giving birth

Hypnobirthing: The Final Result

February, 2018

(Image from http://www.kickscount.org.uk/hypnobirthing-hypno-hypyes/)

 

I promised that I would write a follow up to my first article about hypnobirthing, and truly expected to be doing this in the weeks directly following the birth. I realise, in retrospect, how foolish this was, as the sleep deprivation immediately following the birth of any new-born is quite debilitating!

Now I am approaching something akin to a routine (sort of; not really…) I’ve decided to come back to you to let you know how the techniques I discussed previously actually worked in a real-life labour situation.

Early Labour

My early labour wasn’t ‘as standard’ because I had to be induced, due to various issues including high blood pressure and pain from SPD. I had some mementos with me to make the delivery space my own; a charm woven by a family member; a rock from the beach; a shell. I wanted to remind myself of all the little things that matter to me, and my trinkets from nature always help to calm me. Plus, the element of water seemed appropriate for a birthing time; cleansing, renewing, and a reminder of the womb.

I was in the antenatal ward waiting to have my waters broken for around 18 hours, and during this time I re-listened to my birthing tracks, and tried to focus on what I would be visualising once the labour started. The visualisations we had worked on focused on removing yourself to a place in nature; a favourite place that would be calming and safe, although my midwife was keen to stress that you might forever after associate that place with labour!

Latent

So this is the early stage, you know the bit they always tell you lasts for hours and hours, mild contractions and so forth. They always tell you it goes a bit faster when you’re induced, but they fully expect to have to put you on an oxytocin drip to help things along, as well as breaking your waters. My labour this time went so fast that the drip was never needed. My waters were broken by two midwives at around 4.30am. The first midwife couldn’t quite manage it, as the baby’s head was so tight up against my cervix, they couldn’t get the ‘hook’ into a good position. A more experienced midwife took over and, ‘pop!’, painless but gushy, it was all over. For now. Within an hour, I was experiencing contractions.

I focused on the techniques I had been taught; travel to a favourite place, be there in your mind, be calm… and three, two one… relax. I breathed through the tension and found that although each fourth contraction or so was stronger, I could manage it the same way, and I was impressed how well I was coping.

Active

I was taken down to the delivery suite at 7.30am, and was already feeling like the contractions were very strong and very close together, however I kept zoning out, breathing, and above all just trying to focus on what I had learnt and not all the niggling anxieties that were floating around such as:

  • I’m needle phobic, what if I need to have the drip?
  • What if the pain gets too much?
  • What if I need to have an epidural? (Epidurals can be particularly problematic with SPD sufferers as you can over extend your pelvis and be in agony later on.)
  • I’m so tired; I can’t do this!

The relaxation techniques certainly helped, but nothing could take my mind completely away from these fears.

I was examined, and the midwife was surprised when she told me I was already six centimetres dilated; another midwife said I didn’t look like I was labouring at all! This was one of the impacts, and you have to be careful with this: you don’t look like you’re in as much pain as you really are. Because you’re focusing on breathing and taking your mind somewhere else, it can appear to medical professionals as if you’re not as far along as you are. You can appear calm and at ease, nut that’s because you’re keeping your mind quiet while letting your body do all the work!

Transitional

This is where I let go and lost focus. The baby’s head seemed to be pushing against my tailbone, which was agonizing, and I literally forgot to breath. The midwives had to tell me again and again to keep breathing. I was terrified. In hindsight, I think the reason I struggled at this point is because, as mentioned in the previous article, I had not been able to get to all the sessions on hypnobirthing due to ill health, so had not had the relaxation technique as ingrained into me as I would have liked. Also, the baby was coming so fast that I had very little time to recover from a contraction before it was all happening again!

Second Stage

The second stage of labour is where the baby has left the cervix and is on the way to meet us! It was literally seconds for me. It was traumatic, ridiculous, to the point that three midwives shoved a huge, soft mat under me in case the baby shot out, so it wouldn’t bounce! I’m not even joking. It hurt so much, but this baby was coming fast. Sophie, the main midwife, popped out to refill my water bottle as I was so thirsty, and when she came back in the head was out. Seconds later, the baby was born and they were passing her through my legs so I could see the gender. My little girl. Ember. Unbelievable. What a rush of emotion. A pure moment of magic.

Needless to say that during this few minutes of madness my hypnobirthing techniques did not get a look in, except perhaps that having been so calm and collected during early labour probably meant I had more energy at this point, which of course was a big bonus.

Third Stage

I had the injection to help hurry the placenta along; yeah, my needle phobia wilted in the face of wanting this to be over now, thank you very much. I still winced and cringed when they stabbed me though. One of the most bizarre experiences of my life was wandering around the delivery suite carefully clutching my own and Ember’s umbilical cord like a really gross string of pearls. There was the worry they were going to have to catheterise me and drain my bladder as the placenta wasn’t shifting. I focused, relaxed once more, and managed to expel it. Once last triumph for hypnobirthing, as by this point I was really exhausted!

If you’ve lasted this long through what has been, I accept, a pretty graphic description of giving birth, I hope you’ve gained some insights into the benefits of hypnobirthing. I only heard about it a couple of months before Ember was born, and boy am I glad I did. Yeah, there was still pain. Yeah, I had to stay in for observation, and I wasn’t magically recovered from my pre-pregnancy ailments. In fact, I was only allowed to go home on the basis that I was visited and monitored daily, and I wasn’t discharged from care for a good few weeks. But I can say that the labour was fast; there were no major interventions, and I didn’t have to have stitches, which I was really surprised about. I’ve also occasionally used the relaxation techniques since, to help me sleep, and on top of that, I’ve discovered I find it easier to meditate now, as if I’ve permanently trained my mind to relax more.

If you, or a partner, family member or friend are expecting a little one, it may well be worth asking a medical professional about being referred for guidance on hypnobirthing techniques. There are videos and testimonials online, but I found the guidance I received from my specialist midwife was the best. Whatever techniques you may decide to use, I wish you a safe and special labour, and joy in meeting your new arrival.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

For Amazon information, click images below.

Hypnobirthing: Letting Go of Fear

November, 2017

 

I’m 37 weeks pregnant as I write this, and there’s a very real possibility I may need to go into hospital to have my labour induced as early as next week. I am suffering from some wildly fluctuating blood pressure, which appears (thankfully) to have no clear pathological source, other than the pain I am in from SPD. SPD is symphysis pubis dysfunction; a condition whereby the ligaments supporting the pelvis and pubic bones soften too early and too much, so that these bones are able to grind together, causing agonising pain. I don’t really sleep properly anymore, and of course, can’t take anything but the mildest painkillers.

I was already worried about the labour, as the labour with my first child was quite traumatic and painful, and even though I know, I know I absolutely can do it, creeping anxieties have hooked their way into my mind like poison ivy, sending shoots of doubt to shatter my confidence in my own body’s abilities.

With this in mind, my community midwife referred me to a mental health midwife; a fantastic woman who visits me periodically to make sure I’ve not gone around the twist, and to offer what help and support she can. It was this midwife who first told me about hypnobirthing, something I had not come across before.

In the UK, we have the National Health Service, which means that most of our healthcare needs are paid for by taxes and national insurance payments, meaning healthcare is free at the point of use. Hypnobirthing is not widely available on the NHS, although it is available through some private healthcare providers. It turns out I am lucky enough to be in one of the areas in the UK that is trying to change that; to make this mindful approach to pregnancy and labour available for free on the NHS to those who might benefit. The scheme I became a member of is a pilot scheme, intended to try out the techniques and show the benefits they have, ahead of any potential rollout of the scheme for the wider public.

So what are the techniques? Basically, hypnobirthing sessions are a form of guided meditation, similar to pathworking. A fully qualified midwife leads the sessions, and a small group of us gets as comfy as we can with our huge bumps, and the lights are dimmed and relaxing music is played. Our midwife talks us gently down into a meditative state, talking us through focusing on our own breath, our own bodies, and reinforcing the connection to the baby (or babies) growing inside us. We envisage the air we breathe in as healing, golden light, filling us up and relaxing us completely. She counts down and repeat the word ‘relax’ at intervals, encouraging us to relax our muscles as much as possible each time we hear the trigger word. The idea is that, with repetition, we can learn to relax ourselves and enter this meditative state at will, for example, during labour and the increasing intensity of contractions.

My first session is a little late in the programme, due to an administrative error in the first instance, and the fact that I had to repeatedly visit hospital for blood pressure checks when my other sessions were booked! So frustratingly, I’ve only been left with two sessions I can attend before the arrival of our wee one. However, the midwife leading the course has also provided us (via Dropbox, very modern) with MP3s so we can practice the relaxation techniques at home.

I spoke to one of the other women who has been doing the course since it started. She suffers from lupus and had many anxieties about pregnancy and labour. This is her first baby, yet she now seems more confident to carry her baby than I am with my second! She calmly explains to me how she does the relaxation exercises every night, and has even found similar exercises for her birth partner, to help them be relaxed and supportive during the delivery of the baby. We talk about setting the mood with soft lamplight, and the midwife reminds us we can take a lamp or fairy-lights into the hospital with us to help recreate the mood of our relaxation space. This was news to me, as my delivery room with Nathan had been a sterile, blank walled affair that I had no idea I could try and make my own. This is definitely something I am keeping in mind for my trip to hospital!

 

 

This early on in my own experience of hypnobirthing, all I can say for certain is that I am enjoying the meditations and visualisations, which include taking off a heavy rucksack and pulling out the items, which symbolise fears or anxieties, and dumping them into a hot air balloon which flies far away with them. A sickle represented my fear of the pain. A black rock covered in shards of glass represented my needle phobia (a very real problem when you might have to have a cannula during labour!) and finally, a damp, torn bit of tissue represented my own lack of confidence in my body’s ability to do what it has been designed (in part; not solely) to do.

Waking up’ from the hypnobirthing sessions is like coming out of a deep sleep, but one where you can remember all the details of every dream you had, and one where you retain the benefits of every positive feeling and affirmation you experienced. I can’t say at this stage whether I will be able to focus on the relaxation techniques once the stress of actual labour kicks in, but I do feel more confident, and even being able to relax now, at this stage, with more hospital and ante-natal appointments looming, is a great benefit indeed.

One of the major benefits I have felt so far is the ability to use the ‘3, 2, 1… relax’ technique to lower anxiety about moving in bed, which had become a bit of a nightmare thanks to the SPD, due to my pelvis displacing during the night. The ability to relax and not be so tense prior to the inevitable ‘clunk’ of my pelvis moving back into its intended position has helped wonders, particularly in getting back to sleep after those middle of the night toilet trips!

Next month I’ll be able to write you the natural follow up piece; did it work? With one more midwife led session to go, I will know a bit more about the techniques involved, and will very soon be able to put them into real practice. In another city, where the scheme was rolled out some time back, the number of natural births has increased, and the number of births requiring little or no pain relief has also increased, and the average time for a baby to be delivered has dropped dramatically, which is very encouraging. Less medical intervention means less stress for mothers and therefore less stress for baby, which can only ever be a good thing. I’ll let you know how it works out for me.

 

*Hot Air Balloon, Copyright Kirsten Savage 2017, reproduction not permitted. Photo copyright Mabh Savage 2016.

 

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About the Author:

 

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.