Because I have a physical disability, I chose to have a planned C-section to deliver my baby. My care team and I discussed the risks and rewards of both vaginal delivery and C-section during my pregnancy, and I read a lot about C-sections (thanks The Essential C-Section Guide, Expecting Better and Like a Mother). Ultimately, I came to the decision that this was the best choice for myself and my baby.
While I felt like a planned C-section was the best decision for me, I still had a lot of nerves about the big day. It’s unusual to be awake for a major surgery. And being prone to panic attacks, thinking about the potential side effects was causing me some stress. I was also not thrilled that my husband couldn’t be in the room for the whole surgery (where I gave birth in Canada, partners are often not allowed in until after the anesthesia is in place). I really didn’t want to do any of it alone.
I was talking with my counselor about some of my worries, and she suggested I consider a hypnobirthing class. I’d found that some of my research also mentioned hypnobirthing’s usefulness for helping with managing post-surgery pain. It took a bit of searching, but I found an online course called the Positive Caesarean Birth Course.
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is a set or practice of relaxation and mind-body techniques, often involving meditation, visualizations, and positive affirmations. It is grounded in the same evidence-based principles that often guide mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. Some people may choose to practice hypnobirthing for a vaginal birth. If you are planning for a vaginal birth and end up needing a C-section, I imagine that you would be able to use many of the techniques you learn in a vaginal birth-focused hypnobirthing class.
Hypnobirthing for C-sections
For a C-section, hypnobirthing is not about replacing anesthesia or post-surgery pain medication, but complementing those tools. Employing the practice recognizes that the mental load of birth still exists with a C-section, and that people having C-sections are deserving of a positive birth experience.
How I used hypnobirthing to prepare for my planned C-section
Every time I did my physiotherapy exercises (pretty much the only thing I had the energy to do during the last two months of my pregnancy), I would listen to the positive affirmations track.
I found myself reframing some of my thoughts using those mantras when I was feeling anxious about my birth. I would practice the hypno-visualizations when I could (even if I occasionally fell asleep to them), and I used them during surgery prep when I started feeling overwhelmed.
I picked a playlist (I opted for spa-like music, calming but not distracting) and listened to it before my baby’s birth so that when we played it during the surgery, I would be able to associate the music with a calm environment.
My husband and I did the whole course together. That was important to me, so that I knew he could walk me through some techniques if I was needing support during the day of the birth. We did some exercises together to discuss our hopes for the birth, created a birth preferences plan, and did a “dress rehearsal” where we talked through how things might go.
We also learned physical touch techniques that the non-birthing partner can offer, which we used during the procedure. These techniques allowed for the same type of bonding you might have with your partner in a vaginal delivery birthing class.
I loved getting to take a birth-centered class like this even though I was having a C-section. It felt like participating in a classic pregnancy milestone, which doesn’t always feel relevant or available with a C-section birth. It also allowed me agency in the process of preparing for birth, where there are not as many options for C-sections.
Using hypnobirthing in my C-section left me empowered
Ultimately, taking a hypnobirthing course gave me the feeling that I could have an empowered, calm, and joyful birth process. That was so helpful in those days leading up to the birth, where I was wondering what my life would look like with a fresh new babe in my arms.
The day of, I still experienced a lot of intense emotions. But I was so much better off having taken the class. In my two years of pregnancy and postpartum life, I continue to notice the lack of information-sharing that could really support people having C-sections (scar massage, anyone?). For better or for worse, we are 30% of the birthing population in North America, and are deserving of an array of support options moving through pregnancy and birth.
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