No-one can possibly know exactly what labour and childbirth will hold for them. When will my baby arrive? Will I get to stick to my birthing plan? Can I cope with the pain or should I ask for an epidural? What if something goes wrong?
These are questions that hypnobirthing expert Anne Williams often hears from pregnant women anxious about childbirth.
Fears about giving birth are extremely common, with up to one in 10 women suffering a morbid fear of childbirth.
But there are many ways to reduce anxiety. Hypnobirthing helps mums-to-be take control of the experience to increase their chances of a calm, easy labour and a comfortable natural birth. The techniques used are so powerful they can help cut time in labour from 12 hours to around four. Who wouldn’t want that?
Helping anxious mums to be
“Childbirth doesn’t have to be traumatic or hugely painful,” explains qualified hypnotherapist Anne Williams, from Transforming Birth in Hampton. “Hypnobirthing is about giving you confidence to go with your body’s flow to bring your baby into the world gently.
“It can vastly reduce your likelihood of medical interventions.”
Anne offers one-to-one personalised hypnosis sessions with both mums-to-be and their birth partners.
“We address what is making them feel anxious and empower them to take control of the birth experience.
“You’d think from watching One Born Every Minute that every birth is dramatic,” she says. “But the reality is most births would make boring TV.
“It’s helping people look at the likelihood of their fears coming true. If mum is healthy, baby is developing properly, and there are no complicating conditions, it’s highly likely you’ll have a straight-forward birth.”
Powerful relaxation techniques
Hypnobirthing uses techniques that focus on the power of breathing, relaxation and positive visualisation to help women go into labour feeling calm and confident.
“Of course, hypnobirthing cannot guarantee a straightforward labour,” says Anne, who started practising six years ago. “But all the statistics show that using these techniques makes it far more likely.
“The more relaxed you are in labour, the better your body will work.”
And it’s not just about preparing mum for the delivery, but also her birth partner too.
“It’s vital your birth partner learns the same techniques as you,” reveals Anne, who helps clients from all over South West London and beyond. “That way he can play an active role, giving reassurance and encouragement when you need it.
“That helps dads feel much more involved and makes all the difference to mum.”
More natural birth experiences
As well as helping women to have a positive birth experience, other benefits of hypnobirthing can be a reduction in the use of drugs for pain relief, fewer Caesareans, and less need for medical interventions such as assisting childbirth with forceps or Vonteuse delivery, which is all better for your baby’s health.
“When a baby isn’t born full of drugs or recovering from a traumatic delivery that is all going to help make breastfeeding easier, because baby is more alert and ready to feed,” says mum-of-two Anne. “We also know that hypnobirthing can reduce the chance of post-natal depression.
“It’s perfectly natural to experience the baby blues because your hormones are settling down, but add an exhausted body and an anxious mind to the mix and that can turn into post-natal depression. Hypnobirthing can really help reduce the risk by dealing with anxieties during pregnancy.”
Benefits at a glance:
• Cut labour from 12 to 4.5 hours
• Chance of Caesarean down from 25% to 7%
• Reduced need for forceps and Vonteuse delivery
• Fewer pain relief drugs used
• Easier breastfeeding
• Higher APGAR scores
• Lower risk of post-natal depression
Dealing with anxieties
She helps first-time mums overcome common fears about whether it will be painful, how they’ll cope or whether they’ll lose control.
“If you’re fearful and have negative expectations, you’ll be more tense, making it more difficult for the muscles of the uterus to work as they should,” explains Anne.
“There can also be all sorts of other worries that come with pregnancy. You may have concerns about money, whether you’ll be a good parent, or about the disruption to your career. Many fear they won’t cope with the inevitable sleepless nights.
“Dealing with those anxieties in your mind before you go in to labour will all help your body to relax.”
And for mums who have had a traumatic previous birth experience she helps them to conquer the unconscious thoughts that can sabotage the body’s ability to give birth naturally.
“If your brain is telling you next time it’s going to be painful, or that you won’t cope, you will be more tense.
“Fear has a huge influence on pain in childbirth because being scared can send your body into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which interferes with the hormones that help childbirth along. Hypnobirthing uses positive affirmations to stop that stress mechanism from being triggered in the first place, so labour isn’t interrupted.”
Never too early to start hypnobirthing classes
Most pregnant women start hypnobirthing classes during the third trimester, but if you are really anxious it’s never too early to seek help.
“It’s crucial you have time to practise the techniques so that when labour starts the visualisation comes more easily,” says Anne.
She believes women are equipped to give birth without any form of chemical pain relief, if they choose.
“Labouring mums aren’t always given the chance to tune in to their instincts,” she says. “This gives them the confidence to let their body do exactly what it’s designed to do.
“But the NHS is cottoning on to the fact that hypnobirthing works.
“It’s simple, but so powerful, and brings significant benefits for both mums and babies. Who wouldn’t want their baby to have the best possible start in life.”
If you are considering hypnobirthing during pregnancy, Anne recommends choosing a practitioner who is registered with either the National Council for Hypnotherapy or the General Hypnotherapy Council.
• To find out more about Anne’s bespoke 1-2-1 training, visit www.transforming-birth.co.uk or call her on 020 8546 2122.