What is Hypnobirthing? An interview with childbirth educator Cynthia Overgard of Hypnobirthing of CT
As part of our wonderful new slate of classes at Magic Beans stores, we’re presenting “Three Things that Will Determine the Outcome of Your Birth,” a talk by childbirth educator and HypnoBirthing instructor Cynthia Overgard, on November 4. HypnoBirthing is just one of many great approaches you can choose for your child’s birth, but we love how respectful and empowering Cynthia’s take on birth is, and we think you will too! You can learn more about Cynthia’s work at www.HypnoBirthingCT.com and www.Facebook.com/HypnoBirthingCT.
Q: We’re so excited that you’ll be giving a talk about childbirth at Magic Beans! Tell me a bit about what our customers can expect when you discuss “The 3 things that will determine the outcome of your birth.”
The process of childbirth education is ultimately a discovery process of identifying what you can and cannot control during your labor and delivery. When a woman is fully informed on her rights and choices, she discovers she can control the majority of her birth experience. With her positioning and breathing, she can even affect her own physiologic birth experience, by making her birth quicker and more comfortable.
My talk will provide an overview on what women can and cannot control in this process – mostly, what they can control. My intention is that women and their partners will leave feeling clearer on the kind of birth they want to have, and empowered to start evaluating whether their caregiver is right for them.
Most of all, I want them to have a new perspective on how they can prepare for the safest, most wonderful birth possible – a birth they will joyfully tell their child about one day.
Q: For those readers who aren’t familiar with the concept of HypnoBirthing, can you tell me a bit about what it is and how it works?
HypnoBirthing is a 12-hour childbirth education class that teaches women the tools for remaining calm and in control during birth. HypnoBirthing of Connecticut has prepared more than 800 couples for childbirth, with the vast majority of those women having natural births, and, more important, a birth experience they feel completely at peace with, even when medical intervention was deemed necessary.
The premise is that fear and tension are the cause of pain, and therefore, with trust and relaxation (instead of fear and tension), there is no physiological reason childbirth should be uncomfortable. Of course, childbirth can be an intense experience. This is why we learn tools for staying as relaxed and focused as possible. It’s not so much about what we will feel during childbirth as it’s about how we will respond to what we feel. Many women try to resist childbirth when they’re in the throes of it, but in HypnoBirthing we can learn to relinquish ourselves to it. When women discover that they can handle physical stress calmly, it’s nothing short of life-changing.
One final point worth noting about HypnoBirthing is that the goal is not a natural birth – the goal is simply to stay calm and in control. The interesting effect of staying calm and in control, however, is that many women end up having a natural birth because it ends up feeling like a very available option to them. For this reason, research indicates that the cesarean rate in the HypnoBirthing community is significantly lower than the rest of the country, and the natural birth rate is significantly higher. But most important, the goal is for all women to feel at peace with their births regardless of what interventions might be necessary.
Q: From your bio, it sounds like your HypnoBirthing experience was extremely inspiring, given that it changed your entire career path! Tell me a bit about what you were doing before, and how you decided to dedicate your life to teaching HypnoBirthing.
As they say, the expert in anything was once a beginner. Before I became pregnant with my first baby ten years ago, I knew virtually nothing about childbirth – certainly nothing positive or empowering. After obtaining my MBA in Finance, I moved to Connecticut when I accepted an exciting job opportunity from GE. I later went to work at MasterCard, and was a finance professor at UConn for 9 years part-time. Incidentally, it was during my professorship that I discovered my passion for teaching.
Then, when I became pregnant, I discovered I had a huge fear of childbirth. This fear was only exacerbated by having an OB who started warning me at 16 weeks that my body was small-framed and it looked like I was carrying an unusually large baby. I just intuitively knew she was wrong for me. I ended up leaving her group and making a commitment to a natural birth in the birthing center – a decision that scared me as much as it comforted me. My doula suggested I take HypnoBirthing to help allay my fears of giving birth naturally, and the rest is history.
My son’s entire birth lasted just 3 hours from the moment it began; he weighed 8 lbs. 14 oz., and I was back home my with my husband and son just 8 hours postpartum. It was so quick, so casual, it was surreal! I immediately made the decision to retire from corporate life and stay home to raise my son. Soon enough, I started publishing on childbirth, and teaching HypnoBirthing classes in Westport that developed a word-of-mouth following that extended as far as New York City and Hartford, CT.
My daughter, by the way, was born four years later, weighing 9 lbs. 7 oz. – another quick, natural birth. I realized these births wouldn’t have been possible had I not found the right sources for my childbirth education. That, I feel, is my role in the community: To be that source for couples seeking a truly informed, empowering birth experience.
Q: On your webpage, you write that “Fear has a profound physiological effect on childbirth, which can transform a safe, normal birth into an unnecessarily uncomfortable and/or medical event.” That makes tons of sense to me! How do you help your clients banish fear and learn to trust their bodies to give birth naturally?
The process of banishing fear begins in our heads, with our conscious minds. We begin by teaching women their rights in the hospital (which are far greater than we’re led to believe). Then we educate women on how easily our bodies give birth when we foster the environment for doing so. (Hint #1: Being in a bed on your back is an obstacle to birth, not a facilitator. Hint #2: When a woman feels lack of trust, her body responds by remaining tight.)
Finally, we then work on the subconscious mind, where all our beliefs are stored and where the real work is done. Through deep relaxation, we can get messages past the conscious mind (the doubting, evaluating, judging mind) and into the subconscious mind. The ultimate effect is trust – which is the key state any mammal mother must be in, in order for birthing to work optimally.
Q: I love the fact that your page takes a measured approach to the idea of medical interventions in childbirth – you teach clients “when it serves you versus when it doesn’t.” Tell me a bit more about what you teach your clients about the role of medical interventions in childbirth.
All medical interventions – or virtually all – have their place and their purpose. The United States is one of the best places on earth to have a baby if you are not having a normal birth. For example, my good friend went into labor with her twins at 31 weeks’ gestation. They weighed just 2 and 3 lbs. each. There may be no better place in the world for medical treatment when it’s truly required.
The problem nationally and as a culture, however, is that the vast majority of women have everything necessary to experience a normal birth – a well-nourished mother, a well-positioned baby, etc. – but unnecessary intervention (induction, for example, or confining a woman to a bed) grossly complicates the process, thereby turning her birth into the very medical situation she and her partner had hoped to avoid.
Q: I also love how respectful and empowering your approach towards childbirth seems: “It is the right – in fact, the responsibility – of every woman to pursue her own baby’s birth with the information, honor and freedom to which she is entitled.” Please elaborate for our readers!
In order to claim our births, we need to claim our health care, or bodies and our babies as our own responsibility. It means she’s ready to take full responsibility for the outcome of her birth for herself and her baby.
In our culture, we tend to be kept uninformed of our rights and choices, which is when we unknowingly give up our freedom. “Doctor’s Orders” aren’t in fact orders at all. We are the ones in charge, even though they’re the medical professionals we hire. Not only do women deserve to know their rights, but we owe it to ourselves to become informed before walking into that birthing facility. This is how we end up at peace with how our births go. This sounds intimidating at first, but once a woman embraces this idea, it becomes her greatest moment. It’s the very shift that changes everything.