Why this podcast?
Whilst writing the post ”Family-Centred Cesareans” I discovered The Fear Free Childbirth Podcast and, as most podcasts I have listened to so far have been U.S. based, I was both pleased and surprised to find that this one was British.
When I delved further, I found it to be an interesting mix of real life, positive birth stories, wisdom from birthing professionals and tips for reducing your childbirth fears.
The host, Alexia Leachman, is a therapist, speaker and pregnancy coach who has overcome tokophobia, the fear of pregnancy and childbirth.
Not only has she written a book, ”Fearless Birthing: How to have a stress-free pregnancy and a positive fear-free birth”, she has also created a free video series in which she shares how she overcame her tokophobia and had two natural home births.
I loved the fact that Alexia has moved from a place of such fear to such a positive place regarding birth and that she wants to share that with and inspire others.
Most women do not have a pathological fear of childbirth but many women will have some fear or anxiety surrounding birth and it is great to see that being discussed so openly.
How does it look?
With well over fifty episodes to date, there really is a wealth of knowledge on offer. Episodes are released weekly and are generally forty-five minutes to an hour with a few much shorter and longer ones thrown in.
Lexia features many positive birth stories and apart from episodes tackling fear and stress during pregnancy she also covers areas such as conscious pregnancy, induction, VBAC, the role of the partner, looking after your pelvic floor, preparing for parenthood, childbirth self-efficacy and birthing traditions.
Who should listen to this episode?
I think this will be useful for any pregnant woman but especially for those holding some fear or anxiety about birth.
This post is going to be structured a bit differently.
As I mentioned above, I happened upon this podcast by accident. I was looking for a video of a family-centred cesarean for this post and found one on The Fear Free Childbirth page.
I was super excited to find another non-U.S. based podcast and, even better, this one was from my home country, the U.K.
After scrolling through the episodes I found this one featuring Ulf Sandstrom, the co-founder of the Hypnobirthing Society of Sweden, where I now live with my Swedish husband and three children.
I hadn’t got too far into the episode before Ulf started to share a story of a midwife he worked with who was asked by an expectant mother to attend her home birth.
What stood out for the midwife was that this mother simply wanted the midwife to be there but not to actually do anything unless it became necessary.
Who was this woman?
The one and only Amy Neuhedel, an American doula here in Stockholm, host of The Cord podcast (which I have featured twice on this blog – Buying time at the hospital & How to write your birth story) and my friend and mentor.
So, it started to seem like fate that I found this episode.
After that, many of the things Ulf talked about resounded so strongly with me that I knew I had to write this post.
In fact, it was like this episode brought together some of the most important words of wisdom that I have gleaned from all of those birth books and which I am so inspired to share with others.
I also knew that I wanted to write this post in a manner that reflected the way I had discovered the episode.
How will I do that? Well, I plan to highlight the discussion points that really struck me.
This post will not be a thorough roundup of the episode and I will not attempt to discuss all of the areas that were covered.
I was inspired to feature this episode from different pieces falling into place and I want to honour that by choosing those pieces that really spoke to me and sharing them with you.
Ulf Sandstrom co-founded the Hypnobirthing Society of Sweden and talks about the importance of gaining control of your imagination.
I loved it when he said that if you are afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet then that fear is based on something somebody has told you, something you have seen or read or, perhaps, you simply have a vivid imagination that likes to focus on possible danger.
If you can control your imagination, you can focus it towards a positive experience.
Your fears will lift. Your body will relax.
Keeping your body as relaxed as possible is so key to having a smooth, straightforward birth and in keeping any discomfort to a minimum.
Fear produces tension and tension increases your experience of pain.
That’s why your mindset really does play a huge role in your birth experience and where hypnobirthing can help.
Set fire to your fears and turn them into goals
The less emotional baggage you have going into birth the better. Ulf and other hypnobirthing teachers suggest putting all of your fears surrounding birth down on paper and setting fire to it. Apparently, it really helps. Before you light the match, however, he asks you to turn each of the fears into goals.
What does this mean?
Well, if one of your fears is “I’m afraid birth will be painful”
you turn that into “I am going to work towards having a positive birth experience”
It’s simple but it changes your mindset to a positive one and that’s incredibly important.
This is not the most joyful of subjects and I do not want to upset anyone who may be experiencing a loved one being in a coma.
However, I think this is hugely important to talk about.
So, here it is –
Women in comas give birth
Ok……. why is that so important for us to know?
It is so important because it shows that your body knows exactly what it is doing.
Birth is a totally natural event for which you are perfectly designed.
You don’t need to worry that you won’t know what to do during birth or that you won’t be able to give birth.
In fact, you don’t even need to be conscious, it will happen anyway.
As the wonderful Ina May Gaskin says –
”Your body is not a lemon”
You can trust your body to know exactly what to do.
Actually, the more you can let go of the thinking part of your brain and allow your primal instincts to take over, the better.
In other words –
”Let your monkey do it”
Yes, Ina May again. By the way, if you have not yet read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, I really, really recommend that you do.
On the subject of monkeys….
When animals give birth they find a safe, quiet place in which to do so. Being unobserved during birth is hugely important. It allows you to go into your primal brain and follow your body’s cues.
You shut the outside world out and go inside of yourself.
If you go to a hospital to give birth this can be harder to do.
There are bright lights, people going in and out of your room, asking you questions, examining you, machines beeping, strange smells…..Your brain can interpret these things as danger and, just as an animal’s labour will halt in the presence of a predator, your body may shut down labour until you feel safe again.
On top of all this, hospitals will often have a window of time that they want you to give birth in. This creates an added pressure and it is hard to just relax and let your labour flow in its own time.
None of these things is especially conducive to entering and maintaining a meditative state where you are in tune with your body.
Staying home longer and not getting to the hospital too early can be really helpful in achieving a smooth, undisturbed birth. Birthing at home or in a birth centre are also options to look into.
These do not exist.
Huh??! Yep, you read that right.
In most cases, your baby will come when they are fully developed and ready to do so.
The best science tells us that a protein produced when your baby’s lungs are fully developed is what signals your body to go into labour.*
Your due date is actually a guess date and your baby can come at any time in a four-week timeframe. Unless induction is truly medically necessary it really is best to wait for your labour to start in its own time.
A great and oh so simple tip from Ulf towards the end of this episode can help you to get control of your nervous system so that both your mind and muscles relax.
What is it?
Breathe in slowly. Then breathe out. Three times.
Ulf goes into a little more detail but I loved the simplicity of it.
Train your unborn baby
What?! This is getting weird.
Don’t worry, it’s nothing crazy.
Ulf created a partner relaxation script that can be read to the mother to relax her. Not only will your partner be able to help you to relax during your pregnancy and in labour but your baby will learn to relax to the sound of your partner’s voice. This could come in very handy when you are totally exhausted and need some sleep.
By clicking here you can find both the relaxation script and a hypnosis track that Ulf created for listeners.
To wrap up
This was a bit of a different post but I hope that it was both interesting and useful. Having a positive mindset going into birth can be such a huge advantage in having the kind of birth experience you want.
Listening to the episode in full will give you much more information, especially about the concept of hypnobirthing.
If you are holding on to any fear regarding birth, I highly recommend exploring more episodes from The Fear Free Childbirth Podcast.
If anyone has experienced intense fear of pregnancy and/or birth and you are open to sharing how you overcame it I would love you to leave a comment.
The Cord: Why your body thinks the hospital is a tiger
Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.