THE BLOG

Being in the Smug Set

01/02/2016 10:31 GMT | Updated 29/01/2017 10:12 GMT

I'm one of what Kirstie Allsopp on twitter calls "the smug set." And all I had to do to achieve this was, through no particular effort of my own, not have my baby by caesarean. If I'm honest, nine and a half years ago, I was a bit smug about it; or at least thankful that I didn't have to recover from surgery on top of all the other new and random hardships I was discovering in the world of parenthood. In fact I got so smug about it at one point that I launched myself into training as a Breastfeeding Counsellor with NCT, and I'm proud [smug] and very happy to report that I'm still doing that, amongst other things.

In my role as fully paid-up member of the smug set, I like to empower parents and share information and strategies that they can use to make decisions that feel right for them at the time. I don't believe that having a good birth is the luck of the draw, but nor do I believe that your baby's mode of exit is really cause for smugness of any kind. There exists a good body of evidence that the thing that has the greatest impact on how women feel about their birth, is how cared-for and involved they felt during the experience.

Women and their partners can influence their "luck" in that draw by being well-informed and having some coping strategies at their disposal. Hypnobirthing has been decried by skeptics because a fairly large trial shows that use of these techniques does not decrease epidural rates. Less widely reported was the finding that it does reduce anxiety and fear around birth, leading to a more positive experience overall, no matter what the actual outcome.

One of the things I've noticed people raise as an objection to hypnobirthing, is the promise of a pain-free birth. Renaming contractions as "surges" because it sounds nicer may not guarantee this for everyone; and perhaps it is the case that people vary, and so women will experience birth in many different ways, and no matter how relaxed you are there may be elements of the environment (for example) that you can't control. In fact making any promises about the birth experience seems unhelpful whether it's that it will be painless, or that it will be live up to One Born Every Minute at its most graphic.

Women in childbirth need to be informed and trusted enough to make their own decisions about their care, as part of a team with their health professionals. Hypnobirthing can equip them for that, as can many other means of antenatal preparation. We chat about hypnobirthing with one of the founders of Wise Hippo in episode 10 of Sprogcast, a podcast about pregnancy, birth and early parenthood.