For nervous mums-to-be, giving birth tends to be associated with pain, stress and screaming.
It certainly isn’t usually sold to you as a calm and relaxing experience you’d want to repeat again and again.
But for the mums at Chris Ojari’s ‘hypnobirthing’ coffee morning in Fulwood Old Chapel, most say it is the latter which describes their experience most accurately.
Kirsten Quirk ‘hypnobirthed’ her children Kian, aged five, and Lyra, seven months, after having a less positive birthing experience with her first son Cameron, aged seven.
She says: “When we had Cameron, I felt like my husband was on the sidelines, but when I had Kian it was like it was only me and him in the room.
“Hypnobirthing just helps you feel relaxed and calm. It’s not mumbo-jumbo, it’s not about losing control, it’s the total opposite.”
Hypnobirth is the name given to a ‘preparation’ for child-birth, which involves learning techniques for deep relaxation and letting go of fears.
When you are stressed or scared, blood flows away from non-essential parts of the body such as the uterus. An anxious woman in labour, therefore, is more likely to be in pain as her muscles are tense and the blood is not free-flowing.
Former Sheffield NHS midwife and mum-of-five Chris Ojari first heard about hypnosis for childbirth through a city GP in the 1980s.
“He volunteered to teach me hypnosis to use during my own pregnancy,” she says.
“He was one of the first people to think you could use deep relaxation to help. I think I was a bit of a guinea pig.”
Chris was so impressed by how well the technique worked during the birth of her son, Steven, in 1984, that she became one of the first hypnosis for childbirth teachers in the country.
In 2007, Chris found out a similar technique, known as ‘hypnobirthing’, was being used in America.
She completed the necessary training courses and has been helping Sheffield and North Derbyshire couples to have the most special, pain-free birthing experiences possible ever since.
She says: “We are very passionate about letting people know about hypnobirthing.
“Without exception, everyone I have worked with has said it helped.
“It’s not a case of doing the course and having a pain-free birth but it will help everybody in some way.
“I have heard some amazing stories – one of our ladies enjoyed her birthing experience so much that the day after she’d had her baby she wanted to give birth again!”
Chris, of Bradwell, in the Hope Valley, is now retiring and handing over the baby-reins to a number of hypnobirthing teachers she has trained up herself, including Lucy Atkinson, Liz Dew and Melinda Pagden.
“I’m sad because it’s been part of my life for a long time and I was part of so many people’s birthing stories,” Chris says.
“But I don’t feel I have to work with them any more – I think of a lot of them as friends now.
“From the birth of my first son I knew that I wanted to share the power of hypnosis for childbirth with other mothers. I am delighted hypnobirthing is becoming so popular.”
- Sarah Wales, aged 29, and husband Harry, aged 33, from Crookes, hypnobirthed baby Lila, now nine weeks.
Sarah said: “I heard about hypnobirthing at my pregnancy yoga class and it sounded like something I’d like to do as I didn’t have any idea about what to expect from giving birth.
“I just thought I would give it a go and it helped massively.
“It put me in a positive mindset. I knew anything could happen but as long as I was calm and relaxed it would hopefully be OK.
“Giving birth hurt but I used the hypnobirth techniques and they got me through.
“Harry came to the classes with me and he was really understanding. At first he thought it was a bit hippy but he could see it was helping me. During the birth he was amazing.”
- Sarah Haynes, 28, and Chris Baird, aged 31, of Heeley, hypnobirthed baby Emily, now four weeks.
Sarah said: “I heard about hypnobirthing from a friend and for me it was about me and Chris doing it together, it was really important for me that he was involved.
“I’m quite an anxious person but I didn’t want to be a crazy, ‘panic attack’ mum.
Chris said: “Emily was born in the Jessop Wing and she was breech but we knew what was happening so we weren’t panicking.
“ We saw another couple in there who were frantic but we were laughing and joking and quite calm. We knew what was coming.”
RELAX, STRETCH AND BREATHE
Sheffield women have celebrated a special class which encouraged mums-to-be to take time out to focus on their pregnancy.
The Relax, Stretch and Breathe classes have been hosted by antenatal teacher Samantha Forde for the National Childbirth Trust since 2011.
Now the sessions, held at Christchurch Hall in Hackenthorpe, are set to finish for good this summer.
Samantha said: “The classes offered gentle, yoga-based exercises designed to improve energy levels, relieve pregnancy discomforts, quieten the mind and allow women to take time out from their busy lives to focus on their pregnancy.”
Every few weeks, mums were invited back to the class with their newborns to share birth and parenting tips to help continue building the confidence of the women who were still expecting.
Samantha said: “It’s been wonderful to watch friendships blossom over the years and to welcome mums back to class when they were having their next baby.
“Being a parent can be very isolating and lonely at times and it was wonderful to have played just a small part in helping mums build up their own local support network.”