Giving birth is one of those moments in life when you wish you had a remote control with a fast-forward button you could press to pass through the painful bit, and then pause the scene when you’re holding your baby for the first time.
Hypnobirthing is possibly the closest we can get to this, because it takes away some of the fear of pain associated with childbirth and puts you in a relaxed frame of mind.
Simone Burke, 35, is an Australian who leads a hypnobirthing course for pregnant mums and their partners at Bodytree Studio in Abu Dhabi, over four two-and-a-half hour sessions.
“Hypnosis,” says Burke, “is a state we’re all in twice a day, right before we fall asleep and before we wake up. We need to recreate a similar quiet space in a hospital so our bodies feel comfortable, and practising relaxation exercises twice a day can help attain that state of mind.
“In the ‘upstage’ of labour, during contractions, visualise images such as the sun going higher over the horizon, or a brightly coloured hot-air balloon rising into the sky. In the downstage, think of ripples on a pond.”
The whole package
Besides relaxation techniques, the course provides information on the medical process of birthing, allowing parents to make informed choices about medication or methods of intervention during labour, and the risks, side effects and benefits. Parents are also encouraged to analyse what their greatest fears are and there is a talk on breastfeeding. And also those whose extended families are not here to help, it offers the opportunity to form new support networks with other soon-to-be parents.
Involving the fathers
Burke says she was first inspired to try hypnobirthing by her sister-in law: “She was in such a calm state of hypnosis during labour that her husband panicked and thought she’d fallen asleep.”
But the best thing about Burke’s own hypnobirthing experience, she says, was her husband’s presence. “Having the father there is such an important part of birthing. Mothers usually are not in a condition to be discussing medical terms and that’s where the father can really step up and take on that role. And, on the course, the men are the ones loving it because their wives are so calm and happy.”
The five husbands who attended one of the courses say they were initially dragged there by their wives. Matthew Dalby, 32, a British engineer who attended a course in October, was invited along to the next one to offer them his perspective of the experience.
“As a man, I was reserved on the course at first,” says Dalby. “I didn’t think I needed to be that prepared. The course turned out to be really helpful, it taught us options we wouldn’t have otherwise known we had.”
Fear no more
One of the expectant mothers on the course was Alice Carthy, 38, who at the time was 23 weeks pregnant with twins. She turned to hypnobirthing to alleviate her fears about going through the birth without her family there to support her.
“I don’t feel as scared anymore,” said Carthy. “In yesterday’s session, a doula gave us breastfeeding advice. It reassures me to know I can call her up if I’m experiencing problems later.”
Tips for expecting parents: don’t listen to other people’s negative birth stories. Also, do not watch reality TV shows about childbirth, she says. “That’s just Hollywood drama – finding the worst-case scenarios to get ratings,” says Burke, pointing out that only 10 per cent of women need medical help during delivery.
• The next hypnobirthing course at Bodytree Studio is on Friday and Saturday, and then December 19-20. From 9.30am to 12pm. For more information, visit www.bodytreestudio.com