Updated: Apr 30, 2020
With the uncertainty that the COVID-19 crisis has foisted upon us, it is hard not to be a little anxious, even for those who are not normally anxious. But for expecting parents, this just adds a whole new unexpected dimension of anxiety. Pregnancy can make new mums and dads anxious at the best of times. For mums, there is the sudden responsibility to care for this new life inside the womb. And with this responsibility, many things change, what you can eat, drink and do. Then there are all the decisions to be made. How to birth, where to birth, home or hospital, public or private. Should you hire a doula or midwife? Then there is the physiological knowledge about birth when a month ago you didn’t even know you had a uterus or cervix, much less what their functions were. On top of all that, there is all the research you should do about things like what interventions might happen, and what those are for. Such a steep learning curve. Not only is there the information about pregnancy & birth, you also need to know something about breastfeeding & caring for a baby. And if none of that has raised your anxiety levels into overwhelm, now we have the corona virus. With this virus there are so many new sources of anxiety & fear. There are rumours about hospitals being inundated by the virus, limitations on who can be at the birth, how the birth can happen & visitors to the hospital. Not to mention the inability to have visitors at your home after the birth which is a time where you really need to be supported. Suddenly home birth, which you had never considered, is looking like a good option, but that also requires lots of research & preparation.
So back to corona virus and birth. All the face to face birth preparation, breastfeeding & parenting classes you had planned to do have been cancelled due to social distancing measures and fears of spreading or catching the virus. What can you do to prepare for your birth? You can read books, which of course is better than nothing, but there is always a huge difference in outcomes between reading books and taking courses. Taking courses usually enables you to not only increase knowledge but you also learn how to apply and integrate the knowledge as well as the learnt techniques in to your conscious and even unconscious mind. Taking courses also allows you to meet other parents who can also be a source of information, support or might ask questions that you hadn’t thought of which can help you in your preparation. There are online courses, but many of them are recorded and not live or interactive and not specifically for the Australian context.
HypnoBirthing (Mongan method) usually only allows instructors to offer face to face interactive classes, but due to the COVID-19 crisis we can now offer interactive live online classes due to the desire and need to support parents who want to prepare for a gentle birth, so the institute has temporarily allowed instructors to offer HypnoBirthing through live interactive online classes.
So how can taking online interactive HypnoBirthing classes help you get prepared for birth during the COVID-19 crisis? I have written another blog on how HypnoBirthing is a great method to use for your gentle birth (read here) but I felt called to write a specific blog on how it can help for pregnancy, birth and beyond birth during the covid-19 pandemic.
HypnoBirthing can help during this crisis in 5 main ways ways.
1. The classes help you and your partner to relax. The main tenet of HypnoBirthing is that relaxation is of utmost importance for a gentle and comfortable birth. HypnoBirthing teaches breathing methods that help decrease the activity in the central nervous system and to keep you calm and relaxed. In every class, the breathing methods are taught and practised and they are practised at home in between classes. So you learn how to train your mind to focus on the present and to relax. When the focus is on breathing, as is proven by the research on mindfulness, we become more present rather than getting sucked up into the anxious uncertainty of what if questions and scenarios that our mind likes to create, especially during these fear-filled times. We also give you visualisations and guided meditations as a way to relax and facilitate the birthing process and to use on a daily basis to keep your stress levels low. This is necessary during birth but it is also necessary in this time of pandemic, with uncertainty causing elevated anxiety levels for everyone.
2. We teach the importance of and techniques for releasing fears, dealing with anxiety and remaining calm. Being fearful only increases tension in the mind and body which then creates pain in the body which also elevates the hormones adrenaline and cortisol (first theorised by Grantly Dick-Read). But what we need to make birth as easy and comfortable as possible are the hormones oxytocin and endorphins. So being calm allows these positive birth hormones to flow, the body to open up and the baby to be born gently. HypnoBirthing works because it helps you to release fears & anxieties about birth. Many women who have taken my HypnoBirthing classes have acknowledged how really learning and integrating HypnoBirthing techniques has allowed them to decrease anxiety, not only during the birth but afterwards as well. If you have a technique to release fear & anxiety in your birth toolkit, it can help increase your well-being in birth, in normal life and during crises such as the one we are in presently.
3. HypnoBirthing classes allow you to experience the power of the mind. The statements “where attention goes is where energy flows” or “what you resist, persists” really illustrate this power. So for example, if you choose to do something, not for the virtues of that action, but because you are afraid of the opposite happening, the opposite situation may be what ends up happening because that is where your attention is actually going. Or you end up getting sick because of your constant stress and worry about this opposite situation which tends to deplete your immune system, which is also the opposite of what you wanted. So in HypnoBirthing we emphasise the importance of not engaging with or listening to negative stories (usually about birth but in this current fearful environment about anything negative) but focussing on what you actually desire. We also teach you how to reframe negative thoughts with positive affirmations. For example, rather than thinking this surge or contraction is so painful that I feel like I can’t go on, we teach you to reframe this thought by understanding that the intensity of the surge is the very thing that is needed to birth your baby and actually welcoming the intensity of the surge as this means that the birth of your baby is so much closer. And welcoming it rather than resisting it creates a much more positive experience in so many ways. We also teach you about the need for more positive vocabulary and how just changing a few words can change perceptions and experiences. And again this is important not only during birthing but in the current pandemic as well.
4. In HypnoBirthing classes, you learn to prepare for the birth that you want but then to release your attachment to this. This is very important because birth, like life, is uncontrollable. Having a well mapped out and thought out intention but then letting go of any attachment to this is instrumental in having a positive birth experience. The focus is on the process not on the outcome, in preparing and all the positive bonding & experiences that that creates. Sometimes an outcome is something that you become to need rather than just want, and because of that need, not getting the outcome you want is a recipe for discontent. Letting go of the outcome means not fearing that we won't get that outcome. It means being content in knowing we prepared in the best way we could, despite the outcome. You may get the exact birth you want, or you may have some interventions caused by circumstances beyond your control. Learning to let go of the outcome is extremely crucial to your own well-being. But you do need to have an intention. Not having an intention or not preparing in the first place is like jumping in a car with no driving experience or training and assuming that you and other drivers will be completely safe. You need to prepare well and you need to consider interventions that may or may not be offered or needed during the birth. You need to read about these and figure out your own priorities. You need to train yourself & your partner to feel confident and positive about questioning the caregiver about the necessity of these interventions. You also need to utilise all the techniques taught in the classes- relaxations, meditations, breathing & affirmations and integrate these into your daily life for them to become second nature during the birth. But guess what the side benefit from all this practise is? Not only are you prepared for a gentle birth but your mind goes through significant shifts if you are willing to seriously practise. Your outlook often becomes more positive, you might become less stressed and anxious and you might become more present & mindful. And you may also be able to manifest other positive things that you want in your life. Not a terrible side effect, is it? And during this pandemic, if you are going to give birth, those qualities will be extremely helpful for you.
5. HypnoBirthing is empowering. Women learn to trust their intuition and their bodies and follow the lead of their body and baby. Partners learn how to support their partners in the process of birth and to have the confidence and calmness to advocate in the birthing room. In order to have a more gentle & comfortable birth, we need to let go and learn to trust our body. In our modern world, we have been taught that the mind is separate from the body, but this just isn’t true. The two work together and in fact the mind usually leads the body. The mind determines the thought or belief and the body follows with action, which is why we need to fill our mind with positive beliefs and positive vocabulary. And then after the birth, when you see that you could give birth in the way that you wanted, you might feel as though you can do anything. Or even if your birth follows a path different to what you wanted, you will feel empowered as you and your partner were involved, calm and active in the decision making process and you accept the situation that perhaps your baby needed a different entrance into the world then the one you had envisaged. This understanding of being able to choose your perceptions can also help increase your wellbeing during this pandemic and in life itself. Accepting the situation for what it is, not resisting it or fighting against it, helps to lessen your suffering, especially when you know that you have done all you can.
HypnoBirthing is a great way to prepare for a gentle, mindful birth but it will also give you transferable skills that will help you negotiate your way through stressful and anxiety causing situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic that we are currently in.
The next HypnoBirthing class will start on 7th May and finish 4th June. The classes may be held online with interactive live classes, but if the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted the classes will be face to face at MAMA, 38 Gatehouse drive, Kensington VIC 3031. To read more about Jo click here or to book a spot on this course email Jo at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0457 698480 or book here