So according to all sources, the Duchess is considering a hypnobirth for her little Prince/Princess. The word “hypno” immediately suggests hypnosis; however, hypnobirthing is in fact nothing to do with Paul McKenna and everything to do with promoting a natural and pain-free labour.
The Hypnobirthing Centre describes the practice as a “completely logical and extremely effective established method that lets you discover the joy and magic of birth, and is much more than just self-hypnosis or hypnotherapy.” The idea of hypnobirthing is that your mind and body work together in harmony, creating a sense of deep relaxation and calm. This leads to a much better birth experience all round: a shorter labour and less need for drugs. Hynobirthing encompasses fear release techniques, visualisation exercises, reciting mantras and massage (you’ll need a partner for that bit). The “hypno” part of the word actually points towards self-hypnosis, which sounds a whole lot more appealing than staring into kaleidoscope eyes or at a swinging pendulum. As well as courses, there are CDs and books available on the subject so you can effectively self-train.
So far, so lovely jubbly (who wouldn’t want to feel calm and relaxed during birth?) However, my natural cynicism towards anything remotely airy fairy makes me think “easier said than done!” It’s rather like a birth plan: you can start off with good intentions but when it is actually happening and I am in the moment, I imagine the last thing I will want to do is start chanting a mantra. As I recall, one of my sisters in law had a hypnobirthing CD which she found really helpful before the birth of her second. That is when I expect it would be most useful: when you have already experienced birth, you know what it is like, and feel that you would like to try something different.
Having said all that, the more I read about hypnobirthing the more I realise that we’ve actually already learned quite a few techniques via our NCT class. Our teacher was a stealth operative: I’m sure that if she had mentioned the word “hypnobirthing” in the class, all the boys and most of the girls, myself included, would have started sniggering. The main aspects we learned were fear release techniques combined with visualisation. Everyone was instructed to squat against the wall in order to make our thighs burn in pain, like so:
The first time we did this, we weren’t instructed to do anything and I ended up collapsing pathetically after only a few seconds. The teacher then repeated the exercise with us about ten times, holding it for 30 seconds or so each time, while working with us to try out different pain release methods and visualisation. The ones that eliminated or at least greatly reduced the pain for me were:
- Visualising our baby in my arms.
- Visualising somewhere beautiful e.g. a beach.
- Making noises!
The techniques that didn’t work very well at all for me were:
- Reciting a poem.
- Focusing on the pain.
- Focusing on a non-painful part of my body.
The others were somewhere in between, but I think those top three will really help during labour. I don’t know what those methods say about me psychologically – hmm, I seem to need distraction and am not particularly in tune with my body – but who cares, I’ll be trying them anyway. Turns out hypnobirthing could also be described as a way of taking control of your labour, and maintaining positivity as best you can in the face of an immense challenge. So I’m going to start with these thoughts and see how I get on!