Podcast Episode #33

Changing the way you think about birth: Hypnodoula Melissa

When you’re pregnant there are a whole lot of emotions (thanks hormones) and you have a lot of questions floating around your head. Is your baby growing at a good rate, are they in the right position, is their head the right size…the list of questions and concerns can be quite endless. Changing our thoughts about birth, with Hypnodoula Melissa, can help you to ditch the fear and have a wonderful birth experience.

As the due date creeps up, it’s common for women to start to feel some fear around how the birth is going to happen. No one can really predict how a birth is going to play out, and the fear of the unknown can be quite hard to come to terms with for some.

But fear in childbirth is definitely not your friend, and this episode here with hypnodoula Melissa will explain how changing our thoughts about birth can help.

Today on the podcast I’m speaking with the amazing hypno doula Melissa Kate about why we need to ditch the fear around childbirth and more importantly some strategies for how to do this. Send me a message and let me know what you thought about this episode!

Episode Links

Melissa’s Instagram: @melissakate_hypnodoula

Melissa’s Website: melissakate.com.au

Postnatal Return to Running program: https://www.fitnestmama.com/running

Quick Quiz: https://www.fitnestmama.com/quiz

Free Pregnancy Workshop: 3 Ways to Prepare for Labour: www.fitnestmama.com/challenge

Website: https://www.fitnestmama.com/

Instagram: @fitnestmama

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Changing our thoughts about birth, with Hypnodoula Melissa: Birth Story

Transcription

INTRODUCTION

If you are pregnant or you’ve recently had a baby, this podcast is for you. I am your host Kath Baquie, a physiotherapist working in women’s health and mum of three. Join me each week as we dive into all things pregnancy care, childbirth, and postnatal recovery, helping you have a wonderful pregnancy and afterbirth experience. And don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes.

KATH BAQUIE

Well, hi there! Welcome to Episode 33 of the FitNest Mama Podcast. Are you a bit scared about childbirth? Because I know I certainly was especially for my first baby. In this episode, I talked to the amazing Hypno Doula Melissa Kate, about why we need to ditch the fear around childbirth. And more importantly, some strategies for how to do this. So stick around because it’s a great episode.

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And before we do dive into this episode, if you would like to feel more empowered about your upcoming childbirth, join the FitNest Mama free 5 Day Challenge waitlist. So our next event is the start of June 2021. And we go through 5 Days, 5 Ways to Help You Prepare for Childbirth. So in these five days, I’ll walk you through strategies for perineal massage, active birth techniques, pushing techniques and tips for after birth recovery. If this is of interest to you, register for our next event via https://www.fitnestmama.com/challenge.

Alright, let’s get into this episode.

Hello, Melissa, thank you for joining me today. It’s so lovely to have you on.

MELISSA KATE

Hi, Kath. Thank you. I’m very excited to be here. It’s taken us a bit to get it organized. I’m really excited to be here.

KATH BAQUIE

So for those who don’t know you, could you please introduce yourself today? And yeah

MELISSA KATE

So my name is Melissa. But you might have seen me around as Melissa Kate, and I am a childbirth educator. I do that work mostly through hypnobirthing. I believe the hypnobirthing program. But I work with mums as a birth doula and in postnatal support as well. I had my kids, my children are six and four, just turned four. And when I had them, I just fell in love with pregnancy. Not being pregnant. But the whole process and how amazing it was what our bodies do and what they can achieve. And I’ve got an exercise science backgrounds, I’ve always loved the body, the way the human body functions and sort of learning about pregnancy and birth was the next level for me. And I decided that this is where I want to spend my time I want to work with other women and help share the joy that can be giving bit and I know that’s not everyone’s experience and that’s okay. I just feel really passionate about helping women understand because I know that knowledge is power. And we can’t control what our birth or pregnancy experience is. But I know that if we have the information, if we understand what we’re going through, it really can contribute to how we feel about our experience. So that’s what I set out to achieve every day.

KATH BAQUIE

Beautiful. And that’s partly what we’re going to talk about today. Like with childbirth. I know often there’s a lot of fear around childbirth and during childbirth. And I know I felt this especially during my first. Before we go on, could you explain, I guess what a doula is and how a doula might help you? Because I know some doulas accompany you and birth the actual birth whereas other doulas don’t. So could you just explain a little bit more about what doula is?

MELISSA KATE

Yeah, so I kind of describe it as a professional hand holder. You know, maybe understands it a little bit. But a doula is there for emotional support. So I’m not medically trained, I’m not there to give you medical advice or to speak on your behalf in your, you know, medical conversations, I’m there to give you that emotional support that self-belief, be the backup for your partner, there’s so much pressure happens around, you know, this final weeks of labour and that giving birth and partners often feels so sort of uncertain about their role to play, I think, you know, 99% of them say all I want to do is support my partner but I don’t know how to. So it’s about sort of being there to kind of give them a little nudge and support you as a couple to get through. It’s interesting because I love working with women in their birth and you know, attending someone’s birth is just the most magical and such an honour to be able to do that. But my goal really is to set you up before, so you don’t need me there. So that you feel completely confident in your knowledge and your body’s ability and your partner’s ability to support you, so that you can take your birth on and just walk in there with absolute conviction.

I tend to talk to women and say, “Look, I’d love to beat you with like, based on it ever, but how about we get you prepped beforehand, and then I spend some time with you once the baby arrives, because I find often, it’s we drop off that cliff a little bit. We get all the support until baby comes. And then once baby’s there, we’re kind of don’t have as much support. So I feel that it’s just as valuable, if not more valuable to be in that dual role that support emotional connection role postnatal.

KATH BAQUIE

I 100% agree with what you’re saying. But like you’re talking about it from a motherhood and the newborn perspective, which are 100% great, we need so much more support. And then from my perspective, there’s a lot of focus often on the pregnancy and childbirth, but that postnatal rehab, so helping your body recover after childbirth is also I find tends to drop off. And I can understand why, like you’ve got a newborn, and you’re learning how to be a mum, and change nappies and breastfeed and you’re sleep deprived.

MELISSA KATE

And you know, you would fit perfectly with from a physical recovery point of view. We say to our mums, the first six weeks, like it’s just about you and your bubba and going nowhere. And just staying home and resting and recovering. But in our lives today, that’s so impractical. You know, I say that to mums, I think Oh, yeah. And I know what I was like, you know, I remember going out six days later, going for coffee with my baby, and then getting home and feeling all that pelvic heaviness and just tired and babies overwhelmed. And we’re kind of our own worst enemy of the time. But when you don’t know what you don’t know, and that’s what the message I’m trying to really get out there is pre-empt that and once you’re in that moment it can be really hard to see the light. But if you can pre-empt and have that support, I always recommend have a lactation consultant on hand. Have a women’s health, physio and hand heavy GP on hand. Have these people you know that when it gets a bit tough, you can call. You don’t be searching for a good lactation consultant, when you’re in the midst of having feeding troubles.

So it’s that preparation. Preparing for your birth, but preparing for your postnatal time is so important as well.

KATH BAQUIE

As I said at the start, we’re going to talk about, I guess, the role of fear, I want to talk about why women are often fearful. And then what does fear potentially do to childbirth? And then what are some strategies to help overcome that fear? So let’s start. So I can understand why women might be fearful. But what do you find the main reasons why women are perhaps a little bit fearful about childbirth?

MELISSA KATE

Yeah, I think the first thing that comes into a lot of people’s mind is, “Oh, my gosh, how’s this going to come out, like this baby’s going to come out.” And that just feels really confronting that we have a visual of what size the baby is, and a visual of the space that they need to move through. And that just, physiologically, we just can’t make that connection. So I think for a lot of people, it’s that.

And then it is the fear of the unknown. Like, what do I do next? Where do I go? Where do I get the information? How do I know I’m making the right decisions? What if something goes wrong? How will I know something’s going wrong? It’s just that unknown, of what’s to come. And that can be whether it’s birth, or a brand new job or moving out anything, if you don’t know what’s to come, it can be really nerve racking. And that sort of feeds back into the history of birth and our education around birth. We don’t talk about this, you know, not until you’re in that sphere. Do you have any idea about the healthcare system around birth or the physicality of birth, or it’s just not taught.

So I think that’s a real sort of concern, I guess. I mean, I can’t change the education system, but it’s one of those things. And because of that, we then have this preconceived idea of what birth is going to be. So it’s that fear around the pain. And that birth is we knew birth is something that we have to endure. Something we have to suffer through. And you know, it’s all worth it in the end because I have my baby, but I just have to push through. Because we have all these preconceived images of birth. Most people’s experience of birth is a Hollywood movie, or the TV show, or, you know, one born every minute, it’s an interesting show. But that’s not necessarily the best insight either. From a very young age, I don’t know about your kids, I’m sure they love Bluey like blue is the best cartoon going around. But there’s an episode where dad pretends to have a baby at the top, and he screams and yells as he delivers the baby. So from three, four years old, we’ve been told that birth is this painful, scary thing that you have to endure. So it’s nobody’s fault. We just have these preconceptions. I think from most of us it’s that the fear of the pain and the fear of the unknown, that we all the women I speak to, that’s where they are starting.

KATH BAQUIE

They’re two big topics aren’t their fear of pain, and fear of the unknown. Where do we start?

MELISSA KATE

I think the unknown is an interesting one because that’s when you can control to a degree nobody can predict your future. No matter how skilled care provider you are, or healthcare professional, no one can predict what your birth is going to be. But understanding the physiology of birth, for instance, to be cheesy, but we call them the gifts from nature. So talking about how your parenting is designed to stretch, talking about how your pelvis shape changes, talking about relaxing, flowing through your body, talking about your natural explosive reflex, which is your body’s natural ability to effectively squeeze baby out.

We know women in common can give birth because of this response. So I think it’s learning about these things are going, “Oh, yeah, okay, my body’s gonna work with me, it’s not my pre pregnancy, body, squeezing baby out, there’s all these things that will happen to align to help the process easier.”

Another great one is the fontanelles, the moulding of baby skulls. Babies skulls change shape. So they’re not you know, that full circumference that you might imagine, or that you see in the ultrasound, that’s not necessarily exactly the size and shape that’s moving through the birth canal. So I think learning about those things, and reinstalling some confidence that your body knows what to do that your body is programmed to adapt and change to make this happen.

And then we talk about navigating the healthcare system. And that’s, you know, not in any way, downplaying, you know, care providers. It’s about understanding what the system looks like, so that you know, what to expect, you know what to anticipate, you know, what the standard treatments are the standard processes and policies. So that when you’re at 40 weeks, and you hear that you’re getting induced next week, and this is how we’re going to induce you, it’s not the first time you’ve heard those terms, you understand what your options are, and you can have an educated conversation with care provider. And I think that knowledge and empowerment can really help reduce your fear levels on the unknown sense.

KATH BAQUIE

And I have to admit, with my first baby, eight years ago, I put my head in the sand. I thought, you know what, “I’ll be fine.” I’m good at that sort of relax sort of attitude, “I’ll be fine.” And then as the time kept closer, I suddenly thought, “Oh, I haven’t done anything to prepare. Oh my Gosh!” By then it’s too late.

MELISSA KATE

And it’s a really fine line. And I had that conversation regularly about the “head-in-the-sand” versus that over stressing you out because you’ve read every single book that exists. And you know, how do you know when you’re on that line is a really a really tough thing. I think the best thing is to find a connection with, it can be someone like myself, who is a birth educator, but it can be your GP, it can be your physio, it can be your mom, your sister, like anyone who has some experience that can help guide you with some questions you might have. And it’s not about becoming an obstetrician, you know, like completely specializing in birth, it’s just knowing the basics, knowing physically what happens to your body? And what are the most common things that pop up in hospital, or wherever you choose to birth. And then at least you’ve heard those terms before. And then when someone says, we’re going to augment your birth, like, “What does augmentation mean?” you know, which means speeding up labour artificially, but knowing that, it just takes that fear out of the situation.

So for everyone that I always say, the biggest thing you can do to impact your birth positively, is to sort of commit I mean, everyone’s committed to their pregnancy, but research, watch some videos, read some books, read some articles, and learn like you wouldn’t go and buy a house without doing some research. So it’s to say that doing a little bit of research, so that’s kind of my point of view on it anyway.

KATH BAQUIE

Yeah, absolutely. And my second and third births were much nicer experiences, once I, you know, put on my big girl pants and learn a bit more about it and I’ve got a challenge, 5 days free challenge, 5 days, 5 ways to Prepare for Labour. And we’re talking about the physical side of things like the active birth techniques and the perennial massage, and yeah, it can be really empowering. I know that firsthand, and from so much feedback, so it’s amazing.

Okay, so we’ve talked about some reasons why women might be fearful of birth. What does fear do, physiologically to the body? Like, why? Why don’t we want to be fearful of birth?

MELISSA KATE

Yeah. And this is really interesting. And I love sharing this with people, because so often they’re like, “Oh, my gosh”, yeah, that’s what it’s like, “Oh, now I know that.” So most people have probably heard of your flight or fight response. It’s a pretty common term that for most people over your life, you might have heard at some point, effectively, it’s our human survival response. So it goes right back to the days when we lived, you know, caveman days, and we needed to be able to have this response when we were in danger. So if we felt we were in danger, our bodies could automatically flip into this mode where we could either fight for our lives or flee. And what happens is logically when you go into that fight or flight response is that adrenaline and catecholamine’s are released. Amongst other things, but they’re the key things when we talk about birthing.

The air released. And what they do is they get your heart rate beating faster, your heart beating fast, which is great, because that gets more oxygenated blood moving to your body. The response promotes the flow of the blood to your survival muscles. So your arms or your legs, it says, “Okay, this is what we want to do right now. So let’s get all the oxygen as much as we can to your arms and your legs so we can fight or flight.” And that’s brilliant. That’s a really great response. If there’s something wrong, we can get away. The downside in labour that though, is if you think about where all the work is happening in labour, and it’s in uterus, anything about what else is in the uterus is your placenta, and that is getting oxygen to your baby. So when you’re in flight or fight, your internal core muscles aren’t part of the survival muscles.

So they kind of get neglected, which means the blood flow gets lessened, which in turn means oxygen gets lessened. And in essence, that means your baby’s getting less oxygen. And your uterus can’t function as efficiently and as effectively, the muscle reaction as it needs to. So when we’re in that fight or flight, it’s not great for the physical response for the baby. But what it also does is it blocks the key hormones that we need to give birth. So catecholamines is a blocker essentially, for endorphins, which are natural tranquilizer, and can inhibit the release of oxytocin. And oxytocin is the neuropeptide, which we produce that is responsible for surging the uterus. So you sort of, if you’re in your fight or flight response, you’re really inhibiting your ability to birth from a hormonal and a physical point of view. And so for most people, once you understand that, you’ll think, “Oh, okay, cool, I will I definitely don’t want to be in fight or flight.” But then you’ve got to work out, “Well, how do I not go into that fight or flight?” Well, that’s the whole hypnobirthing course for.

KATH BAQUIE

Now, Episode 12 was with the lovely Loretta Hamilton. So if you’re interested in all this, go and check out Episode 12, because she described how a dog, if a dog is going to give birth, it will not give birth, when it’s in a light environment, noisy, you know, people running around, what it does is goes to the dark closet, somewhere dark, where it can relax, and therefore give birth. And I love that analogy. Because like when we’re in a flight or fight response, I assume it slows down labour and dramatically the natural progression of labour. So thinking, where would an animal naturally want to give birth? And it’s exactly right, isn’t it? It’s a quiet environment. It’s dark, it’s relaxing, where they feel really safe.

MELISSA KATE

Yep, we talk about private, safe and unobserved. You need to feel private, you need to feel safe, and you need to feel unobserved, to give birth. And the example actually, in the hypnobirthing textbook is a cat giving birth to kittens. But you say the same thing. That was a real core of Marie Mangan, who wrote the program, she witnessed that and that was sort of started getting her to think about the whole thing.

But I talked to my couples about creating, I think of it as like a little snow globe. Create the little bubble, your little birthing bubble, that you feel completely private, safe and unobserved in and at home, that can often be reasonably easy. You might go into the nursery, you might decide I want to labour a home and then nursery, because that gives me all these beautiful feelings. And I feel really calm and excited and positive about this experience. It’s happening. You might have low lights, and music and fairy lights, all those kinds of things happening. And then when you need to move to the hospital, if you’re birthing to in a hospital, “Okay, we’ve got to get in the car.” So how can we create that environment in the car and we talk about your senses. So what can you hear what can you smell? What can you see? What can you feel? Taste is probably less relevant.

And so then you bring your own mask, your essential oils, your beautiful blanket that makes you feel good, you create that bubble and you travel it to the car. And then when you get to the car, you’ve got to the hospital. So then you try and create that bubble as much as you can in the hospital. And, you know, there’s practical things that get in the way along the journey. But if you can, in essence try and create a beautiful, safe, private environment. You’re in a lot better position.

KATH BAQUIE

I love that I’ve heard a talked a lot about at home and in the hospital, but that transition in the car. That’s Yeah, that’s awesome. And I distinctly remember from my first birth, getting into the car, and then a couple of ambulances that went past you know, high noise, lights flashing. So yeah, I distinctly remember that totally took me out of my zone.

MELISSA KATE

Well, that’s right. Imagine pulling out next to a bus and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, these busload of people looking in my window.” Yeah, that’s it. So I think an eye mask is 101, making much even, and eye mask gone and listening to your music. If you’ve got a blanket or I’m a very tactile person, like I’m that person that walks in the shop and touches every piece of clothing, if you’re a tactile person have a blanket that you can wrap yourself in and touch and rub or a piece of baby’s clothing that you love. Just things that make you feel good because the feel good hormones and the hormones that are responsible for labour. So as much as possible, you just want to be in that way. And you know, we talked about fight or flight versus your neutral state your calm zone, you want to stay in that calm zone as much as possible.

KATH BAQUIE

Would you say that would be one sort of massive strategy? Create your snow globe?

MELISSA KATE

Yes.

KATH BAQUIE

We were talking about the physiological side of the flight and fight. So that sort of went on a tangent? Yeah.

MELISSA KATE

Yeah. Sorry.

KATH BAQUIE

No.

MELISSA KATE

I do that.

KATH BAQUIE

Right. I love it. Going back to why we don’t want to feel like, what does it do to labour? Was that the main one? Or was there anything else you wanted to take off?

MELISSA KATE

The core thing is that fight or flight response. And from that fight or flight response, it sets off so many reactions internally, you know, from tension, to lack of oxygen to lack of the birthing hormones flowing. So it’s really the overarching umbrella routine. And then the key is to work out some strategies to stay out of that zone. And the thing that’s really interesting is that our bodies don’t understand, they can’t tell the difference between an actual threat or a perceived threat. So if you think about walking to your car at night, and whether there’s somebody there or not, sometimes you get that goose bumps. And you think, “Oh my god, that could be like, I just feel really uncomfortable.” That is, you’re going to fight or flight. And it’s a perceived threat, there’s not actually a threat there or someone slams a door and you jump and you sort of feel your heart rate go. That’s a perceived threat.

And so that’s really interesting to note, when you think about birthing and you think about hospitals, and you think about people in your space that don’t make you feel comfortable. So you might be under no threat whatsoever. But the person who’s in that room might make you feel uncomfortable, and might just have a look about, that might have a sound about them. Just something that doesn’t make you feel comfortable, that can send you into that fight or flight mode.

If you’re birthing in a hospital where you’ve had previous negative experiences, either you or somebody you care about, you might find that the minute you walk into that space, you have this uncontrollable, you go into the fight or flight response because like, “Last time I was here, I remember something horrible happening.” So it’s that perceived versus real fear is really interesting. So that’s something we talk about, thinking about, and plant about where you’re birthing, who’s going to be involved in your environment. And even just down to you know, we talk about the car ride, if you get really angst when your partner drives you, or you know, you don’t like traveling, or if there’s something that sets you off. Normally, every day, you have to try and pick those things out and avoid them during labour. I remember actually said to my husband, I ended up I didn’t have to go into labour at this time. But we thought that was and we drove it was like midnight, and like can I just drive myself like, I just feel like I need to be in control. And that was at the time, I didn’t know necessarily what I know now, but I just knew that it would be the worst passenger and I wasn’t in pain, it was just that my waters had broken. So I was like, “I’d like to drive, please.” And it just gave me that sense of control. So yeah, I mean, there’s probably not a lot of like burning women who want to drive themselves to hospital. But yeah, you know, it’s just reading your room and thinking about what the room might be, and how you can add things to it to make it a positive experience.

KATH BAQUIE

I distinctly remember our drive was, we were living close to the MCG. So if you’re in Melbourne that’s like the main football stadium. And I was due on grand final day. And I just I was having pictures of being bumper to bumper, like, there’s one road to pretty much get to the hospital. And it was just, for ages that was creating such angst too.

MELISSA KATE

Yeah, yup.

KATH BAQUIE

And yeah, I probably wasn’t very helpful. Having that concern, I probably should have changed. You know, knowing that I was due on grand final day. I guess people probably come across this all the time, if you live rurally or regionally and it’s a long drive to the hospital, like there’d be lots of situations where that’s a concern.

MELISSA KATE

It’s interesting, because we talk and hear a lot of talk about you know, you want to birth at home for as long as possible because the reason for that is private, safe and unobserved during your own space. You’re more likely to feeling that calm environment, but I do say to people, that’s not true for everybody. You know, if you live far away, or you have particular anxiety around medical issues, or for some people getting to the hospital sooner rather than later actually help them feel calmer. So I think you need to take every piece of advice with a grain of salt and then apply your experience on top of that.

KATH BAQUIE

Yeah, I love that point that you just made there. For not everyone’s staying at home as long as possible. Yeah. So I have a chat to the hospital. And, yeah, that’s brilliant.

MELISSA KATE

And that’s sort of my philosophy. Because I know I found in, not so much in birth, but in early pregnancy, I spent the entire time trying to tick all the boxes. Like, I remember asking on day one, like, “Can I pick her up?” Because I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to pick the baby up from the court because she’d been wrapped up and put down and I spent the whole time worrying about what I can and can’t do. And then when he had, I had my second, he said, “There’s no time for that.” You’re just kind of, you’ve got the confidence. But also, you’ve just got to get on with it because I had a toddler. And it was so liberating, feeling like, “Oh, yeah, I’m in charge here.” And so I really love to speak to all the mums I work with and say, “Look, if you come to me, and you want to have a pre apprentice area, and I will support you. All I want you to know, is the facts, and that you make an educated decision and anywhere in between.” But I just think it’s really important that you make a decision that’s right for you with the right information. Not just because a friend did it, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you.

So I think that helps with that fear factor. Because once you, you learn about things, what you think you might be afraid of what you learn, and you’re like, “Oh, all right. I was speaking to someone yesterday who was not wanting a particular procedure.” And once I explained it to her, she was like, “Ah, oh, well, I’m cool with that.”

KATH BAQUIE

Well, you gave us some amazing little strategies and techniques to try there to help reduce the fear. And my biggest takeaway was creating your little, what did you call it a snow buble? Snow globe.

MELISSA KATE

Little bubble or snow globe? I just picture in my head it’s a snow globe.

KATH BAQUIE

Yeah, I love it. So thank you very much, Melissa. For those who would like to learn more about you and your services, how can people contact you?

MELISSA KATE

Yeah, sure. So my website is https://melissakate.com.au, or Instagram. I’m probably the most active and its @melissakate_ hypnodoula. I’m trying my best with reel so get on board. Check out some of my silly videos I’m putting out there.

KATH BAQUIE

You’ve done some great reels. I love it. And for anyone who listened to this episode, send Melissa and me a message on Instagram. We would love to hear from you. Thank you so much, Melissa for joining me today.

MELISSA KATE

Thank you, Kath, for having me. It’s my absolute pleasure.

KATH BAQUIE

Amazing! Speak to you soon.

Before I sign off, remember my team and I will be putting together the Show Notes for this episode with all the links at https://fitnestmama.com/podcast, including how to connect with Melissa Kate, and also how to join the challenge for the free 5 day event coming up in June, 5 Days, 5 Ways to Prepare for labour. I’d love to hear from you. If you enjoyed this episode, it’ll be amazing for you to give it a quick rating and review. It really helps with the algorithm and it helps this podcast get found by more women just like you. So thank you so much everyone. Have a fabulous day. And I look forward to you joining me next week for another episode of the FitNest Mama Podcast.

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