I felt I would be more confident asking questions. I also felt I would be more confident making and expressing my decisions. I felt I would have someone to be my back up if I disagreed with what I was told to do.

I also wanted more support for my partner because he felt pushed out during my first pregnancy and birth. I knew that a doula would support us both and help him to feel involved and confident with asking questions and talking to health professionals. I knew it would also help him feel more confident during the birth. Home birth After C-Section Mum and Dad Holding Hands

How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?

My partner thought it was a good idea, he was keen to have that support just like me. My family were confused about what a doula would do and how one was different to a midwife. Once explained, they were supportive of the idea. My mum had another job looking after my eldest which helped her not feel too disappointed at not being a birth partner.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

My doula supported me in a meeting with the hospital to review the notes from my first pregnancy. This was good as it helped me to get closure on what had happened. We also did birth partner training with our doula which helped my partner know what to expect and how to support me through the stages of birth.

My doula reassured us that no matter what happened on the day she would support us to make birth a positive experience regardless of anything that came up which might cause us to change our plans for the birth.

She suggested alternative therapies and comfort measures for dealing with the aches and pains of pregnancy, labour and after childbirth and to help my body get ready and go into labour naturally.

If I or my partner had any questions I could always ask my doula and she would support me finding answers or reassure me what was normal, keeping me away from the worry that can come with googling!

My doula supported me at hospital appointments when I had an ICP diagnosis (this is a rare liver condition associated with pregnancy there’s more information here http://www.icpsupport.org/ ).  She supported me thinking through and making decisions around plans for if I needed to be induced or potentially to choose a c-section as a result of this condition.

She supported me when pre-labour started and stopped. Including one occasion when things seemed to be happening one evening, she came round to our house and then helped me stay positive when everything stopped.

What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?

I first called in my doula at 4 am when I was having contractions and my son was awake and needed attention. She provided an extra person to occupy my son, or set up the birth pool or support me.

In the morning, she helped my son get ready for a party he’d been invited to and co-ordinated a friend to pick him up and look after him for the day so I could rest and focus.

She tried to encourage me to eat and drink to keep up my energy through the day. She kept this up gently even when I wasn’t keen to eat as I was struggling with nausea and vomiting. She helped to keep track of how frequent contractions were and also encouraged my husband to eat and drink to keep up his strength too.

My doula helped me deal with sickness with acupressure, massage and essential oils and by avoiding strong food smells and helped me choose small amounts of food that I could manage. She also caught my sick for me (in a bowl) when that became necessary.

She helped my husband fill the pool the first time and empty and refill the pool when it got cold and needed reheating.

She reminded me to get out and go to the toilet and encouraged me to change positions to help keep things moving.

She allowed my husband to be able to focus on supporting me in the way I needed him to and not be distracted by all the practical things that also needed doing.
She took turns with my husband providing physical support when he needed to rest, eat or go to the toilet. She used hand massage during contractions. This helped because I was more able to concentrate on my hand being held which distracted me from the intensity of my contractions.

She also took photos and video during the labour and when our baby was born. Although I didn’t notice this happening at the time I enjoyed looking at them after my baby was bornHome Birth After C-Section. That moment you know you did it. .

What did she do after the baby was born?

My doula helped to empty the pool and take it down after the birth. She put fresh sheets on our bed making it all comfortable to get into with our new baby to sleep. Which was a real relief and allowed us to relax and enjoy our baby rather than worry about those practical things.

She made a placenta smoothie right after the birth and prepared the placenta into ice cube trays for freezing for future smoothies.

What was the best thing about having a doula?

Knowing that I had someone with me who would be sure to stay calm and have a level head. Knowing even if something happened that might have made me and my partner feel confused or upset someone would keep us calm. That we had someone who would be on our side whatever situation occurred.

 

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

Yes, I regularly do. 😊

 

If you make the choice to have another C-Section Birth after your previous C-Section that’s another choice your doula will support. Check out this birth story for more information.

 

 

 

Third baby, first time with a doula

Home Birth, Doula Support, Third Baby Birth Story.

Home Birth Doula Support is just one of the birth choices doulas will support. For World Doula Week 2017 we shared a series of interviews with people who experienced doula support. This is the birth story of Sarah who runs Hampshire doulas and who was lucky enough to have a doula for her third birth. For a birth story of a doula supported hospital birth check out this post.

How did you hear about doulas?

I can’t remember when I heard of doulas. I read a lot during my first pregnancy and I think doulas were probably mentioned in at least one of the books or if not for sure on one of the websites. It wasn’t until after my second birth that my interest and understanding grew and I discovered it was what I had always wanted to do but never realised.

Why did you want a doula?

Being a doula myself, when I fell pregnant, one of the things I was excited about was that I would be able to have a doula. I knew all of the statistics and that I would be more likely to have the birth I wanted with a doula to support my husband and me and I knew from the experience of my clients that whatever this baby and this birth had in store for me I would feel more positive through it all with a doula by our sides.

How did your partner and wider family feel about the idea of a doula when you first brought it up?

My husband knew more than most about what doulas are like and how they work and expected me to want one when we found out about our daughter was on the way. He was known to joke that we were getting a doula so he could spend more time playing on the play station with his day off for the birth. But really, he knew it was a good idea because he knew how much practical work there is at a homebirth and was glad to have someone to share the responsibility with.

My extended family were the same well aware of the benefits of doulas and mostly just thought it was our business what we did around our baby’s birth. I find that the most common reaction I get when asked to explain what doulas do is wow I would have loved that for my birth.

How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?

One benefit I discovered that I hadn’t realised a doula provides in the run-up to my birth was having someone who was as interested as I was in my pregnancy and upcoming birth. If a thought occurred to me about my birth plan or I was worried about something there was always someone I knew I could talk to and not think they’d probably had enough of me going on about birth or babies!

I had a trial run of labour when I thought my waters had gone and started having regular mild to medium contractions. This was the only time it was difficult being the client rather than the doula because although I knew nothing was happening for quite a while I also knew that I had told my doula (as I should have done -us doulas like to know) what was going on and after that I kept thinking about how she was feeling wondering what was going on. When you’re a doula and a client goes into labour but doesn’t need you yet and then you don’t hear from them for a while you try to relax and know that they will call when they need you but the little niggle is always there at the back of your head, what if everything went fast and sudden and they haven’t had the chance to call me and then you worry about them just a little. So, although I knew nothing interesting was happening I tried to keep my doula up to date! This was also helpful to me because it meant I knew I was not in active labour because I was able to think rationally about whether to call my doula over or not!

I did call my doula over in the end and she made herself very useful. She worked with my husband to find and patch the hole in the birth pool! We pottered around through the night and everyone had a nap. It was after that I realised I wasn’t having contractions. We tried a few things to get my contractions going again. My doula made herself useful partly by keeping the clary sage oil in the burner going. But no success so I sent her home and had a quiet day.

What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?

The next evening when I started having contractions again I kept it to myself as I didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up again with nothing to show for it. I went to bed and slept between the contractions which were coming about every 15 minutes. I got up at about 4 am as I couldn’t sleep any longer. By 5 am I was fairly confident this was the real thing as the contractions were much stronger and were regular. I woke my husband up at 6 am and asked him to put my TENS machine on. By 7 am he had the pool inflated and my doula on her way and my kids and mum were up. I bounced on my ball chatted to the boys and breathed through my contractions. My mum took the kids to school and my doula arrived. She was immediately able to give my husband confidence that he should, as he thought, call the midwives even though I hadn’t asked him too!

My doula helped me get myself sorted out with my top and into the pool.Home Birth Doula Support Baby Born in Birth Pool She remained calm as I started to make pushy noises and asked how long the midwives would be and helped my husband to keep calm too. When I needed to have my husband right there to hang on to through the last bit of my labour my doula was able to keep up the practical tasks around us, passing me a drink, sorting out the music and the oil burner. When I felt my baby’s head crowning I asked her to get the camera and she took a brilliant set of photos of the arrival of my daughter which I really treasure.

What did she do after the baby was born?

After my baby arrived my doula helped my mum and my husband to clean up and helped me to snuggle on the sofa skin to skin with baby. She took more lovely photos and helped me upstairs to have a shower when I was ready. I was able to relax and enjoy my baby. My doula provided us with amazing chocolate brownies to eat after our baby was born which my older children would list as the number one benefit of doula support!

What was the best thing about having a doula?

For me, the best thing was the relaxation of knowing there was someone who knew me really well who would be there with me and my husband whatever happened and who would understand and support my point of view unconditionally.

Would you recommend having a doula to other families?

Yes, I do constantly even though it can’t be me at the moment. I believe every family can benefit from doula support. This is the reason I put my time and energy into Hampshire Doulas so we can increase awareness and provide information so that more families can discover this wonderful addition to their birth team.