So what are they? ‘Tell me, tell me’ I hear you ask!
When I was first pregnant, I wanted to avoid the kind of experience I’d seen on TV; the kind on programmes like One Born Every Minute (OBEM).
I was pregnant when I saw that programme for the first time. In fact, it was the midwife at my very first appointment who told me to go and watch it, telling me it was ‘very realistic’.
I came home and watched it. I was PETRIFIED.
It just didn’t look right to me.
‘What IS going on?’ I thought. ‘These women just don’t look in control. Surely birth is not meant to be like this?
Why can other animals birth easily? Cats, dogs, horses. Why can they just go off somewhere quiet and dark and give birth to their young with few complications?’
And that is when my fascination with birth started.
I became absolutely engrossed by what could be done to achieve a positive birth experience and make it safer for myself and other women.
It was only last week I was speaking to a lady who said she had been ‘educating’ herself about her upcoming birth by watching OBEM.
And why wouldn’t she? That’s the kind of birthing experience that we see on TV; we rarely see anything different.
And so when I was introduced to self-hypnosis for birthing and SAW with my own eyes people giving birth in a completely different way.
These women looked calm and in control and I wanted to know how they did it.
So what are the 4 key ingredients to this kind of experience?
It is true we can give birth in the most inappropriate environments; with strangers looking on, with bright lights, being poked and prodded and monitored. Being disturbed.
The kind of environments we see on TV does not provide the optimum conditions for birthing effectively. Ask almost any midwife.
Being as undisturbed as possible and feeling unobserved are really helpful to the birthing process.
When we feel observed we tend to tense up. Think when we pose for a photo and we look tense and stiff compared to photos taken where we’re not looking. They look more natural, right?
When we are disturbed whilst in labour by being spoken to or a door being opened, our mammalian brain cannot function as effectively. Our neo-cortex switches on; the thinking part of the brain and that is the part we need to turn off, so we can go into ‘labourland’; a kind of altered state where we are not ‘thinking’; only doing; allowing our bodies to do their job.
When we feel tense our muscles are tense and they can’t work as effectively to bring our babies out; we need to be relaxed; enabling our bodies can do their job without the interference of our minds.
Darkness helps too; in the dark we create melatonin; the hormone responsible for sleep. It helps us to relax and relaxation is crucial to effective birthing.
This document shows some good infographics to help you make a decision about where you’d like to give birth to your baby.
For most people, planning to give birth at home or in a birth centre will minimize the risk of unnecessary intervention.
Having people around you who are also conducive to the birthing process is key ingredient number two.
You need to feel supported.
We need to feel safe and loved.
They need to be calm.
You do not want other people bringing their fear hormones into the room. You don’t need to be babysitting them!
On the day you birth your baby, you need to be queen bee!
Your Birth Partner
On a hypnobirthing course, we do lots of partner work so the partner knows what their role is; how they can best help you.
By making sure your birth partner is fully prepared, you will be maximizing your chances of things going well.
You might want to get the book by midwife Mark Harris, ‘Men Love and Birth’; purported to be the book every pregnant women wants her lover to read!
Do you know what a doula is? A doula can support you directly or support your partner to support you; usually it is someone who has walked that path before to help you get where you want to be.
The evidence for having a doula is excellent. Read about it here: https://www.birthyouinlove.com/doula-services/
Having a doula might be something you’d want to consider.
“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it!” Dr John H Kennell
In an ideal world we would have continuity of care from our midwife; the same midwife looking after us during pregnancy, labour and birth.
By having continuity of care, we are less likely to have unwanted interventions and more likely to be satisified by our birth experiences.
See this Royal College of Midwives document for more information on why continuity of care is ideal: https://www.rcm.org.uk/sites/default/files/Continuity%20of%20Care%20A5%20Web.pdf
There are pockets of midwifery care around the country where continuity of care is provided by the NHS. Independent midwives provide such a service.
But in a world where you’re unlikely to know your midwife, having everything else set up in a way that is comfortable to you will stack the odds in your favour for you to get the birth you want.
The importance of support cannot be underestimated. In days gone by, when a woman was pregnant she would be supported by her sisters, women in the community who would come together nurture her, bless her with ritual and ceremony, treat her like the goddess she is.
But now, we’re expected to and expect ourselves to work until the last possible minute; to do as much as possible and may be surrounded by negative images and stories or birth.
It doesn’t have to be like that.
Groups such as the Positive Birth Movement that have an online presence as well as face to face groups can really help to reclaim the support that we have lost in much of today’s society.
In Manchester, we have the amazing Greater Manchester Homebirth Group too which again meets face to face in various parts of Manchester as well as online.
What groups do you have in your area?
The organization AIMS (Association for Improving Maternity Services) is brilliant for helping you to access the evidence and helping you to make better decisions to get the best birth possible.
Also anything by Sarah Wickham http://www.sarawickham.com/ or Rachel Reed https://midwifethinking.com/ is totally worth reading.
Preparing mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually will also help to stack the odds in your favour to get the birth you want.
- Practicing total relaxation; turning off the ‘thinking’ brain;
- Being prepared and ready to meet your baby;
- Acknowledging and clearing fears; fears from the past;
- Having an understanding of how the body works;
- Having tools to help manage the sensations you feel; breathing, visualisations; affirmations.
An Element of Good Fortune
We all need a bit of luck.
We need baby to play ball and our body’s to work effectively but creating a birthing environment that’s actually conducive to the birthing process, having our support set up optimally and preparing well can really help to minimize the amount of luck we need.
And it’s true we can do none of this stuff; the birth environment may be totally inappropriate (cold, clinical, distractions everywhere), our birth partner may be completely panicking and we’ve done no prep whatsoever and things go according to plan.
These people have been blessed with lots of luck.
Here is the 4 step formula…
- A good environment + 2. Good support + 3. Good Preparation + 4. An element of Good Fortune
= The confidence to follow your instincts = The best chance of a smooth and calm birthing experience
Get all these right and you are stacking the odds in your favour for a better birthing experience.
For more information about how to achieve the birth you want, sign up for my newsletter at www.birthyouinlove.com and if you would like to learn hypnobirthing with me, feel free to contact me.
With Love Kati x