Siobhan Miller, founder of Positive Birth Company, shares a hypnobirthing toolkit to prepare for the arrival of baby, for during labour and in the early days. Wherever you are on the anxious or excited spectrum before your baby arrives, relax – we’ve got your back.
What is hypnobirthing?
You’ve probably heard the term and may have dismissed it as hippy-dippy hype. However, it’s not new as the techniques have been used for decades, and it doesn’t involve hypnosis! It’s about understanding how labour works on a muscular and hormonal level, and how we can harness the power of relaxation techniques to work with your body.
Siobhan says: “Hypnobirthing is a comprehensive and evidence-based programme of education using practical tools to make the whole experience more positive. I aim to equip women with a hypnobirthing toolkit that will help you feel more calm, centered and grounded. All of these tools can be used post-natally too – they’re what I call life skills.”
What’s in the toolkit?
It includes breathwork, meditation and massage.
“Breathing is an absolute game-changer in hypnobirthing,” says Siobhan. “It sounds super simple and it is. You always have your breath with you so you can always tap into it. Here’s how: Take a nice, deep inhale through your nose for a count of four. Feel your body expand. Then breathe out, exhaling through your mouth, slowly and gently for a count of approximately eight. As you do so, feel yourself soften, relax and release. Your shoulders should be dropping. Then repeat. So in for four, through your nose, feeling everything expand and out for an eight-count to let everything release.
“If in for a count of four and out for eight is a struggle, feel free to customise it and try something that works for you. Try in for a three count and out for six, or whatever you try make sure the exhale is longer than the inhale as that’s where the magic happens.
“If you do four repetitions this lasts for approximately 48 seconds, which is typically how long a surgal contraction lasts in active labour. As well as an effective technique for labour this works as a life skill as it’s such a simple way to dispel tension and relax.”
Meditation & massage
“Meditation is a mindfulness practice essentially. It’s all about being present in the moment,” says Siobhan. There is a huge choice of audio meditations to tune into and improve your practice.
She suggests that the more you engage with it, the more you’ll get out of it. “If the audio tells you to focus on a golden light, really try to visualise it. Focus on imagining those feelings too, as if you can feel the warmth of the light.”
Add massage to your toolkit. “It gets you to produce happy hormones,” says Siobhan, who gives practical massage techniques in The Virtual Meet-Up.
The 5-Senses checklist
This works well for birth and beyond. To maximise relaxation, involve your five senses.
Sight: Lighting has an effect on how you feel so have fun exploring options, from candles to LED mood lights.
Sound: You can explore sound baths with Siobhan, who offers YouTube sessions. Pick a playlist and let the music make the magic happen. Giovanna’s own soundtrack, when giving birth to Buzz, included Coldplay.
Smell: Whether it’s a diffuser and essential oils, incense sticks or a rollerball, inhale your way to relaxation.
Touch: Use something that feels familiar and helps you to relax and feel safe, such as a favourite textured throw.
Taste: From a cup of tea to your favourite biscuits. Pack them in your birth bag so your comfort food is close.
“I encourage people to customise your toolkit with what you know already works for you,” says Siobhan. She points out that what’s worked for us before will work for birth and the early postnatal chapter. “The more relaxed you are as you journey through your birth experience, the better.”
Gi and Kate chat hypnobirthing
In Giovanna’s podcast with HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, hypnobirthing came up in the chat. Kate had dealt with severe morning sickness and learned how to control her breathing to help the symptoms. Kate said: “I saw the power of it really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that – that they teach you in hypnobirthing – when I was really sick. And, actually, I realised that this was something I could take control of, I suppose, during labour.”
Siobhan on mumpreneur success
Like Giovanna, Siobhan Miller is a mother to three boys. In 2021 she appeared on BBC1’s Dragon’s Den with a successful pitch for The Positive Birth Company.
What is key to your career?
“Doing something I feel passionate about and truly believe in. Not chasing financial success but being driven by a real desire to make a positive change in the world. Being genuine, original and working damn hard.”
What would you advise your younger self?
“Do what you love, don’t worry so much about what you’ll ‘be’ or ‘do’ when you’re older. Most of the jobs I do now didn’t even exist when I was at school (tech being the biggest example!). Instead, focus on doing what you love because you’ll care more, you’ll work harder, you’ll achieve more, and be happier while doing it. Life experience helps and things will become clearer, falling into place in time.”
What’s next on your to-do list?
“We know there are lots of barriers that prohibit women and birthing people from accessing hypnobirthing classes including cost, location, time, childcare to name but a few. I want to ensure every single woman has access to decent antenatal education. This is The Positive Birth Company’s mission and we’re making that happen. We’re about to launch a podcast and will be campaigning to shape future NHS policy around antenatal education and care. Watch this space!”