All the men I come across in my work come to HypnoBirthing® because they want to support their partners during birth. They want to be active and participate in the birth experience and not, as one dad put it, be the Don Draper in Mad Men drinking scotch in the waiting room with other dads-to-be.
There are people out there who still question the role of men at birth. The antiquated viewpoint still lurks that men don’t make great support people because they don’t know enough about birth or they won’t be able to handle seeing their partners in labour or they’ll bring fear of things going wrong to the birth environment.
Birth changes women, it also changes men, and the majority of men I meet through HypnoBirthing enhance rather than hinder the birth experience. They do this by supporting the woman through presence alone or supporting her physically, taking her weight as the surges roll over her, or supporting her verbally, encouraging her. Support takes many forms, support can look very different from one person to the next, one birth to the next but the men I meet know what their women need and have tools at their disposal to assist them.
HypnoBirthing is a Childbirth Education Program for women and their chosen birth companions. The program teaches numerous practical techniques such as breathing, visualisation, relaxation and self-hypnosis for labour and birth. Alongside these practical techniques parents learn about birth, how to communicate with their care-providers, how to articulate their choices for birth during the lead up to and during birth itself. Birth companions learn additional tools to keep birthing mums calm and relaxed and are empowered to advocate for the birthing woman if she so chooses.
Before writing this blog I had the opportunity to chat to some men about their experience during birth with HypnoBirthing. Specifically, what they learned that was most useful, whether they actually put these things into practice when it was crunch time and how HypnoBirthing altered their birth experience and that of their partners.
Overwhelmingly, the technique they learned that they found most useful was Light Touch Massage; which is a form of massage that stimulates the release of feel-good hormones in the body and relaxes the birthing mother. Other techniques included breathing techniques, relaxation scripts, affirmations and gaining confidence in writing and advocating birth preferences. What was also useful was learning about the physiology of birth, how stress can change things dramatically and being able to pick up on when the birthing mother is in the right head-space, or alternatively, needs help getting back there.
It’s all very well to learn techniques for birth while sitting in a classroom or practicing at home but tuning into the needs of the birthing woman, choosing which techniques to go with and or modifying and applying them in a unique situation like birth is a different story.
So when I asked this group of men whether they actually used the techniques in practice or whether they went ‘freestyle’ on the day. One dad replied: “A bit of both, for the scripts I would almost always follow them exactly and every now again draw on our own personal experiences to provide a sense of calm. For the rest I just picked what I thought worked well based on the scenario and ran with it.” Other dads said they used some techniques and went with the flow, some relied more heavily than others on the scripted material and some went ‘freestyle’.
When asked whether they thought doing HypnoBirthing changed the way their birth unfolded they all felt it made a big difference, it prepared them for whatever unfolded and in all cases assisted them in avoiding unnecessary interventions. “Yes, HypnoBirthing definitely changed how birth went, I think intervention probably would have happened almost 6 hours after my partner’s water broke. Instead intervention never happened and I put it down to having the knowledge of what was going on.”
As a HypnoBirthing practitioner I work closely with mums and their partners to empower them through their birth experience. HypnoBirthing teaches many things, not just techniques for breathing and relaxation. It facilitates and encourages open communication with couples about their birth, their fears, their wishes and their ideal birth. This is key, HypnoBirthing philosophy promotes parents as being the centre of the birth experience; it is their birth, it’s their baby, it’s their responsibility to ask questions and get information to make informed decisions and be content with their choices. This is what parents gain from HypnoBirthing. Both parents leave confident, both parents feel empowered and together they make an awesome team.
Image credit: Jody Ryan Photography