I was really keen on having a birth that was as natural as possible, but I was also quite scared of the pain and was unsure if I’d be able to manage without pain relief. Everyone loves to tell a pregnant woman a birth horror story and I was starting to panic about labour. I’d done quite a lot of research on birth—most of which actually worried me more—and one thing that kept coming up was hypnobirthing. Now, I’m one of the least ‘woo’ people ever and I was pretty sceptical, but I was so determined about avoiding an epidural (I have a massive fear of needles) that I was willing to try anything.
The overall idea of hypnobirthing is to release the fears we’ve been brought up to have around childbirth, and replace them with confidence that our body can do this. This made a lot of sense to me. After all, women have been giving birth for thousands of years. It doesn’t make sense that suddenly we need all the intervention I was reading about (obviously, in some cases intervention is life saving and necessary—and I’m not judging anyone who wants or needs an epidural, it’s just not for me. Mainly because I’m so pathetic and squeamish).
I’d say that even if you aren’t convinced by the idea of hypnobirthing, if you want more information on the process of birth and are keen on having a less medicalised birth, these books are useful.
The Hypnobirthing Book
This book had a lot of explanation about what hypnobirthing is. A part that really resonated with me was the section on how other mammals give birth. Most find a dark, private place where they feel safe—we are mammals too so it makes sense that we need this—and if they are frightened by anything, they stop giving birth and run away to somewhere they feel safe again. Fear is a massive barrier to birth so I needed to manage my feelings. It explains how the uterus works, and how fear can affect it.
The book gives lots of exercises to practice, focusing on breathing. The visualisations are really useful. It’s helpful to have a partner read out some parts to you so you can focus on the breathing. The birth affirmations part was something I wasn’t initially convinced by, but after listening to the Colour and Calmness download I understood it a lot more.
Probably the most useful part of the book for me was the chapter on achieving the birth you want. It gives advice on avoiding intervention if that is what you want.
Effective Birth Preparation
I’d say this book is slightly more practical. There are sections to fill in so you can reflect on how you feel about pregnancy and birth. It covers a lot of the same ground as the Hypnobirthing Book, but I found it was slightly more informal, so if you prefer that style I’d recommend this one.
I really loved the positive birth stories throughout this book. It made a nice change from all the horror I’d been hearing.
Again, there are lots of exercises to practice in this book.
I found it really useful to read both of these books. Even if you aren’t keen on the idea of hypnobirthing, I think they are worth reading for a more positive look at birth. The CDs or downloads you can get from both authors are what I’d recommend if you want to practice hypnobirthing–I would have struggled to practice without them. I found them very relaxing. I would listen to them in the bath pretty much daily towards the end of pregnancy. I can’t say that I particularly feel like I did hypnobirthing properly during labour (I didn’t really visualise–to be honest most of it went from my head as soon as I went to hospital), but I did really focus on my breathing, which I think was a result of the relaxation practice I’d been doing.
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