Your Pregnancy - - Q & A Month 7 - Karin Steyn Coun­selling psychologist and hypnobirthing prac­ti­tioner

Q:How long be­fore my due date should I start with hyp­nother­apy classes? Is a week­end crash course suf­fi­cient?

A:Karin an­swers: I want to draw a dis­tinc­tion be­tween hypnobirthing and hyp­nother­apy. Hyp­nother­apy, on the one hand, is an in­di­vid­ual process that you will em­bark upon with a reg­is­tered psychologist who can also do hyp­nother­apy for birth prepa­ra­tion. In such a process you might, for ex­am­ple, look at your own ex­pe­ri­ences of birth (when you were born and any pre­vi­ous chil­dren you birthed), re­view your per­sonal scripts of par­ent­ing and do heal­ing re­gres­sive work around your ex­pe­ri­ence as a child of be­ing par­ented, for you to em­brace your po­si­tion of be­com­ing a par­ent. Old pat­terns of learn­ing can be re­leased and au­then­tic re­source­ful­ness re­dis­cov­ered. You will ad­dress blocks to your con­fi­dence and clear the clut­ter so that you can have the birth you want and be the best par­ent that you can be to your child. You can also learn to do self-hyp­no­sis and pain man­age­ment. Hypnobirthing, on the other hand, is the child­birth ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme that’s de­signed to teach you self-hyp­no­sis skills for manag­ing your birth. This pro­gramme will be more af­ford­able than per­sonal psy­chother­apy. Your trainer might be a doula, mid­wife or birth pro­fes­sional, and only some are psy­chol­o­gists. In the course you will learn, among other things, tech­niques for cre­at­ing a more com­fort­able (and even pain free) birth, birthing po­si­tions, breath­ing, vi­su­al­i­sa­tion, re­leas­ing of fears, be­friend­ing your body and bond­ing with the baby. I ad­vise that you start with your hypnobirthing classes at the be­gin­ning of your third trimester. The course is five weeks long and upon com­ple­tion of the course you still have a few re­main­ing weeks be­fore baby comes to prac­tise, prac­tise, and prac­tise. The rea­son why we sug­gest start­ing at 28 weeks is that by this time you will be tak­ing your preg­nancy more se­ri­ously. You look preg­nant and feel preg­nant and the move­ments of your baby re­mind you to take your birth prepa­ra­tion se­ri­ously. Cou­ples who start the classes too soon have a greater risk of los­ing in­ter­est and for­get­ting to prac­tise when it is re­ally im­por­tant. How­ever, if you feel you will be com­mit­ted enough to prac­tise through­out the preg­nancy, you can start as soon as you would like to. The suc­cess of hypnobirthing classes rests not on your abil­ity to read the book and carry the knowl­edge of how it works in your mind, but to train your body to breathe and re­lax with­out even con­sciously think­ing about it – through suc­ces­sive prac­tis­ing. To­wards the end of your preg­nancy, es­pe­cially the last four weeks, you should be prac­tis­ing daily. Your neg­a­tive be­liefs about birth can be re­placed through rep­e­ti­tion of af­fir­ma­tions and you can cre­ate new neu­ral pathways in the brain through the vi­su­al­i­sa­tion of what you would like to achieve and ex­pe­ri­ence in the birth. In this way you teach your brain what you would like to feel and ex­pe­ri­ence on the birth day, so that when your brain needs to se­lect the ap­pro­pri­ate au­to­matic re­sponses, you have good op­tions in place. You can re­place your fears with con­fi­dence and ex­cite­ment about the up­com­ing birth. Through each prac­tise ses­sion you con­nect with your body and your baby, build­ing trust in your body’s abil­ity to birth and tak­ing pre­cious time to bond with your baby. Ba­bies want to know that they are loved, ac­knowl­edged and wanted. This helps them to feel safe and ex­cited about com­ing to this world. Read­ing the book is better than hav­ing no knowl­edge at all; at­tend­ing a week­end class is better than no classes at all; but the best you can do for your­self is to at­tend a proper five-week se­ries of classes. The lat­ter op­tion gives you enough time to re­ally process the ma­te­rial and prac­tise the tech­niques that you will learn in each class. One mother re­ported that an un­ex­pected ben­e­fit of the five classes was the time she got to spend with her hus­band, pur­posely cre­at­ing time to fo­cus on this new baby and bond­ing to­gether as a fam­ily. She felt that five weeks of solid com­mu­ni­ca­tion and to­geth­er­ness re­ally strength­ened their re­la­tion­ship, which helped them to en­ter this new stage of their lives as a strong unit. Re­mem­ber, this is not just about at­tain­ing knowl­edge, but about cre­at­ing a prac­tice that al­lows your body and brain to fully pre­pare for your amaz­ing birth.

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