Saturday, 19 December 2015

Patience is a Virtue in Birth

Has your baby's due date come and gone?  Are you feeling fed up waiting for baby to arrive?   

There are many reasons why patience is important at the end of your pregnancy.  I have grown more and more passionate about the need to wait for babies to decide when birth should begin.  If mother and baby are both healthy and well, why rush things?  The 'good body' knows what it's doing. 

Reasons to be patient:

1. Baby's lung development
There have been studies which indicate that labour is triggered to start at a certain stage of baby's lung development. A protein is released, causes a rise in oxytocin and changes in hormones, and the contractions (surges) then start. Have a look at this article for more details:  Babies born with immature lungs often need help to breathe, and are at a higher risk of SIDS.

2. Induction can be difficult 
The artificial oxytocin called Syntocin, also called Pitocin, is not regulated internally, but by someone else's clock. So the contractions (surges) are brought on hard and strong. No wonder women who are induced often experience a cascade of medical interventions, taking all those pain-killing drugs, which knock out mum and baby at the same time. Why start life like that, instead of being patient?  If mother and baby are well, perhaps it is best if baby decides when s/he is ready to come out. Find out more about the induction process here

3. Side effects of Induction are unknown
What are the longer term effects of Syntocin or similar drugs on mother and baby?  This is yet to be investigated fully by researchers, but there seem to be suggestions that these drugs can mess around with our natural oxytocin levels. And oxytocin is really important to all sorts of things: our ability to feel and love, to show affection, to engage in romantic and other social relationships, our digestion, our ability to heal from inflammations and wounds, our ability to feel calm and secure, etc. So the question that is raised in my mind about the wide, and ever-increasing, use of Syntocin (and other brands of synthetic oxytocin) is, how does this effect mother and baby's moods, feelings and overall health? what about baby's development? and both mum's and baby's ability to produce and regulate their own oxytocin levels? and what are the long term effects?  I await more research in this area.

4. Your due dates is not a deadline
According to the World Health Organisation going in to labour anytime between 37-42 weeks is normal for humans.  So why do we abide by 40 weeks as a deadline? In some other countries, due dates are given at 41 weeks.  In my hypnobirthing antenatal classes, I encourage parents to think of their due time as a due MONTH.  So if your 'due date' is given at 27 Jan, then say to yourself, my baby will definitely be with me by Valentine's day.  And then be patient. Try to resist external pressures to hurry up and get the baby out if both mother and baby are healthy and well.  

And just so say... artificial induction is of course a useful medical intervention, when it is NECESSARY.  For example, it can become necessary when a mother develops pre-eclampsia, when a baby is genuinely in distress, when there is infection present that will harm mother or baby, etc.  So save the medical interventions for when they are needed. That's why they were developed.

And, when all is well?  Be patient and trust that the body can do what it is perfectly designed do. You can birth so much more easily when you remain calm, relaxed and breathe into each surge. If you want to learn how to you can be be calm and relaxed for your baby's birth, have a read about hypnobirthing and feel free to ask us any questions.

Gina x

Gina Potts is Director of ZenBirth – Hypnobirthing UK. She comes from an academic research background, and since 2009 has spent much of her time researching into all aspects of maternity care, pregnancy, birth and women’s postnatal health. In 2011, she founded ZenBirth and has helped hundreds of couples have a positive birth experience. Gina now leads a growing team of ZenBirth instructors who provide antenatal hypnobirthing education courses across London and the South East of the UK. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

What is Hypnobirthing?

What is Hypnobirthing?
In an ideal world all pregnant women would feel calm and confident about the prospect of labour and childbirth, and enjoy a positive, comfortable experience, with little or even no pain. Unfortunately, most women believe they must experience terrible pain in childbirth, as well as give themselves over to medical professionals to manage their experience of birthing their baby.  Fortunately, this does not have to be the case.  Women have the choice and the right to have the birth that they want. Hypnobirthing gives expectant parents the confidence to do that, as well as a chance to have a positive, comfortable experience of birth.

Why do we, as a society, have negative and apprehensive feelings about birth?  We are taught to believe that birth is an inevitably painful and unpleasant experience; that it is a medical event that must be endured. Childbirth scenes in films and on television often portray a woman lying on her back, legs usually propped up in stirrups, pushing until her face is purple and screaming in pain.  And worse than such dramatised versions of childbirth are the negative birth stories we hear from our own mothers, relatives and friends, and even from perfect strangers. As a result, some women avoid thinking about labour during their pregnancies. In my case, when reading books that explained pregnancy week-by-week, I avoided the chapters that dealt with labour and birth.  That was until a friend happened to mention hypnobirthing, and I realised there could be a better way.

Women have, of course, been giving birth since the world began. Women’s bodies are designed perfectly to birth their babies naturally. The statistical facts are that the majority of women can and do birth naturally. This is where hypnobirthing classes begin. We discuss the physiological aspects of the birthing body, how the uterine muscles work and what happens during ‘surges’ (the hypnobirthing word for ‘contractions’). All the birthing mother’s muscles work in harmony, and are able to do this most efficiently if she is as relaxed as possible. And a relaxed body is achieved by having a relaxed and confident mind. In hypnobirthing, women are taught a range of techniques to achieve a deep state of relaxation, during pregnancy, labour and birthing. These are hugely beneficial to both mother and baby. The methods taught include specific breathing techniques, visualisations and self-hypnosis. Together these techniques give the body the best possible chance to do as nature intended. Learning about how the birthing body works fills a woman with confidence that she can give birth naturally, and the techniques taught give her the tools to do so. 

The NHS is currently running a trial about hypnobirthing (the SHIP trial), with the aim of demonstrating its effectiveness and how the unnecessary medicalisation of normal births can be avoided. Hypnosis is recognised in the UK by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and has been approved by the British Medical Association (BMA) for over 40 years. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of deeply enhanced mental and physical relaxation. Hypnobirthing is the use of hypnosis to relax in this way during labour.

By learning hypnobirthing methods, mothers-to-be can discover how to manage tensions that are caused by fear, helping to avoid pain and discomfort.  Hypnobirthing prepares both mind and body to work the way nature intended, and even where special medical circumstances might arise, hypnobirthing helps birthing mothers to feel calmer and in more control over decisions about treatment options. In addition, techniques, such as ‘light touch massage’ are taught to birth partners, enabling them to deepen and support the birthing mother’s levels of relaxation, and ensuring that both parents can be more aware, calm, confident and in control, in order to have a more relaxed and enjoyable birthing experience. Hypnobirthing sessions are taught on a one-to-one basis or in small group classes, and have been proven to help parents have a more positive experience of bringing their babies into the world.

© Gina Potts 

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