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Last Updated: Monday, 30 May, 2005, 23:34 GMT 00:34 UK
Hypnotherapy plan for childbirth
By Catherine Lyst

Pregnant woman
The aim is to pass on the techniques to expectant mothers
Having a baby can be a traumatic experience with women often going through unimaginable pain.

But an unconventional way to reduce pain is proving popular among modern mothers-to-be.

HypnoBirthing is based on the belief that severe discomfort to the mother and distress to the baby is not a natural accompaniment to labour.

Women instead learn self-hypnosis, including simple but specialised relaxation and breathing techniques.

It is claimed that these can lead to an easier and sometimes pain-free birth.

For what is believed to be the first time in Scotland, a course for midwives has been launched to teach them HypnoBirthing methods, which they can then pass on to expectant mothers.

There are currently just five people in Scotland qualified to teach HypnoBirthing - all of whom are qualified hypnotherapists.

Renee Buchanan, a hypnotherapist and member of the UK HypnoBirthing Advisory Board, is running the course at Stirling Royal Infirmary's conference centre in September.

"Many women are afraid of childbirth," she said. "They hear stories about dramatic and painful births which are also depicted on TV.

"This causes tension which in turn causes pain and doesn't allow the birth to progress as naturally as it should.

"HypnoBirthing doesn't promise pain-free labour but says labour should be much more comfortable.

"It allows women to enjoy having their babies instead of it being something they fear."

It's about bringing babies into the world in a more peaceful and calm way
Renee Buchanan

Ms Buchanan said the course, which will also be attended by hypnotherapists, was an extension of midwife's training.

"It's just a more complementary approach," she said. "It's about bringing babies into the world in a more peaceful and calm way.

"The mum is trained to become absorbed in what the baby is doing and work in harmony with her body."

HypnoBirthing was developed in the US 15 years ago and is based on the work of an English obstetrician and founder of the National Childbirth Trust, Dr Grantly Dick-Read.

He noticed that women who were calm and had positive expectations of their labour experienced less pain than those who were frightened.

Shirley Black, a community midwife in North Fife, is one of those joining the course.

"I'm very much into women having as natural an experience as possible," she said.

"I heard about HypnoBirthing a couple of years ago in Australia and I was hooked on the idea."

Mother and new baby
Taking the fear out of childbirth is a key element

Ms Black said she is surprised people in the UK have not heard of the technique, which is popular overseas.

"I haven't met anyone who knows about it," she said.

"But the expectant mums I have spoken to are really interested and many are disappointed they will already have had their babies by the time I am qualified to teach the techniques myself.

"The main thing that helps women get through labour is a sympathetic midwife. If they get help and support before the birth it will empower them and let them know they are in control.

"In the long term it would be great to see the Scottish Executive funding this as people attending these courses currently have to pay out of their own pockets.

"HypnoBirthing can only help women."

Ms Buchanan added: "I've lost count of the number of women who say they wish they'd known about HypnoBirthing earlier.

"It would be wonderful to see doctors on this course and I would love to see HypnoBirthing becoming the norm.

"It would save the NHS millions, especially when you consider the cost of caesarian sections and the after-care involved."

What do you think of the HypnoBirthing idea? Do you think it would have helped you during childbirth? Are you in favour of more complementary types of pain relief during childbirth? Should the NHS be offering more of these types of help?

I am 39 weeks pregnant with my first child and excited about the imminent birth, thanks mostly due to hypnobirthing coaching and practice in the last six months, and an excellent midwife led birthing unit in Oban. There are an overwhelming number of ifs and unknowns before birth, particularly in my case, as even minor complications will require a two-and-a-half-hour journey to a consultant-led unit in Glasgow - not nice mid-labour. Hypnobirthing gives me the confidence that if anything does go wrong, then at least I have been taught how to experience deep relaxation and make use of my body's natural abilities to remain calm - with the added benefits to baby and dad too.
Lyndsay, Oban, Scotland

I practised relaxation and hypnosis techniques every day during the second-half of my pregnancy and was calm and positive going into labour. Six weeks ago, I had my little girl by emergency caesarean section following 55 hours of contractions and a failed ventouse delivery. I do believe that the techniques I learnt helped me to manage the pain and length of labour and they should be offered to all expectant mothers. However, it concerns me that the emphasis on, natural good, pain relief and caesareans bad, puts pressure on women who need intervention. Like thousands every year, my baby's life and possibly my life were saved by the NHS. Women should be helped to have as natural birth as much as possible but supported - not criticised - when natural methods don't work and intervention is needed.
Becky, Maidenhead, England

I had a very traumatic birth with my daughter four years ago and when I became pregnant last year i invested in some hypnotherapy/relaxation CDs in preparation for the birth. i found it difficult in the middle of my pregnancy to find the time to listen to them but once my maternity leave started i listened to them nearly every day. Not once did I hear the whole CD but instantly "woke up" when it finished. I had an excellent birthing experience - just under 6 hours and i used the technques in conjunction with the use of TENS and gas/air. I felt completely in control of my pain throughout and in the end gave birth to my 10lbs 13oz son! Definitely worked for me!
Elaine, Wigan, UK

I had my first child 18 months ago and learnt hypnosis for pain control beforehand. My preconceptions of hypnosis were totally wrong. I expected to be on a couch and put into a trance. Instead the things I learnt were very practical - for example how to minimise pain by localising it, how to understand your body, the emotions we respond with when certain words (such as pain) are mentioned - and how positive thinking has a dramatic effect on your body. I had a 'fantastic' labour, and gave birth at home with only the aid of gas and air and a TENS machine for pain relief. I firmly believe that hypnosis along with a relaxed home environment where I was in control contributed to me having a relatively quick and pain-free birth and fast recovery. To say that it was pain-free though doesn't mean it wasn't more than a little uncomfortable!
Debbie, London

Expecting and interested in the idea. Looking for hyonosis and Reiki. Idea is great. I read a book of Russian author (former USSR) published in 1958, where there is mention of a 32-year-old medical student who tried it for herself in 1933/1935 in presence of then pioneer Dr Povlov or his associate.
Dr Rashmi, New Delhi-NCR, India

I am a second time mum and will try hypnobirthing to deliver my child. I was very well prepared the first time around, thanks to yoga classes and a wonderful privately-taken active birthing antenatal class. I also went to the free NHS antenatal class but on the day I had my daughter, I did not find the latter very useful. The relaxation/breathing/positioning practice I learned in my private classes were much more helpful. I had a precipitous labour, with very strong contractions which dilated my cervix from 1 to 10 cms in 2 hours, after 12 hours of unsuccesful contractions. My midwife was terrible both as a coach and as a practitioner - I managed to stay in control until the pushing part, at which then the midwife panicked (red face, shouting, trembling hands...). She made me lose my concentration and the pain became unbearable then. Without my husband, who also took the classes and did his best to keep me focussed, things would have felt even worse. Because the risk of pre! cipitous labour is high for my second birth, I hope the hypnobirthing class will help me cope with the pain even more than last time and complement my yoga and active birthing knowledge. I believe the NHS should definitely train its midwives in these therapies. Mothers are much calmer and in control, which makes it a much nicer experience for everybody involved, including the baby.
Anne, London, UK

I was part of a study in 1995 when a doctor based in Lytham, Dr Stephen Reid, was writing a book on Hypnotherapy and childbirth. I had a pain free birth and my daughter was born naturally without much fuss in no more than six hours from beginning to end. I firmly believe part of that can be attributed to the fact that I insisted no-one use the word "pain" in relation to how I was feeling. I didn't think I was in pain I thought it was the most natural thing in the world and I was very lucky to be able to experience it. All thanks to Dr Reid!
Shona, Edinburgh

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