HypnoBirthing and Me

Tokophobia, or the fear of childbirth, is thought to affect as many as one in five women, according to the NCT. Mark Harris, author of Men, Love & Birth, recently featured on ITV’s This Morning where he explained that traditionally, women affected by Tokophobia would be affected due to a previous traumatic birth experience. However, Primary Tokophobia, that is a fear of childbirth without having had a child, is worryingly on the increase.

There are many possible causes for this. Not only do TV shows and films often portray a negative image of birth, but almost as soon as you announce you are expecting a baby there is no shortage of people wanting to share their own birth experience. And it’s usually not the good ones. I know, I was told these stories.

The effect of fear on the birthing body cannot be underestimated. It triggers the release of adrenalin and this suppresses the body’s ability to produce oxytocin (key to labour) and also endorphins (the body’s own pain relief). In addition to this, these hormones send us into a state of fight, flight or freeze. This means that all of our blood is pumped to the parts of our body required for these responses. The uterus isn’t a part of this system and so it ultimately ceases to function.

I always feared childbirth. I don’t recall a time when I was growing up where the thought of childbirth didn’t terrify me. I’d seen birth portrayed on the tv and in films and it looked extremely difficult, painful and traumatic. I pretty much wrote off ever wanting to have a child.

This is extremely common in our culture. We are surrounded by negative images of childbirth. Rarely do you hear of a "good" birth story.

When I met my partner I knew I wanted to have children with him. Not immediately, but it was a desire that grew over time and I started to dream of us having a family. A life where it wouldn’t always be just the two of us. We discussed adoption, but I had a strong desire to carry our child. To nurture him or her in my womb. To have a child that would be a part of me.

A friend told me about HypnoBirthing and the positive impact it had on the birth of her second child. I was excited. There was a way I could overcome my fear! Just knowing HypnoBirthing existed gave me the confidence to begin trying to conceive!

Once I was pregnant, I still felt scared of giving birth. I feared pain, I feared being in a hospital, I feared medical staff, I feared needles and, most importantly, I feared the unknown. I sought out a HypnoBirthing Practitioner before I was even 12 weeks pregnant. I was so anxious to find someone who could help me prepare for my birthing day.

I was 21 weeks pregnant when I started my HypnoBirthing classes (though there really is no time when it’s too late to start practicing). The first session was all about building a positive expectancy and by the end of that first session, I was beginning to look forward to my birthing day. We had discussed my dreams for birthing, how fear negatively affects childbirth and talked about how we would undo these fears and learn relaxation techniques to help with the birth.

Over the weeks I learned how birthing works. I learned about the different muscles in my body and how they work together during labour and birthing. I learned about the different hormones and how these affect the progress of labour. I don’t recall the moment everything changed as the shift was gradual, but by the end of the course I wasn’t just "ok" about giving birth. I was so excited for my birthing day!

I had learned to believe and trust in my body’s ability to give birth. After all, women are designed for birthing. We wouldn’t all be here if we weren’t!

Each evening I listened to the Rainbow Relaxation CD and some other relaxing music we had selected for birthing. I even had a special set of headphones that stuck to my bump so my baby could listen! I really loved the closeness of listening to it all with my baby and he seemed to enjoy it too. It truly was a special time which was just his and mine.

When my labour started I felt pure joy. I was so excited! The time to meet our baby had arrived! I literally felt like a child on Christmas Eve!

During labour I did not scream, shout or cry. I was calm, in control and felt positive. During each surge I closed my eyes and used the techniques I had learned in my HypnoBirthing classes. I even nodded off whilst sitting on a birthing ball at one point! When our baby had arrived my partner told me it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

My own experience of HypnoBirthing and how it affected my attitude to birthing led me to want to help other families to prepare for their own birthing days (partners have a role too). To help them find that same joy as I had found when I was pregnant. I went on to train as a HypnoBirthing Practitioner with the HypnoBirthing Institute and set-up Born Smiling. I love seeing the change in expectant parents over the time I work with them. I have worked with both first time parents and parents who have previously experienced childbirth.

Andy Birch