Hypnotherapy births tap into power of the mind
MICHELLE Walker has given birth to five children of her own but she has also played an integral role in the delivery of six babies on the Northern Rivers since June.
The Banora Point resident is a doula, or child birth educator, but with a difference - she is also a hypnobirthing practitioner.
Hypnobirthing is described by advocates as both a philosophy and a birthing technique.
It claims to teach techniques that tap into the power of the mind of the mum to be, and her birthing partner, to relieve fears and release the body's natural relaxant endorphins.
This in turn replaces stress hormones, which can cause the uterus to constrict, and produces a more positive and empowering birthing experience, according to advocates.
Michelle says there's none of that "you're getting very sleepy" cheap theatrics many associate with hypnotherapy.
"It's no hocus pocus - it's a physiological thing," she said.
"It's breathing, it's visualisation, it's meditation, and all of that together gives you hypnobirthing experience."
Michelle teaches Tweed couples hypnobirth techniques adapted from the Mongan Method which was designed by American hypnotherapist and Harvard Scholar, Marie Mongan.
One method centres on a woman's favourite colours.
"Indigo Mist is a rainbow relaxation where you take the woman down into a deep state of relaxation and then have her visualise that she's floating on different coloured clouds, so it's all nice and calm and relaxed,
"You can choose a few different colours that resonate with the woman and use them in the other visualisations and parts of the labour," Michelle said.
Since most births don't go to plan a range of step-by-step guided scripts can be used, depending on how a birth progresses.
"We have a script that a mum can work through for a breach birth and there are particular tracks that you can use for a caesar," Michelle said.
While Michelle does not claim to achieve an entirely pain-free birth, she says it is possible for mothers to go into an incredibly hypnotic state.
"Some of the hypnobirthing mums achieve such a deep state that they actually look like they are asleep, literally, when they're giving birth and their pushing their baby out," she said.
Michelle says that couples are turning to hypnobirth to feel autonomous in controlled clinical settings.
"One of the biggest problems with the maternity system we have at the moment is that women have had their power removed and I think hypnobirthing helps women claim that back in the hospital setting,
"For example, you can have a birth that you've planned and something's gone pear shaped and you've had to have a caesarean.
"But you can still have beautiful positive memories of that whole birth experience.
"It would make it your birth experience because you felt like you were the one making the decisions and that your power wasn't taken from you."
Michelle says that hypnobirth also addresses negative preconceptions of birth.
"Often when women fall pregnant they become a public property where everyone comes up to them and tells them their horrible birth stories.
"So a lot of women go into their pregnancy and their birth with less than positive images in their mind and that makes it more likely that that will manifest a traumatic, painful, intense birth.
"When they come out of hypnobirth classes they feel empowered with a new set of positive stories and tools for birth."
Michelle said that the most exciting part of her job is hearing new mothers gush about their labour.
"When I hear a new mum say, 'Wow, I did that!' and talk about how positive their journey was that's when it's re-confirmed, how well the technique works."
Michelle was inspired to study and teach hypnobirthing after trying it with her fifth baby.
"I learned more about birth in between my fourth and my fifth baby, that was when I became a doula and that's when I became a child birth educator and I wanted to try something new,
"I had beautiful births anyway but I wanted to see what this business was about."
Michelle oversaw the birth of Casuarina mum Danielle Midgley's first child on December 14 at John Flynn Hospital.
"My hypnobirthing labour was absolutely amazing and I loved every minute of my labour," said Danielle, 34.
"I am so very much in love with little Theo and could not have asked for a more positive, natural birthing experience."
Australian research showed that hypnobirth has
A shorter average length for both stages of labour
Lower rates of caesarean, gas and epidurals
Decreased pain medication use
Celebrity hypnobirth mums include:
The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton