Like many mums-to-be, Jess was anxious about her upcoming labour. Here she shares the tools and techniques she used to keep her calm and drug-free during the birth of her baby girl...
When I confirmed I was pregnant one of the first questions I googled was how much is labour going to hurt? I knew it was a bad idea, but I did it anyway.
Antenatal classes help prepare you to some degree, but there are plenty of other things you can do to get ready for the big day. I had read that labour can take hours so I started getting my ‘toolkit’ of coping strategies together.
I had read that natal hypnotherapy techniques can lead to less medical intervention and a better birth experience. Maggie Howell’s book ‘Effective Birth Preparation – a practical guide to a better birth’ (with accompanying CD) was filled with relaxation techniques and tips on how to remain calm.
The overriding message was that a woman’s body is designed to give birth, and promoting a positive mental attitude helps pregnant women overcome that fear of the unknown.
If all that sounds a bit hippy, don’t worry. The breathing techniques are designed to promote a sense of calm, and you are not actually being hypnotized - there is no Paul McKenna-style work here.
I started to listen to the CD in my final month of pregnancy and found the relaxation part great. I found I kept falling asleep before the end of the CD so it certainly helped de-stress, and the messages to slow your breathing seemed to be getting through.
I wasn’t expecting to get through the whole birth on fresh air, so I hired a TENS machine to help with the contractions. The TENS machine transmits small (harmless) electrical pulses through your skin.
The pulses are designed to stimulate the release of endorphins so your body can cope with the pain using its own hormones. These pulses also stimulate the nerves in your spine so the pain signals are blocked before they reach your brain.
The TENS was very simple to use. It came with a boost button, so when a contraction came on I could press the boost and then press it again when the contraction subsided.
Because the TENS was so effective I felt happy to stay at home for much of my labour and only went into hospital at 6am after using the TENS overnight. I was amazed that I had used the TENS for seven hours because it honestly felt much shorter.
The midwives were surprised at how calm I was and there was only just time to run the birthing pool.
Obviously because it relies on electrical pulses the TENS can’t be used in water and at first I was worried about switching it off in case things started to hurt, but the soothing effects of the pool really helped and my relaxation techniques kicked in.
My baby was born after just an hour and a half in the water. I felt relaxed even in the final stages and it really helped me to remember the breathing techniques from the hypnotherapy.
I feel very lucky to have had such an amazing birth experience. I would say natal hypnotherapy is definitely worth a go and using a TENS machine meant I stayed at home for much of my labour in a familiar environment.
My new bubba seems to be a calm and contented baby so far and I like to ‘smugly’ think it had something to do with her positive, peaceful entrance to the world!