Seeing my friend the other day with her new baby reminded me of my own experiences during childbirth. I had an amazing pain-free labour (yes-you can have one). So how was this possible? Well, I used a hypnosis technique called hypnobirthing, not beeause I am a hippy but because I chanced upon the technique.
I was in the early stages of pregnancy and celebrating my friend’s birthday at a restaurant when I got into a conversation with one of her friends about hypnobirthing. She was pregnant but hadn’t had her child yet and was advocating hypnobirthing. She told me that it was amazing but I was pretty sceptical as she hadn’t had the baby yet. I asked her to let me know how it went. After all, I wanted some form of proof that it worked before trying it out. Months later, her conversation played in my head as I got nearer and nearer to my due date. I had always been absolutely petrified of giving birth. So, I gave this woman a call to find out how her birth had gone. It sounded like the hypnobirthing had helped her despite a very difficult labour where she was induced. I decided to call up the woman she had used to find out about hypnobirthing, only to find out it was £250 for 4 sessions. This to me sounded ridiculously expensive so I thought I wouldn’t pursue it. Instead, I signed up for some NCT antenatal classes, thinking it was more important to have a good circle of friends once I had my child. However, at the last minute, the NCT classes were cancelled, which made me rethink the hypnobirthing sessions. In the end, I decided that I would pay the £250 and I really believe it was worth every penny and more. When my labour finally came, it was short and painless. I went into labour conveniently when my husband came home from work around 6pm, but the contractions were so mild that I ate my dinner (nothing stops me eating food). Around 10pm, the contractions were more frequent but I just used the breathing techniques I had been taught and I cannot say I felt any pain, more a tightness (although I did use a tens machine and balance ball throughout). I called the hospital at around 10.30, but they said stay at home longer. Finally, at midnight, I went to the hospital and arrived fully dilated ready to deliver my baby. The delivery although 2 hours long was pain-free apart from the moment when my son’s head crowned. At this moment I remember saying ‘that hurts’ but it wasn’t an intense pain.
Afterwards, I remember not only being overjoyed to have my son but also feeling amazing. I felt I had conquered my own fear about childbirth and that I was some kind of Amazonian woman. It was as if I had climbed Mount Everest. I believe that having the easy birth, made me more relaxed in those early months of my son’s life. He was also a very happy baby who did not cry much. I am now a firm advocate of hypnobirthing and so is one of my friends who tried it after me.
Previous research into hypnosis suggests that hypnobirthing may actually work, rather than being just a hippy idea. Hypnosis has been shown to reduce people’s perception of pain and anxiety. Furthermore, brain scans show that hypnosis can even change which parts of the brain are activated. However, some people are more hypnotisable than others. People who are prone to daydreaming or find it easy to switch off from their environment, are more easily hypnotisable. Maybe hypnobirthing worked with me because I am a daydreamer and I do find it easy to block out my surroundings. For example, much to my family’s annoyance, once I am engrossed in a book or TV programme it is hard to gain my attention. So to know whether hypnobirthing really works, more research in needed. This is exactly what the NHS are doing. Over 800 first-time mothers in Blackburn and Burnley are being given hypnobirthing classes to see whether it makes a difference. I am very interested to see what the conclusions are. At the end of the day, if mothers are calmer, their births should be shorter and they would need less drugs. This would not only save the NHS money but make new mothers happier.