What is Mindful Birthing?
It’s always been a regret of mine that I didn’t use hypnobirthing or mindfulness during my own pregnancy with Sam. It’s only really after the event that I realise just how valuable some of the techniques would have been – especially because my birth story ended up being very different to how I’d imagined it.
I was induced at 40 weeks’ after I noticed that Sam's movements had stopped and the midwife had problems tracking his heart rate on the monitor. Suddenly, I found myself connected to the heart-rate monitor on one side and the drugs on the other, and when I realised I wouldn't be able to get up and move about during labour I started to panic. Had I known then what I know now about the benefits of mindfulness techniques during pregnancy and birth, I think I would have been much calmer and better equipped to cope with things not going as I’d hoped.
About Emiliana Hall
Emiliana Hall is the founder of The Mindful Birth Group. She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband James and their two children, Molly (six) and Theo (four).
I first met Emiliana back in Oct 2019, when I was exhibiting at The Baby Show and we got chatting about her business. She was with a friend, Sophie, who was very carefully choosing a muslin swaddle from my collection. Emiliana took some photos as Sophie bought the muslin, and I sensed that it was a very special moment. But it wasn’t until Emiliana shared the photos on her Instagram stories later that I realised just how incredibly special it was: the baby Sophie was buying the swaddle blanket for was actually being carried by Emiliana, her friend of 20 years.
Emiliana had offered to be a surrogate for Sophie and her husband Jack after they’d been through the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages, failed IVF rounds and ectopic pregnancies. I was truly blown away by their story and was so thrilled for them all when Leo James Smith came into the world later that year. If ever there was a tale of true love and friendship, I think this is it.
I’ve stayed in touch with Emiliana ever since, and am honoured that she includes our Star Organic-Cotton Muslin Swaddle in some of the goody bags she gives to her course attendees! It was an absolute pleasure to interview her for this blog, and I really hope that, if you’re interested in mindful birthing, you find Emiliana’s answers to the following questions informative and helpful.
What’s the story behind The Mindful Birth Group?
I started The Mindful Birth Group in 2017 after my own experiences of preparing for birth and looking for birth education that covered all types of births and preferences. There were hardly any resources that just focused on how to have an unmedicated, unassisted straightforward birth.
The reality is birth CAN be straightforward (humankind has been doing it since the beginning of time!) but the system that we birth into is very hands-on and takes a one-size-fits-all approach in many instances. It’s so important that parents understand what their options are and have the confidence to navigate unexpected turns and make decisions that are best for their own individual circumstances on the day.
My goal with The Mindful Birth Group was to create a mindfulness course that guides parents from the antenatal phase right through into postnatal life. While our courses do overlap with traditional hypnobirthing courses, we offer a much greater breadth of information and support, and this is what makes us unique.
What does it mean to have a mindful birth?
A mindful birth is a calm and confident labour and birth experience. Fear of the unknown and anxiety are reduced – no matter how your birth goes – because of the knowledge, tools and techniques you have. Our courses empower parents by giving them this understanding, information and the 1:1 support of a teacher (which is invaluable, because everyone’s experience and circumstances are so individual).
Will a Mindful Birth course stop the fear or pain of childbirth?
Let me take you through something called ‘the pain cycle’. It involves fear of the unknown, which causes tension in the body, which then inevitably results in pain. And the cycle continues.
Mindful Birth courses are designed to take out the unknowns, reduce the chances of you feeling tense and therefore reduce pain. The mindfulness techniques we teach contribute to releasing tension from the body and mentally letting go of fear.
When we’re scared, we usually stop breathing – this means our oxygen supply is cut off and our muscles are unable to flex as they need to. The breathing techniques we teach allow oxygen to flow through the body effectively, so that the muscles that are being used for birth can function properly.
The other aspect that greatly impacts pain in childbirth is the level of endorphins that the body is producing. Endorphins are our natural pain reliever, but they can only be produced when adrenaline is low. During childbirth, endorphins are automatically released as part of the process – unless adrenaline gets in the way. As you experience a wave or contraction, your body releases pulses of endorphins in order to make them more comfortable. The moment we start panicking and releasing adrenaline, we start hindering the production of our natural pain relief.
So being educated, feeling confident in your preferences, knowing that you can have a conversation on the day with your care providers and using mindfulness techniques will contribute to feeling less fearful and in turn experiencing less unnecessary pain. The cycle becomes a positive one:
How do you learn to have a mindful birth?
You can take a course with us in person or on Zoom – either privately in your own home, or in a group with other parents. Group courses are a great way to meet other parents and start building your all-important support network. As we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re really focusing on group sessions, as we know how important it is for parents to meet others at a similar life stage.
One of the things I love most about our courses is that we cover everything from birth to the postnatal period to the basics of caring for a newborn. When you take a course with us, your teacher is on hand for you to ask questions via WhatsApp right up until you meet your baby, too. We really are a one-stop-shop!
How do mindfulness techniques work? Are they scientifically proven?
Yes, mindfulness techniques are scientifically proven to lower adrenaline, which in turn allows for the birthing hormones (endorphins) to be produced. Studies have shown you are less likely to require interventions or medicated pain relief if you are using these techniques.
Does it work for everyone? Are there any limitations?
Birth education and mindfulness techniques are for everyone. Whether you’re birthing your baby at home, in a birth centre, at a labour ward or by planned or unplanned caesarean section – the education and tools are essential for anyone birthing a baby.
How does mindful birthing help birth partners?
Our Mindful Birth course helps partners by empowering them with knowledge about what’s happening during the process of birth, and how they can practically and emotionally support it. It gives them the confidence to be that all-important person in the room who knows the woman or Birthing person best. Understanding and learning the breathing and visualisation techniques means that they can be a supportive coach on the day if needed too.
Is the course affordable?
We’re the most affordable course available for the level of support we provide. Our courses include antenatal, birth and postnatal education, while also supporting you to meet others at a similar stage.
The courses are around six to eight hours long, depending on whether you’re taking a private or a group course. This includes 1:1 support from your teacher right up until your birth via WhatsApp, Postnatal Preparation sessions via Zoom, and educational videos about baby feeding and newborn sleep to watch in your own time. The courses cost between £250 and £350 depending on the teacher, where you live in the country and whether the course is in-person on via Zoom. Parents we teach say this was the best thing they paid for to prepare for their baby’s arrival.
You also get access to the Mindful Birth parents Facebook group which is dedicated to those taking a course with us. All of the teachers are on there too, so you really are fully supported along your whole journey.
Investing in education and support during your pregnancy is so important because if you get off on a strong foot from birth, your whole parenthood experience will be significantly impacted.
How can I find a course?
Head to our website or email us for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow us on Instagram for information, news and support – we’re @themindfulbirthgroup and I’d love to see you there!
Huge thanks to Emiliana for taking the time to chat to me!