Giving birth is the most natural and incredible thing a woman can experience, but it is also a time fraught with anxiety and stress as the mother-to-be tries to prepare physically and mentally to welcome their child.
So what can you take to take some of that worry away and better cope with such a life-changing event?
HELLO! Online takes a look at the practice of Natal Hypnotherapy.
What is Natal Hypnotherapy?
Natal Hypnotherapy is a technique which helps prepare women emotionally, physically and mentally for pregnancy and birth. Mums-to-be learn a combination of self hypnosis techniques, deep relaxation and guided visualization to help them overcome fears, create a state of calm and relaxation and be more confident to achieve a calmer, more relaxed pregnancy and birth.
The method was developed by UK Clinical Hypnotherapist Maggie Howell in 2000 and has helped over a hundred thousand women in the UK. It has become increasingly popular, with fans including Carolin Dawson, (Matt Dawson’s wife), Beverley Turner (James Cracknell’s wife) Sara Cawood and Angellica Bell who all used Natal Hypnotherapy to help them feel more relaxed and in control of their birth preparation.
What do women have to do to learn the techniques?
Women learn Natal Hypnotherapy techniques either by listening to a series of relaxing CDs in the privacy of their own home and following the step-by-step Effective Birth Preparation Guide Book or by attending one of the popular, more in-depth workshops run across the UK.
How do the CDs work?
The mother is guided into a deeply relaxed state using breathing techniques, guided imagery and visualisation. Once in a daydream-like state, she is taken through a detailed visualisation of the delivery from a physiological perspective - almost like a dress rehearsal of the birth. This way she can practice her labour and respond to any sensations and changes she might experience.
By listening to the CD over and over again, her body and mind become more and more familiar with the processes of a calm relaxed birth, so increasing her confidence and reducing a lot of the anxiety. As the mind does not know the difference between imagination and reality, once you go into the labour for real the body recognises the sensations and triggers and says: “Oh yes, we have done this before – this is a sign for me to relax, stay calm etc..”.
The key is to listen to the CDs and practice the techniques during the last trimester of their pregnancy. As with any skill, the more you practice, the more effective the techniques will be.
What do the workshops entail?
Natal Hypnotherapy practitioners (all trained by Maggie) run antenatal workshops across the UK for women and their birth partners. There are two one-day workshops available - one on “Natural Pain Relief” and the other on “Practical Birth Preparation”.
The workshops teach more in-depth self hypnosis skills plus a wide range of practical, informative tools and techniques to help the mother and her birth partner feel more confident and prepared for birth. These include massage, visualisation, pain management techniques, rapid triggers to enter hypnosis, using your breath, managing the emotional states in labour, working with the medical team and tools for the birth partner to help keep the mother calm and relaxed.
Is Natal Hypnotherapy recognised by the medical profession?
Yes, hypnotherapy is an accepted therapeutic practice, having been recognised by the British Medical Association since 1955. Over 3000 birth professionals across the UK recommend Natal Hypnotherapy including members of the National Childbirth Trust.
In addition, several NHS trusts are offering natal Hypnotherapy workshops as part of their antenatal education programme and the NHS is funding research into the effectiveness of self hypnosis on birth outcomes (SHIP) trial.
To find out more go to www.facebook.com/natalhypnotherapy. Or www.natalhypnotherapy.co.uk Maggie's top tips for a great birth
• Keep fear out of the birthing room. If you feel frightened, or you do not feel safe, tell your birthing partner and seek to change it if possible
• Relax relax relax — this truly is the key to a comfortable birth. By keeping your fear and anxiety to an absolute minimum, you reduce the release of adrenaline, which is responsible for slowing down contractions and tensing your muscles
• Breathe — It may sound strange, but breathing the right way is your second key to a comfortable birth. Your breathing should be steady, rhythmical and calm, breathing down to your abdomen. Many women manage the entire birthing just by concentrating on this type of breathing during contractions. The benefits are many — more oxygen to your baby, more birthing hormones, your blood pressure stays healthy, your heart rate stays healthy, your muscles will be more relaxed, your uterus is receiving a fresh supply of oxygenated blood and can dispose of the waste products from previous contractions
• Trust in your body - it was designed specifically to give birth — if your body can grow an incredible perfect human being, then your body has all it needs to birth your baby unassisted
• If you are planning a hospital birth, stay at home as long as possible - you will have a better chance of a having comfortable and natural birth. • Use your mind during contractions - visualising a flower opening, a wave peaking and crashing or just think about your past holidays, counting each breath, imagine climbing up a hill and down the other side, recite poems or songs
• Keep moving around, the more you move the better the chance for your baby to get into the best position for birth
• Only eat and drink small amounts — your body uses huge amounts of energy on digestion — ideally you want this energy for your uterus
• Be comfortable handing control over to your body. You (your mind) cannot control the birth — if you were in a coma, your body would still birth your baby
• No matter where your birth takes you, trust in your instincts and be happy with any decisions you make