This is the second of my 'Top 5 tips for a positive and empowering birth experience'.
Giving birth is as intimate as making love. The same cocktail of hormones that are produced during love making, and conception, are the same cocktail of hormones that are required for birthing.
For these hormones to function effectively, the right environment is vital. Would you make love in a bright, cold, noisy room with multiple people present to observe? Well….you might, but the majority of women wouldn’t!
The ideal birthing environment is one where the labouring woman feels safe, unobserved and free from judgement. This generally involves a dark, quiet room, familiar belongings and minimal observers. If her body feels unsafe, or perceives any kind of threat, the hormones many not work as well, and her body can stall or 'shut down' labour.
The best support person to have is the person who is going to respect your wishes, help advocate for you and who will be helpful when you need them to be. You need to trust this person and feel comfortable to 'let go' and do what feels right to you. This might involve being naked, swearing, yelling, moaning or being silent.
Sometimes husbands/partners are not the best support people. Some partners are terrified of birth and, even though they love you and their unborn child, they just don't want to be there. It's really important to have an open and honest conversation with them and decide together whether they feel that they can be present and properly support you, or whether it would be better to choose someone else to be with you during labour.
There are two different categories of support people, and they each have their own pros and cons. You can choose to have a family member or friend, or you could hire a privately practicing midwife or doula. The benefits of hiring a midwife or doula are endless - but the main thing is that they have experience in supporting women during labour, and they are unbiased and only have your best interests at heart.
The benefits of positive birth support include:
- Reduced levels of pain
- More likely to give birth without intervention
- Increased confidence
- Enhanced experience of labour
- Less likely to use pain relief
- Shorter length of labour
I hope that you have found this blog helpful, and that it has encouraged you to seriously think about who you will choose to support you during your birthing experience.
Hormonal physiology of Childbearing: Evidence and Implications for women, babies and maternity care. Dr Sarah J Buckley, 2015.
The Role of Hormones in Childbirth
Evidence on: Doulas
Evidence Based Birth
Choosing a birth support person
This is the first of my 'Top 5 tips for a positive and empowering birth experience'.
Currently, there are a number of different models of maternity care in Australia.
More often than not, when you go to the GP and tell them that you are pregnant, they will ask which Obstetrician you want to see and which hospital you want to give birth at. Sure, some couples will want to go 'private' for whatever reason, but there are a number of other pathways that you can choose:
- standard care at a public hospital
- caseload/midwifery group practice at a public hospital
- private Obstetrician at a public hospital
- shared care with your GP at a public hospital
- home birth with a privately practicing midwife
- hospital birth with a privately practicing midwife
- home birth through a public hospital (currently only Casey and Sunshine hospitals)
This is a really important decision to make, as the place of birth and type of lead care provider can influence the outcome of your birth.
Statistically, there are more interventions and a higher rate of caesarean section when you chose to birth at a private hospital. According to the Victorian Perinatal Services Performance Indicators 2016-2017, the rate of caesarean section in low risk first time mums in a public hospital is 16.1% compared to 34.1% in a private hospital (www2.health.vic.gov.au).
Don't get me wrong, I am not 'anti' Obstetrician. I know many fabulous doctors, and I chose to have an Obstetrician during my second pregnancy.
If you don't have the money, or do not have private health insurance, then you are probably going to 'book in' to the local public hospital. However, for those of you who do have health insurance it is important to do your research before making your decision: talk to friends, family, look at internet/social media reviews etc.
Ask the Obstetrician what their intervention rates are - for example caesarean section (elective and emergency), induction of labour, instrumental births. You can also look at the report that I mentioned above and compare the intervention rates of each of the different hospitals in Victoria.
At any time during your pregnancy, you have the right to change care providers. Whether that is changing doctors, changing hospitals or requesting a new midwife. It is so important to trust your instincts - if you feel brushed off or not listened to during your antenatal appointments it is a good indicator of how that particular care provider (doctor or midwife) will treat you during labour. You MUST feel that your feelings and wishes will be respected.
In saying this, sometimes a pregnancy is considered 'high-risk' and it will be recommended that you have your baby at a particular hospital or with a particular doctor. It will not be as easy to change things, however you still have every right to feel listened to and respected, and you can request not to see a certain midwife or doctor again.
I hope that you found this tip helpful, stayed tuned as I'll be sharing more of my 'Top 5 tips for a positive and empowering birth experience' shortly.
I have recently received this lovely message from Alana. She and her partner Manny attended one of my group HypnoBirthing classes, and this is a summary of their darling boy Levi's birth.
Manny and I had a baby boy on the 15th of October. Little Levi is doing really well and we are so in love!
I ended up being induced 12 days over my due date. They gave me cervidil, then after a long wait of almost 24 hours they broke my waters. I was 1cm dilated, and after 7 hours they suggested that I have an epidural to see if it might relax things and help move them along.
Levi was posterior so I was having surges in my back as well. They checked me a few hours after having the epidural and I was 3cm dilated with some swelling on my cervix. Levi was still doing well but they suggested having a C-section as they were worried that he might become distressed.
So we decided to go ahead with that and Levi was born via C-section. I felt like the breathing techniques really helped me to get where I did.
When given information and suggestions we felt empowered to ask questions, and to ask for time to see if things would progress on their own. I also used to calm breathing throughout the C-section when I felt like I wasn't in control!
Doing HypnoBirthing really helped Manny through the process as well! He was really amazing, and was a great birthing companion utilising information and techniques that we learned during our classes.
Thanks for everything.
* Thank you so much to Alana, Manny and Levi for allowing me to share their birthing story*
I am so excited to share our birthing story with you. Looking back on the day our little man arrived, I feel so proud of what my body was able to do. Completing your hypnobirthing course made me feel confident as we approached our birthing day and now I am amazed at how strong I felt both physically and mentally during labour and post birth.
On Tuesday morning I woke with a period like cramp and said to David that this might be the start of labour! We both laughed it off, he went to work and I got ready for the day. I had to go to the shops to get a few things done and then was meeting my mum and sister for lunch. During this time I continued to have period like cramps and didn’t think to much of it.
At lunch I mentioned these cramps to my mum and she thought it could be the start of labour and that I should be timing them. When I went home I begun timing them and they were not consistent ranging from 40 - 14 minutes apart. I decided that it wasn’t labour and stopped timing them.
David arrived home and I told him about the cramps, we had our dinner and went off to bed. I couldn’t sleep and felt as though the cramps were happening more frequently, so at 2:00am we put on a movie and David started timing the cramps again. During the movie they became more regular ranging from 10 - 7 minutes apart, there were a few cramps that I had to focus on my breathing, but mostly they would come and go with ease. After the movie finished, I went to the bathroom and noticed I had a birth show.
At this point we contacted our midwife and told her that I had had a birth show and that the surges were 6-8 minutes apart. The midwife said that we could stay at home longer or if we wanted to head in they were ready for us to arrive. I decided that we should head in, I wasn’t convinced that this was labour and I wanted someone to confirm that our baby was actually on its way.
During the car ride to the hospital, we had the birthing affirmations playing and I had 4 more surges, which were becoming more intense and I was having to really focus on my breathing. We arrived at the hospital and as I was walking down the hallway I felt my membranes release.
In the birthing suite, the midwife asked me to hop on the bed for an examination which I refused to do as I felt the need to start breathing my baby down. David informed the nurse I wanted a water birth, but I no longer felt like getting in the water. I was helped by David to get on the bed into a kneeling position and started to breath my baby down. David asked the midwife if things were moving quickly, which she replied with “have a look, we can see the baby’s head.”. David put on the Rainbow Relaxation for me to listen to and he begun the light touch massage. I wasn’t enjoying the massage and asked David to do it with a cold wet flannel and not his hands which was much more effective. I had prepared some posters with the birthing affirmations, although things were moving very quickly and we did not have time to put them up. As I was breathing my baby down I was staring at a particular spot on the wall thinking it was the perfect spot for one of my posters.
My main birthing preference was to receive our baby myself. After being at the hospital for only 45 minutes, the midwife guided me in receiving our little surprise gender baby boy, Harry. It was the most empowering moment of my life, birthing my baby with no medical intervention, in a calm and loving environment. The nurses estimated that the labour length was approximately 4.45 hours, a very speedy labour!
Little Harry was immediately skin on skin with me and he begun feeding shortly after. Unfortunately I had a third degree tear and needed to go to theatre. I handed Harry over to David, who knew the importance of skin on skin and spent the next few hours cuddling our little boy. I had expressed some colostrum, which David was able to feed to Harry, whilst I was gone.
Throughout the whole labour both David and I felt confident and prepared. We are so grateful that we completed the hypnobirthing course, as we were able to welcome our baby into the world without fear, but with love. Watching the videos of other couples giving birth during our sessions showed me that having a calm birth was possible and that is how I visualised bringing our baby into the world.
Thanks again from the both of us.
Congratulations Kait, David and Harry and thank you so much for sharing your birthing story xx
1. HypnoBirthing is only for hippies
Have you heard this or even thought this yourself?
HypnoBirthing is for every pregnant woman/couple who want to be informed, educated and properly prepared for their birthing day. It is for those who want to learn what happens, physically and hormonally, in their body during labour; how special breathing, relaxation and self-hypnosis/meditation can help them stay fear-free and calm; how to speak up for themselves and ask questions if care providers suggest medical intervention to them; AND SO MUCH MORE!!
2. Women who are HypnoBirthing are not allowed to make any noise.
In HypnoBirthing we discuss the role that hormones play in labour, and that women labour best when they feel safe, calm and unobserved. We teach techniques that enable the labouring woman to get into a deeply relaxed state and how to stay there throughout labour. To minimise distraction and to avoid interrupting this state, we recommended that there is minimal noise, and quiet voices, in the room. However, the woman can make whatever noise feels right for her - she may wish to talk, moan, groan, hum, swear, growl.
3. HypnoBirthing is only for water births.
In the past week alone I’ve had two people tell me that they thought HypnoBirthing was only for water births.
Whilst many women who attend HypnoBirthing classes choose to labour or give birth in the bath/birth pool, not all do. It certainly isn’t ‘mandatory’ that you use water immersion during labour.
HypnoBirthing educates and empowers couples to think about their birthing options, and to choose what is best for them and their baby. This might be birthing in water, or it might also be birthing on the bed.
As long as couples are informed about their options, and are free to make decisions without coercion, then I’m happy
4. HypnoBirthing International is an American program and not relevant in Australia.
Whilst it is true that the original HypnoBirthing program was conceived in the US by Marie Mongan, it is now taught by over 2500 practitioners in 75 countries! It has been rebranded as HypnoBirthing International to reflect this.
There is a rumour circulating in Australia that this course isn’t relevant to our birthing women; however this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The ‘head’ HypnoBirthing Practitioner in Australia, Anthea Thomas, has made the relevant changes to the program, and our course has been approved by the Australian College of Midwives.
This means that you can be reassured that the HypnoBirthing International course will provide you with relevant pregnancy and maternity care information, as well as teaching you specific techniques to use during labour.
For more information on HypnoBirthing classes please fill out my online contact form, call me on 0401 619 755 or visit the HypnoBirthing International Australian website on www.au.hypnobirthing.com
Last Sunday the 26th of August we woke up around 8am and as I got out of bed I felt a warm trickle run down my leg. I put a pad on for an hour or so to monitor the leakage and sure enough it was my waters.
I phoned the midwife and she said I had to come in to the hospital as I tested positive on the strep B test. I was a little taken aback at this stage as I knew I would probably have to be induced and this was not in our birth plan. Regardless of this news I stayed positive and was excited to venture to the hospital.
I was getting small niggles here and there on the way. They checked the fluid on my pad and confirmed that it was in fact my waters. A cannula was inserted and I was given antibiotics for precaution.
At around 5pm the syntocinon drip was started. My husband Liam had only begun to set up the room with tealight candles and a soothing playlist in the background. Unfortunately we didn't have a chance to use our essential oils, bath or tens machine. I felt intense surges almost immediately and sat on the toilet for 2 hours. I felt safe, comfortable and at ease in this space.
The midwife checked me soon after and I was already fully dilated! I owe this to the HypnoBirthing techniques that you taught us. I used both my calm and surge breaths and also the blowing up a balloon visualisation.
I was moved to the bed to start pushing and I tried to breathe down my baby. This was more difficult than I had anticipated, so instead I visualised baby moving down. This helped immensely. Positive affirmations filled my head like 'I can work with my body' and 'my body was made to do this'.
After 2 hours of pushing, my baby's head crowned. My husband got to pull her out, announce the sex and place her on my chest. Within 5 hours little Indie was here. She was so calm, no crying and grabbed my finger straight away.
I feel so empowered and happy thinking about my labour and am so so proud that I birthed my baby without any pain relief. Thanks to our sessions with you, I felt informed, fearless, excited and confident. The strategies that you taught us were invaluable and I have continued to use them on my breastfeeding journey.
Thank you to Shari, Liam and Indigo for sharing their story xxx
(Photo and story shared with permission)
It has been almost three years since my life changed for the better. At 3am on Friday 23rd August 2013 our beautiful son Max was born. As I reflect on my pregnancy, labour and birthing day, I thought it was the perfect time to finish writing, and share, Max’s birth story.
Our due date came and went, and as each day went on I started to feel anxious that labour wouldn’t start and I would need to be induced. Even though I had been practicing my HypnoBirthing techniques daily, and knew that labour would start when both my baby and body were ready, I just couldn’t help myself. I would snap or cry whenever I received the ‘are you in labour yet?’ calls and texts.
I had a healthy, normal pregnancy and baby ‘Jellybean’ was healthy and moving lots, so I knew that I just had to refocus and trust that my baby and body knew what to do. I was trying lots of natural methods to induce labour, such as raspberry leaf tea, walking, acupressure, massage, visualisations and even a homeopathic remedy.
At 10 days past my due date we were given an ‘induction’ date, Saturday 24th August. It was amazing. I started to relax after this – maybe because I knew that I would definitely see my baby soon. That afternoon we went for a long walk. The next morning I woke up with period pains! I was so excited! I’d never had any pre-labour warm ups before this. I went to my scheduled acupuncture appointment, and I could feel my surges becoming stronger each time that she turned the needles.
Throughout the day, I kept as active as I could to ensure that the surges continued! I walked Kira, our old dog, and then watched a ‘True Blood’ marathon whilst sitting and rocking on the birth ball. I phoned my husband at 3pm and told him that he wouldn’t be going to work the next day, as I was in labour. His response was ‘are you sure?’ I started listening to the affirmations on my rainbow relaxation CD. I had been listening to these affirmations every time I was in the car from 32 weeks pregnant so I knew that they would keep me calm and focused.
At 6pm I forced myself to eat some soup and toast, and told hubby to also eat dinner now. At 7pm I phoned my beautiful friend, and additional birth support person, and she came over. At 8pm we decided to head to the hospital. At this point I started to panic and run around like a ‘headless chook’ even though my bag had been packed for weeks! The only thing we needed to get was the frozen colostrum that I had been expressing for weeks.
The ride to hospital was interesting. I was kneeling on the backseat of the car with my bottom pressed against the window. Hubby was driving very slowly, and I had to keep telling him to drive faster! When we arrived at the hospital we walked from the car park to my room and once there my hubby and friend set up the room for me – lights low, affirmations playing on CD player, clary sage burning, and my pillows on the bed and HypnoBirthing sign on the door. They also made sure that the midwife was aware of my birth wishes.
I listened to the affirmations track on repeat. At one stage I decided to play one of the ‘rainforest’ type songs that I had downloaded onto my iPod. Instantly I lost focus and came out of my hypnotic state, so they put my affirmations back on. My husband was fantastic in offering me fluids as needed, and providing acupressure to my lower back. I didn’t need him to help me with the HypnoBirthing scripts as I was so relaxed and calm with my affirmations.
I went into the bath at some point and was in there for hours. I had initially planned to have a water birth. My surges came every couple of minutes, but I was able to use my surge breathing with them and that really helped. My birth companions were probably sick of the affirmations after listening to them for 6 hours straight, but no one complained.
My membranes released in the bath and instantly the surges intensified. I could feel ‘Jellybean’ moving down, and I had intense pressure below my pubic bone. I started breathing down at one point and was encouraged to go with it. After 1 hour of breathing down with surges, baby’s heartbeat started dropping so I was happy to leave the bath. I waddled across the hallway to get back to my room (naked except for a towel!), and once on the bed my baby’s head was visible.
I had a small episiotomy and with one last downward breath our gorgeous boy was born. He went straight onto my chest and the cord was left to pulsate. He barely cried and we couldn’t stop gazing at him. I had a physiological third stage so after 45 minutes the placenta came out.
I had my perfect HypnoBirth. I did it! I had the most amazing, calm and joyous labour and birth. I loved it. I experienced intense pressure at times, but I wouldn’t describe it as painful, and I can’t wait to do it all over again someday.
Labour is just one day in my life i kept thinking to myself as the period cramping started Wednesday afternoon. The surges brought both excitement and slight fear of the unknown-am I ready for this?
By the evening the surges became much stronger and my mind became focused on meeting our little baby for the first time knowing this was it! I asked my partner to apply the TENs machine at 1am which brought some relief but by 4am the surges were much stronger and felt different. By this stage i was more focused when listening to the rainbow affirmations.
We called our midwife and made our way slowly into hospital by 8am. In the car I started to feel bowel pressure but remained in a deep relaxed trance while listening to the rainbow affirmations track. This track was played on repeat for many hours and kept me so calm. In the shower and bath I was involuntary pushing for 45mins but started to feel intense constant pubic bone pain. By this stage i couldnt tell what was a surge and what was pubic bone pain. I was 7cm with a thickened cervix. I requested an epidural for relief.
After a further 6hrs I slowly dilated to 10cm and with a dense epidural managed to push our little boy out direct OP. Our midwife was very surprised as she and the doctors did not think this was the case. Without hypnobirthing my self determination and deep state of relaxation would not have occurred. Our birth could have ended in an emergency cesarean or forceps for obstructing but I trusted in myself. I let my body do what it needed to do while I kept my mind calm.
Thank you to Alexandra, Mike and Marcus for sharing their story xx
1. Sleep when the baby sleeps
I know, this is the most commonly given piece of advice and I used to want to slap whoever said it to me. But....it’s true. It is so important for new mums to rest and catch up on sleep.
My first baby, Max, was (and still is) a terrible sleeper and I’d have to hold him for all of his naps or walk him in the pram. I had many people offer to hold/walk him so I could nap and it took me AGES to agree. But once I did, it was heavenly!
My 87 year old Grandma would come over and take Max for a walk so I could nap. She even brought lunch for when I woke up!
Thank you to everyone who offered, and kept offering, until I accepted!
2. Let go of all expectations
As I mentioned in point number 1, I am terrible at accepting help. I am a type A personality who is very independent and ‘can do it all’. However, when you have a baby you don’t have to do it all, and there is nothing wrong or shameful about accepting help.
Please, if someone offers assistance just give them a list of jobs to do!
I found myself getting stressed about cleaning. I couldn’t put Max down long enough to clean anything properly and the house was getting messier, which added to my anxiety. My husband eventually agreed to getting a cleaner and she was the best thing ever!
But you don’t have to wait for someone to offer assistance. Please don’t be afraid to say ‘hey I need some help’. There will be people who have wanted to help but didn’t know how.
You will probably be inundated with friends/family wanting to come and see the baby (and you). This is the perfect time say that they are welcome to visit, but can they please bring some groceries/a hot meal/do some washing for you whilst they are there.
3. Buy a slow cooker
This is one of the best kitchen appliances for a family with a new baby!
One of you can prepare the meal during baby’s first nap - chop meat, vegetables and add the sauce.
You then just need to set it to ‘low’ heat and your dinner will be ready in 6-8 hours!
We had so many slow cooker meals when Max was young. The bonus is that you can fill the slow cooker bowl so it will make dinner for two days, plus some lunches and possibly enough to go in the freezer.
The supermarket has many ‘ready to use’ sauces that you can add straight in, or you can find a variety of receipes online.
I still haven’t done this yet, but I’ve been told that you can also cook porridge and desserts in the slow cooker. Bonus!!
Once in the birthing suite, my obstetrician came to chat and make sure that I was happy with the change in plans. She performed an internal examination (at about 1pm) and made sure that my waters had completely broken. I wanted to walk around for a while before starting the syntocinon infusion, to see whether my surges would increase.
We walked up and down the 5 flights of stairs many times, and also walked around the hospital. Nothing really happened, so at 4pm I agreed to start the syntocinon infusion. This also meant that I needed continuous monitoring. My midwife Liz, who is also my friend, got the waterproof machine for me so that I could still hop in the shower.
Throughout labour I remained calm and relaxed by listening to my birth affirmations, sniffing clary sage oil, sitting on the fit ball, moving around, having a shower, and having my acupressure points massaged by my wonderful birth support team.
Around 9pm, I started feeling more uncomfortable in my pelvis and some slight pressure in my bottom. I was really excited as I thought ‘I must be getting close to birthing’. The pressure started increasing but never enough that I felt the need to do my birth breaths.
My obstetrician asked consent to do an internal examination and when finished, I could tell by the look on her face that my cervix wasn’t open very much. On my birth plan I had requested not to be told the outcome of the examinations, however I now really wanted to know. My cervix had dilated 1cm and my baby was in a posterior and awkward position. I was really shattered and started to cry. Crying helped me to let out all of my emotion and disappointment, and then refocus and move on.
For the next few hours I continued to listen to my affirmations, sit on the ball, go in the shower, and received comforting massages from my midwife, friend and husband.
At around 1am, the pressure in my pelvis was really intense and I was having difficulty keeping my muscles relaxed and focusing on my breathing. After chatting to my husband, and having another good cry, I decided to have an epidural. I knew that I needed more help, but I was petrified of having the epidural, and I was scared that it would increase my chance of having a caesarean section.
The anaesthetist came around 2am and inserted the epidural. It was very hard to sit still so I focused on my affirmations and doing my calm breaths. Once it was in and working well I felt amazing! The pressure on my pelvis was gone and I was able to have a bit of sleep. Sharon, our midwife, took Matt to another room so that he could lie down and sleep as well!
Around 4-4.30am the pressure in my pelvis started to return, and I had a large mucousy show! I started getting excited as I knew that it could mean that my cervix was opening. Sharon performed an internal examination and I could tell by her face that my cervix was fully open and that my baby was ready to be born!!
The energy in the room picked up very quickly and my doctor was called. Kate, my birth photographer, who had been napping in the chair, went and woke Matt up.
I sat up a bit and was feeling an increasing pressure in my bottom when the surges came. I started breathing my baby out. Having the epidural made it harder for me to breathe down but soon I could feel his head starting to emerge. I was determined to ‘push’ him out myself.
At 0602am I gave my final ‘push’ and I lifted our son, Jack, up onto my chest. There is no better feeling on earth! He was really calm and just gazed up at us with his beautiful blue eyes. Just after 7am we phoned my parent’s house and told Max that he had a baby brother. He was so excited that he screamed.
Jack is almost 6 months old now. As I reflect on his birth, I am disappointed that I didn’t have the water birth that I had planned, but also really happy with my birth experience. I believe that I made the right choices for us at the time, and I still feel the same way. One of the key factors in feeling happy with my experience is that I had a wonderful team caring for us, obstetrician and midwives, who stood back and let me make the decisions, without pressure, so that I remained in control of my labour at all times.
Credit for the photos goes to Kate Tyzack from Bump to Birth Photography (www.katetyzack.com)