When Policy Closes a Door, Hypnobirthing Opens a Window
Picture hypnobirthing - bring it to life. What do you see and hear?
I'd take a guess at a mother at home, in dim light, quietly birthing in water, catching her own baby and doing it all with a serene smile. After all, she's in perfect health, and this scenario has come easily to her, right?
Whilst preconceptions of hypnobirthing are moving away from joss sticks being wafted about by our vaginas whilst chanting 'open like a flower', I think it's fair to say there's still a strong sense out there that it's for a certain sort of woman, having a certain sort of birth.
NOT SO. Of course a low risk pregnancy with an optimally healthy mother and baby is a dream scenario, and is beautifully supported by hypnobirthing. These mamas are blessed that they usually needn't face confrontation about their plans for a birth without intervention, in biologically ideal conditions (that dark, quiet home birth you were thinking of). But because they are often well supported in their choices, they're actually missing out on some of the key benefits of hypnobirthing that women with risk factors like gestational diabetes can utilise brilliantly.
It is when the doors begin to close for us that hypnobirthing opens a window. Here's how:
1. Hypnobirthing teaches us that we have choices
It's kind of shocking that it takes private antenatal education to deliver this message, but it's a secret that's often kept by the language of our NHS Care. "We will let you go to 'x' days before you're induced." "As you higher risk with gestational diabetes you won't be able to have a home birth." Sound familiar?
We are faced with a maternity care system that generally promotes a one-size-fits-all approach, (and are luckily blessed with some wonderful individual midwives and health care professionals committed to facilitating women's informed choices).
NEWSFLASH! The bottom line is that you're quite within your rights to continue your pregnancy as long as you like, and to birth at home regardless of any risk factor.
No mother in her right mind would put her baby at risk, but these are your choices to make.
A hypnobirthing teacher would point you towards the evidence to help you to make up your mind, and a good one will also be connected to local goings on, able then to share with you some context, the reality behind the policy. But how can you tackle these hugely significant decisions?
2. Hypnobirthing teaches us to use our B.R.A.I.Ns
BRAINs is a simple approach to drawing out the info we need from our caregivers:
Benefits - of a proposed course of action - these are the things you are likely to be told spontaneously.
Risks - surprisingly overlooked, particularly in the earlier stages of discussion when we are forming our opinions about what's safe and for the best. It's good to understand absolute risk, i.e. 1 in x, rather than "the risk to your baby doubles". That's powerful language, but your chances of winning the lottery double if you buy 2 lines - do you really feel like that changes your likelihood of winning?
Alternatives - rarely do we have only one option available to us - do this right now or it all goes downhill from here. But unless you specifically ask, you may not learn about them.
Instincts - of course it would be foolish to ignore the information and go solely on a gut feeling, but it's a good idea to thrown your instincts into the mix of your decision making - how do you feel about this? Can you live with these choices?
Nothing - what happens if we do nothing? Keeps our options open. Do nothing for 15 minutes, an hour, a day, a week? Depending on the situation, this could be something to explore.
Other good questions might be - what about my specific circumstances makes you think this is the best decision for me and my baby? What do NICE guidelines say about this? Or WHO? Where can I find the evidence?
But you're freaking out about challenging your care providers, right? It's all well and good reading this and thinking, "Yeah, that's what I'll do", but when you sit in front of someone in a white coat with the might of their experience and the all powerful 'policy' on their side, how will you feel about advocating for yourself and your baby?
3. Hypnobirthing can build confidence
Building confidence is a key component of the approach. Confidence in your ability to achieve the best possible birth for you and your baby, in your particular circumstances. This is not just about believing in your body's abilities, it's about believing in your capacity, as a mother, to stand up for what is right for you and your unborn child.
The Calm Birth School has a fantastic mp3 specifically for this sort of mind prep, The Powerball, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of a boost.
In life, we are assertive, independent, competent women. In pregnancy, particularly towards the end, our hormones are shifting, telling us to avoid confrontation in an attempt to keep our babies safe. Evidence suggests that when a female feels threatened by hostility, her tactics are to befriend and comply, in order to avoid danger. Plus we are generally quite the polite bunch, concerned with coming off as difficult/awkward/know it all etc. That's all well and good, but our caregivers will most likely forget us next week, and we must live with these outcomes FOREVER.
Hypnobirthing shows us our own strength, empowering us to take control of what we can and release what we can't.
4. Getting back to that dream hypnobirth
So much of it can still be yours, even if you end up happy to agree to some intervention. You can benefit from deep relaxation, calming breathing styles, soothing massage, and other coping techniques you'd be taught, throughout your pregnancy, and on you baby's birthday, in ANY scenario.
Any birth is best served by the mother creating a suitable internal environment. We are seeking high oxytocin - the hormone of calmness and love, that gets the uterus going in labour. Low adrenaline for the most part - that brilliant 'flight or fight' survival response is inappropriate for labour, our bodies not keen to release our babies into a perceived dangerous situation.
So educate yourself about how your body works in labour, and that ultimately, birth is normal process.
Prepare your partner to bring the love. Another big plus of hypnobirthing - often the mothers have dragged/bribed/threatened them along, but the birth partners leave a course transformed. Firmly on board, and with absolute clarity about their role, they are able to relish the opportunity to support and protect the mother rather than dreading being a useless, emasculated mess serving only as a punchbag in labour. Hypnobirthing makes labour a team game.
So I'll remind you, if it feels like the doors are closing around you, look for the windows. They are opened by calmness, confidence, coping tools and informed choice. Hypnobirthing offers you the lot.
Guest post written by Keri Jarvis.
Further support and information
Gestational Diabetes home or water births - this page contains lots of information and research links specifically relevant to gestational diabetes pregnancy and birth
Gestational Diabetes induction - this page contains lots of information and research links specifically relevant to gestational diabetes pregnancy and birth with regards to induction of labour
AIMS - Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services
Which? Birth choice site - use this site to help you identify maternity and birth services at local hospitals to you