“But I think I might get an epidural – wouldn’t that mean the course is just a waste of time and money?”
Hypnobirthing Australia is a full antenatal course. So, as well as learning the self hypnosis techniques you also learn all about the physiology of birth, care provider options, legal rights of the mother, interventions, special circumstances, bonding with baby both pre and post natally, breastfeeding and so much more.
Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to explore within yourself your reasons for wanting an epidural. Is it simply that you don’t believe birth can be positive and beautiful without one? Have you had a previous experience that has left you fearful of not having full medical pain relief? Have you been watching too many episodes of “one born every minute”? Once you know your reasons for wanting an epidural fears can be faced and plans can be put in place.
It’s no secret that epidurals have risks. Aside from the risks of the epidural procedure there are the risks to your labour. Often an epidural can slow labour, resulting in the administration of syntocinon (which carries its own set of risks) to get surges continuing in a regular pattern. Delaying an epidural until labour is very well established reduces this risk. There is also the risk of maternal fever, which can be mistaken for an infection and result in invasive tests being recommended for bub once born. Again – the earlier the epidural is administered the greater the risk. So it can be VERY worthwhile to have some pain coping techniques up your sleeve to help you delay that epidural until labour is very well established, thereby reducing your risks.
Given that epidurals can slow labour it can also be worth having some of the dilation visualisations up your sleeve as a way to help labour continue progressing in a regular manner, minimising the risk of needing syntocinon and all the risks that come with it.
Epidural pump. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Then there’s the problem that epidurals don’t actually work or are patchy in about 10% of cases. This means that 10% of women will still feel pain despite having an epidural administered. Once you have an epidural in, regardless of whether it works or not, your movement will be very limited. Meaning that you will no longer be able to move to cope with the pain. Having some self hypnosis techniques can be VERY handy in this situation.
A huge number of women also report that, while the epidural takes away the pain they can still feel pressure. Some women find that this helps them to connect to the labour and some women find it very distressing. Self hypnosis can be useful in working through these feelings and getting past the physical sensations while maintaining a calm and positive labour.
Some women also find that once they have an epidural in and are completely numb, connecting with the labour and the baby can be more difficult. Throughout the Hypnobirthing Australia course you will learn various techniques for bonding and connecting with baby that may now come in handy. It can also be beneficial to use the visualisation and meditation techniques to help you to connect with your labour and remember that, regardless of whether you can feel it or not, your body is still working and labouring to bring your baby into the world.
Using visualisation and meditation with an epidural in place. Author's own image.
Your Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner is NOT going to judge you or belittle you if you decide that an epidural is going to be on your birth plan. What they can do is help you to explore your feelings and beliefs about birth and birthing pain and to have some solid techniques and tools available to you to ensure that your pregnancy, labour and birth is as positive, safe and calm as possible – no matter what turn your birthing journey takes.
Even if you want an epidural, you have to be at least 4cm dilated. To get to 4cm, especially if this is a first labour, you need to use a relaxation technique such as described by hypnobirthers and stay upright on a birth ball, comfy chair or mobilising. Adrenalin, secreted when we are anxious, 'sticks' to the cervix and makes it harder to open. So relaxing is a way to ensure dilatation. Then if you still want to mess up your labour with an epidural, at least you have that choice. www.painfreelabour.blogspot.co.uk
Actually many women are finding that they are being offered epidural's well before 4cms. With my first (an induced labour) I was pretty much bullied into an epidural at 2 cms. I know heaps of women in similar situations. But yes - for the majority of women there is going to be some (maybe a lot) of labouring to be done before you would be getting an epidural - even if it's just the car ride to hospital. Anything to make that time easier!
The first stage of labour, till your cervix is 10cm dilated, is not meant to be painful. We make it painful by being afraid and anxious when we go into labour due to social media telling us it will be painful. Adrenalin, secreted when we are anxious, 'sticks to the cervix to prevent it from opening and also takes oxygen carrying blood away from the hard working uterus. Without enough oxygen the contractions become painful. Using a relaxation technique in labour and staying upright, on a comfy chair or birth ball, reduces the amount of adrenalin to free the cervix and perfuse the uterus with oxygen. So easy and yet so many women suffer. www.painfreelabour.blogspot.co.uk
Hi Lizzi~ Thank you for your article. I wish to give Yoga (the way I approach the practice and teach it) prepares the mother to slip into the 'birth (mind) zone' without resistance. I would say that my classes too are a full peri-natal course that integrates hynosis, mindbody practices and full embodiment of the birth experience! I worked as an R.N. in Labor and Delivery& post-partum and it was my observation that greater than 30% of the mothers who receive epidurals develop a fever and it was my experience that not only did the mothers get put on anti-biotics the babies were often separated from the mother and underwent a sepsis workup which involves drawing blood and cerebral spinal fluid moments after birth. This was never easy to witness because the babies would then also get put on a 3 day course of anti-biotics. I don't know if standards of practice has changed but this was the norm 1989-2002 when I worked in the maternal infant health arena. This is one reason why I am a passionate somatic birth educator and spiritual advocate for birthing women and their babies!!!
Thank you, Cynthea