Sam first came across hypnobirthing when she was pregnant with daughter Olivia, now 4, and still uses the technique for medical procedures today.
Could you explain in your own words what hypnobirthing is?
Hypnobirthing is a way of preparing for what your body’s going to be going through during labour. It teaches you how to stay calm and relaxed in order to have a positive labour experience.
You’re still present in the room but go deep within yourself into your own ‘zone’. It allows you to stay in control and avoid feelings of anxiety and fear.
When/how did you come across it and why were you drawn to it?
My whole life I wanted to be a mum, and having a natural labour has always been so important to me. Having cystic fibrosis (CF) and constantly being on medications, I really wanted my labour to be drug free. My sister, who is currently pregnant with her fifth child, suggested hypnobirthing to me as a way of achieving this. I started by reading books about it and picked out the aspects of it that I liked best and began practising these techniques.
Screaming takes energy, which having CF, I couldn’t afford to waste, so wanted to conserve all my energy for labour. I didn’t want to lose control. That leads to fear and anxiety. Hypnobirthing allowed me to achieve the labour I had always dreamt of and I really loved Olivia’s birth.
What aspects of this skill did you use during labour?
The main aspect of hypnobirthing I used during labour was visualisation. I would visualise a black dot that I would use to focus my energies on. Teachings often suggest visualising a calming environment, such as the ocean, however I felt this was too busy, and a black dot was simple and easy for me to imagine.
You need to stay focused in order to stay in the ‘zone’ and if I started slipping out of my ‘zone’ I had to harness it and refocus my attention to the black dot. At times, I had to ask everyone in the birthing suite to stop talking so that I could maintain my focus.
Other skills I used were positive self-talk; telling myself I could do it and thinking about what I will get out of it once it’s all over. I also used controlled breathing (slow measured breaths) and rolling with the pain rather than fighting it; embracing it and understanding what the body is doing.
How did you learn the techniques for hypnobirthing? And how long did it take to master the skills?
I taught myself the skills I needed. When I was first learning, I had to have complete silence to be able to focus, and initially it would take me a few days to be able to get into ‘the zone’. I would use the skills when I had a procedure, such as a blood test, and would use positive self-talk and visualisation in the days leading up to it. Over time, my ability to go in to ‘the zone’ improved and became easier and quicker.
If I was in a situation where I felt panicked or like I was losing control I would draw little circles on my leg with my finger. This technique allowed me to calm down and regain control of the situation. I will also use positive self-talk e.g. ‘you can do this’ and ‘it’s ok’.
Were the midwives supportive of your birthing plan?
Yes, they were. At one stage during my labour the midwife had to monitor the baby regularly so had her hands on my belly every 30 minutes for 10 minutes at a time. There were also quite a few people in the room, including a student, and during this time I became very distracted and struggled to stay focused. The midwife could see I was getting frustrated and had the student leave the room and then readjusted how she was monitoring me. Instead of standing in front of me, she would stand behind me so she wasn’t in my line of vision and she remained very quiet so that I could remain focused.
What aspects do you still use today with medical procedures?
I still use the same techniques as I did for labour. It’s easier to go into my zone now and I can control how deep I want to go, depending on the procedure. It’s all about control and self-strength. It gives me confidence to go through any procedure now, whereas before I would fight or run out of the room. I can even give medical staff multiple goes now (e.g. finding a vein) and even embrace the pain because I’m able to control it.
Would you recommend hypnobirthing to other people dealing with pain?
Yes absolutely. It can be applied to anything, not just labour. For managing any pain, anxiety and even poor sleep.
People with CF often don’t know what’s next; where their health is going. We might suddenly have to be admitted to hospital, to have a procedure, and the techniques of hypnobirthing can allow you to have some control back.
I self-taught myself, but I know you can do classes, just Google Perth Hypnobirthing.
Article from RED Magazine, Edition 2 2017.