Thursday 25 December 2014

Take the trance to have a pain-free birth

Aisling Killoran (left) with patient Michele O'Briain and Michele's son Cillian Penston, aged 10 months

I first heard it said years ago that there's a conspiracy amongst women; those who have given birth don't share with their fellow sisters the full degree of the pain undergone in the process.

But with the recent introduction of HypnoBirthing in Ireland, things could be changing for the better.

A natural form of childbirth, HypnoBirthing is a method from the US that teaches parents-to-be that when a birth is free from fear, severe pain is not necessarily an accompaniment of labour.

It is based on the work of Dr Grantly Dick-Read, an English obstetrician who pioneered the concept of natural birthing in the 1920s and whose principles are also the foundation of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT).

In his 1933 book, Childbirth Without Fear, he states: "There is no physiological function in the body that gives rise to pain in the normal course of health. In no other animal species is the process of birth apparently associated with any suffering, pain or agony, except where pathology exists or in an unnatural state, such as captivity."

Essentially, when we're afraid, our body diverts blood and oxygen from non-essential defence organs.

An example would be when our face drains of blood and we are said to be "white with fear".

Dr Dick-Read hypothesized that the fear felt by a woman during childbirth also caused blood to be filtered away from her uterus, so it could be used by the muscles that would flee the dangerous situation.

As a result, the uterus could not perform its functions efficiently or without pain.

This belief led to Dr Dick-Read's theory that fear and tension cause the labour pains in about 95pc of birthing women and believed that by eliminating the fear, women could return the uterus to its normal function.

Better births

HypnoBirthing is the next step. Developed in the late 1980s by US award-winning hypnotherapist, Marie Mong-an, it is a birth education programme that teaches simple self-hypnosis techniques for a better birth.

A HypnoBirthing practitioner based in Dublin's Sandymount, Aisling Killoran has worked with about 300 couples since starting in 2003.

"HypnoBirthing is designed to leave parents free from the fear of giving birth and is about making it a normal, comfortable and healthy process, thus reducing the need for medical intervention," she says. "Over four classes, we cover deep relaxation techniques, visualisations and stretching exercises, preparing the mind and the body for birthing."

She came across it on TV and, having suffered a lot of sickness throughout her first pregnancy, she liked the idea of being in control in childbirth.

"I found Aisling and, with my partner, we went for four sessions. She gives you many tools and I used different ones in each of the births," she says.

"Labour can be really intense and the visualisations, one of which was blowing up a balloon and breathing through the contraction, were great and kept me strong."

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