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Anna Williamson and her husband give it a go...

‘Babe, I’ve signed us up for a hypnobirthing course’.

My husband looked at me with utter bewilderment and skepticism. Hmm, I was going to have to convince him of this one.

As a life coach and Master NLP practitioner I’m well versed and practiced in the art of hypnosis, and am a big fan of its relaxation-inducing techniques. So, having heard about this hypnobirthing lark from friends who’d tried it, I was more than keen to try it in preparation for the birth of my first baby.

But even I had my misgivings. We imagined a room full of couples wafting joss sticks and referring to their stages of pregnancy as ‘we’. You know the kind. ‘We are pregnant,’, ‘we are giving birth at home,’ etc.

I was also wondering how breathing, visualisations and ‘humming your baby down’ can help with giving birth. And can labour really be ‘enjoyable’?

But though I may be okay with all things hypnosis, I am however, completely clueless at how to give birth, and quite frankly, as an anxiety sufferer, having all the tools I can get under my belt to ensure the whole process is as successful as possible is a no-brainer.

So, with my interest piqued and a begrudging husband in tow, we made our way to our first three-hour session to the house of Louise, a midwife and hypnobirthing teacher with the brilliantly-named Wise Hippo company in St Albans.

First impressions are always key, and any misgivings we may have had of earth mothers and fathers were instantly put at ease. In fact, they were down-to-earth mothers and fathers instead. And they were all as normal and clueless as we were.

It’s always a bit daunting talking about your innermost thoughts but, after an ice-breaking tea and biscuit, we were encouraged to write down five things/feelings/thoughts/words we associate with ‘birth’. It struck me that, 30 weeks into my pregnancy, I’d never actually bothered to ask my husband how he was feeling and, as a result, I had no idea. Words such as ‘love’, ‘pain’, ‘control’ and ‘helpless’ came flooding out from us. It was eye-opening.

Hypnobirthing is all about relaxing and going with the flow during labour and birth so a big part of the course was learning breathing techniques to help keep calm, relaxed and in control of your body and the birthing experience. Another element is creating relaxing and empowering ‘visualisations’ to help transport you to a ‘safe place’ during labour.

The words ‘contraction’ and ‘pain’ are dirty words in hypnobirthing, instead these are referred to as ‘surges’ and ‘waves’. Much less scary. I was surprised at how just changing these simple words we associate with childbirth could be so effective to changing my attitude.  In fact, I flinch now when someone says the word ‘contraction’ and quickly correct the offending term. Yes, I am now that woman.

Over the five-session course, we practiced breathing and visualisation techniques, massage and birthing positions. We talked and alleviated any fears surrounding the concept and practicalities of birth – and the birth partners got to have a voice too, which my husband loved. We watched several videos of fellow ‘hypnobirthers’ who really did seem to breeze through the whole experience.

Oh and we also learnt the art of a ‘perineum massage’ and ‘humming out a poo’.

It’s all part of it.

But does hypnobirthing work? And will it work for us? Who knows! We’re realistic enough to know that there’s still a chance the birth plan could go massively off piste.

But it’s helped us already. We have talked, we have listened. We know how to massage the perineum, and we both love the series of MP3s we got as part of the course; visualisations which promote positivity and relaxation before and during birth. Without our daily dose of ‘Relax with Nature’ and ‘Cove of Confidence’, we’d actually be lost.

See, even cynics can like hypnobirthing too.