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  • Writer's pictureKaren Law

A load of Hippy Nonsense!

In recent weeks there has been much discussion amongst some of my colleagues in the birth world regarding the term Hypnobirthing. There can be misconceptions about what it is and many people still consider it to be 'hippy nonsense'.

Asking around I tried to find out what people consider to be 'hippy nonsense'. A friend suggested that it is: Grow your own, make your own, baby wearing, encapsulating your own placenta, bed sharing, breastfeeding on demand till they self wean, baby led weaning....

Another said: Wise Hippo ... or how it is perceived ... until one knows better.

What? Even my chosen programme, the Wise Hippo Birthing Programe? How can that be? We choose not to focus on the term hypnobirthing in order that we might attract those who would be put off by it, but who still deserve to benefit from an awesome antenatal education programme. That just happens to involve self-hypnosis.

So I plan to unpack the teaching involved in the Wise Hippo and in many other hypnobirthing programmes.

But first let's explore a little about science as I sense that those who don't go for the 'hippy nonsense' would feel happier in the world of science... Do scientists go in for 'hippy nonsense?' Another friend, an actual scientist, explained to me that much of "the best discoveries and theories in the world were made using intuition and with no evidence. All of Einsteins theories were initially based on nothing but ideas and intuition, with one announced just this week as having finally been proven." Is that what the average lay person believes, though, when they think about science, medical science in particular? I suspect many will think of science as the bit AFTER the research proved it. In practice, many women find that their maternity care can seem very rigid, with hospital protocols dictating what happens and when during their pregnancy. In my mind hospitals, medicine and medical science all seem to go hand in hand. And feel like the opposite of my vision of a free-spirited hippy.

I recall a BT advert back in the 1980's when Maureen Lipman played a character, Beattie, talking to her Grandson on the telephone. He was explaining that he hadn't done that well in his exams but he had passed Pottery and Sociology. Well, she was impressed and declared that if he had an 'ology', he's a scientist!

Do we need an 'ology' to be a scientist? How many of us realise just how much science we already know? Are we aware that we have a fairly good understanding of a lot of science without having to get an 'ology' or even go on to University?

Yesterday my 10 year old asked me when I started learning about Physics. I told her that my first Physics class was in first year at secondary school but as I thought about it a little longer I qualified that by saying that was the first time I had a specific taught period within the school timetable which focused on Physics. We then discussed that, in fact, even from the very start we are learning about science. As an example babies and toddlers are learning about gravity just in the act of learning to walk. Much of what babies discover in their first years is all down to science. My daughter also expressed an opinon that as a gymnast she is very aware of physics.... what goes up must come down!

Back to Hypnobirthing. I originally trained in HypnoBirthing, the Marie Mongan Method, before transfering over to the Wise Hippo Birthing Programme. So I do have an understading of at least two programmes. I also have Katherine Graves' book in my lending library as well as that of Maggie Howell's brand Natal Hypnotherapy. In the UK we have a few brands to choose from which means that women have the opportunity to find the course that is right for them. I choose to teach the Wise Hippo Birthing programme becasue I like the way the content is provided, the fact that I can be autonomous in my delivery of the content, the very supportive and encouraging nature of the founders and fellow instructors and the fresh, modern design.

Basically, during a full course I teach a little about the human biology of the female form and in particular the physiology of birth. So that's two 'ologies' for a start! Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life while physiology (a sub-section of biology) is the study of normal function within living creatures. Once women begin to understand how their bodies work during pregnancy and labour, and that their babies are active participants in the process, they begin to fully trust the process of birth and can make informed decisions if their, or their baby's, health provides challenges during their pregnancies or labour.

I talk about the hormones involved in pregnancy and birth. Endocrinology is the study of medicine that relates to the endocrine system, which is the system that controls hormones (the third 'ology'). Understanding the importance of the endocrine system in reproduction means that we are aware of oxytocin, endorphins, adrenaline, prolactin.... This means that we are better able to make decisions regarding our birth preferences because we understand the delicate balance of our birth hormones.

Then we come to sociology (4). This is the scientific study of social behaviour or society at a given period in time. Our birthing behaviours have changed radically over the last 100 years, moving from largely birthing at home with knowledgeable women supporting us to birthing in a very medicalised maternity system set within hospitals. Anthroplogy (5), the study of human beings and their ancestors through time, will throw light on these changes. These 'ologies' are touched upon during the course which helps us see the bigger picture about current birth practices and how they impact on us as individuals. A fascinating read which can be borrowed from my lending library is Sheila Kitzinger's autobiography, A Passion for Life. This one book alone should be recommended reading!

Another hugely important 'ology' is psychology (6). Psychology is the study of mind and behaviour. This is where the self-hypnosis that is taught on hypnobirthing courses really comes in. Rather than taking control of your mind and making you do daft things we actually provide tools and techniques that enable you to remain calm and relaxed, and completely in control, whatever path your birth takes. Whether we know it or not our subconscious mind keeps us safe on a daily basis and any form of clinical hypnosis, and even hypnobirthing, helps reprogramme our subconscious minds to remove limiting beliefs whilst instilling positive affirmations to make a positive change. A huge part of the Wise Hippo ethos is that we prepare you for the Right Birth on the Day. We don't guarantee a pain free birth, although that can and does happen! Rather, we intend that you have the tools, techniques and sound antenatal education that enable you to make fully informed decisions regarding your birth experience. And that is what protects women from birth trauma and associated mental health problems.

Does this sound like 'hippy nonsense?' I don't know about you but it sounds like Gold Standard antenatal education to me! Including at least six 'ologies' that can come under the umbrella of science. It doesn't matter if it comes from a free-thinking, sandal-wearing, lentil-eating, actual hippy or from a midwife working in a busy teaching hospital or from a business-suited, perfectly-coiffed, modern woman-about-town, all the very varied Wise Hippos I know are passionate about supporting YOU to have the

If you want to find out more about the Wise Hippo you can sign up for a brilliant information session, Relax, Breathe and Birth, for just £25 for both you and your birth partner. You come away with two useful tools to use in your labour even if you don't go on to book the full Wise Hippo Birthing Programme course.

The next session I'm offering is on Wednesday, 24th February at 7pm. Contact me now if you'd like to join us!

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