Hypnobirthing – it’s for hippy chicks and boho mums right?

Wrong. Actually, it’s fast becoming a staple of many expectant mums maternity journey – hypno is definitely happening.

The Duchess of Cambridge is said to be a fan and Hollywood actress Jessica Alba has spoken of how hypnobirthing helped her with the delivery of her second child.

Far from being a fad, hypnobirthing – which involves the use of hypnotherapy techniques to assist in the birthing process – has become an alternative birth method that midwives predict will be a normal part of antenatal care within a decade.

And why shouldn’t it? After all it’s all just about taking control and empowering the mind with a positive attitude.

Medical equipment and maternity services have evolved so why is our attitude towards giving birth still often stuck in the Sixties?

Hypnobirthing specialist Keri Jarvis runs classes at the Therapy Life Centre, Southend.

Keri aims to teach expectant couples to rationalise and release the fear of childbirth that she believes has become indoctrinated throughout our society.

She does this by teaching coping techniques including relaxation, breathing and visualisation to facilitate a labour that's as comfortable and positive as possible.

Keri, who has clients from across Southend and Leigh and even further afield, believes our preconceptions towards hypnobirthing can be holding many women back from exploring this option further.

She said: “I’m not naive to general opinion, I see people's expressions when they ask me what I do.

“The name ‘hypnobirthing’ certainly doesn't do itself any favours!

“People imagine that I have dreadlocked barefoot couples sitting cross legged on the floor whilst I swing a watch in front of their faces, burn some incense and tell them there will be no pain in childbirth.

“In fact, it's a logical antenatal education, based on the hormones of labour and the mind-body connection.

“Contrary to what some believe, there is no promise of a perfect, pain-free, orgasmic birth, rather a whole package of education and techniques to move you to a much more positive experience of birth than you would otherwise have had.”

She added: “It puts you in control, and challenges the ‘all your dignity goes out the window’ and ‘there's nothing you can do, just go with the flow’ mentality which terrifies women who are used to planning and preparing for all other elements of their lives.”

Keri trained to teach KG Hypnobirthing in 2013 after discovering the techniques when pregnant with her own son, Louis.

She says how the method is great at getting dads more involved in the birthing process “Hypnobirthing is truly a team effort, and the journey that most dads go on from quiet(ish) sceptic to raving advocate is amazing to watch,” she said.

“They have a key role to play, no need to hang around like a spare part being regularly sworn at. Mums will often tell me they couldn't have done it without their partner, that he was incredible- how often do we hear that?”

So what type of people do go in for this then?

Keri said: “Although warmly welcomed, I've had very few stereotypical ‘hippies’ on the course but rather it’s teachers, builders, dieticians, financiers, company directors, you name it!

“I myself used to be a store manager for M&S.

Hypnobirthing is not reserved for people of a particular lifestyle. I really believe there is no one who couldn't benefit from this antenatal education.”

Although considered a controversial or even wacky therapy by some, studies have shown hypnobirthing can help decrease the average length of a natural childbirth labour, lower C- section rates and reduce the use of pain relief medication during births.

In addition, the majority of women experiencing hypnosis during childbirth in their second or subsequent births report feeling more in control, confident, relaxed and focused, and less fearful, than during their other birthing experiences.

Keri keeps in touch with many of her class members and says hearing the news of a birth is always special.

“Receiving the news of a new arrival is incredibly emotional- I feel hugely invested in the couples and their babies,” she said.

“We meet for regular catch ups, where those who’ve given birth encourage and support the pregnant mums, ad they often comment on how refreshing it is to be in a room of mothers without hearing birth horror stories – another little gift our society likes to give to pregnant women!

“I like to think as more women experience hypnobirthing, we are changing the way birth is viewed by those around us, one 'normal' family at a time.”

For more details about Keri’s courses and sessions, visit www.hypnobirthdays.com www.facebook.com/Hypnobirthdays

Echo: Breathing Love – Catherine Hartley, pictured with son Harry, runs a hypnobirthing business with her mother, Sheelagh

I thought I’d need every drug going during labour

AS SELF-confessed control freak with a very low pain threshold, to say Catherine Hartley was worried about giving birth is an understatement.

The mum-of-two, 31, from Colchester says: “I was absolutely terrified of giving birth. I thought I would need every drug going because I can’t tolerate pain, but if I had pain relief I would panic because I wouldn’t be in control.”

With her husband in the Army and serving in Afghanistan at the time, Catherine spent much of her pregnancy without him. It was her mum, Sheelagh Evans, who suggested Catherine try hypnobirthing to help her relax during childbirth.

“I wasn’t so sure about it, I thought it would be really wacky and out there but I signed up anyway. After my first session it all made sense. I realised hypnobirthing was quite a logical and practical method of childbirth, explaining how the body works during the birthing process and in the end I felt so confident that I decided to have a home birth,” says Catherine, who had daughter Ruby three years ago.

Catherine even sent her husband in Afghanistan some reading materials and initially he was sceptical. But after reading the information and seeing how well Catherine coped during the birth, he was convinced.

“The hypnobirthing course I completed relaxed me so much that the rest of my pregnancy was very happy rather than stressful in anticipation of the labour,” says Catherine.

“The labour with Ruby was absolutely wonderful. We hired a birthing pool and it was literally the most magical experience I have ever encountered.

“Ruby was back to back as well, which is supposed to be very painful, but I had no pain relief.”

Catherine was so impressed by the experience that she used the method again to birth her son, Harry, 14 months. During her maternity leave with Harry she completed the six-day intensive hypnobirthing course in Brighton and is now a practitioner herself.

Her mum, who was a nurse working with premature babies, also joined the business, called Breathing Love. While Catherine runs courses for expectant mums and dads in north Essex, Sheelagh runs courses from her home in Southend.

Catherine adds: “Hypnobirthing is becoming more mainstream as the years pass by, Colchester Hospital is offering courses and hypnobirthing has been found to cut the need to emergency caesareans across the country.

“It helps to avoid intervention because the mum is not stressed, it takes away the fear of childbirth.

“As a society we are taught so much fear but childbirth is what we were made for.”

Echo: Katie Jane O’Connor with Evie and Arthur

I felt so in control I delivered my baby

CANDLES flickering on the table, a Friends boxset playing on the TV and an all round chilled out vibe filling the room. Instead of the clinical setting of a bustling maternity ward and its bright neon lights this is how Katie-Jane O’Connor gave birth to her second child.

She delivered 7lb 11 oz baby Arthur in a birthing pool in the middle of her living room with just her midwife and husband Nick by her side.

After a traumatic experience while giving birth to her first child Evie, Katie was determined the second time round things would be different. With Arthur she was adamant she was going to feel much more in control.

And that’s what she got thanks to a course of hypnobirthing sessions with Keri Jarvis, which began when she was around seven months pregnant with Arthur.

Katie explained: “With Evie, I had planned to give birth at home but when it came down to it the maternity unit was too stretched and they couldn’t get a midwife out to me so I had to go into hospital at the last minute,” she said.

“This led to me really panicking as it wasn’t what I’d planned which in turn led to a traumatic birthing experience.

“When I got pregnant with Arthur I was dreading the birth again but then a friend mentioned hypnobirthing and told me about Keri.

“I’ll be honest I’d never really thought about anything like that before and I didn’t know much about it but my husband and I went along to a taster session with Keri and we knew straight away that it was for us.”

Together the couple attended a course of sessions and learnt how to get over Katie’s fears of a repeat bad birthing experience.

Katie added: “It’s so logical really when you learn about how when you are in labour you have to trust your body and realise that it’s doing what it was made to do. As the weeks went on I was so much more confident about the birth.”

When it was time for the big day, Katie and Nick went into “lockdown”.

“I had a few twinges in the morning and then we went for a lovely walk in Prittlewell Park but by that afternoon I knew they were contractions and I said to Nick, ‘right this is it we need to do this!’ “We got my mum to take Evie then we went home, pulled down he shutters and just got ready.

“Nick had bought me a boxset of Friends as we knew, from the course, we wanted something positive like a comedy on in the background to help me feel less anxious – and it worked.

We also lit candles and put them round the room, it was such a relaxing setting. “ By 10pm that night, with the guidance of her “absolutely fantastic midwife” from Southend Hospital, Arthur was born in a birthing pool which Katie and Nick has filled up in their living room.

Katie even reached down into the water to pull out her son, delivered him herself.

“It was amazing,” she said.

“Even my midwife was emotional, she was fantastic.

“The whole experience was so positive, such a world away from the first time.

“Of course there was pain but I was able to manage it.”