How does smell play such an important role in bonding with your baby?

 The Unique Connection between mother and child - does it exist? 

Photo source: Pandora - Unique Connection

Photo source: Pandora – Unique Connection

I loved watching the video which has gone viral on social media. It has everyone talking about how clever the children are to find their mums, and it got me thinking about how so many couples don’t understand the importance of that skin-on-skin bonding that occurs immediately after birth, but not only that, the pre-bonding that is being created during pregnancy that brings that beautiful connection to mother, father and baby (and of course siblings as well).

Here is the video showing children being blindfolded and asked to find their mother in a line-up of women.  All the children were able to locate their mother through touch, smell and I believe their unique energy.

The Unique Connection – video created by Pandora

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRoqk_z2Lgg

Today, evidence has shown the importance of smell in the bonding process of newborn mothers and babies.

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

One thing that has come to light recently is this whole new procedure of putting hats on newborn babies.  It was thought that it was better to hat babies so they didn’t lose heat through their head, but now it is evident that mothers keep their babies warm and regulate their temperature through that skin-on-skin contact and by not having a hat on baby this allows mums to smell their babies from head to toe taking in their babies pheromones more easily. 

As babies are feeding from the breast it is natural for the mum to lean down and smell the top of her baby’s head, but with a hat on, this is then a wasted opportunity for bonding even deeper.

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

Back in the “olden days” they didn’t put hats on newborn babies. The baby was born then given immediately to mothers to be held and kept warm and fed. There was that belief that women trusted their body and their own ability to birth then nurture their baby – it all came down to mothers instincts.

This is bonding.

The mother takes in the smell and feel of their baby.

Baby also gets wired to the smell and touch and sounds of the mother.

This bonding also begins before baby is even born.

During pregnancy a baby will become connected to the mother not only in a physical sense though the umbilical cord to the placenta attached to the uterine wall of the mother, but also connected energetically and spiritually.  The baby comes to identify the sounds of mother and father and in fact when they are born they are more inclined to move towards the sound of their mother or fathers voice even when in a room full of people.

It is important to be aware that whatever the mother feels that energy is then transferred through to her baby.

If she is stressed and upset she is releasing stress hormones that cross the placenta through to her baby and likewise if mum is experiencing great joy and pleasure that produces endorphins (the feel good healing hormones of the body) which also cross to her baby.

In Dr Sarah Buckley’s book “Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering” she writes:

“The experiences that will begin to fire and wire your baby’s brain start in your womb, with the physical sensations that provide the earliest learning. These include being physically supported by the womb and amniotic fluid, being kept warm by your body warmth, being gently rocked as you walk, being exposed to different tastes from your diet via the amniotic fluid, hearing your voice and voices of other family members, and feeling calm and settled when you are calm and settled. Conversely, high levels of stress during pregnancy can fire and wire your baby’s brain for dysfunctions in learning and over-reactivity to stress.” 

Dr. Sarah Buckley

Dr. Sarah Buckley

 A mother and her partner creates this amazing bond with baby in utero by so many every day activities such as humming, singing, reading, relaxing while rubbing belly, talking to baby and visualising what your baby looks like, or playing with baby when they kick by poking them back gently – you will soon discover this becomes “play time” between you and your baby.

A wonderful way to share your pregnancy with your baby as they are growing up is to take photos and videos during your pregnancy, during your play time and at certain milestones of your pregnancy and creating a “Bonding With Baby Book” where you can sit and share these images with your child as they get older.  This is a fantastic way to bond with children or in particular soothe them when they are sad or upset, as it becomes “your time” for reflection and quality time together. 

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

So let’s look at how all this bonding and connection takes place.

The journal “Neurolmage” suggests that we are instinctively wired for bonding with our babies and the sight and smell of newborns triggers a deep seated response to care for that child.

It is interesting to note that scientists have also found that when a woman gives birth, the father actually grows more neuron connections in certain areas of the brain (prefrontal cortex) which is involved in caretaking and bonding.  When they become fathers the receptors for the chemical vasopressin increase, which is related to nurturing and attachment. 

Dads can have just as strong attachment / bonding as mother as a recent study showed oxytocin levels rise equally in both new mum and dad.

It also appears that babies are born with a brain that expects this bond to form in the first place.

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

 Another study funded by the National Institute of Health and conducted by the Brain and Behaviour Research Foundation claims that “Infants can learn from their mothers about potential environment threats before their sensory and motor development allows them a comprehensive exploration of the surrounding environment.”  What this means is that the experiences or traumas that a mother has during pregnancy can be passed on to her baby including any stimulus such as smell, which then causes that child to experience distress and anxiety or in some cases post-traumatic stress syndrome, when they smell that smell after birth, without having ever experienced that trauma directly themselves.

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

That close physical contact at birth with skin on skin starts the powerful process of bonding between mother and baby. The baby also receives smells from the mums’ nipples, which attracts baby to that area, to instinctively start breastfeeding – creating the beautiful display of the “breast crawl.”

Take a look at this video created by www.breastcrawl.org demonstrating the breast crawl of newborn baby to mother’s breast.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3oPb4WdycE#t=15

Babies will recognise the milk from their own mother over the milk from another lactating mother. Skin-on-skin contact helps to imprint all the olfactory stimulus of the mother to the baby and vice versa, providing that security of being able to identify each other when they separated – this is the “imprinting” process which is part of our evolution.

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

In one experiment, researchers tested newborns by holding a pad carrying maternal odours 17cm from the baby’s nose. In response, the babies wriggled towards the pad that contains the scent of their own mother.

A recent study also showed that 90% of mothers who were left to bond with their baby uninterrupted for a minimum of one hour were able to identify their baby through smell alone.

My suggestion is rather than baby being brought straight up to mums chest at birth for skin-on-skin contact, baby is placed on mums stomach, so that mum has the opportunity to have time to take in the look, the feel and the smell of her baby.  Baby also gets the opportunity to connect with mum on the outside and will start to smell the breast milk and by using the breast crawl technique will instinctively forage their way to the breast and start suckling, increasing the release of oxytocin for the placenta to be birthed and the mother to embrace her new role as a newborn mother.

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

Photo source: Hypnobirthing Centre WA

So now go and pick up your baby, hold your baby close, skin-to-skin and breathe in slowly to take your fill of pheromones and enjoy that beautiful connection for life.

My name is Vicki Hobbs and I am a pregnancy and postnatal massage specialist at Phoenix Therapies Pregnancy Wellness. I am also a certified doula and offer hypnobirthing and childbirth education classes. For more details about my services, please call me on (08) 9303 9111 or email vicki@phoenixtherapies.com.au

Thank you to all my beautiful hypnobirthing families who have shared their amazing photos for this article.

Resources:

http://www.livescience.com/19108-baby-love-human-brain.html

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1651-2227.2004.tb00856.x/abstract

http://www.jneurosci.org/content/26/22/5888.full

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15841774

http://www.newsweek.com/mothers-fears-are-passed-children-through-smell-study-suggests-261754

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20453850

http://www.nature.com/pr/journal/v21/n4s/abs/pr1987171a.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK55973/

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/518

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-brains-of-our-fathers/

http://www.parentingscience.com/newborn-senses.html

http://healthland.time.com/2013/09/26/why-moms-find-that-new-baby-smell-so-delicious/

http://www.breastcrawl.org/introduction.shtml

 

Hypnobirthing Story of Aryan – born 5th March 2014

HBLogo3

First of all I would like to thank Vicki Hobbs from the Hypnobirthing Centre WA for helping me release my fear of birthing and to also help me think positive all the way about everything – my pregnancy, my labour, the surges I would experience and moving my baby down.  I was one person who was so scared of just thinking about the due day, every time I thought of it I’d get goose bumps and all sorts of questions would arise in my mind such as “will I be able to do it”, if I can’t tolerate my eye brows being threaded how will I tolerate pain of birth?

Vicki helped me release this fear through the classes and gave me one on one attention when I really needed it, which I am so grateful to her for.  After the hypnobirthing classes, which I completed when I was 38 weeks everything was still fresh and I prepared my own birthing plan.  Jag and I compiled songs that we both loved and reminded us of the special memories we shared and holidays that we went to.  I printed my maternity photo shoot which had my birthing colours to help me calm down and focus.  Along with these songs I also had my positive affirmations, Surge of the Sea and Rainbow Mist CD’s, which were very helpful.

Dhruti & Jag

On Tuesday midnight I woke up with slight surges that lasted for a few seconds and then went away – they were about 15 minutes apart and not very regular.  I fell asleep and woke up around 8am as my friends were coming over to catch up before the bub arrives.  I went to the loo and saw my mucous plug had released, I thought to myself “this is it, oh my god its happening, what shall I do.”  I was panicking and told my mum, but then I gathered myself and thought I might still be days away and even if it happens it’s going to be okay and I will use my tools, stay calm and birth my baby.

I text my friends that I wasn’t well and if we could postpone the catch up, but then I thought to myself that if I was to be alone I’d be thinking all sorts of things so I’d rather catch up with them, which will be relaxing and divert my mind.  I text Jag and informed him, he was so excited that he couldn’t work and decided to come home and sleep for the big night as he was so sure that it was going to happen that evening.

I decided not to tell my friends about my surges and just go with the flow.  Mum and I made lunch, my friends came over and the day was going as normal, but I did have surges in between that sometimes lasted a minute or so, I would just stay calm and breathe through the surges.  At one point my friend did ask me “are you ok? Why are you so quiet?”

The day passed by quickly and in the evening my surges increased and Jag started timing them, and I was just breathing through them while listening to the affirmations.  I kept watching the YouTube video of the lotus opening as the music in the video helped to calm me down. It was around 11pm that the surges started getting closer and more intense.  Jag would stroke me with the light touch massage and help me stay calm.

16. Birth Colours - Dhruti Varsani

After a few hours we decided to call the hospital and inform them about the situation.  Jag and I decided that we’d go to the hospital when the surges were 5-7 minutes apart. By 1am the surges were more intense and we decided it was time.

We reached the hospital and informed the midwife we were a hypnobirthing couple and that all the communications to be kept to a minimum and with Jag.  First we were in the assessment room so that midwife could check my progress, monitor bubs heart beat and do a few tests.  I noticed that the surges were now 10-15 minutes apart, which I was aware that would probably happen because of the environment change and the transition between home and hospital.  I calmed down, Jag was so supportive and gave me the light touch massage again, talked to me softly and I also kept listening to the affirmations.

I must say hypnobirthing helped Jag understand me so much more.  He always had the fear of coming to the hospital and having to see me in so much pain, but he was so different and positive and very supportive.  After about an hour my obstetrician came and they decided to check how many centimetres dilated I was.  This was very uncomfortable for some reason.  I just had my eyes covered and kept listening to my music.  I didn’t want to know how many centimetres I was so they informed Jag.  Earlier in the week I went for my check up with my obstetrician and she had informed me that the baby’s head was down but he was in a lateral position.  The midwife checked and informed me that the position was now head down and no longer lateral, which gave me confidence that everything was going well.

Aryan4 - Dhruti & Jag

After a while we were taken to the birth suite and the moment I walked in I felt some comfort.  I knew this was now “my space.”  Jag set up the room with candle lights, dimmed the room lights, set the music up and got me a birthing ball.  This was around 4am on Wednesday morning and the surges were constant and about 7-9 minutes apart.  We listened to our songs that we had compiled, I had my arms across his shoulders and we just enjoying the music and I continued to breathe through the surges.  Time was distorted to me, just like I was taught in hypnobirthing classes, as then the next thing I realised it was around 9pm and I was getting tired as I hadn’t slept.  I had another check up with the obstetrician and she said that I was still quite far off and asked if I wanted to be induced as the baby was head down but quite high and in a lateral position again.  We weren’t sure and decided to wait for a while, but after about two hours I agreed to be induced.

Being vocal was the best thing that helped me as I could release the intensity I was feeling through my voice.  Jag stroked my head with the head massager and light touch massage while the music in the background was on as well.  All these tools were so very helpful.  My obstetrician came for another check-up and asked if I wanted an epidural.  I said no, but I was so exhausted as I hadn’t slept for 2 days.  Jag and I then talked about it and he said it would relax me and I could get some sleep as the baby’s position was still lateral and he was still very high.

Aryan2 - Dhruti & Jag

I decided to take the epidural and slept for a while.  I could still feel the surges but not as intense as before.  After an hour our midwife checked how far I had dilated.  I was so happy and excited as I was 10cms dilated and it was time to bear down.  I started to bear down and was told to push whenever I had a surge.  I could slightly feel them and with the help of my midwife and obstetrician I started to push.

I kept talking to my baby loudly (I didn’t care about anyone listening to me), I kept telling him “come on we can do this, please come to mummy it’s now time for mummy to see you.”  I kept touching my belly and talking out loudly and I felt it helped me connect with my baby.  My obstetrician and Jag then decided to use the vacuum, which I was fine with as the baby was getting uncomfortable inside as well.

We started again, using the vacuum but it still did not work, the baby was now more uncomfortable and my obstetrician suggested we use forceps.  I have no idea why I said no but something in me just didn’t want this type of intervention to be used.  So I was taken to theatre for a caesarean.

Aryan1 - Dhruti & Jag

While transferring me to the theatre room I was very positive and kept singing to myself.  I talked to the nurses and doctors who came to explain all the procedures that were going to happen.  After about 35 hours it was finally time to see our baby.  Our baby boy Aryan was born at 5.15pm – the most beautiful and amazing moment of our lives.

My obstetrician later thanked me and told me that she was glad I said no to using the forceps as it would have been very hard for both bub and me had we used them as he was still so high up because of the position of my pelvis so he would not have been able to move down into the birth canal and the caesarean had been the best decision in this instance.

Though I had a few complications after the birth, after a month when I do recall my birthing story I have a smile on my face and always tell myself it was the most wonderful experience I have ever had.  It is so true that people make labour and birthing of babies these days very complicated, painful and scary but there is also another way to look at it and enjoy it, the hypnobirthing way.

Aryan3 - Dhruti & Jag

I have no regret with what I went through, even though it was a long labour, but it was still full of fun and beautiful memories that I will cherish forever.  I got to experience labour, the sensations of my uterus surging and the feel of my baby during this time while producing the birthing hormones that helped to establish good breastfeeding and bonding, and I had no fear at all.  This whole experience has brought my husband and I so much closer, and he was able to support me in a way that he wouldn’t have felt confident doing before the classes. I am so proud to share my hypnobirthing story with all pregnant women and once again would like to thank Vicki for sharing her knowledge with us.  Without hypnobirthing my birthing story and experience would definitely have been very different.

Dhruti & Jag
Madeley, WA

Hypnobirthing Story of Cooper

The Hypnobirthing class helped me from the first session and weeks before my labour started. I have always had a huge fear of needles but I knew that it was all in my mind. The classes helped me to deal with that and my first blood test after starting the course was a whole new experience. I didn’t clench my husbands hand and I remained totally calm and breathed through the whole thing. It was the least ‘painful’ test I had ever had and while I felt it happening it was more of an annoyance than anything else.

Amanda & Shane relaxing during Hypnobirthing classes

Amanda & Shane relaxing during Hypnobirthing classes

My labour started only hours after my last pregnancy pilates class. I had done these since my second trimester and they helped me in so many ways.  I wasn’t due for a couple of days and heard constantly how I would go over so when I had what I thought were just period pains/Braxton Hicks type feelings that I had been having for weeks I didn’t think anything of it. I went to the toilet as I felt like I had peed my pants, but also didn’t think anything of that. However after this happened several times over half an hour I knew that something was up, especially after seeing signs of the ‘plug’.

I phoned my husband, as it was a Saturday and he was working that day, to ask what time he would be home as the baby may be coming that night. He said it would be a few hours and I said that was fine and I would see him later. I phoned again in an hour to say come home soon as the entire plug had gone and the surges were quite frequent. I wasn’t concerned but as they had come and increased in such a short period of time I just wanted to make sure my baby didn’t arrive while I was home alone.

Amanda & Shane practicing birthing positions

Amanda & Shane practicing birthing positions

I had also shown signs of Strep B in a previous gyno test and was advised that I needed to have antibiotic shots once my waters had broken. My intention was to go and have this shot when needed and go home if I wasn’t in established labour. I had no plans to stay at the hospital any longer than necessary. However by the time my husband got home and we were on our way to the hospital I asked him to time my surges as they seemed very close together and they were about 4 minutes apart.

Upon arrival at the hospital at 3pm, I was 4cm dilated so in established labour. I handed over my menstrual pad for review and they advised that I had meconium, which meant that the baby had pooped inside me and we would need constant monitoring. I knew this wasn’t a good thing but never once did I get stressed out. I had my fitball and my relaxation CDs and my husband so I knew that we would be ok.

It was quite annoying being strapped to heart rate monitors and one on my belly to monitor the babys heart rate and my surges, however I think this gave the student midwife and my husband something to do while watching me breath. I can honestly say that I think the Affirmations CD was played a couple of times, I still do not recall ever having listened to it in its entirety. However at one point I came out of my trance and said “Lets put something else on, I have heard this bit already”. My husband and midwives laughed and said they had heard it a dozen times already.

Gorgeous little hypnobub Cooper - calm & relaxed

Gorgeous little hypnobub Cooper – calm & relaxed

I used various positions while breathing however I was unable to go for a walk or have a shower due to all of the machinery I was attached to. I did use the fitball and kneel on the floor which were both great for short periods however the machinery alarms kept going off as the strapping came off if I moved too much. Apart from the usual heart rate rises during a surge we both remained calm during the entire labour.

At 9pm the Obstetrician was called in as I was told I was at 9cm and able to push if I felt I could. This was a great feeling and while leaning over the end of the bed my husband and midwives watched while waiting to see the head. When the Obs arrived she did another examination, this felt a lot different to the last 2 and more like what I had been expecting, rather intrusive and uncomfortable. She advised that I was only 5 cm and should certainly not be pushing. She said that I was swollen and she could feel his head and gave me a list of options such as C-section, epidural etc. I said that I wanted an hour to keep trying.

After an hour I was still only 5cm however my contractions had slowed (probably due to my less relaxed state). I chose to have an induction drip to get things moving again, however after over an hour of this I was still only 5cm and my baby’s head was trying to come out, resulting in a cone head formin. This was probably due to us both being ready and me trying to push earlier, however my husband got scared and we both agreed that the safest option for the baby was a C-section.

Our Hypnobirthing family

Our Hypnobirthing family

Making this decision, plus being chemically induced seemed to make the surges more noticeable than ever. I asked for some relief and they gave me gas but nothing else as the anaesthetist was on his way for the epidural. The gas was more of a distraction and the breathing worked much better so I continued with that to prepare for what was ahead. I told the doctors that I didn’t want details of what they were doing, just to proceed but they insisted on describing everything in detail. I didn’t really listen to them I just breathed my way through some very close intense surges that the drugs were already bringing on. I was more concerned about staying calm while they were doing everything that needed to be done and to give my boy the most relaxed environment possible.

I could tell that my husband was stressed and while I lay there totally numb from the chest down I made some jokes to him to try and calm the mood. It was 3am by this time so a huge day for him after having started work at 6am the previous morning. However I do believe that if we hadn’t done the Hypnobirth classes together he would have been insisting that I had a C-section many hours earlier and not been able to deal with any of the labour or events that followed as calmly as he did.

Despite not delivering my baby naturally I still to this day have my calm relaxed Hypnobirth baby. He only cried briefly when he was born and lay on my chest looking at me with his eyes open, very calm yet alert while holding onto his daddy’s finger. He had a HUGE cone head, however this was gone within several hours.

Two things I was told and didn’t know otherwise was that I could not do delayed cord clamping with C-section, I assumed it was as they needed to stitch me up straight away. Also that he had to be assessed first and cord cut etc. before laying on my chest.

I was just so relieved that he was here and safe and being looked after by his dad (and still a boy as I was sure that wouldn’t go according to plan either) that I was ok with everything else. It didn’t seem long until he was on my chest and pooped all over me again. We were all taken straight to our room together and no recovery rooms just our new family to feed and bond.

All of the nurses commented over the next few days on what a calm relaxed family we were, many of them thought this was my 2nd/3rd child and didn’t give us much interruption. It was like we already knew each other and me and my boy just learnt everything together very easily.  He slept 5-6 hours every night from day one and fed easily. Six months later he is still a bright, alert, happy and calm little man.

Six months later Cooper is still a bright, alert,  happy and calm little man.

Six months later Cooper is still a bright, alert,
happy and calm little man.

I couldn’t recommend the hypnobirthing course enough and will be practicing again from the minute I fall pregnant, hoping to achieve a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) next time. I would love a home birth but my husband would need a lot of convincing for that. Also due to previous medical issues and having a LETTZ cervical surgery several years ago it is possible that I will have another C-section, so I think the safety of a hospital will be the chosen option.

The student midwife said the experience was amazing. Although she wasn’t there for the C-section as it was such a huge long day she was amazed to watch the monitor during a really strong surge and at one point I opened my eyes and said “Wow that was intense”, however to look at I showed no signs of anything, just breathing.

I don’t recall any “pain,” just a feeling that my baby was coming to me.

I loved every moment of it and can’t thank Vicki at Phoenix Therapies and the Hypnobirthing Centre WA enough.

Amanda & Shane

Childbirth Education

CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION

BEING INFORMED – MAKING CHOICES

YOUR CHOICE – NOT MINE  

In this day and age, why is it important to choose a childbirth educator?

Over time women have forgotten that “birth” is a natural and normal physiological process!

Women have become more exposed and accepting of the medical side of pregnancy and birth.  Many women are not given the opportunity to have a natural birth – medical interventions and caesareans are more often given even if there is no medical reason to do so and women accept this because they don’t know any different and are generally with someone they feel they can trust, their medical care provider, their Obstetrician or even their family members who encourage them to do so because they don’t like seeing their loved ones in “pain.”

Women are also bombarded by the horror births shown on television and social media, or stories from their mums, their sisters, their peers and colleagues and women who have had a traumatic birth (or sometimes not) who may share the most fearful, dramatic stories they can.  It is not uncommon for a pregnant woman to be approached in the local supermarket to be subjected to negative comments and stories from a complete stranger.

To this I tell all expectant mums to put up your “mummy barrier” to this kind of negativity and fear-mongering.  Detach yourself from these people and ask them to be respectful of your own birth journey – this is your pregnancy and birth experience not theirs.  Everyone is an individual and therefore every person will always have a different experience and perspective with anything in life particularly childbirth. Let me make it clear, I am in no way trying to trivialise another woman’s traumatic birth experience, I just want to highlight that it is their experience, not yours! There are many support groups for women who have experienced a traumatic birth, and this could be where they share their experience to get counselling and healing.

However, once you start accepting and visualising the types of negative stories that are forced onto you, then you are more likely to experience this due to the powerful mind/body connection. Ask all of your friends and family (including your mum) to refrain from telling you anything that is negative or fearful about childbirth so that you can experience your birth with an open mind and heart without any stress of fear-based stories.

Shout it from the rooftops, put a sign up on your door “STOP – ONLY POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES HERE” or post it on your Facebook page and twitter account – do what you have to do to get the word out there –

“STOP – ONLY POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES HERE!!”

stop sign

Ask people to share with you what they loved about their birth; ask them to share with you the one special moment that is imprinted in their memory about their birth, no matter how traumatic it may have been at the time, what was the best bit – not the worst!

As a Childbirth Educator, I get asked all the time “should we still go to our hospital antenatal classes?” 

Antenatal classes held at the maternity hospitals differ from hospital to hospital and seem to be primarily focused on what could go wrong and the drugs and interventions that are available and what the hospital policies and practices are.  Hospital childbirth education classes do little to eliminate the fear, and in fact can cause increased anxiety and stress to a pregnant woman as she starts to think more on what could go wrong, instead of mentally and physically preparing for a calm, natural birth.  One of my clients told me of her experience – “imagine sitting in your class with several other women and your “childbirth educator” walks in, looks around the room and says “only two of you will have a natural birth, if you’re lucky.”

Already that person has planted the seeds of doubt about your ability to birth naturally and made you fearful of what lies ahead.

Rather than taking the time to teach about natural alternatives of pain relief, these sessions become all-consuming with information about the drugs they offer, the medications and the procedures that will take place based on the hospitals policies and about their lack of birth pools and other facilities that are usually on a “first in, first choice” basis.  Many of the classes that are run at the hospitals are not conducted by a dedicated “childbirth educator.”  The classes may be run by a midwife or physiotherapist on a rotation basis, and sometimes these educators have to do this as part of their ongoing assessments, so they may not really enjoy doing these classes, so educating couples on childbirth may not be what they are passionate about, so their enthusiasm and the gift of empowering couples just is not the same as with an independent childbirth educator – who choose to do this as their livelihood.

scary birth

In answer to the question though, I don’t discourage women and their birth companions or partners from going to the hospital antenatal classes as it is beneficial to see things from two different perspectives.  Both can provide information which you need, and like anything you just choose what resonates with you and what you feel will work best for you.  Put all those things into your “birth basket” and discard what you don’t think will serve you well.

However, I do recommend couples to do their childbirth education classes prior to the antenatal classes as you are already prepared, knowledgeable and will be in a better position to ask more questions.  Here is what Rachel had to say about her classes:

Anyone pregnant or thinking about/trying to have a baby please, please consider hypnobirthing!  It is not just weird hippy crap, it’s practical advice on how to manage your pregnancy and labour in the best way for you.  Antenatal classes are good (I’ve just done one with a great midwife) but hypnobirthing has prepared me so much more and given my husband and I so much more info about our options, rights and just what the hell is going on!  Vicki Hobbs at Hypnobirthing Centre WA is who you need to see! I cannot thank her enough for what she has done for us.  Rachel, Tapping WA”

Hypnosis session during Hypnobirthing classes

Hypnosis session during Hypnobirthing classes

I became a Childbirth Educator and “Birth Doula“ (Birth Support) because I wanted to provide all women (pregnant or those contemplating pregnancy) and couples with information and education about birth choices, about natural pregnancy, labour and birth, about achieving the best possible outcome, of trusting in your body, about how the muscles and body work together and about choosing the right caregivers for you, but most of all to help take the fear out of having a baby and being another support person to both mum and dad has numerous benefits, but not only that, it is important for me to teach women and their birth partners that they have choices.

Just because you pay a huge amount of money every year into your private health fund so that you can have the very best maternity cover there is including an Obstetrician, sometimes you do not always get the birth that you have dreamed of.  Did you know that Obstetricians are surgeons – they are highly trained to deliver babies by caesarean?  They are your lifeguards, but all you want them to do is sit in their tower and keep watch.

So, if you are healthy and have no underlying medical conditions, doesn’t it just make sense to go with a midwifery led birthing program? Or if you must have an Obstetrician why not say to them “I want to pay you to do nothing, unless there is a medical emergency.”

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Women have so many choices, and we cover all of these in childbirth education classes.

Have you considered having a doula (birth support)?  A recent review of many studies from around the world has concluded that a doula’s support is more effective than hospital staff, friends or family.  Studies (and reviews of the studies) consistently demonstrate very impressive benefits for the mother, father and baby including: 

  • 50% decrease in caesarean sections
  • 25% decrease in the length of labour
  • 40% decrease in use of forceps
  • 40% decrease in use of oxytocin to speed labour up
  • 60% decrease in use of epidurals
  • 30% decrease in use of pain medications
  • 40% reduction in the use of synthetic oxytocin for inductions or augmentations

I believe that we need to go back to basics.  Birth is about bringing a new person into the world and this should be a celebration and a natural, joyful, calm experience.  I want to share information with you that is designed to inspire you and take the fear and uncertainty out of childbirth and about accepting birth however way it happens as long as it is your choice, not someone else’s.

I also want to support women who have caesareans to feel that this choice is okay.  There are many out there who advocate that “all natural is best” just like “all breastfeeding is best” and yes I do agree that “natural is best” because your body is doing so many physiological wonders all at once to grow your baby then bring your baby into the world and to start the healing process of getting your body back to pre-pregnancy, but sometimes this just is not the case for all women for whatever reason – again we are all different, we can’t all be put into the same basket, we can’t be expected to fit into the same mould.

I want women to feel it is okay to do what is best for them and still feel that whatever way they choose to birth at the time was the right choice for them and their baby, and that a caesarean birth is also a celebration, a sacred time and can be a calm, positive moment of birth.  There are ways that a woman and her birth companion can be present in the moment during a caesarean and achieve that birth euphoria that is experienced during natural birth. 

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I know as I have been in that situation and a few of my class participants have been in that situation too, but the important thing to note is that they all share the same belief that because they knew what was happening, because they asked the right questions, because they delayed the “process” as long as they could to see if anything changed and then embraced the choice they made.  Their unexpected caesarean turned into a calm, memorable and exciting time shared with their birth companion, and their baby was blessed to be born into a quiet, peaceful room without a surgical feel.  Their babies were calm, alert and responsiveness and they were still able to have that skin-on-skin contact and had delayed cord-clamping.  All of this can be achieved and all it takes is a bit of preparation, understanding, knowledge and acceptance.  

When you are educated about your choices, you can discuss these with your health care provider and they will realise that you have “done your homework.”  The best part that I hear often from couples is that when things started to get “fearful” for the birthing mum, it was her birth companion, husband or partner who came to the rescue.  In childbirth education programs your birth companion is taught to be a “support person” and know what to do in different circumstances. Many of the mums say if it wasn’t for their birth partners, they would have gone off track and not known how to get back to “their birthing space.”

I became a Childbirth Educator to ensure that all women know the difference between natural labour and birth and medically assisted labour and birth, what a caesarean means and how it affects your body and the journey beyond birth, the physical and emotional healing process – where do you go for help and support if you need it once baby is here, how can a postnatal doula be of help to you – how do you bond with your new family, where does your partner fit into this new dynamic, how to identify postnatal depression and breastfeeding versus bottle feeding.

I feel it is the couples’ responsibility to prepare themselves to bring this new life into the world.  It is important for them to know what is happening to their baby as that baby is growing and developing, what is happening to the woman’s body and muscles, what are those uncomfortable pelvic twinges you may experience as your belly grows, how are those muscles going to work to help birth your baby, what are the hormones and how do they affect the mum, why breathing techniques are important and how oxygen (or lack of) can affect your birth, how important bonding is during pregnancy and after birth, sounds and vibration baby experiences in the womb so why it is important to talk and sing to baby, relaxation and visualisation, self-hypnosis techniques, choices of natural pain relief, acupressure and massage, comfortable positions during labour and birth, vocalising and sound during birth (Soundbirth) – how does this help, coping during labour, how does the dad or birthing companion fit in and how can they best support their labouring partner, what is the “purple line” and how can that help you avoid vaginal examinations, there is so much to know and really so little time to find out and practice all this and more.

In Australia, the average couple spends around $30,000 and over 200 hours planning their perfect wedding day.  It amazes me that so many women spend so much time, money and energy on the preparation of one day, albeit an incredibly important day that will be the stepping stone of their new life as a couple then a family, yet many women don’t consider putting that same time and energy preparing to bring a new life, their baby, into the world or attending a childbirth education course (such as Hypnobirthing for example), which is just a small investment of anything from $250 to $1000 depending on the type of classes you take and the number of hours the classes run for.  For example classes can range anywhere from one day, one weekend or 3 or 4 hours weekly for several weeks.

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I want to help you gain knowledge and skills about your mind, your body, your labour and your birth.  I want you to be free from fear about the birth of your baby.  You only get one chance to birth your baby the way you want to and it is really important that you have as much knowledge and support as possible to guide you into making the right birth choices for you, your partner and your baby.

Seriously, don’t spend thousands of dollars on useless items for your baby that you are most likely never going to use.  With my first baby I was completely uneducated about what to expect, but I had the best of everything, latest model pram, designer basinette, most expensive cot and manchester, several mobiles (as they all look so cute), change tables, clothing, sterilising equipment – majority of the stuff I didn’t even unpack and ended up giving away months later when it was just sitting there gathering dust.  Go with the basics, and put your money to better use by attending childbirth education classes.

My role as a Childbirth Educator (particularly through my hypnobirthing classes) is to assist you to go into the birth experience empowered, well educated and believing in your body – that it can birth without doubt or fear.  This does wonders for creating a powerful and positive birth journey.  Birth Educators should not be trying to convince you that you will have a “painless birth” but rather you will have a “fearless birth” which will lead to reducing (and in some cases) eliminating the “intensity of pain” felt during childbirth.

It is all about “Birth Without Fear.”

Women and their partners who prepare themselves mentally, physically and emotionally for birth can achieve anything.  Our thoughts create our reality so if women are thinking and feeling positively about their labour and birth and visualise the experience they want to have rather than what they don’t want, then it is more likely that they will achieve a shorter labour and natural birth of their baby, they will be more alert and energetic after birth and bond and breastfeed more easily with their newborns.

Because of the mind/body connection, if you have fear, you will create stress and tension, which will cause the muscles of the uterus and pelvis to tighten and create more pain.  The more pain felt, the more fear arises and so this cycle will go on and on.

Birth is one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world and we need to trust and believe that it can be a wonderfully empowering experience that is given the time, respect and sacredness that it deserves.

So the problem is not with birth – it is the lack of preparation and education and the negative imprinting and expectations women are exposed to during pregnancy.

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Furthermore, many women who do not have the opportunity to birth naturally or the way they have planned sometimes feel anger, resentment and guilt and feel they “failed” in some way or say they were made to feel they were a failure because they didn’t birth naturally.  Birth education is also about understanding and being accepting of special circumstances if they do arise, so again to help you feel you had the best birth outcome possible for you and your baby at the time.  It is about knowing what questions to ask, assessing the situation and then making an “informed choice” about what is right for you and your baby.  Attending birth education classes can be highly beneficial in achieving this.  It is important for mum to be able to choose Plan B whatever that may be and feel happy, confident and at ease with doing so, and even in the event of say an emergency or unplanned caesarean, you can still ensure that your birth is calm, positive and memorable.

At Phoenix Therapies Pregnancy Centre we offer a one day comprehensive childbirth education class for you and your partner called “Essential Birthing Journey” to learn all aspects of pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond including relaxation and breathing techniques, the role of your partner or birth companion, nutrition and exercise during pregnancy, stretching and massage techniques, birth and labour positions, pain management techniques, bonding and breastfeeding, sound birth techniques and so much more. 

At Hypnobirthing Centre WA we offer a more comprehensive series of weekly hypnobirthing classes for a total of 12 hours with self-hypnosis techniques and childbirth education including pregnancy, labour and birth and beyond, relaxation and visualisation techniques, bonding with baby and partner, the mind / body connection, breathing techniques, releasing limiting beliefs and fears, how your body births your baby, special circumstances, birthing positions, massage and acupressure, nutrition, breastfeeding and so much more. 

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I hope that you will experience the most amazing birth of your baby and your future babies empowered with knowledge, which brings you strength and the ability to trust in your own abilities.  Your mind and your body are your own, you need to feed them, you need to nurture them and you need to enrich them for the best possible outcomes for you.

Many blessings to you, your partner or birth companion and to your baby – a new life, a new adventure and a new perspective on all things amazing.

“Birth is not only about making babies.  Birth is about making mothers – strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” (Barbara Katz-Rothman)

 

Vicki Hobbs
Owner / Operator

Phoenix Therapies Pregnancy Centre
www.phoenixtherapies.com.au

Hypnobirthing Centre WA
www.hypnobirthingcentrewa.com.au