There are so many myths and misconceptions about what Hypnobirthing is or
isn't. Most are completely harmless and with a bit of information, can easily be
busted (like it only being suitable for people who want a hippy, drug-free homebirth!) But recently I have seen more of a rise in potentially quite damaging rumours circulating about what Hypnobirthing teaches and the kind of expectation it puts on women and their partners. I'm going to cover a few of the most common ones and help to hopefully shed some light on which of the
rumours are true and which arent!
1. Hypnobirthing is only for women who want a hippy, drug-free homebirth
This is one of the top ones and one of the easiest to shake off. No,
Hypnobirthing is NOT only for women who want drug-free homebirths.
The great thing is that the techniques you learn in a course will help you no
matter what type of birth you have. There are lots of birth stories and videos
available which show the techniques being used in hospital settings, with
inductions and even during Caesarean sections. I have several reviews and birth reports on my website and Facebook
page where things have not gone to plan and have ended up quite medicalised, but having used the relaxation techniques and keeping calm and asking appropriate questions to help them to feel informed and involved in all decisions, these situations have ended in a very positive and empowering experience. Yes, a lot of people do come to Hypnobirthing as their preference is for an intervention and medication free labour as far as possible, but this is absolutely not the way in which we tell people they 'have' to give birth.
2. Hypnobirthing places far too much expectation on the birth partner to be the 'advocate'
We do talk about birth partner's being the woman's advocate during labour, we talk about informed choice, informed decision making and we work on increasing couple's confidence so that they can ask questions and work with medical professionals to help them decide what is best for them in their personal situation.
Once labour starts, women are unlikely to want to engage in conversation, ask questions and focus too much on anything outside their 'birth bubble'. A woman's neocortex (the rational, thinking brain) switches off in labour to allow her 'animal instincts' to take over and the hormones of labour and birth to flow as they are intended. If a woman is disturbed during this stage, the hormones will likely stop being released in such high quantities, in turn leading to her labour slowing down significantly. Ultimately, in the majority of cases, labour will progress more smoothly when a woman is undisturbed.
With this in mind, who is going to ask questions if a situation were to arise where interventions were being discussed? Yes, you could leave it to the medical professionals to decide what happens to you, but this is your body, your baby and your choice. Without someone there to ask questions for you, women can be left feeling isolated, not listened to and informed, and sometimes, traumatised if there are interventions carried out which they do not feel they fully understood or consented to. I always make sure to mention the role of a doula and how they are there to help in these kind of situations, but this is not an option for every couple. So yes, we do refer to birth partners being the advocate but within reason. The idea is to work with the professionals rather than battle against them and to ensure that the woman's wishes are kept to as far as safe and possible and that she feels safe and respected.
3. Hypnobirthing hails vaginal birth as the 'best' option and that any other type of birth is inferior
As a Hypnobirthig teacher, this is one of the ones which upsets me most when I see it. Birth is birth, no matter how it happens. It is beautiful and hard and incredible all in equal measure. There couldn't be anything further from the truth that we think women who have some help to bring their babies into the world are in anyway less of a mother and we absolutely do not teach with this slant either.
We talk a lot about the process of vaginal birth and the way our bodies work during a spontaneous labour and birth, but we also make sure to include 'what ifs' and to discuss the fact that not every labour goes to plan. Our courses are designed in a way which help to empower women, build their confidence in their bodies and learn to trust the process of birth again. We have grown up for so many years with the very warped media perception of labour and this has a detrimental effect on the way we give birth due to the presence of fear. We focus on the positives of the ways in which our bodies are designed and this positivity in turn creates more confident and less anxious mothers to be, which is shown to help the process of birth.
Yes we focus more on positives than negatives, but this is because it would be pretty hard to leave women feeling completely empowered and trusting of their bodies if all we spoke about was what 'could' go wrong. In fact I think it would leave a rather large amount of terrified first time mothers. Mothers who have just had all the negative perceptions of labour and birth that the media has shoved down their throats from day one, confirmed.
4. Hypnobirthing teaches you that giving birth should be easy
I know exactly what this is referring to and it is some of the words used in the relaxation scripts. The relaxation scripts and visualisations used in Hypnobirthing do sometimes mention things like 'your baby moving easily downwards'.
Now I listened to these scripts throughout pregnancy and at no point did I feel that they were insinuating that I should find giving birth 'easy'. I read many birth reports throughout my pregnancy and I also recommend to every couple I teach that reading positive birth stories can be really beneficial for boosting confidence. Yes, some of these birth stories reported them birthing their babies with ease, but the majority referred to it as being 'intense, powerful, all consuming, empowering and incredible' that list doesn't scream 'walk in the park' to me!
Giving birth to my daughter was without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done, but it was also the most rewarding, powerful and amazing thing too! Most other Hypnobirthing teachers have given birth and lots of them also using Hypnobirthing techniques, so I am pretty certain that there are very few who would describe birth as easy and set that expectation for their clients.
There are many more misconceptions around but I will leave it with these for now. If you have heard of others which you would really like answering or a bit more information on then please do let me know as I would love to discuss!
Emma Batt, Hypnobirthing Mother of one and KG Hypnobirthing teacher.