Congratulations to Emma, Jolyon and Ailla on the arrival of baby Alcea! Emma tells us her birth story...
"At 4am I started to get some strong period pain sensations. I stayed relaxed and tried to mentally tell my baby "you are welcome to arrive this morning", as I'd already had some cramping sensations on previous days that hadn't led to labour.
Within the hour the cramps had moved onto full contractions which I breathed through easily, moving onto my hands and knees, and using visualisations that I had practised with your MP3s. I stayed calm enough that I dozed off between a few of the contractions!
Things progressed well, the midwives were called and once they arrived I was assessed and I was dilating well. I moved downstairs to the pool and once I got in things progressed quickly with a strong urge to push. My husband used key trigger phrases that I had selected from the MP3s that I had found useful, such as 'breathe down to the baby' and calmly laid his hands on my shoulders. I encouraged him to read about the transition phase which he therefore recognised and was able to support me through. I definitely found this the most challenging part of labour.
Within about half an hour of getting in the water, at at 9:11am, I delivered my little girl and brought her up to my chest in the pool. Throughout the labour I didn't require any pain relief and labour progressed smoothly and calmly.
I am delighted by how both of my births have gone and I give great credit to the hypnobirthing techniques that I learnt with you, so thank you! I tell anyone who will listen about hypnobirthing :)
I reached 36 weeks in my pregnancy and my braxton hicks were getting so frequent and strong that I was willing my baby to stay put for just a couple of weeks longer.
38 weeks came and went. Every few days I would get regular strong braxton hicks that I excitedly thought could be the start of labour. I spent my 'due date' crying. It seems silly now but I felt like I was 'overdue' after weeks of feeling like labour was a moment away.
The next morning I woke to more mild tightenings. I didn't want to get my hopes up so I mostly ignored them. I got up, made breakfast for my 3 year old son Jacob and got him dressed for nursery.
Afterwards we sat on the floor playing together and I realised the sensations were still frequent. I wanted to focus on them, so I put my headphones in, switched on my hypnobirthing mp3s and closed my eyes. I imagined my baby, in my mind I spoke to her and I told her how ready I was to meet her.
I told my partner Matt that I 'may' be in labour and I wanted him to set up the birth pool (we had an immersion water tank and I wanted to make sure we had enough time to fill the pool with warm water).
We kept Jacob at home with us, he had been well prepared for what he would see and hear at his sister's birth and he excitedly helped set up the birth pool with his Daddy.
I put some clary sage in an oil burner and sat on my birth ball. I was feeling calm and relaxed. I used my hypnobirthing practice to stay focused on the present moment, rather than wondering too much about if the sensations would progress.
At 11am I got into the birth pool, shortly followed by Jacob who wanted to cuddle me and catch the baby, yes he really was that excited!! Jacob was in the pool with me for around 30 mins and I noticed that I hadn't felt a single tightening while he was in the pool. My focus had shifted naturally to him! Matt got Jacob out and put on a movie for him in the lounge.
I asked Matt to rub my shoulders, realising that my labour may have stalled. As Matt massaged me, a huge wave of oxytocin came over me and with it a huge surge!! I instructed Matt to keep his hands - off me - from then on haha! I soon got back into the gentle rhythm of my labour (interestingly throughout my labour whenever Matt or Jacob would kiss or touch me I would have a way too powerful surge! The power of oxytocin was just too immense for me).
Our doula arrived at around midday and sat quietly crocheting in my kitchen watching over me and instinctively knowing when to bring me sips of water or take my excited 3 year old back into the lounge. She was amazing!
I felt so safe with her there, I knew she would advocate for me, having built up a strong relationship during my pregnancy. My contractions strengthened and intensified to the point I really needed to focus on them, but they were not yet painful. I had planned to call an NHS midwife when I felt labour was getting serious.
(Background: I had requested a hands off 'watch and wait' approach to my birth. With no VEs, intermittent monitoring of baby's heart rate, no blood pressure monitoring, no chatting or questions directed at me. Basically I don't like to be touched or disturbed when I am birthing. This didn’t go down well with the Supervisor of Midwives who called me up weeks before my due date to discuss her concerns regarding my birth plan. I lost trust in the midwifery team, I didn't feel confident that my preferences were being heard, I wanted their support, but I was not prepared to be coerced into abiding by the 'nhs protocols' so I made the decision to not involve them, until I felt that birth was imminent.)
At around 2.45pm I felt a very powerful sensation followed by a pop. My waters had gone. Almost instantly my body started pushing and I felt my baby’s head descending. I put my fingers inside my vagina and felt her head, she was close, adrenaline pulsed through my body, I was breathing rapidly. I had skipped 'transition' completely and gone from painless contractions to pushing my baby out. There was no midwife. Just me, my partner and son, and our doula.
I announced I could feel the babies head, my doula sensed the panic in my voice. 'just breathe' she said calmly...
She was right! Panic wouldn't help me birth my baby. I breathed, I focused, I tried to control her rapid descent, I willed my body to open and stretch. I took long deep in-breaths and blew them out with a gentle groan.
Without a break from spontaneous pushing, my baby's head was born as I was leaning forwards on the side of the pool, with both Jacob and Matt holding me. I sat back, kneeling upright, reached down and felt her soft fuzzy head. I then leaned backwards, smiling as my body took a well deserved pause.
As the next wave began to build, I reached down and put my hand on my baby's head, feeling her body glide through my fingers as she gently emerged into the pool. Sienna was born at 3pm.
I looked through the water, at my tiny little baby, still curled up almost unaware that she was no longer in my womb. I gently lifted her out of the water with both hands. As her face met the warm summer air, a little hand stretched out to touch her. It was her big brother who had just witnessed her birth and was already asking to hold her.
I rested my sweet little Sienna on my chest. She was slow to breathe, perhaps a little shocked by her speedy delivery. I felt her cord, it was pulsing strongly. I blew lightly on her face and she took a deep breath and began to grimace. She pinked up quickly and opened her eyes, she was just as alert as her big brother had been when he was born, Sienna took in her world, her family, her doula and then settled in for her first breastfeed.
I felt strong cramps while Sienna was feeding and my placenta came away fully intact after about 40 mins with a few pushes. We popped the placenta into a bowl and had a good look at it, what an amazing organ it is. I passed Sienna to her Daddy who was waiting with a towel for her, and handed the placenta bowl to my doula.
My family sat on the couch admiring our beautiful new addition, while my doula helped me out of the pool wrapped me in my dressing down and showed me to my postpartum ready made sofa 'nest'.
I fed sienna again and noticed her cold white floppy cord pressed into my tummy. I decided we should probably call a midwife. After a little confusion I explained that I wasn't in labour, but had already given birth.
I reassured them all was well and I was told someone would be with me in an hour to assist us with cutting the cord. We all sat and enjoyed making phone calls to loved ones and sharing the news of Sienna's arrival.
My doula left, after a giving me a big cuddle and having a sniff of my sweet baby’s head. We ate some food and realised the midwife had not yet arrived. We called again and one arrived within 10 mins. Matt cut the cord and tied it off using a cord ring. The midwife listened to Sienna's birth story and said it sounded exactly like what I had hoped for. It really was, I am not sure I would have felt brave enough to plan an unassisted home birth. But the way it turned out was perfect. The midwife left.
Matt, Jacob and I put on our PJs, kissed each other good night and went to bed, Sienna tucked into my nightdress skin-to-skin and Jacob cuddled up to his Daddy. We were now a family of four."
"I got through 17 hours of labour using Alice’s wonderful advice without any drugs.....thank you Alice.
The Truro Birth Centre was mega and the staff were amazing, I floated about in the hot tub for quite a few hours and had to go to the delivery suite in the end for an assisted delivery, which wasn’t what we’d planned, but the result was what we wanted.. e.g. a cute baby!
He was calm throughout the whole process and I put this down to Hypnobirthing and the importance placed on being calm, breathing and being positive.
He’s doing well and is just scrumptious. Oh it definitely made a huge difference, I would recommend it to anyone....in fact I am telling everyone who listens about how amazing Hypnobirthing is!"
"Our new addition arrived on Saturday night, a little boy, we had a home birth which was just incredible!
I felt so in control and everything happened very quickly, 3.5 hours in total and only 20 mins of pushing.
My previous labour lasted for 24 hours so quite an improvement. I think this is partially due to the course.
I worried before that perhaps I hadn’t listened to it enough etc but I think even what I did was so worth it. I had the affirmations playing during the birth which was a wonderful gentle reminder to keep going and I could do this.
I was so pleased to get the birth I wanted, as this is our final child and our family is now complete.
We couldn’t afford a course in our area as they’re £250+ so this online version was so much more accessible for me.
Anyway, huge thanks to you, I’ll be recommending it to my other pregnant friends!"
Your imagination is a powerful tool. It can dictate, to some extent, how we perceive sensory information including images, sounds, tastes and feelings, including pain.
Re the laurel / yanny phenomenon... Altering the volume or pitch isn't a complete explanation, because with practise you can teach yourself to hear either word at will
Neuroscientist Gabriella Musacchia says that faced with confusing information, the brain decides within a fraction of a second what it will hear.
“We use statistical probability to make almost all of our perceptual decisions... you hear what you listen for."
Play the video and see what happens when you decide to hear either the words 'brainstorm' or 'green needle'.
So what's this got to do with birth?
Some mums report that they decided to interpret the sensations of birth not as pain, but as 'power', 'warmth', 'surges', 'rushes', 'waves' or a 'strong physical sensation that requires all of my focus'.
This isn't woolly wishful thinking. Evidence suggests that self-hypnosis does indeed seem to significantly alter the perception of pain.
Practise controlling physical sensations with the 'comfort dial' (in your pregnancy relaxation MP3).
Test your skills by getting someone to give you a good chinese burn, whilst you focus on keeping calm and breathing deeply!
I met Rae (and her beautiful cats) when she was an excited first-time mother in 2014; providing her with birth doula and hypnobirthing support...
"I have practised Alice's hypnobirthing techniques in every pregnancy and birth and I really cannot imagine labouring without them. I am so grateful that her knowledge and skill has helped me have joyous, wonderful births. I feel almost evangelical about spreading the word of hypnobirthing - it gives women back such a mind blowing power and trust in our bodies.
When I was unexpectedly induced because of pre-eclampsia with our first son, the affirmations helped me to stay grounded, happy and focused despite everything going on around me.
I thought my second birth was pretty amazing but when our beautiful third child, our second daughter, arrived everything was even more instinctive and relaxed.
Early and then active labour was at home in our bedroom... chatting as our 3 year old watched Thomas the Tank Engine and our shoe-obsessed 1 year old bossed me around trying to get me to put on leopard print wedges (!), while the cat got into the wardrobe and noisily insisted that I joined her and made a nest to deliver my kittens (!!) I smile so much when I think of it and I was also smiling lots at the time.
As my contractions intensified I used Alice's breathing techniques and continued to listen to the affirmation tracks downloaded to my phone. I felt calm and in control throughout and in a very short space of time (my labour was 4 hours from the first contraction to holding our daughter, something I attribute to hypnobirthing and letting my body take over completely), I was standing and breathing my daughter out... Something I had heard of but not experienced before in my other two births.
It's hard to put the memory I have of it into words, but my body knew exactly what to do and the hypnobirthing helped me be in the perfect mind space to let it. It was incredibly intense, with every inch of my body involved, but not in any way frightening, painful or even an effort really.
I felt the strongest I have ever felt in my life and very in-tune with my daughter too. We were working together for her to be born in the most beautiful way.
Lots of people also commented on how content my little ones seemed in their first few weeks and I'm sure that's down to the peacefulness that hypnobirthing gave me and them through labour.
Thank you Alice. A hundred times over. I am so, so grateful to have first met you and been able to use hynobirthing to bring my three babies into the world xx"
Lauren in Illinois tells us about her hypnobirthing experience:
"My first two children were both induced a week late, and with the second one, it was an intense and painful experience. I was really wanting to avoid that again.
My third birth experience using hypno-birthing was pleasant and satisfying. Hypno-birthing really helped me remain calm, relaxed, and positive. I listened to your mp3s and the calming background music throughout the entire experience. When my labor kept stopping and going, it was frustrating, but I just listened to and repeated the affirmations that I had been practicing and it made me feel calm and empowered.
I did end up having pitocin and eventually an epidural, but the mp3s really helped me remain positive.
Thank you for helping me have this wonderful experience! This program is also perfect for parents that already have children. All the classes I found in my area were not only very expensive but were not conducive to parents that would have to find childcare one night a week for multiple months.
This program is affordable and nice because you can go through it at your own pace.
I made a collage of all the affirmations and put it on my wall where I saw it every morning when I woke up.
The only problem I had was staying awake through the hypno-birthing tracks. I tried it at different times of the day and in different places, it didn't matter, I woke up about 20 minutes after the track ended almost every time. I think it is because being pregnant with two kids is exhausting
It also takes up a lot of your spare time, however I feel it was totally worth it. I only started this in my third trimester, I may have gone even further without an epidural if I had started this at the beginning of my pregnancy.
It helped me keep a positive outlook during my pregnancy and during labor, I would recommend hypno-birthing to any new mom-to-be!"
"Our very heartfelt thanks to you for an excellent course. We really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. We feel closer on our journey to having our baby. We felt that your delivery was professional, yet personal and from the heart"Katy Bryce & Adam Weismann, Manaccan
Due to popular demand, I'm excited to announce my new hypnobirthing classes in Norwich and Norfolk!
Private home hypnobirthing workshops enable you and your birth partner(s) to explore hypnobirthing together in the comfort and convenience of your home, in an in-depth personalised way. Face-to-face sessions may also increase motivation and actively engage birth partners.
My hypnobirthing classes in Norfolk may be taken over one 4hr intensive or two separate 2+hr sessions. As it's a private class the content is straight to the point ~ we skip the fluff involved in group classes.
Everything you need is provided, including your full program of hypnobirthing MP3s, ongoing birth consultation, support and my online hypnobirthing guide.
The cost of hypnobirthing in Norwich or Norfolk is £275 including expenses. All areas are covered from Thetford to Hunstanton and Great Yarmouth.
No, this is an outdated idea. Evidence finds that hypnosis is a state of deep focus. You can be in hypnosis without feeling relaxed (watching a horror film) and you can be relaxed without being in hypnosis.
Relaxation is often used to help quieten your mind and enter hypnosis (it's super useful for much of the birth journey) but during transition and 2nd stage you might feel more energised than relaxed...
If you're able to keep focused you're in hypnosis, no matter how relaxed you are.
Congratulations Catie and Richard! Love your affirmation...
"I didn't do the course completely properly but I took on board the positivity and the science behind relaxing, which I had failed to fully absorb from doing NCT with my first baby.
I did go into labour with a completely different attitude to last time (when I was just terrified). I tried to do my own version of positive thinking and mentally telling my uterus it was doing a ‘good job’ on each contraction. This time was less painful and much faster. I felt much more connected to my body this time, like we were on the same team.
It was much less painful overall and I didn't have an epidural (but that is partly because it was crazy fast and the hospital was understaffed). I definitely think hypnobirthing made a huge difference to my birth experience and really helped me.
"Thanks so much for your great resources, my birth went as well as I could have hoped, and really was an amazing experience: a six hour, calm home birth
I had lots going on during my pregnancy including the serious illness of a family member, and had been worried that I hadn't been able to focus enough on my birth preparation for it to make a difference, but I'm convinced that the amount that I did manage practice really helped.
I had your birth affirmations playing throughout my labour, and found it invaluable in keeping me focused and relaxed ('accepting the sensations', 'handing control over to my body', keeping my body as 'floppy as a ragdoll'!) The midwives even commented on how relaxed I had been: they didn't examine me until I was already 10cms dilated, and the baby arrived about 20 minutes later - I gave one push and then just kept breathing and out he came in a few minutes!
I feel completely empowered by the whole experience, and I think about it often in my day to day life with a smile. I really think I will draw on the mental and physical resources I now know I have to get me through other challenges in my life in the future. My little boy, Rio, is also a very tranquil little soul and he's already sleeping through the night (at 11 weeks!) which might have something to do with his gentle arrival, who knows?!"
"For my first baby, I wanted a drug-free birth and was able to have one thanks to the techniques I learned and practiced in this hypnobirthing course, as well as having a doula.
I felt that my birth moved fairly quickly because I was able to just be in the moment and not feel stressed or anxious. I usually have a lot of anxiety and without hypnobirthing and a doula to help me remember the relaxation and breathing techniques, I think the birth would’ve been much longer and harder...however, I was able to deliver my big baby girl, Claire Valerie (9lbs!) in just a few hours with no complications or interventions.
I would definitely recommend hypnobirthing to anyone hoping to have a natural and more relaxed birth!"
Claire in Italy has a tattoo on her back where an epidural would be sited...
"After meeting with an anaesthesiologist at 30 weeks pregnant and discovering that I was ineligible for an epidural, I actively searched for a program to help me navigate the birthing process, and was SO HAPPY to have discovered hypnobirthing and especially this program!
I meditated once or twice a day and rehearsed positions with my birth partner, which proved critical to getting through 18 hours of medically induced labor.
I'm not a super proactive person, but I found these lessons extremely manageable to complete as they were not too long, plus they kept me 100% calm and in control as my due date approached.
Having listened to the recordings together, my husband coached me through the breathing techniques to cope with the waves, and I was able to rest fully and completely during the 2 minute pauses between waves, which was key to avoiding a cesarean.
At the end, using the pushing breathing techniques, I pushed out my "little" baby boy (9lbs / 4.1kg, 52cm) in 3 contractions and felt like a superhero through the whole process!"
"Hi Alice, I am happy to report I had a fantastic labour. It progressed quickly - in the car I was in active labour - thankfully I learned your visualisation techniques and other coping mechanisms so I put these into place. Had I not done this I don’t think I would have coped as well and labour would not have been as smooth/quick.
I was able to manage the contractions with ease. I arrived at the hospital and gave birth 15 minutes later with a few pushes and a little gas and air.
I have recommended your hypnobirthing to others and am very grateful for the practice, it was money well spent. This was my second birth, the first one was very long and painful, resulting in a forceps delivery so I was so glad this one went as well as it did. Thank you!"
Recent feedback reveals that parents want to know more about induction - the benefits, risks and alternatives, what it involves and how it can cause different, very painful sensations compared to spontaneous birth.
The first hypnobirthing training course I attended in 2006 contained a meme which said: "induction is the quickest way to have a painful, complicated birth." I thought this was a little defeatist! Not all induced mothers have a horrible time, but it's true that induction is more likely to lead to birth plans being thrown out of the window...
The choice is yours - you may accept or decline induction
Relax. Birth won't begin or progress well if mums are stressed or anxious
If mums choose an epidural they haven't 'failed'. Induction is a medical intervention that frequently requires medical pain relief (even if you're the best hypnobirther in the world!) 80% of my induced hypnobirthing mums choose an epidural (vs 10% of my non-induced moms)
Hypnobirthing helps you stay calm and focused, no matter what!
"Epidural was not where I saw myself going but I was exhausted having had no sleep for days, and it gave me the rest I needed"
20% of births are induced in the UK, why?
Induction is offered if there's any chance that it might be safer for the baby to be born. Reasons can include a poorly mum or baby, but the most common reasons are pregnancy beyond 41+ weeks, or her waters have broken for a while without contractions starting yet.
I'm healthy, low-risk and 41+ weeks - should I accept induction?
It's up to you. If mothers await spontaneous birth after 41+ weeks the risk of a baby dying during pregnancy, birth or shortly afterwards is thought to be around 0.16% (between 1-2 in 1000). With inducing birth at 41+ weeks the risk may be reduced to 0.07% (around 1 in 1000) (if you are over 40 years of age the risks may be at a similar level after 40+ weeks). This NHS leaflet is excellent at explaining the research and options.
"If a woman chooses not to have induction of labour, her decision should be respected. Healthcare professionals should discuss the woman's care with her from then on."
'Expectant management' means awaiting spontaneous birth. Increased monitoring is offered including ultrasound scans and CTG monitoring a few times a week.
What does induction involve? The aim is to encourage the natural physiological birth process as much as possible...
1. Pre-induction: a cervical sweep is typically offered at a mum's routine 41 week appointment. If the cervix has shortened and is stretchy enough, the careprovider can insert two gloved fingers into the vagina, up through the opening of the cervix and sweep their fingers around in a circular motion, to separate the bag of waters from the neck of the womb.
Benefits = for 1 in 8 women it might reduce the chance of further induction methods
2. Prostaglandin drug: a mother is admitted to the antenatal ward at hospital. If her cervix is closed and hasn't thinned much, a dose of artificial prostaglandin (a tablet, gel or plastic tampon) will be inserted high up in the vagina. The aim is to 'ripen' the cervix to trigger natural contractions to start, or at least enough so that the bag of waters can be broken the following day (amniotomy). Women are encouraged to leave the ward and go for a walk, or in some areas may be able to go home and return later. Prostaglandin treatment can take up to a couple of days.
Benefits = around 30% of women give birth naturally without further intervention
Risks = vaginal / cervical soreness, hypertonic uterus, fetal distress syndrome, abnormal labour affecting the baby (between 1:10 - 1:100), nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea (between 1:100 - 1:1000), disappointment, boredom, lack of sleep, birth partner sent home at night Alternatives = await spontaneous birth, ask about balloon catheter dilation or caesarean
3. Amniotomy / breaking the waters: On delivery ward, if the cervix has thinned and opened enough, a long crochet hook-like device is passed through the vagina and cervix to rupture the amniotic sac. This is done to encourage prostaglandin release / physiological birth to begin, or before the commencement of artificial oxytocin infusion to trigger contractions.
Benefits = Some research suggests quicker progress with less intervention following amniotomy
Risks = scratching the baby, maternal discomfort, introducing infection, small risk of cord prolapse or accidentally puncturing a major blood vessel
Alternatives = await spontaneous birth, ask about more prostaglandin ripening / balloon catheter dilation or caesarean
"Although nothing seemed to have gone to plan I remained very calm throughout the whole experience and what was 3 days seemed like 1 with the most important thing in the end a healthy & happy baby!"
4. Intravenous artificial oxytocin drip: On delivery ward, a synthetic hormone (Pitocin / Syntocinon) is infused to initiate and strengthen contractions to dilate the cervix and aid the baby's passage through the pelvis. Continuous monitoring is required to observe the rate of contractions and the baby's heartrate.
Benefits = can dilate the cervix and birth the baby without the need for caesarean
Risks = Common: abnormal pain requiring epidural, uterine hyperstimulation with fetal distress, headache, nausea, vomiting, slow, fast or irregular heartbeat (mum), failed induction leading to caesarean
Other potential things to note include reduced mobility, and CTG may also increase the risk of caesarean. Epidural also increases the chance of having an assisted delivery (forceps / ventouse)
Alternatives = await spontaneous birth, or ask for a caesarean
"My contractions escalated extremely fast and I only managed to use breathing techniques for about one hour till the pain got unbearable and I asked for an epidural at 5 cm dilated. The relief was instant!"
... Induction is what it is really! With effective preparation and pain relief (be that hypnobirthing or epidural) parents can have a wonderful birth... Read a collection of hypnobirthing induction stories to see how we got on!
(This guide is provided for information only, it is not medical advice. Parents should do their own research and consult with their local care providers)
Just wanted to email and let you know that yesterday (30:11:2016) I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, baby girl at Helston Birth Unit; I was lucky enough to deliver in the pool as planned.
It was the most incredible experience of my life and this is mainly due to the Hypnobirthing course I did with you. I cannot recommend you and your work enough!
Labour was 12 hours from my waters breaking naturally, to baby being born and I did it all with absolutely no pain relief! I am beyond proud of what we achieved! And I can safely say before meeting you it's something I never thought possible.
Baby and I are both doing so well.
Thanks again Alice. I couldn't have done it without you!"
"Alice has given me so much confidence to feel relaxed about giving birth. I am currently 36 weeks and planning to have a natural birth in a midwife led birthing unit. The hypnobirthing sessions led by Alice created an opportunity for my partner and I to talk out loud and explore our feelings, reservations, to someone totally neutral.
After our lengthly discussions I felt my partner and I fully understood our birth plan and how we can support each other. Not only with the hypnobirthing guidance but useful tips for my partner to assist me in breathing and helping me to feel grounded and comfortable. Alice gave us her undivided attention and never seemed in a rush. I am a yoga teacher so was extremely interested in the benefits of hypnobirthing. I am yet to see if I can tune in to that mindset, positive thought process and breathing technique but for now as soon as I create space to listen to the soundtracks at home I feel profoundly different. I feel deeply connected to my body, my breath and our baby.
I would highly recommend Alice to anyone. She is professional, so welcoming and natural and has helped me immensely.
Another positive hypnobirthing story despite things not going quite to plan! Well done Vicki & Andy, welcome Rowan :)
"So here is how hypnobirthing helped me... Due to high blood pressure I was not allowed to have the water birth I wanted, and I was getting worried that I would be convinced to get induced. So on my due date I relaxed and asked my baby to come.
During some bedtime fun with my partner at around 11pm I got my first contraction! I decided to try and sleep but unfortunately the surges came thick and fast and I started to be quite sick. I was very thirsty but with every bit of water I took in it came back out! Despite this I remained really calm and relaxed and tried to breathe through each surge. I must admit I found this quite difficult due to the tightening around my tummy but I continued to do so.
We rang the midwife in the morning and she suggested we went straight to Treliske (due to my blood pressure and signs of pre-eclampsia). The car journey was tough but I remained calm and listened to my relaxing music whilst laying on the back seat. We stopped a few times so I could be sick and took our time - my partner driving carefully over any bumps!
When we got to the hospital (at around midday) the midwife thought I looked very pale so took us to a room. A urine test revealed I was very dehydrated so was put on a drip straight away.
We put on my music, I smelt the lovely frankincense oil which had a very hypnotic effect, and carried on relaxing and breathing. My partner was amazing - during pretty much every surge he pressed points on my lower back which made them bearable, and tried feeding me bits of food (I still couldn't keep anything down).
The midwives popped in every so often and always said how lovely it smelt and how well we were doing. The surges were coming every 5-10 minutes and in hindsight I wish I had walked around a bit more but I just wanted to be still on the bed.
There were some amazing moments of bonding between my partner and myself, and I had a lovely deep hot bath at around 8pm which was amazingly relaxing and really helped me to get on top of things. One affirmation I kept on repeating in my head was "its not pain its power" which really helped me get through it.
At around 11pm a midwife checked me and was surprised to find I was 8 cm dilated! She commented that there were not that many women having their first baby who got that far with only a paracetamol and very little fuss! I felt quite proud of myself and decided to have some gas and air as I thought it wouldn't be too long until baby arrived.
They took me up to delivery suite where I think the change of scene made me go a bit off-track and I started to get quite tired. I still kept up the breathing and relaxing. I had another whole night of it, and by the next morning I was still only 8cm! With my blood pressure rising and ketones in my urine it was gently suggested that I could go for an epidural and augmentation. We decided this would be the best option as I was so tired and still could not eat much. So our beautiful boy Rowan came into the world around 1pm two days past his due date, after an hour and a half of pushing. He was 8lb15 and a quarter and it was noted how calm he remained throughout the whole labour.
Although I did not have the water birth I wanted I feel Alice's hypnobirthing course and MP3's really helped me in the few months before having Rowan. I felt calm, informed and prepared.
Although the birth was tough going, there were some really lovely moments that I just don't think would have happened if I was scared or panicking.
I would recommend to anyone who is going to have a baby to do the course. Alice has a lovely calm and gentle manner which instilled a sense of ancient womanly wisdom to me that I knew was there - it just needed a little coaxing out !
"I undertook Alice's hypnobirthing course for my first baby, a beautiful little girl who came into the world in July 2016.
Watching the videos really helped me visualise how I wanted my birth to be - which was really important to me to help me prepare.
When anyone asked me if i was nervous about the birth I would say 'No, the birth will be in the water, it will be beautiful and my baby will just pop out' - which I probably wouldn't have said if I hadn't done the hypnobirthing course!
I found the first stage of labour fine, the second was more painful but I was hugely helped by the visualisations and affirmations, and Alice was on the ipod in the background! The third stage was also manageable.
I will say that vocalising very loudly and mooing like a cow helped me (unlike the very serene women I saw in the vids), but whatever helps you is fine I guess.
My labour was far from pain free, however, without the hypno course I am unsure how I would have handled it / coped.
After the birth I realised that in fact I had delivered my first baby with no pain relief, no intervention, and without any tearing which is pretty much a miracle. And I'm certain that the course was the major factor in helping that little miracle happen.
We left the hospital the same day and I was driving and walking about the next day perfectly healthy.
Frankie, my baby, is an extremely content, happy little girl - and I firmly believe she is a product of a calm and healthy mother - one I might not be if i hadn't practised hypnobirthing.
I have already recommended the course to my friends."
Wow - an amazing picture of a mother who's just naturally birthed her 11 and a half pound baby ♥
We usually grow the perfect sized baby for our pelvis, so (just like us) they do come in all different sizes!
Reading the comments you hear the usual "ouch!" remarks... But the idea that a heavier baby leads to a less comfortable birth is a myth. If your body has the capacity and all is well, it's not necessarily any different to a smaller frame delivering a smaller babe...
Like in any other birth (regardless of a baby's weight) - having empathic, confident caregivers and adopting instinctive upright positions helps a great deal...
Today's focus on - That moment when you can finally feel the baby's head coming out... And then it disappears back up!!
As your baby's head is about to crown, it may feel like they keep 'slipping back' after each contraction...
This helps your tissues stretch out gradually. Once your baby's head has come down far enough, they will 'crown' as their head is able to extend beneath the pubic arch at the front of your pelvis. Midwives often describe this as babies 'getting round the bend'
Once the whole of your baby's head has been born, you may be waiting a couple of minutes for the next contraction to fully deliver your baby.
Your baby's shoulders naturally rotate internally so their head turns to the side before they are born :)
- Squatting can open up the diameter of the pelvic outlet by an estimated 30% - making much easier passage for the baby.
- No need to rush! If all is well your baby will make his or her way down when their position is right and they have room.
- A panting breath can help to prevent bearing down too rapidly and possible tearing or bruising to the mother
- Reaching down to feel the progress of your baby, or looking in a mirror can be a great reassurance!
Caroline tells us about her positive hypnobirthing experience with her beautiful baby Noah last month... Congratulations and well done!
... To give some background... If mums are over 40 yrs, OBs typically offer induction around the baby's due date, because the risk of stillbirth might be increased (to 0.2%). However, other research suggests that if a mother has given birth before, there may actually be less increased risk (Hilder et al 2007)... As ever... the choice is always a mother's :)
"I was medically induced at 41 weeks due to being over 40; my consultant had wanted to induce labour at 39 weeks but I refused.
I was waiting for the induction to take effect for 24 hours, and was having gentle surges towards the end of this time.
Although in the couple of times I was distracted during a surge (like when there was someone fixing the TV next to me) and I didn't drop into a hypnotic state I could really feel the difference. If I wasn't practising hypnobirthing I can imagine those "gentle" surges would feel a lot more uncomfortable.
My waters were broken and things moved very fast and I gave birth in a standing position just 56 minutes later. The speed of the labour took all of us by surprise, the midwife hadn't even got a birth pack ready yet!
I definitely believe the ease of this birth is down to being so relaxed from using hypnobirthing; it was a joyful experience, not the traumatic experience people are led to believe. Many thanks for providing such a wonderful service."
I was lucky enough to be invited to attend and capture this birth last month... Always amazing to witness a family welcoming their baby! Congratulations to Sarah & Miles; welcome Agnes <3
Here's Sarah's birth story...
"I had a very positive labour and home birth of my second child after taking Alice's hypnobirthing course.
I practised the pregnancy relaxation and other tracks during my pregnancy until 34 weeks most days, usually at bedtime and then the birth preparation track everyday. I really enjoyed my time doing this-20 minutes of me time when I really relaxed, became mindful and felt positive about the birth.
I had some anxieties based on my first labour but these were always calmed by practising hypnobirthing and I actually looked forward to giving birth and had confidence in my body's ability to do it.
When I went into active labour I put the birth affirmations on my ipod, felt immediately relaxed and kept them on throughout as I moved around and stayed active.
When the contractions became stronger and longer I really focused on what Alice was saying, on relaxing my whole body and breathing through each contraction. With each in breath I said to myself "I am strong" and with each outbreath "I let go and relax". It helped to focus my mind on the current contraction and nothing else, and see each contraction as a positive thing bringing me closer to the birth of my baby.
I got into the birth pool just before transition and we put the affirmations on out loud on the laptop. I found transition and second stage hard work but I think because I had been so relaxed during labour my body knew what to do and Agnes Trevenen was born very quickly after a couple of pushes into the water.
The whole experience of being at home, practising active labour moving around the house/the garden/having a bath, and the focus on the breath and positive birth affirmations made it an incredible, moving experience. I would recommend Alice Kirby's hypnobirthing course to any pregnant person."
"My first two children were both induced a week late, and with the second one, it was an intense and painful experience. I was really wanting to avoid that again.
My third birth experience using hypno-birhing was pleasant and satisfying. Hypno-birthing really helped me remain calm, relaxed, and positive. I listened to your MP3s and the calming background music throughout the entire experience.
When my labor kept stopping and going, it was frustrating, but I just listened to and repeated the affirmations that I had been practising and it made me feel calm and empowered. I did end up having pitocin and eventually an epidural, but the MP3s really helped me remain positive. Thank you for helping me have this wonderful experience!
This program is also perfect for parents that already have children. All the classes I found in my area were not only very expensive but were not conducive to parents that would have to find childcare one night a week for multiple months. This program is affordable and nice because you can go through it at your own pace.
I made a collage of all the affirmations and put it on my wall where I saw it every morning when I woke up.
The only problem I had was staying awake through the hypno-birthing tracks. I tried it at different times of the day and in different places, it didn't matter, I woke up about 20 minutes after the track ended almost every time. I think it is because being pregnant with two kids is exhausting :) It also takes up a lot of your spare time, however I feel it was totally worth it.
I only started this in my third trimester, I may have gone even further without an epidural if I had started this at the beginning of my pregnancy. It helped me keep a positive outlook during my pregnancy and during labor, I would recommend hypno-birthing to any new mom-to-be.
... Thank you so much for your wonderful tracks and class. They made my whole birth experience more relaxing and positive. It also made me have a positive attitude during my pregnancy. Thank you for helping me give birth to a beautiful baby girl named Rose :)"
Considering some interesting research today on whether already having a baby influences the safety of awaiting natural birth...
Hilder et al (2007) conducted a retrospective analysis of 145,695 singleton births in London, and found that the incidence of perinatal mortality for babies born to first time mums at 42 weeks was 0.3%, compared to just 0.1% if mums had already given birth before...
Mothers should be supported in making their own informed choices; based on evidence, instinct and preference.
Be open to whatever path your birth journey takes... Well done Stephanie, who gave birth to beautiful Noah last month ♥
Just thought I'd let you know our baby boy arrived yesterday. I was so confident and looking forward to birth thanks to hypnobirthing. Although we didn't manage to make it to Penrice and ended up having an unexpected home birth, it was a lovely experience. Breathing techniques helped and it felt like my body took over and pushed him out for me!
Just wanted to say thank you for being part of making this a different experience for me. I really am very grateful for the help you gave and changing my way of thinking. It was such a positive experience and happy to know that I had the chance to have a birth like that to complete our family"
A little thing (not even worth recounting) happened on the school run this morning, that got me to thinking about how - unless we're mindful of this - other people's 'stuff' can affect us.
When I was a 19 year old psychology & counselling student, we were doing some sort of group exercise in class. In response to something long forgotten, my teacher - a formidable woman - said to me:-
"Don't give away your power".
Perhaps I was doing that very British thing of apologising or giving way unnecessarily - I can't really remember. But the phrase stuck with me.
I wrapped "don't give anyone your power" around myself this morning... But I wondered how it could be worded positively, and in the 1st person, as an affirmation...
'I keep my power' ?
'My power is mine' ?
In childbirth one often enters into systems of healthcare that are historically patriarchal in nature.
A mother from Italy recently contacted me to say that her midwives repeatedly asked her to remove the headphones she was using for hypnobirthing (for seemingly no good reason) and she felt very disrupted.
Why do we give away our power?
The instinct to comply with the instructions of a doctor, midwife or nurse is part of western culture, I suppose. We're told to be good patients, to do what we're told - they're the experts. They hold the power. This is why phrases like "we don't let you", "we don't allow you to..." persist.
Yet it is OUR birth, not THEIR birth. They have their own 'stuff' to deal with (pressures from managers, risk management, sometimes low staff morale, burnout and bullying), but we can decide to hold onto our own power.
Denying us our autonomy puts us in a vulnerable position. It is not good care. Caregivers should always take as much time as possible to carefully listen to us, understand our needs, explain our options and set out our choices in a neutral, unbiased way.
It is this good standard of care that can make the difference, however a baby is born.
Holding onto your power doesn't mean ignoring professional opinion. It just means insisting on being treated respectfully. During birth, good midwives and birth partners (possibly including a doula) can 'hold the space' for you - making sure that you have an active (rather than passive) birth experience, no matter what path your journey takes.
Birth story just in! New mum Jo gave birth last November, with a few surprises along the way... Well done Jo & Ant, welcome Astraya :)
"I was 41 weeks + 4 days when my waters broke at 4.30am. I woke my husband up (who was overjoyed to not have to go in to work that day), got back in to bed with a packet of chocolate digestives and waited. Nothing was really happening by about 6.30am, so, perched on a big pile of towels (I was still losing quite a lot of fluid), we went to Mcdonalds to pick up some breakfast and fill up on calories.
I visited the midwife at about 11.30am, who just confirmed my waters had broken and that my blood pressure was slightly elevated. She contacted the midwife on call who said she would come to us once things were progressing.
It wasn't until about 1.30pm that the contractions started, but there was no slow build up or 'niggles' that you hear of. They started really strong and regular - only about 3 minutes apart.
By the time the midwife turned up at about 6.30pm, I was struggling to cope and nothing really helped. The speed and ferocity of the contractions convinced me that I must be pretty well dilated, and was disappointed to find out I was only 3cm when she examined me and "not even in labour!"
On top of that my blood pressure was way too high, so she had to call an ambulance to transfer me to Treliske. She was really apologetic and felt terrible I couldn't stay at home as planned, but I was relieved in a way as I knew I was going to need some pain relief.
They gave me some gas and air in the ambulance which helped for a couple of contractions but then the sensations changed. The intensity went up to a whole new level in the ambulance. This is apparently when I "went into labour", and the gas and air did nothing at all.
I'm guessing because I was only 3cm at home, they thought there wouldn't be much happening for a while. They didn't examine me when I got to hospital, but the midwife when I arrived on delivery suite commented on the strength of the contractions.
One contraction was massive and pushed down really strongly. The midwife asked if I wanted to push and I said yes, but it wasn't a matter of having the urge to push, my body was just doing it.
She said she was just going to have a quick check, and was surprised to find the baby's head pretty much ready to come out. So I pushed and there she was... Astraya Willow Speed. I was in labour for about 1 hour 45 mins. No tearing!!!!
As soon as she was born it was amazing. I felt like nothing had happened - no pain, no exhaustion, just got right up and had some tea and toast and a bath. The midwives were amazed. It was less traumatic then ASDA on a Saturday afternoon, haha. And even the next day, after what my body had done, I would of expected some muscle pain but nothing. Amazing!
I'm pretty sure that my relaxed attitude leading up to the birth and my mindset must of been to thank for the quick birth. I honestly didn't have anything to do with it. My body just got right on with things and I let it. I do believe I'd conditioned my mind to let my body take over and I'm sure that's why it was so quick.
I thought they were great at Treliske and I wasn't disappointed that I'd had her in hospital. It was still in the end what I thought to be a totally natural, non-traumatic birth, and she was completely alert but calm when she was born.
I would definitely recommend yourself and hypnobirthing to people in the future.
Astraya was diagnosed with a duodenal atresia several days later (malformation of a tube between the stomach and bowel), and was rushed to Bristol for major surgery. She spent the next month in hospital. However she made an amazing recovery and after 3 weeks of nil by mouth, took to breastfeeding straight away. I'm still feeding her now at 6 months."
Birth is a journey. Different rhythms at different times. Transition is that point where your body prepares to push your baby down the birth canal. Adrenaline-type hormones are suddenly released to bring on increasingly expulsive contractions.
As a side effect, it's normal, normal, normal for most mothers to feel some degree of self-doubt at this point - even if they've been breathing and relaxing effectively thus far.
It can sometimes feel like a 'top-of-the-rollercoaster' moment. Depending on how YOU get on with adrenaline, you may feel suddenly frightened, or indeed excited and exhilarated.
A mother's eyes might suddenly open widely, alert and dark, dilated pupils. They can say odd things out of the blue, for example:-
"I want to go home"
"I can't do this anymore"
Or in one of my favourite Janet Balaskas birth videos -
"YESSSSSSS! Come on baby"!
Birth partners should be aware of transition - reassure and remind Mum that she's doing a great job - these feelings mean that you'll be meeting your baby real soon.
For mothers - use whatever sounds, positions and breathing styles that feel right, when you're contemplating and shooting down that rollercoaster
"My contractions were strong and I began to become fearful of how I would cope [Klaire then chose to have a large glass of Zinfandel].... Ahhh that was a well deserved glass of wine, and really helped me to loosen up. I was laughing between the contractions and relaxing more and refocusing on the task ahead."
"By about 2am the surges were getting really strong but still not painful just really intense. I start vocalising instinctively on the out breath and find it really helps to release the tension. I am then sick during a strong surge and think I’m probably in transition – woo hoo! I start feeling pressure but the contractions aren’t expulsive yet. It doesn’t take long before I start grunting and feel my body pushing. I ask DH to get in the pool and he comforts me."
"The hypnobirthing breathing was absolutely essential as I moved towards transition and the contractions got really fast. Just when I doubted my ability to cope, the midwife brought gas and air at just the right time. The delivery suite was still full and I couldn't go upstairs! I think the midwives doubted how well I was progressing, until I got on the toilet and felt the urge to push! Then I was rushed upstairs very quickly and into the delivery suite. It was quite exhilarating then, as the pushing sensation wasn't nearly as painful as the contractions, I quite enjoyed it with the gas and air!"
"As we arrived at the hospital the surges were very strong and as we were walking through the corridors I began to have doubts and become fearful. I believe now this may have been transition. I managed to focus myself back into it and after being quickly admitted to a delivery room and being examined by a midwife, I was declared to be 8-9cm dilated."
"I genuinely thought I was dying in transition! I’m annoyed with myself for not realising at the time. My doulas kept saying “it’s ok you’re in transition” but I don’t remember this at all! I also took all my clothes off and drank 2 pints of water in one go because of a sudden I was so hot and thirsty!"
"My husband was so incredible during the transition, he remembered exactly what to say. I had coped amazingly, breathing through my contractions but when the transition came I felt like I was losing all control. All my husband did was touch my shoulder and say ‘relax, release’ and it took me back to ‘the zone’ I will be forever grateful. He was the best birthing partner! Pushing felt like heaven after that!
"I did start slapping myself all over my face and mouth which was probably some natural distraction thing, LOL"
Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth:-
“The strangest request I have encountered was that of a first-time mother who - just before pushing - asked her husband for a jar of peanut butter and proceeded to eat two heaping table-spoonfuls. She then washed the peanut butter down with nearly a quart of raspberry leaf tea and pushed her baby out. I was impressed.”
Ok... We're not advising medical coma as the best way to give birth, but vaginal childbirth whilst in a coma can, and does happen, as the stories below attest...
The parts of our brain and nervous system in control of the birth process are primitive, instinctive and automatic. Our bodies usually know how to get our babies out, all by themselves.
During birth, our cervix ripens, our uterus muscles gather up rhythmically and the neck of the womb begins to open. Our babies inch down and down as the muscle fibres in the womb shorten, then the powerful muscles of the uterus begin to actively push babies down the birth canal - a powerful expulsive reflex that does not require a mother's conscious assistance from the muscles of her abdomen (although she may feel very much like goingwith those strong urges!)
When our neocortex is quietened (that part of our brain that analyses, overthinks and worries), our innate instincts take over, our bodies simply flow through the birth process, rather than forcing or indeed fighting it. People call this optimal mental state the 'birth zone'.
All (non-comatose) mammals require certain conditions to be met in order for this primitive physiology to kick in... that is - feeling relaxed before birth commences, and having a very quiet, warm, safe space where we feel loved, supported and free to do what feels good from one contraction to the next.
"One cannot actively 'help' a woman to give birth naturally. The goal is to avoid disturbing her unnecessarily"Michel Odent, surgeon & childbirth expert
Examples of women giving birth in a comatose or 'vegetative state' (what a horrible term!) are a stark reminder of how birth is essentially an automatic physical process, requiring little or no conscious input, even when the body is in crisis. Thankfully all of the following birth stories have happy endings, with the mothers waking up...
Emma fell into a coma after contracting pneumonia at 27 weeks of pregnancy. She went into labour prematurely two weeks later, and gave birth to a healthy daughter named Amy (3lbs 5oz). Nurses only noticed that Amy was on her way when her head emerged! Emma regained consciousness a further two weeks later, and was well enough to be discharged home after another two weeks. She says of her birth:
"It seemed incredible to think that I had given birth naturally whilst I was still in a coma. I hadn’t consciously pushed or experienced a single contraction, yet my little girl was here and she was healthy. It just seemed like a miracle. It’s amazing to think how Amy came into the world. Even when I was unconscious, my body knew what to do. I’d love to be able to remember giving birth to her, but I’m just grateful that we are both alive and healthy now."
Chastity became comatose after a car accident in 2001. It was discovered upon admission that she was just two weeks pregnant. She carried her baby to full term whilst in a semi-conscious state. Chastity could sometimes look at people when they spoke to her, but could not move or speak. Her doctors decided to induce her, so as to ensure close monitoring of the process. Chastity gave birth vaginally to Alexis Michelle (7lbs, 7oz) in just four hours. Dr Baha Sibai, chief of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospital in Cincinnati, said Mrs. Cooper "surprised everybody" with a quick delivery and the obstacles she overcame. Her husband believes that she smiled at her baby daughter following her birth, and Chastity's amazing recovery continued over the subsequent years, regaining her cognitive functions, movement and speech. Her son Aaron said in 2013 "She is now doing great... we just hope her next move is getting out of her wheelchair..."
Abby was put into an induced coma after fainting on New Year's Eve. She had been fighting the H1N1 virus which had developed into pneumonia. Abby went into labour naturally at 34 weeks of pregnancy. Doctors reported how she had progressed through the natural stages of birth and, her Grandmother says, her body "actually pushed". Waking up several days later, Abby descibes her son Douglas' birth as a 'miracle', exclaiming "How many people give birth when they're in a coma?!"
Becky was also put into a medically induced coma after contracting H1N1. Her doctor Dr. Asad Sheikh said "She was actually on the ventilator. So really the labor process itself was one that, by and large, occurred with her body responding going into labor on its own." Chase was born and did well in the NICU. Becky was brought out of her coma five weeks later, to meet her son. Becky said "I always thought it was the next day.. I didn't know it was weeks later so it was like - 'Oh, well what happened?"
I'm really pleased about how successful my online hypnobirthing course has been. Subscriptions have been rising month on month since it launched in September 2013, and I'm now able to donate £1 from each purchase to the charity Birthrights.
Most people seem to be based in the UK and America, with some accessing it from Canada, Australia and a smattering of other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. It's available pretty much anywhere with a wifi connection!
I think that everyone who wants to access hypnobirthing should be able to do so easily and quickly. Folks can often begin their practice within mere minutes of purchase, even from thousands of miles away.
When I first trained in birth hypnosis, hypnobirthing was only available as part of face-to-face antenatal classes. What I love about delivering my hypnobirthing course online via distance learning, is that I can reach a much bigger audience - both geographically, and also financially... For many, £30 is a lot more affordable than £200.
In terms of outcomes, they're pretty good too. My recent postnatal mini survey showed that there was only one emergency caesarean birth out of almost 70 spontaneous births, 90% of mums birthing naturally do so with no medical pain relief, and most babies are born within 6 hours of the first stage. My survey is ongoing and I hope to bring more data to you soon...
Hypnobirthing home study / distance learning can be a great way to prepare for your baby's birth during pregnancy. I'm always on hand to answer your queries too.
"I just wanted to drop you line to let you know that our gorgeous daughter Amara Elizabeth was born on the 24th Nov (only 2 days overdue) and weighed in at 7lb 3oz. I went to Treliske at 1pm for a labour assessment as I was having contractions, but not sure if they were real or practice. I had been suffering with a harsh cough and my coughing bouts also bought on contractions (or so it seemed to me) so we wanted to be clear if this was it. They confirmed that I was indeed in labour and 3cm dilated, but as I had practiced hypnobirthing, they said best for me to go home and put into practice what I had learnt and to come back in the evening when contractions would be closer together 1 min on, 1 min off!
However, we were not at home for long and by 4pm, we were back at Treliske as contractions much more frequent and powerful. They examined me and I was 8cm dilated and transferred straight to a delivery room. Amara was born just before 7pm with the assistance of gas and air only and in her waters - amazing!!
The midwife commented on how relaxed and calm I was throughout and that no doubt contributed to the quick and straightforward delivery. This of course is all down to the hypnobirthing techniques. We had the music playing, lights dimmed and throughout the whole thing I kept thinking of relaxing, releasing, breathing through each sensation and ultimately listening to my body. As you mentioned during the course, I did avoid watching any films/TV programmes of people giving birth as I didn't want any preconceptions about how I should act/how it should be and I think this really worked. I found my primal instincts just took over and I went with what they were telling me!
Thanks so much for introducing us to hypnobirthing, I do strongly feel this contributed greatly to our straightforward, quick and easy birth, so I cannot thank you enough for that!"
A lovely doula testimonial, just in today! Well done to Lian, Paul and little Sebastian - have a safe trip back to Zimbabwe :)
"We came home from Zimbabwe to have our first child as we wanted to be somewhere we felt safe and supported. Our hope, should all go well, was to have a water birth at home but whatever happened we decided we wanted to have the support of a doula to either facilitate the most natural birth possible or to help us navigate 'the system' should anything go awry.
From day one (week 35 for us!) Alice was reassuring and supportive, she provided the hypnobirthing course as part of her doula services and this really helped with our relaxation and mindset especially in the weeks to come!
As our due-date came and went and the days ticked by there was a creeping realisation that we may not be getting the homebirth we were hoping for. At term + 12 we were asked to consider an induction... Alice came straight to our house when we called and helped us discuss our options - we really felt that there was no judgement but having her there as a knowledgeable and impartial facilitator enabled us to be happy with our decision to go in for monitoring but not automatically agree to an induction at that point.
Unfortunately a scan at term +15 indicated that fluid levels were very low and so with this added risk factor we agreed to an induction. Alice agreed to attend us in hospital as the syntocinon drip was set up and at this point it was wonderful to have a familiar face amidst a sea of strangers (I have to note that the care we received at Treliske from the antenatal and delivery teams was nothing but wonderful).
Sebastian was born, happy and healthy, but with a rather large accompaniment of meconium on the 30th May at term + 18!
In the hospital environment, in what became a highly medicalised birth, we felt that Alice's continued presence during labour was not necessary, although we were able to use the hypnobirthing techniques she had taught us to help remain calm and positive about what was happening.
But in the days that followed, including a somewhat stressful time on the postnatal ward (we felt rather 'bullied' and then neglected by the staff there, with the exception of a wonderful maternity support worker), we relied very heavily on her continued support. She was available to us on the phone at all times and visited us twice once we returned home. To 'de-brief' with her was invaluable and I think, alongside the wonderful support of our family, was responsible for such an easy time adjusting to life with a newborn - 3 weeks in and we seem to have escaped the 'baby blues' completely!
We already know that all being well we'd like another member of our family quite soon - we would definitely return to Cornwall to have another baby and would be calling on Alice yet again! It would be wonderful if no.2 comes of their own accord and we get the natural home birth we would like, but nothing in this world can really be planned and especially not labour - being well supported by Alice through the journey made coming to terms with a change of plan so much easier."
It's been a busy few weeks of doula appointments and teaching hypnobirthing home workshops here in Cornwall...
I was also asked by a new mummy to encapsulate her baby's placenta for consumption!
Here's the finished product after being steamed, dehydrated, ground and popped into vegetarian capsules. Around 80-150 pills are normally yielded. This placenta was quite wee, but there's 62 capsules in there - enough for at least 10 days postpartum.
There's a lack of clinical research controlling for the placebo effect, but anecdotally many mums swear by this... Believing the pills to increase milk supply and keep them balanced and upbeat. Mum says:
"My milk's going really good after 5 days and baby being 8 weeks early. I really feel its helping yay! 😊"
I've just checked out if I have any reviews for my 'Positive Birth Preparation' MP3 on Amazon. Since they started selling it in September last year I've had 63 sales and three reviews... All five star!
"This is a Great track to take you through labour from start to finish . I would recommend it to any woman preparing for labour."
"Great track and for a small price under a pound! Can't really go wrong with the relaxation techniques. Yet to use it through actual birthing, only on prep so far."
"My friend recommended this to me as she said it always helped her to sleep and she was always asleep before it had finished. She was right. I have real trouble sleeping and obviously with pregnancy this is exacerbated. I find this really helps. Made me a little emotional at first if I'm honest but really does do the trick and I'm very glad I got it and for the price, well it's amazing."
After a birth I attended recently where a well-meaning midwife exclaimed to my mum:
"You did so well, you didn't need a doula!"
I felt compelled to add the following to my doula page...
"It's a challenge to exactly conceptualise a doula's role... and just like you, we're all different! Some believe in 'mothering the mother', others believe in teaching and empowering parents to 'do it themselves'. But wherever a doula finds herself along that continuum (and she's adaptable depending on your needs), she offers neutral information, guidance and non-judgemental support to the whole family, at all times, no matter how your baby is born.
I like to work with you and your chosen birth partner extensively during the antenatal period. I offer highly regarded hypnobirthing tuition and resources, and we fully explore the birth process, your rights, choices, how to communicate effectively with care-providers, early baby care and more. I've been described by parents as their 'go-to person'.
Subsequently, by the time of the birth my families are very well prepared, relaxed, confident and require little (if any) intensive 'hand-holding'. I work alongside your birth partner in maintaining an optimal space and ensuring that your care remains woman-centred. If you're coping well my presence is simply familiar, reassuring, quietly encouraging and low-key.
"The guide is self-effacing and scanty of words. When her task is accomplished and things have been completed, the people say "We ourselves have achieved it!"
Much in the news today about recent British Medical Journal published research on homebirth safety for mothers.
The study sample included 150,000 low-risk women who gave birth in the Netherlands between 2004-2006.
For women expecting their first babies, their risk of being admitted to intensive care or needing a large blood transfusion was pretty similar for planned homebirths vs planned hospital births:
2.3 per 1000 vs 3.1 per 1000 (respective safety 99.77% vs 99.69%)
For women who had given birth before, their risk of postpartum haemorrhage was significantly less following planned homebirths vs planned hospital births:
19.6 per 1000 vs 37.6 per 1000 (respective safety 98.04% vs 96.24%)
Ank de Jonge, midwife and senior researcher on the study said:
"This comes from a good risk selection system, good transport in place and well-trained midwives."
In response, Dr Tony Falconer, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said:
"The rate of home birth in the UK is low (2.4%) in comparison to the Netherlands (20%) where the proximity to specialist services with short transfer times is the norm.
"The same advantages are not always available across the UK, so the safety of home birth has to be considered in the context of the availability of local services."
In contrast, Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives welcomed the research, saying that the choice of homebirth should be promoted and available to all low-risk women, but often low staffing levels mean many women who wanted a homebirth are denied that right.
The Birthplace in England study published 2011 also found benefits of homebirth for mothers, namely a reduced 10% risk of having medical interventions for those who planned a homebirth, compared to a 40% risk of such for those who planned a hospital birth.
I've certainly known of families who have, when told on the phone that "there are no midwives available for your homebirth" have insisted upon midwives attending, for personal preference and also valid safety reasons, e.g.
"I will not be putting myself and my baby at increased risk of giving birth in hospital"
- and, sure enough, midwives are 'found' somehow... But not everyone knows that they can decline transfer or would feel comfortable doing so.
Feel free to copy or adapt the following for your birth preferences document if you'e planning a caesarean birth. There are no right or wrong choices, but the following is provided as food for thought. You can totally own this birth!
Your preferences should be fully discussed with your care providers during pregnancy, and this plan also serves to remind them on the day.
Some expectant parents who are planning vaginal births choose to staple a 'just in case' caesarean plan to their birth preferences too...
Thanks for being part of our baby's birth! The following preferences assume that all is well. If anything changes please keep me fully informed. I plan to be an active participant in my baby's birth:
IV to be placed in my left arm (non-dominant side)
Our own birth music to be played in theatre
Please help us to have a calm, quiet, respectful atmosphere
Gown and ECG to be arranged to allow for skin-to-skin
Ask me if I'd like the drapes lowered to see my baby being born
Please birth my baby from my body as slowly and calmly as possible
Please wait for my baby to begin breathing before clamping the cord
Place my baby on my chest ASAP
At any times I am not holding my baby, my birth partner will do so
Do not announce our baby's gender- we want to discover this ourselves
Our baby is to receive oral / injection of vitamin K
We will / will not be keeping our baby's placenta
These photographs are from the birth of our youngest Oska who was born via c-section in July 2010. The one on the right is a photograph Jay took of me watching Oska being checked over and wrapped up before being brought back for our first snuggles. This was such a huge moment for me as we lost a baby before getting pregnant with Oska and I spent the whole pregnancy in fear ... Seeing him out of me, hearing him crying was the most blissfully relaxing moment, just complete and utter joy. The photo on the left I took of Jay having his first cuddle with Oska whilst I was still being stitched up ... I'm pretty sure the mws/OBs thought I had lost my mind ... still worth every odd look to see forever how tenderly your partner is even after being a seasoned daddy of four! :)
For those of you wanting to see more natural births, and more of Virginia after last night's 'Home Delivery' documentary!
Amy is seen practicing HypnoBirthing® The Mongan Method. This is a method I have trained in and used for a while, but I share the same particular reservations about the approach as Virginia, which is partly why I have moved on to develop my own approach to hypnobirthing.
These films are produced by Berny Bos and shown on her fantastic online birth channel MyBirth.tv
Highly recommended watching! Put this in your diaries...
ITV1 will be screening 'Home Delivery' at primetime on Thurs 21st March 2013. This program was made in conjunction with Kent independent midwife Virginia Howes, who wanted to show how different birth can be to the dramatic births and patriarchal outdated practice often depicted on shows like C4's 'One Born Every Minute'.
The show follows the births of three women who planned their homebirths with Virginia. Some require assistance, but this promises to be a realistic look at birth rather than dramatisation and scaremongering.
Here's the ITV1 synopsis:
"50 years ago 30% of women gave birth at home, now it’s less than 3%.
Up and down the country a rare event is taking place, women are going against convention and having their babies at home. With privileged and intimate access to homes across the UK, we follow the magical moment when independent midwife Virginia, brings new life into the world.
We follow Virginia’s unpredictable and exciting life as she races to make sure she arrives in time – before the baby does. And meet three incredible women who are going against convention and saying 'no' to a hospital birth and instead, choosing to labour in their living rooms"
Please spread the word! If there are enough viewers and support for the show perhaps there will be more commissioned. The media has a huge influence in how our culture perceives childbirth...
Limitations... This is a small sample of women who chose to practice hypnobirthing. Data is included from all women who judged themselves to have practiced 'enough' or 'extensively' by the onset of labour. Women practiced in different ways. Data is excluded from those experiencing rare complications that typically affect just 0.5% to 3% of babies nationally.
Results... The following bar charts display results as percentages
*If births involving syntocinon for induction or augmentation are excluded, the epidural rate was 0%
I walk along holding your 2-year-old hand, basking in the glow of our magical relationship. Suddenly I feel a kick from within, as if to remind me that our time alone is limited. And I wonder: how could I ever love another child as I love you?
Then he is born, and I watch you. I watch the pain you feel at having to share me as you've never shared me before. I hear you telling me in your own way, Please love only me. And I hear myself telling you in mine, I can't, knowing, in fact, that I never can again.
You cry. I cry with you. I almost see our new baby as an intruder on the precious relationship we once shared. A relationship we can never quite have again.
But then, barely noticing, I find myself attached to that new being, and feeling almost guilty. I'm afraid to let you see me enjoying him - as though I am betraying you.
But then I notice your resentment change, first to curiosity, then to protectiveness, finally to genuine affection.
More days pass, and we are settling into a new routine. The memory of days with just the two of us is fading fast. But something else is replacing those wonderful times we shared, just we two.
There are new times - only now, we are three.
I watch the love between you grow, the way you look at each other, touch each other. I watch how he adores you - as I have for so long. I see how excited you are by each of his new accomplishments.
And I begin to realise that I haven't taken something from you, I've given something to you. I notice that I am no longer afraid to share my love openly with both of you.
I find that my love for each of you is as different as you are, but equally strong.
And my question is finally answered, to my amazement. Yes, I can love another child as much as I love you - only differently.
And although I realise that you may have to share my time, I now know you'll never share my love. There's enough of that for both of you - you each have your own supply.
I love you - both. And I thank you both for blessing my life.
For the next twenty years the seaside town of Ilfracombe will play host to 'Verity', Damien Hirst's 70 foot statue of a pregnant woman brandishing a sword. Half her torso is presented in an anatomical style revealing her sleeping baby within. Verity, meaning 'truth' in Italian, represents a “modern allegory of truth and justice."
The local council has received 100 plus complaints from local residents, brandishing the statue outrageous, immoral, bizarre, obscene, offensive, disgusting, distasteful, embarrassing, grotesque, disrespectful, insensitive, inappropriate, a monstrosity, tasteless, ugly, vulgar and not in good taste.
How divorced are we as a society from the realities of being human?! My favourite comment on Verity, on a Facebook thread, simply says:
"She is a fertility Goddess. Oh we forgot about her. We thought cars were more important. She is awesome."
Verity reminds me of something written in a Guardian article I was sent by a friend and former client yesterday. Frances Harrison, on the relationship between being a mother and war correspondant, contemplates how:
"As a mother, I found it harder to fathom the extraordinary cruelty otherwise gentle people are capable of in wars. At night in Sri Lanka, I would sit under the ceiling fan and rock my tiny baby to sleep in my arms, haunted by the stories I reported by day: tales of torture, mass graves and the agony of the missing fighters' mothers who never received a corpse to mourn. Both sides reeled out casualty statistics like cricket scores, forgetting the people they talked about were once someone's baby, loved and protected. It made it hard to get excited about the military hardware side of war – it didn't matter much if it was a T56 or AK-47 that did the killing. In the male-dominated world of foreign reporting I never admitted it, but motherhood did bring a new perspective to the story."
Verity also reminds me that as childbearing women we are powerful, amazing and strong. How striking is the contrast between this and the mainstream perception of pregnant women as delicate, vulnerable and stupid? Similar to Marianne Williamson's poem:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?..."
In the year 2009/2010, 8.3% of women giving birth at Royal Cornwall Hospital (Treliske) had an elective caesarean section (NHS Information Centre).
The reasons for choosing a caesarean are varied. For those experiencing a 'low risk' pregnancy and labour, intervention-free, vaginal birth is normally the most advantageous way for a baby to be born (Enkin 2000).
For those who require help - for either physical or unresolved psychological reasons, scheduled caesarean birth from 39 weeks can also be a low risk option, according to Dr Anthony Falconer, Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology President:
"Recent advances in medical science have made the procedure much safer and for most women the complications of this operation are low" (press statement 2011).
Pregnant women should be offered evidence-based information and support to enable them to make informed decisions about childbirth.
Recently updated national NICE guidelines state that women who haven't had any problems in their pregnancy, having a first, planned caesarean birth, may be at an increased risk of experiencing the following, compared to if they had a planned vaginal birth:
- baby admitted to neonatal intensive care: 13.9% vs 6.3% - hysterectomy caused by postpartum haemorrhage: 0.03% vs 0.01% - cardiac arrest: 0.19% vs 0.03% - longer hospital stay: 3.96 days vs 2.56 days
(Nice clinical guideline 132, published November 2011)
*A normal birth is one that avoids the following, according to the Maternity Care Working Party:
induction of labour (with prostaglandins, oxytocics or ARM)
epidural or spinal
forceps or ventouse
The table doesn't cover local data on the intervention rates (induction, instrumental delivery, caesarean etc) of births that transferred into hospital from a midwifery-led setting. However, recent data from all NHS trusts in England found that women planning a birth in a freestanding MLU experienced a 17% intervention rate, and women planning a homebirth experienced a 10% intervention rate (compared to those who planned a hospital birth, who experienced an average 40% intervention rate).
A large study published in 2011 compared death and injury rates for the babies of 64,538 low risk women giving birth in a variety of settings in England between April 2008 and April 2010.
The women planned births either at home or in midwifery-led birth units (like Penrice / Helston) or in consultant-led hospitals (like Treliske).
Birth was found to be very safe with over 99% of babies having good outcomes wherever their mothers planned to give birth
For women not expecting their first baby, there was no difference in outcomes wherever they planned to give birth
For first time mothers, births planned at hospital were safe for babies 99.57% of the time, and births planned at home were safe for babies 99.07% of the time. The authors state this small difference is unexplained, but asserted that homebirth is still safe for first time mothers
It's also interesting to note that women planning a hospital birth experienced a 40% medical intervention rate (e.g caesarean, forceps, ventouse) compared to those who planned births at a freestanding midwifery-led unit (17%) and those who planned a homebirth (10%)
'Active Birth' posters adorn many a labour room wall. Labouring women are featured in standing, squatting and kneeling positions. The idea is that lying down flat on your back is counterproductive to the normal birth process.
Few women instinctively choose this position if they are confident and informed about birth physiology... But despite many improvements in most areas in recent decades (particularly since the 1993 government report Changing Childbirth), the bed still plays a central role in many hospital births, and is a powerful psychological trigger for encouraging a passive, 'patient' mindset.
The concept of Active Birth doesn't just mean walking around in labour and giving birth off of your back. It most importantly means that the woman is in control of her own labour, assisted by her birth partner and midwife as her advocates. This means being enabled to make fully informed choices, having time and space to labour on her own terms, and in whatever way feels right, no matter how she has her baby.
Many of us birthworkers in Cornwall have been trained by Active Birth founder Janet Balaskas. Active birth principles are interwoven within my Cornwall hypnobirthing workshop.
A rally led by Janet Balaskas 30 years ago paved the way for women to choose active birth to bear their children.
"The head obstetrician at the hospital said active birth was animalistic behaviour, and that humans were not animals and should lie down to give birth,"
BBC World Service speaks to the founder of the movement: