Is hypnobirthing the way to pain-free childbirth?
WHEN Gisele Bündchen announced to the world that giving birth to her new baby Benjamin "didn't hurt in the slightest", women who have endured hours (or even days) of gut-wrenching, expletive-inducing labour shook their heads in disbelief.
Then again, Fantastic Four actress Jessica Alba insists that delivering her daughter Honor Marie two years ago was a piece of cake too. "I didn't scream," she says. "It was really Zen."
Her secret is hypnobirthing. "The labour was more like meditation," says Alba. "I did yoga breathing. I was focused."
"I didn't want to be drugged up," says Bundchen, "so I did a lot of preparation. I did yoga and meditation, so I managed to have a very tranquil birth. It didn't hurt in the slightest. The whole time my mind was focused in each contraction on the thought that my baby is closer to coming out."
The supermodel, who is married to American footballer Tom Brady, described giving birth as "the most intense and life-changing experience of my life". It seems there are many who agree that not only can childbirth be an empowering experience, it can also be uncomplicated and pain-free.
Pauline Taylor, a clinical hypnotherapist and qualified hypnobirthing coach in Edinburgh, says, "We can't guarantee you'll have a pain-free labour, but over 80 per cent of my parents have natural childbirth with little or no drugs whatsoever."
Taylor was among the first to teach hypnobirthing in Lothian and has helped bring more than 150 babies into the world in her four years of practice. And, though it is not yet widely available on the NHS, it is growing in popularity as the word spreads.
The method focuses on self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques. Taylor says, "I usually say they should start at between 20 and 30 weeks, but it's never too late – I'm working with a couple just now who started at 36 weeks. It's a five-week course, so if someone comes along near the end of their pregnancy we have to fit in the classes quite quickly."
The ultimate aim is to achieve the best birth possible, ideally as natural as it can be, because that is always better for the mother and the baby. "It's about self-hypnosis – a deep relaxation, if you like – and being able to access this state at will. Breathing techniques are really important, plus massage, and women also learn everything about how their bodies work, so they are fully prepared. The best way to go through labour is in a deeply relaxed state. Women should be confident that their body will work and not be frightened of the experience. It's fear that causes the problems during labour; it affects the hormones that make the body work normally."
TV presenter, actress and writer Nadia Sawalha says that, following her first labour, she believed herself to be a survivor of torture and so was determined to do things differently when she became pregnant again. She says, "I realise now that I was completely unprepared. I had worked right up until the last two weeks, which I don't believe women should do. Then, when I went into labour and the fear hit, it shut down my body. It's like fight or flight and all the blood goes to where it needs to go; with fear, the uterus actually goes white because all the blood goes elsewhere."
Her determination to "have the birth I deserved" led her to research hypnobirthing. "I must stress it's not just about lighting candles and saying, 'Oh what a lovely birth I'm going to have.'" When it came to giving birth, she delivered Kiki at home and spent the entire labour in an unconventional position – on her toilet. "My husband had a hand on each shoulder, pushing down, and we would count. Every contraction, I saw as a surge, and each surge brought my baby closer. I kept saying, 'Yes, open' about 1,000 times. The midwife was saying, 'Push' and I was saying, 'No, breathe.' My breath brought her out."
She is determined to spread the word as much as she can. "Even now I can't let myself say the word 'pain'. It was amazing. I didn't scream or cry. I said to my husband, 'I could have another baby tomorrow.' I had an enormous power, the high was there for about two weeks. My eyes were shining. It was a truly spiritual experience."
To find out more, see www.hypnobirthing.com
#149 This article was first published in Scotland On Sunday on March 21, 2010
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east