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Why preparing to have a 'Good Birth' isn't a selfish act

Before I had my children, and started to teach hypnobirthing classes in Sevenoaks, I worked in marketing and advertising. Contrary to popular belief, much of what we did was informed by data analysis - which groups were most likely to buy products, why they liked them, how they used them, what they thought of ads and promotions. So professionally, I've been bought up to substantiate proposals with hard data.

But it's hard to find quantitative data to support hypnobirthing. The feedback new mothers give is anecdotal and emotional (almost uniformly positive, by the way), and even the more formal research (like the on-going SHIP trials we're awaiting the results from) are hampered because so much of birth is individual and subjective. And it's impossible to set meaningful controls.

So I had a little lightbulb moment while listening to Radio 4's 'In Search of Ourselves; A History of Psychology and The Mind'. The focus this week is on child development, and so of course a section on Dr Bowlby and Attachment Theory. In summary, Bowlby's theory is that human infants are predisposed to attach to a primary individual who provides emotional care and nuturing. And that this attachment has an evolutionary purpose; it helps the infant and mother to bond, increasing the likelihood of survival and giving the infant a solid base from which to go out and explore the world. Infants who experience a strong and engaged attachment go on to model their experiences in their own lives, and are more likely to have strong self-esteem and positive adult & parenting relationships of their own.

Which is where good birth preparation comes in. Women who have traumatic birth experiences are statistically more likely to suffer post-natal depression, which can unfortunately affect the mother's ability to bond with her baby. Women who hypnobirth are more likely to report having a 'Good Birth' experience (regardless of the method of delivery), and will also have learnt skills and techniques to manage challenging situations beyond birth.

So investing time and money in birth preparation (whether or not it's hypnobirthing - I accept it's not for everyone) isn't a selfish act. Being adequately prepared for birth benefits not only the mother, but also the birth partner and baby. Understanding the process of birth, being able to make positive & active decisions about the birth environment and interventions and having calming and relaxation techniques at your disposal are all ways you can increase your chances of having a 'Good Birth' with all the benefits that brings, not just at the moment of birth, but afterwards too. (and with that we're back to Anne Lyerly Drapkin's findings from her Good Birth Project)


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