Forget drugs, I want hypnosis

MENTION labour and delivery to an expectant woman and the chances are her heart will begin to race, her palms will go sweaty and she'll get a pained look on her face.

That’s of course unless she happens to be a hypnomum. Hypnomums are a new breed of mums who are saying no to drugs, medical intervention – and in many cases hospitals – and giving birth naturally with the help of hypnosis. They see childbirth as a challenge and use hypnosis to eliminate the pain and fear from the birthing experience.

Pregnant women and their partners are flocking in their hundreds to hypnobirthing courses all over the country. They are big in the south and gaining popularity in this area thanks to hypnobirth practictioner 33-year-old Karen Riley, who lives in Outlane, and runs monthly courses at the Headingley campus of Leeds Metropolitan University.

Hypnobirthing is a method of natural childbirth that uses, self hypnosis, relaxation, visualisation, breathing and deepening techniques to help couples have a fear free, and often pain free birth.

Hypnosis is merely a way to direct your inner mind towards the positive, says Karen, and all hypnosis is self hypnosis. The hypnotist is only the guide: a person chooses to enter into a hypnotic state and stay in it or come out as the case may be.

Studies have shown a good percentage of hypnotised mums have no medication for pain relief, have a shorter labour and had calmer babies. And many women using it get their wish to have babies at home, often in birthing pools.

One such woman was Dawn Midgley of Bayswater Terrace, Skircoat Green, Halifax, who had her forth child, Eve, at home in a birthing pool in January and says thanks to hynosis it was a wonderful, calm experience she will never forget.

The 39-year-old, who is on maternity leave from the Halifax bank, went on a hypnobirthing course with her husband John, who works in financial services, last November after reading about hypnobirthing.

She had wanted a home waterbirth for 14-month-old Alex and had the pool set up, but at the last minute midwives found an abnormal heartbreat and Dawn was rushed to hospital for the birth, which left her traumatised.

“I’ve used self hypnosis before and when I read about hypnobirthing decided it fitted in with what I wanted, a natural birth. I was determined I wouldn’t go through the experience I had with Alex again.”

She had her first two sons, 12-year-old Sam Williams and 19-year-old Michael Wilson, who died of cancer two years ago, in hospital. It was Michael’s death that caused her to re-examine her life and go on to have two more children. According to her, something positive has come out of his death.

As well as giving her confidence, Dawn says the two-day hypnobirthing course works on keeping you relaxed and focused and takes away the fear. “The aim of the hypnobirthing is the elimination of the fear-tension-pain syndrome before, during and after the birth,” says Dawn. When fear is present in a labouring woman it can cause all sorts of problems such as pain and a prolonged labour, cervix opening is impeded, arteries in the uterus constrict, oxygen is limited to the baby, the baby’s head is forced against taut muscle and likelihood of intervention is increased.

Dawn, who wasn’t induced, got in the water as soon as her contractions started and listened to John whisperering in her ear. She had Eve in four hours without any pain relief, and says while the birth was uncomfortable there was no pain and she felt fantastic afterwards. “John was brilliant, and I have to say I was surprised at how positive the two midwives were about hypnobirthing. They left John and I to it and stayed in the background. It was a brilliant experience and I wish I had known about hypnobirthing years ago.”

Practising the techniques is the key, believes Dawn, who used CDs and scripts at home and had another one-to-one session with Karen days before the birth. “You get tons of support both before and after the birth and I have to say Eve is such a calm, easy baby who sleeps and feeds well. This has got to be because she had such a calm birth.”

Dawn has had depression in the past after having a baby but says there has been nothing but elation this time round. “John and I think the course was money well spent and we’d recommend it to any couple who want a natural fear-free birth.”

Karen has been teaching Hypnobirthing for three years and used the method to give birth to her son, Laurence, in 2004. She and husband Lee plan to use it again for the birth of her second child, due in June.

All Karen’s courses are over two days with a one-to-one session near the time of birth. The next courses with places available are March 17 and 18 and May 12 and 13. Karen also offers sessions at her Outlane home for couples unable to attend classes.