Hypnobirthing seems to have gained popularity rapidly recently, especially after it was reported that the Duchess of Cambridge had used the hypnobirthing method during her labour with Prince George, and is due to use it again with baby number 3 this spring. Pregnant mums have often asked me about hypnobirthing and, while I knew the basic premise of it, my knowledge was quite limited. I opted for an epidural first time round and a gas-and-air fuelled home birth second time. When Lydia, founder of My Hypnobirth, came over to The Mummy Coach HQ a few weeks ago to try out my new Pregnancy Masterclass, I took the opportunity to find out more about what she does over a nice cuppa. In the interests of full and frank disclosure, we did keep going off-track and talking about other stuff, so this is a highly edited representation of our conversation with fewer tangents and zero swear words.
You’re a career changer like me, aren’t you? Tell me a bit about your journey to becoming a Hypnobirthing teacher.
I used to work for a fashion retailer as their stylist for the UK & IE. I loved my job and I have made some lifelong friends from working there. I took a year’s maternity leave when I had my daughter Rosie. I had found my birth experience pretty rubbish to be honest; I had an induction for going past my estimated due date, birthed on the labour ward with an epidural, and finally had an assisted delivery. I wasn't happy with how my birth had gone but I tried not to think too much about it, and just brushed it off.
I returned to work after my maternity leave part-time but not into the same role that I loved. However, I made the most of my new role which was still pretty rewarding and my team was so much fun!
Two years later my son Bax was born and his birth was incredible. I had him at home, without intervention, and with no need for ‘pain relief’ apart from a birth pool, and I found the experience euphoric and life changing. It simply was the most empowering moment of my life, but I had to fight for it. What made the difference to my experience this time was that I knew my choices and I had learned Hypnobirthing. Bax’s birth also stirred up feelings of frustration about my first experience, as I now understood where everything had seemed to go ‘wrong’, not only for me but many women who find themselves in a similar situation. I began to read and research more about birth from then on. I returned to work part-time and again into a new role, but this time it didn’t give me the fulfilment it had before.
I decided to do something about my passion (and frustrations) and I trained as a Hypnobirthing teacher so I could help women enjoy their birth experience and hopefully avoid the negative feelings that I had experienced.
After completing my training, I launched My Hypnobirth and have been fulfilling my ambitions to help other women and couples; it is incredibly rewarding to actually be making a positive difference and focusing my energy on something so hugely important as birth. So yes - a big career change, which feels absolutely right and what I am supposed to be doing.
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is using self-hypnosis, which really isn’t as odd as it sounds, to have a better birth experience. It is an in-depth antenatal course, which gives you the confidence to approach your pregnancy, antenatal care, and birth with knowledge, confidence and positivity. All this together then has a positive impact on your experience of giving birth.
Self-hypnosis is simply being mentally relaxed, and it is a natural state we go into every day anyway, so when we drift off to sleep each night, or when we wake up still feeling a bit sleepy that’s a state of hypnosis. It’s nothing that is ‘done’ to you, or a state where you are out of control in any way.
Fear, anxiety or even slight worry about birth is enough to create tension in a woman’s body during labour, which creates a cycle of fear, tension and pain. Tension in the birthing muscles is the opposite of the open, receptive, relaxed birthing state a woman needs be in during childbirth. The body knows what to do but we tend to get in the way of the process. With self-hypnosis you remain in control and with practice you will learn how get out of the way, allowing your birthing muscles to work to their full potential!
Will the hospital staff support a woman who is planning a Hypnobirth?
I’ve never met a midwife who isn’t supportive of Hypnobirthing, to my knowledge, so I would love to say they all would. Anything that helps a woman to stay calm and focused during labour is something a midwife is going to support, and she will want to help in what ways she can.
However, I couldn’t say for certain that you may not be faced with staff that are less than supportive, but then that’s where your birth partner comes in. If you have done the course together you know your partner is on the same page as you and they have got your back! They are your gatekeeper, and are there to protect you from any negativity or unnecessary conversations, so you can remain in your birth mode and focus on the job in hand! What is brilliant about Hypnobirthing is that your birth partner knows exactly what their role is, so they feel just as confident as you.
If you did find yourself in a situation where staff were not supportive, then you simply ask for someone else…or rather your birth partner asks on your behalf!
What if during labour someone decides that Hypnobirthing it isn’t for her, and that she needs pain relief?
Hypnobirthing is not something that you can switch on or off using. You do hear people saying, ‘I didn’t have time to use my Hypnobirthing’ which does kind of miss the point. If you are using Hypnobirthing to prepare for birth it becomes second nature to you. It’s how you approach all your care, it’s how you take time to make decisions that are right for you, and when you go into labour it’s literally second nature to you - you will just naturally slip into your birthing mode.
So I think if you have ‘done’ Hypnobirthing, you wouldn’t decide it’s not for you during labour, but if you decided you did want to have pharmacological pain relief then those options are there for you should you choose.
You would be taking the decision about your pain relief options from a place with far more knowledge and understanding that if you hadn’t learned Hypnobirthing, so you would be making an informed decision. Hypnobirthing is for all types of birth, so it doesn’t mean Hypnobirthing hasn’t worked or you have ‘failed’ if you decide to have an epidural; it’s simply your choice.
When’s the best time to do your course?
The popular answer seems to be ‘around 20 weeks’ but I honestly think you decide when the best time is right to do the course.
Bear in mind that the earlier you do the course the longer you have time to practice, but waiting a little while and starting your second trimester makes sense. It is not that you need to cram in tons of information the last week before giving birth so you can remember it; it’s a process of learning to let go and release which does take a little time.
I personally started relatively ‘early’ with my second pregnancy at around 16 weeks - it took me that length of time to lose my anxiety from my previous experience and then replace it with more positive beneficial beliefs about birth.
I have taught mums who have started using Hypnobirthing in the last few weeks of pregnancy and who have had fantastic results, so it’s up to you, and at any time it will make a huge difference to your birth experience.
Do you have a typical client?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had a typical client so far. I’ve been lucky to have quite a few international couples and that’s always interesting because you get to find out a little bit more about how birth is approached in different countries, the good and the bad! If I had to think of some common traits in my clients I would say that they have all been pretty astute, savvy, open-minded and tons of fun!
Hypnobirthing really seems to have rocketed over the past few years. There are so many courses on offer. What makes yours different?
Yep, everyone is talking about Hypnobirthing and that can only be a good thing. It’s also worth knowing this isn’t something new, it’s not a fad, and the ‘fear tension and pain’ theory has been around since the 1940s!
I’m very proud to be part of the KGH HypnoBirthing team which is the teaching course accredited by the Royal College of Midwives. By offering the full course I feel confident that my parents have everything they need to prepare for the best birth for them, I haven’t cherry-picked what I think is important. I also focus on active birth positions and how to use a birth ball confidently before and during labour so you are prepared physically as well as mentally. My mums also receive a lovely goodie bag put together by Frankie from ‘The BeauBox’.
You can find out more about what’s offered on the My Hypnobirth course on the website.
What do you love most about your job?
It is incredibly satisfying knowing that I have helped a woman so she has real knowledge of her options, and the skills to practise relaxation which will make a huge positive difference to her experience of birth. I especially feel very satisfied after I have spent time with first-time parents, as I love the fact that after the course they are leaps and bounds ahead of where my partner and I were when in their shoes.
As well as offering private sessions, Lydia is launching a small group class, for no more than 5 couples, which will be held at The Honor Oak Wellness Rooms, SE23, over two consecutive Sundays: 22nd & 29th April. The cost is £295 per couple which includes your copy of 'The Hypnobirthing Book', MP3 downloads, parents' course manual (relaxation scripts included) and ongoing support by phone or email up to the birth of your baby as needed. Contact Lydia to book.