Thursday, August 11, 2011

Should you opt for HypnoBirthing?

As I'm intrigued about the idea of HypnoBirthing and a fan of the mind over matter approach to life's challenges I was delighted to speak to Jo Gould, founder of The HypnoBirthing Clinic who gave me the lowdown on the holistic but straight forward approach to birthing.

Hi Jo! When and why did you become a midwife?

I started my training to become a midwife in 1996 and qualified in 1999. My course was one of the first ‘direct-entry’ courses, i.e. open to non-nurses. Like many women, I had no idea about the significance of midwifery until I gave birth to my first child (I initially trained as an architect). I had a very difficult birth experience with my first child — an emergency caesarean section — under general anaesthetic. I was left
feeling that I had missed the whole birth somehow. When I became pregnant with my second child, I knew immediately that this birth had to be different. I was not supported particularly in my desire for a normal birth by my GP/Obstetrician, so I wrote to Sheila Kitzinger for advice. She basically changed the course of my life by writing back to me and suggesting that I contact an independent midwife. I went on to have four babies, all born at home, all amazing births. I couldn’t believe the impact that good birth had on the parenting experiences that follow. From the moment of that first homebirth, I became hooked on the idea becoming a midwife. I completely understood the critical effect that amazing midwives have upon women and their families.

How does HypnoBirthing work?

HypnoBirthing is completely aligned to the best kind of midwifery — it respects the physiological process of normal birth. This process is subtle and complex and works best when women are able to deeply relax, allowing their body’s natural, opiate-like painkillers (endorphins) to do their work. HypnoBirthing classes teach couples techniques such as breathing, relaxation and visualization that they then practice and use during the birth of their babies. A key component of the course is getting the couples to understand the normal process of birth as well as working on letting go of fear associated with birth.

What do NHS midwives think about HypnoBirthing?

Well I can’t speak for all NHS midwives, but in general, midwives who have experience of couples using HypnoBirthing are frequently blown away by how effective the technique is. For example, I have known hospital midwives admit women who appear to be in very early labour but on examination they have been found to be fully dilated, with a baby following soon after!!

In what way is your birthing partner involved?

The birthing partner is critical to the success of the technique. They attend classes with the woman and practice the techniques together. The birth partner will then support the woman through the process,
prompting her into deeper states of relaxation and visualization by using the breathing and massage techniques. This is a particularly good role for fathers as it allows them to feel fully involved in the process of birthing their baby, actively participating by supporting their partner.

What advice would you give to women who are scared of the birth process?

A key concept worked on in the classes is ‘letting go of fear’. If women are fearful of birth, they will be tense and tension increases pain. Think about HypnoBirthing. Please don’t stereotype it as a fringe
activity for ‘hippy types’. I feel certain that HypnoBirthing will be very mainstream at some point in the future, because it teaches women how to create the conditions required by their body for physiological
birth to take place. I have worked with a number of women who have been incredibly anxious about birth. They have frequently stated they would ‘do it again tomorrow’, shortly after birth. This is the ultimate recommendation for the effectiveness of the technique, particularly for women who are very

And what are your top tips for making the birth experience as positive as possible? 

Number one is to be prepared. If you don’t like the sound of HypnoBirthing, find another good birth preparation class, such as NCT or Active Birth Yoga. If you want a normal birth then this is essential. You will be in an environment where people around you believe in normality and support your view. Speak to as many women as possible with experiences of good birth and different birth environments such as midwifery-led units and homebirth as well as the large hospital maternity units. Think about a doula or an independent midwife if you want someone familiar and supportive present for the birth. The constant presence of an experienced support during labour reduces the need for intervention and promotes normal birth. If a woman feels secure and supported then she is likely to labour well. It sounds very simple, but this simple intervention allows the complex and subtle work of the birthing body to
take place effectively. Finally, have an open-mind. Women who are fixated 100% on the exact detail of how their birth needs to be are often disappointed when it doesn’t quite go to plan.

Jo Gould's clinic is situated in East Sussex and you can also follow her on her Facebook page and on Twitter @jo_midwife.

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