FOR many women, the words “giving birth” and “relaxing” hardly go hand in hand, but a Canberra woman believes the two can be synonymous thanks to a unique birthing practice.
Mother of two, Jamie Hocking, has recently launched a hypnobirthing program in Macgregor, where mums-to-be can learn relaxation techniques including visualisations, affirmations and deep breathing for each stage of labour – all of which aim to recondition the mind not to view birth as a “scary, excruciating” process.
Hypnobirthing practitioners believe by training clients to calm their body and mind to a state of self-hypnosis, it will reduce pain and discomfort during birth.
Jamie says she discovered hypnobirthing while pregnant with her first daughter, Josie, in the US.
“Everybody I knew was telling me horror stories about birth and I was just terrified,” Jamie says.
“When I started reading birthing books I found a paragraph about hypnotherapy and thought it could work because I really wanted to have a natural birth.
“During my birth at the hospital I didn’t take any drugs – the nurses thought I had been given an epidural, but it was really the techniques I had learnt. It was really a pain-free birth because I was releasing endorphins, which can be more powerful than morphine. It was intense at times, but nothing I found as unbearable in any way.”
Jamie says she was “so empowered” by the experience she decided to complete a hypnobirthing training course and launched the program in December after moving to Canberra. So far she has trained one family in a standard 12-hour course costing $550.
A relatively controversial treatment, hypnobirthing was founded in 1989 by New Hampshire hypnotherapist Marie Mongan.
The practice was made world-famous in June when the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton was reportedly considering the technique for the birth of her first child.
Jamie says hypnobirthing has its share of sceptics, but it’s all about “trusting your body”.
“You have to have an open mind to do this, certainly,” she says.
“People think it’s the TV and Hollywood version of hypnosis but really it’s just a state of relaxed concentration and focus. Think about when you’re at work and you look at the clock and two hours have suddenly gone by because you’re so focused and concentrating on what you’re doing, it only felt like five minutes – that’s a state of hypnosis.”
Studies on the subject reveal mixed results; a 2004 research review found insufficient evidence to show that the technique is effective, while a 2012 study by “The Australian Journal of Holistic Nursing” found that, compared to general population figures, hypnosis and self-hypnosis during childbirth leads to decreased average length of labour, lower caesarean section rates, decreased use of pain relief medication such as gas and epidurals and increased ease and comfort of labour and birth.
President of the ACT branch of the Australian College of Midwives, Rebekah Bowman, says hypnobirthing is becoming increasingly popular with the women she works with.
“From a midwife’s point of view, anything that will help women have a positive attitude towards birth, or will improve outcomes for birth for the postnatal period and also for the experience the women take away from the birth, is great – it’s about looking at birth positively,” she says.
“It’s also about reducing fear – when adrenaline is present the body’s built-in endorphins can’t do their work. Women labour faster when they’re not fearful.”
More information on group courses at mindful-pregnancy.com