Exclusive interview with hypnobirthing guru Miriam Greaves
When I first heard about hypnobirthing, I was sceptical, to say the least. With only a passing knowledge of the subject, at first glance it appeared to be a bit ‘wishy-washy’, somewhat ‘hippyish’ and, dare I say it, kind of unbelievable.
After hearing countless horror stories from new parent friends and watching more episodes of ‘One Born Every Minute’ than I’d care to admit, the concept of a calm, serene and pain free labour seemed too good to be true.
Nevertheless, during our pregnancy, it became abundantly clear that more and more couples today are turning to hypnobirthing when planning their labour. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s official; hypnobirthing has gone mainstream.
So to see what all the fuss was about, we bought The Hypnobirthing Book by Katharine Graves. And to my surprise, just a few pages in, we were hooked. Despite my initial scepticism, it all made complete sense and spoke to us directly as first time parents.
As readers of the blog will know, we actually only made it half way through said book before our baby (rudely) arrived a month earlier than planned. But I can categorically say that the hypnobirthing techniques we learnt before the birth were instrumental in the positive, calm, medication-free labour that we ultimately enjoyed.
To tell us more about the wonders of hypnobirthing and the significant benefits it offers to pregnant couples, I’ve been speaking with Miriam Greaves, a Hypnobirthing Practitioner and mum of two (Aniela, 22 months, and Thomas, just 13 weeks) based in Surrey.
Through her Hypnobirthing business, she works with parents to build their confidence and give them the tools to not only make a difference to their experience of birth but to give their baby the best possible start in life. As well as her hypnobirthing work, Miriam is the Regional Coordinator for The Positive Birth Movement in the South East of England – a free to attend support group connecting mothers and pregnant women to share stories, expertise and positivity about childbirth and parenting.
Keep reading for my full and honest interview with Miriam – enjoy!
First off, congratulations on the safe arrival of your new baby boy! Does it feel any different second time around?
Thank you! Yes, it’s completely different. When my daughter was born 21 months ago, I spent long glorious days just sitting on the sofa staring at her for hours, soaking her up and easing myself into motherhood.
This time round, from the moment I arrived home from the hospital with my baby boy, I haven’t stopped for a minute! Not that I’m complaining…far from it! Being a mother to two is wonderful. However, the pace of life is a whole new ball game. I now have to be very aware of how much time and attention I’m giving to both of them.
I’ve still had to learn (or re-learn) things but I’m a lot more relaxed about everything. I know now how quickly those first few weeks and months disappear. So I just try and enjoy every minute and not stress about the things that ultimately I can’t control.
So everyone is talking about hypnobirthing these days, but what exactly is it?
Hypnobirthing is an antenatal programme designed to release fear, build confidence during birth and provide you and your birth partner with the knowledge and tools you need for an easier, more comfortable positive birth experience.
Nature designed women’s bodies to give birth efficiently and comfortably. The problem is, women’s minds are loaded with fear and negative pre-conceptions of childbirth which can prevent this system from working properly when women go into labour.
Fear releases the hormone called adrenaline, which slows, and can ultimately halt, the progress of birth. When we are able to release fear and tension, our bodies produce endorphins – the ‘feel good’ hormones. These hormones inhibit the production of adrenaline and stress hormones, thus allowing a mother to achieve a shorter and more comfortable birth for herself and her baby.
Hypnobirthing parents learn how to achieve this state through breathing and relaxation techniques, which enables the mother to work in harmony with her body and her baby. The course gives women and their partners practical skills to assist, not only in childbirth, but throughout pregnancy and post-birth. It empowers them to feel prepared and confident about the birth and to build a close bond with their unborn child.
Does hypnobirthing have anything to do with hypnotism?
Many people think that hypnobirthing means you will be “hypnotised” and, therefore, in a trance or asleep. But this couldn’t be further from the truth!
A woman is at her most alert when she is in labour. A hypnobirthing mother is completely in control, able to chat and be aware of her surroundings. She will experience birth in a calm and relaxing atmosphere, no matter what journey her birth may take, safe in the knowledge that your birthing body is designed perfectly and knows what to do.
I’ve had people ask me, “Relaxation and meditation have been around for thousands of years so why is hypnobirthing any different?” Hypnobirthing is more than just learning relaxation and breathing techniques. It is about releasing fear and creating a positive mind-set. It’s about the birth partner and giving couples knowledge. And most importantly, it’s about practice, practice, practice!
How is hypnobirthing different from other birth preparation classes and practises that are popular today?
I can’t speak for all birth preparation classes but I would say that the fantastic thing about hypnobirthing, particularly the KG Hypnobirthing method I teach, is not only the emphasis on the power of the mind and learning how to work with and trust your mind and body, but also the emphasis on the role of the birth partner. Many couples come to hypnobirthing after experiencing a difficult first birth, saying that their birth partner felt “useless”, “disempowered” or “a bit like a spare part”.
Hypnobirthing places much importance on the role of the birth partner. So the course looks at how the birth partner can protect the woman’s space, be present and use a variety of different tools and knowledge to support the mother. That’s not to say that a woman without a birth partner can’t do hypnobirthing. I’ve taught many women who have chosen not to have someone present at the birth, apart from their midwife, and hypnobirthing can work just as well for them too.
With the KG Hypnobirthing method, it is also important to prepare women and their partners for the possibility of birth taking a different journey to the one they had hoped for. If couples have information and knowledge, then they can make informed decisions in a calm and confident manner, if and when the time arises. As a result, birth can be a positive experience, no matter how their baby comes into the world.
So what role do dads actually play in hypnobirthing?
I’ll let me husband answer this one….
“I thought hypnobirthing was just another fad that Miriam had found out about on the internet…and yet another expense for us to fork out before the birth of our daughter! However, after the first session, I was hooked. It just made complete sense!
I played a central part in both my children’s births, something I thought could never be possible. We practiced every evening which meant the bond between Miriam and I grew stronger and helped me to connect with our babies. I was able to keep Miriam calm, focused and relaxed throughout labour, as well as the emergency caesarean and, as a result, I felt empowered and emotionally connected to both Miriam and our babies.”
How is hypnobirthing beneficial to your baby?
Hypnobirthing enables a mother to have a calm and gentle birth for herself, which in turn means a calm and gentle birth for her baby. A baby who enters the world alert, to be greeted by a mother who is also alert, loving and confident, starts life and forms its first relationship in the world in the best possible way.
A relaxed and happy mother produces endorphins that pass through to her baby, rather than stress hormones. Hypnobirthing babies are reported to be more calm and often feed better and put on weight quicker. They frequently sleep through the night earlier and are more settled….I wish I could guarantee this but I can’t! However, it was certainly the case for my children.
I hear that positive thinking is a hugely important part of hypnobirthing. What did you do during your pregnancy to ensure you stayed positive throughout?
The first thing I advise any pregnant woman to do, is avoid negative birth stories. They are more damaging than you realise. That’s one of the reasons I set up The Positive Birth Movement in my area. It’s a peer-to-peer support group for women wanting to hear positive birth stories and fill their minds with positivity and excitement about birth and parenthood.
Positive birth affirmations are also incredibly powerful for boosting your birthing confidence. I asked my close friends and family to each write a birth affirmation for me which I then put up in my home (and took to hospital) so that each time I saw one, I would feel supported and positive.
With hypnobirthing, language and the power of words is key. You may have heard a hypnobirthing mother using the word “surge” rather than “contraction”? “Surge” is a much softer sound, it doesn’t conjure up images of pain and it is also more reflective of what is actually happening to your body during a contraction. We use different words like this to help the mother’s body and mind to relax, rather than tense.
I also focused on the birth I wanted, rather than focussing on the things that could go wrong. An athlete doesn’t stand on the starting line about to run a race, imagining herself finishing last or injuring herself half way. She will focus on how she wants to run the race and crossing that finishing line first.
With hypnobirthing, we use the same technique – call it the sports psychology for birth! With my daughter, I remember focussing on a drug-free, calm birth, lasting no more than 2 hours and happening in water…and I wasn’t far off!
For interested couples, when is the best time during pregnancy to start preparing for a hypnobirth?
I recommend that couples or individuals attend the course anytime from their 20th week of pregnancy. The earlier you start, the longer you have to practice the all-important techniques of hypnobirthing. If you are more than 36 weeks pregnant and don’t have time to attend the full course, then I offer weekend group courses, as well as one-to-one intensive courses.
It’s never too late to learn hypnobirthing. I have taught women at 39 weeks and they have gone on to have beautiful births. I also offer an ‘Introduction to Hypnobirthing’ course which is one and a half hours long – for those that may need a refresher or want to know a little bit more before committing to the full course.
As well as the hypnobirthing courses, I do relaxation classes for pregnant women who simply want an hour of relaxation and time to put into practice their hypnobirthing techniques.
What drove you to start working as a Hypnotherapy practitioner?
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I had only ever heard negative birth stories and so my confidence in my ability to give birth was rock bottom, to say the least! I turned to the internet during those first few weeks of pregnancy and my idea of what labour would be like was only confirmed by all the videos, blogs and images I was confronted by. It was pretty terrifying.
However, after completing a local hypnobirthing course and practising every day, the birth of my daughter was calm, serene and drug-free. I spent most of my labour at home and only went to the hospital when I was 6-7cm dilated. She was born less than two hours later in the birth pool.
I left the hospital a few hours later and was back in my own bed enjoying the first moments of motherhood in the comfort of my own home – magical.
The birth was THE most empowering experience of my life. So much so that I quit my job working in theatre in the West End and qualified as a hypnobirthing practitioner. I became incredibly passionate about the power of the female and the right every woman has to have a positive birth experience.
And how was the recent birth of your son? What part did hypnobirthing play second time around?
With my son, it was a very different experience. I had planned to have a home birth and practiced hypnobirthing for months. On the day he was born, I was at a ‘Sing and Sign’ class with my daughter when I noticed that I had started bleeding heavily.
I was rushed to hospital and within a couple of hours I was wheeled into theatre for an emergency caesarean. I had started to haemorrhage and my placenta had started to come away from the uterine wall (placenta abruption) which meant my son’s oxygen was compromised and therefore, there was a risk of brain damage or worse.
Of course, not having the home birth I had set my heart on was very disappointing, if not heart breaking, but that evening, as I reflected on the birth, I realised that I could draw many positives from it….and that was all down to Hypnobirthing.
Not only did I use the hypnobirthing tools to relax and remain calm when I was having my waters broken, multiple tests, examinations and injections, but, with hypnobirthing, I knew how to remain in control, ask the right questions and ensure I was making informed decisions. At no point did I go ahead with a procedure without asking for the benefits AND risks AND alternatives, taking a moment to discuss these with my husband and then make a rational decision rather than an emotional one.
I felt respected, listened to and in control. This can make for a positive birth experience no matter what journey your birth may take. I would say that I used hypnobirthing more with my son’s birth than I did with my daughter and for very different reasons.
I also feel privileged that, as a hypnobirthing practitioner, I have experienced both the drug-free water birth as well as an emergency caesarean – I used hypnobirthing for both and my experiences have only cemented my belief in the power of what I teach.
For more information about Miriam and the hypnobirthing courses she offers, you can find full details and loads of other great content, blogs and videos on her website here! And make sure you check out her social channels too via the following links:
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blog! As always, we’d love to hear from you, so if you tried hypnobirthing yourself or are considering a hypno-birth for your upcoming labour, please do share your thoughts and questions with the group via the comments section below.
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