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Alice Metcalfe explores hypnobirthing and discovers how women can have a pain-free labour

TALK TO A MOTHER ABOUT childbirth and more often than not she will cross her legs and wince at the memory. Having a baby is painful, we all know that don’t we? At least that’s the impression I got as I prepared to deliver my first child four years ago.

Friends who had already gone through the process were tactfully mute on the subject at the time. Not so at my antenatal class. During the half day course, I listened wide-eyed as the midwives ran through the array of pain relief available to me when d-day finally arrived. The message was clear - this was going to be something I had to get through, not embrace or enjoy. Inevitably, my birthing experience was frightening and painful. During each contraction, I gritted my teeth, waiting for it to be over so by the end I was close to despair. This was a recipe for disaster. As I was to learn later, the worst thing I could have done was tense up. In the end, I begged to have an epidural.

WONDERFUL LABOUR Two years later and newly pregnant for a second time, I found myself chatting to a fellow mum at a party and was amazed when she described how wonderful her labour had been. In fact, I think she even went so far as to say it was enjoyable. Really? I had already begun dreading the thought of going through it all again, but what if I could have a birth like hers? Just what was her secret? The answer, she enthused, was hypnobirthing. By the next day, I had found a course near me and signed up. The classes took place in the front room of hypnobirthing instructor, Rose Byrne where myself and two other blossoming pregnant ladies (who, like me, had had horrible first births too) sat on her sofa rubbing our bumps and listening to exactly what we have to do to achieve our utopian birth. The idea, she explains, is to use breathing techniques and imagery to stay so relaxed that the surges – not contractions, this is too negative a word – feel more akin to a gentle pressure or tightening. To back this up, she shows us footage of women using hypnobirthing to have what looks like remarkably quiet and peaceful births. Crikey, I think, this might just work. Rose certainly seems to think so. ‘Using the hypnobirthing techniques worked like a switch during my birth to turn off the panic,

tension and pain,’ Rose assures us. ‘When I arrived at hospital, I was so calm the midwives were thinking of sending me home but when they examined me

I was 8cm dilated. I will always remember the look of amazement on the face of the midwife. Luckily, since then, hypnobirths are becoming more popular now so calm labouring mums are not automatically dismissed as “not yet in established labour”.’

SHARING KNOWLEDGE Rose was completely converted by the success she had with hypnobirthing and quit her job as an account manager in the aviation industry to train as a hypnobirther so she could help other women have the kind of birth she had. The course she teaches uses the Mongan Method, devised by Marie Mongan who had managed to have calm, drugfree births after reading a book by Dr Grantly Dick-Read that talked about the Fear-TensionPain Syndrome, the theory



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