An Interview With Jennifer L. West, LM, CPM, HBCE
1. What drew you to HypnoBirthing® as a natural childbirth method?
After teaching ‘traditional childbirth classes’ for five years and noticing that none of the techniques that were being taught and being used seemed to really work all the way through the birthing process, I decided to look into hypnosis for childbirth after viewing a piece done on “Dateline”, September, 1999.
2. Why did you decide to become a certified instructor?
I had to go to the training and try it out in order to see for myself if this was a flash in the pan, just the latest childbirth craze, or if this was what always seemed to be missing in childbirth education. The only way to test this technique/philosophy was to get the training, teach it and see it in action, more than once.
3. Have you ever attended any of the HypnoBirths of clients you’ve instructed?
Yes, for over ten years, approx. 800 births, including twins, VBAC’s and a mother with Multiple Sclerosis.
4. Can you tell me about the possible drawbacks, if any, of HypnoBirthing®? Do you ever, for instance, have clients with unrealistic expectations.
The only drawbacks I have seen are couples that attend class thinking they are in a traditional CBE class and that someone is going to wave a magic wand over them at the time of birth and all will be groovy. Most couples that complain that HypnoBirthing® didn’t work for them are couples that don’t listen to the CD daily, don’t invest a little practice time with the main support person planning to attend their birth (usually this is the father of the baby, but not always….) Because HypnoBirthing® sounds and is deceptively simple, some couples believe they don’t have to do the ‘homework’, so are shocked when it ‘doesn’t work’ during their labor and birthing.
Now, unrealistic expectations are a different kettle of fish altogether and this can happen regardless of the type of CBE they attend. This usually occurs when women/families refuse to acknowledge the difference between perceived realities and actual realities. An example might be that a woman just loves her OB and was told that she only would get an episiotomy if it was absolutely necessary and happily goes on her way to her birth and is outraged when she receives an episiotomies and demands to know what happened. If she had asked her doctor what his episiotomies rate was before she was in labor, she might have found out that it’s 90% and this might have changed her mind about who she choose to birth with. Then again, it might not have, as no decision is a decision! Lack of information on the client’s part often creates a less than optimal birthing experience for everyone involved.
One other thing I have noticed while teaching this course is the misconception of taking pain out of labor means taking all sensation out of labor. I guess our culture is so invested in having a painful labor that most women don't stoop to realize that other sensations are happening during the birthing process! Often they hear 'no pain' and substitute “Oh, goody, I won't feel a thing”. I can tell you, after attending many HypnoBirths, that women do feel everything, but don't describe what they feel as painful. They tell me they felt pressure, 'it felt really big', intense, empowering, and amazing to realize how strong their own bodies were/are. If I ask them directly if they felt pain, they pause and say “No, as long as I stayed relaxed and focused on my breathing, realized I couldn't 'help' my own body by doing anything other than staying limp and relaxed by breathing; no, I felt the baby moving down, but no pain”. I'm still amazed today how wonderful these births are with HypnoBirthing as the technique used for preparation and relaxation.
5. What advice would you give to a woman considering HypnoBirthing® as a natural childbirth method?
I would advise her to go to the HypnoBirthing® website so she could read about it on her own, I would talk to her about what she gets when she takes the classes, what she loses out on if she doesn’t, and offer her phone numbers of previous students so she could talk to the women using or have used, the HypnoBirthing® Method directly. After all, I’m the teacher, so I could be a little bit biased about how great the program is. However, after listening to the Mothers themselves rave about their births, the potential HypnoBirth-er gets a more objective view of the program and philosophy.
6. How would you compare HypnoBirthing® to other natural childbirth methods?
I’m only qualified to compare it to what I used to teach at University Hospital and Presbyterian Hospital. The ‘hospital’ classes on the whole teach a very fear-based program that really teaches the couples how to be good little patients. Now while I taught, I did get (or I should say my supervisor got) a fair share of complaints from the doctors and nurses, as I did choose to teach evidence-based information; and I could speak about what I observed in the home birth setting. HypnoBirthing® is teaching evidence-based information and techniques. It supports normal birth, which is not what is happening in hospitals across America. Hospital birth is typical, but it is most definitely not normal.
This program does seem to provide the missing pieces of information to keep women relaxed and birthing well and comfortably. I also see a significantly decreased amount of fetal distress, as a calm and assured mother creates a calm and assured birthing baby. I attended a birth with a baby that should have had low heart rates (fetal distress) like crazy, because at the time of birth, we saw cord wrapped around his little body seven times. He tied himself in, and yet, because Mom could stay relaxed, even through a transport to the hospital and lots of shift changes and a threat to have a C-section, she birthed her 9# baby like a pro and we were all shocked to see all that cord entanglement, especially since we never saw a deceleration on the monitor the whole time. Oh, and her water had released first-her whole two-day labor was without much fluid, and that should have created stress on the baby, but it didn’t.
7. In your experience, are hospitals and doctors open to HypnoBirthing®?
Some are and some aren’t. Usually after they see a HypnoBirth they want to know more. After they have seen several, they want my brochures in their office. Some decide to stick with the theory that birth has to hurt or it’s ‘just not right’ and claim the HypnoBirthers just birth ‘easily’ anyway and consider the whole thing a fluke.
8. Have you ever had a client express a negative experience dealing with doctors or hospitals around her desire to use HypnoBirthing®?
Yes, some just flap their hands and say, ‘Oh, you’re gonna try that? We’ll be sure to have your epidural ready!’ Some flat out tell the couples that it won’t work. Some undermine the couple at every turn by refusing to honor requests that were discussed and approved during prenatal visits, use un-orthodox time frames, manipulate hospital policy, separate the husband and or labor companion from the laboring mother to pressure her into decisions that don’t feel god to her, and many more scenarios that are “just not right”. But most of the medical model participants, doctors and nurses want you to have a good birth, so when they see you doing well, they want you to keep doing well... and are very supportive.
9. Is there any advice you would give to a woman planning a Hypnobirth in a hospital setting?
Yes. Every birthing woman should hire a Doula (an independently-hired Doula) to assist her and her husband or birthing support-person in making decisions based on evidence and nothing else. Be sure to go to all your class sessions, read the book, listen to your CD at least once every day and believe you can do this, because you can.
10. Do you consider it important that a woman have support from her partner or a Doula during HypnoBirthing®?
Absolutely. I'll elaborate. I have seen single women do just beautifully, but it is much better for the laboring woman to feel safe, to know that someone is standing nearby to protect her, her baby and her birthing space. HypnoBirthing teaches the labor companion (once again, probably Dad, but it can be anyone that plans to attend the birth with this woman) real techniques to maintain relaxation, to act as a gorilla to 'keep the birthing area safe', no matter what happens, to weed through all the information that can be thrown at a couple upon entering the hospital and at anytime throughout the laboring process, how to differentiate between a real emergency to mother and/or baby and a manufactured crisis. Now, you might say, “Well, if HypnoBirthing teaches Dad all this, why would we pay for a Doula?” Let me remind you that Dad is 'Dad', while Doulas are birthing professionals-their only agenda is to make sure you have the birth you desire. They don't have to abide by hospital policy, they aren't 'in love' with the lady having the baby, so can stay objective.
They have seen many births, so know the difference between good birthing noises and a need for help. Dad may, or may not, have the birthing experience needed to differentiate between real vs. fabricated situations. Once again, allowing the mother to focus on her job of birthing is the goal of both Dad and Doula.
11. Are there any other thoughts you would like to share around HypnoBirthing®.
I don’t teach anything else these days, as I’ve been to enough births in 20 years to know when I’ve stumbled upon what works. I’m not a hypnotherapist, I don’t have to be, the HypnoBirthing® is that good. It helps that I have a background in birthing, but I also had to let go of all that I ‘thought I knew about birth’ in order to see what is so amazing each and every time-a birthing Mom and her family realizing how strong they are and how strong they have been all along and, in some cases, how duped they have been in the past about their birthing choices. A real eye-opener for all involved.
If you would like to contact someone out of the country to get their opinion of HypnoBirthing®, some one in Mexico where the C-Sec. Rate is so high due to fear of birth and fear of pain, I can get you an email address for Irma Alicia Tostado. You may also contact me for a list of HypnoBirthing® Moms here in Albuquerque that would love to share their experiences.
(Note: Jenny became a certified Hypnotherapist in August 2006)
12. Do I have your permission to use your real name for this article, or would you prefer that I use a pseudonym?
Please do use my real name as I have been a resource for the women of New Mexico since 1995 and happily continue to help women sort out what they want from what they don’t, and possible options to attain the birth of their dreams. Please feel free to contact me if I can help you in any way.
Thank you so much for your willingness to share your HypnoBirthing® experiences with women seeking information as they make their own birth choices! Thank you for your time and effort regarding this very important topic — how our babies are treated when they arrive in this world will make a world of difference.