Helen went into labour spontaneously, she dilated to 7cm and then needed some medical intervention to birth her baby safely. Her account is a reminder that hypnobirthing can help couples to approach the challenges that may arise during pregnancy, labour and birth with calm confidence. Here is her story..
My husband Steven and I did a hypnobirthing course with Bumps ‘n’ Babies, and even before I gave birth I found what we’d learned to be extremely useful. At our 20-week scan we were told our baby had abnormally short femurs, which can be a marker for several conditions or the result of a dysfunctional placenta. I was therefore consultant-led for the rest of the pregnancy, had regular scans, and had to give birth in the central delivery suite with continuous monitoring rather than the midwife-led unit I would have preferred. I found the affirmations and positive visualisation taught by hypnobirthing to be extremely helpful when things got stressful and I was worrying about our baby’s future.
I started feeling surges early on a Tuesday morning at 39+5. Reassuring my husband that I’d call him back from work if I needed him, I spent a lovely day in the latent phase of labour watching films, crocheting and bouncing on my exercise ball, as well as periodically doing the rainbow relaxation to get some rest. By the time my husband returned from work, the surges were getting stronger, and after dinner and a bath, I was ready to go to hospital around 9pm, again using the rainbow relaxation during the car journey to help me stay in the zone.
I had rung ahead to St Michael’s and asked if I could have Room A, which has a birthing pool, and was lucky enough that this was free when we arrived. My husband set up the room with candles and music, making a calm, relaxing space. I was also lucky to have wireless telemetry for the monitoring so it enabled me to keep moving as I needed to.
Using hypnobirthing breathing, positive visualisations and affirmations, plus the pool and my TENS machine, I got to 6cm, then 7cm with additional gas and air. Things got a bit more dramatic after that as I only dilated 1cm in two hours, and the midwives were concerned about the baby’s heart rate. I was also starting to push which was inflaming my cervix. I was advised to have a small dose of syntocin to speed labour up, and an epidural to cope with the stronger contractions. While this wasn’t how I wanted labour to progress, thanks to hypnobirthing techniques I still felt in control, and able to fully think through my options and make an informed choice.
After the epidural and syntocin I got to fully dilated, but we discovered that the baby had rotated to the OP position and couldn’t be turned – he kept spinning back and I couldn’t breathe him out despite my best efforts. By this stage I was hooked up to a conventional monitoring machine, and due to the wire on his head we could see that he was coming down the birth canal but then being jerked back up again. So with further concerns about his heart rate, the obstetrician advised a forceps delivery.
I was prepped for the operating theatre, as if the forceps didn’t work then I was told it would move quickly to a caesarian due to the baby’s heart rate issues. This was something I really wanted to avoid, so as I was wheeled to the operating theatre I had a chat with the baby, told him that we were a team and that we needed to work together to get him out! Although I couldn’t feel the surges due to the epidural, I continued with J breathes and visualised each intake of breath as a golden cloud, and as I breathed out I saw it as a column of stars pushing the baby into the world.
Daniel was born safe and well at 10.13am. We could see he’d tied a knot in his cord and had it looped around his neck, which explained the heart rate issues and failure to turn. Everything post birth went well, and after a night at the hospital we were allowed to go home and start our new life as a family of three.
While I didn’t end up with the natural birth I would have preferred, my experience was still hugely positive, and I know that this is down to hypnobirthing. Despite things escalating, hypnobirthing techniques really kept me in a stress-free and relaxed frame of mind. Lots of the midwives commented on how calm the room felt with the music and candles, and I felt that people respected the atmosphere we were trying to maintain, even when things became more urgent. Steven said he couldn’t believe how relaxed I still was as I was taken to the operating theatre — although I can’t remember it very clearly, he said I was cracking jokes!
Hypnobirthing was also a fantastic experience for Steven. Although initially sceptical of the technique, after just week one of the course he was really enjoying it, and by the end he too felt empowered and knowledgeable about the birthing process. He was a fabulous birth partner, and the rainbow relaxation even helped him get some rest during the long night of labour!
I feel that my experience demonstrates that even with a more medicalised birth in a clinical setting, whether planned or unplanned, hypnobirthing is an incredibly valuable tool. You can use the techniques alongside medical forms of pain relief, and it can transform a potentially scary and stressful experience into something positive, beautiful and empowering. I cannot recommend it enough.