When I first found out I was pregnant, I was filled with both excitement and trepidation. The excitement was obvious, but the trepidation arose when I thought of the birth process. Images of women screaming in agony flashed across my mind.

I didn’t attend any birth class with my first child, didn’t know what to expect and felt rushed through the process. I was told (wrongly by the nurses in Hong Kong) to start pushing at 8 cm dilated. I was too exhausted by the time I was fully dilated to push.

Luckily, the baby rotated (more in section on Spinning Babies) and slid out. With my second child, I was determined to enjoy the birth and savour every moment. There are so much more about the birth process that cannot be covered sufficiently in most pregnancy textbooks or generic hospital ante-natal classes and I know a specialized childbirth class would be necessary for me.

Birth Classes

There are three (3) popular methods that each teaches a particular method of childbirth. They are not exhaustive, but they are the more commonly known ones.

A. The Bradley Method

The Bradley Method starts off with the idea that childbirth can be a natural process, and with the right preparation, most women can achieve a drug-free and intervention-free childbirth. The programme teaches the importance of diet, exercise during pregnancy, teaches deep breathing techniques to manage pain and involve a birth partner (spouse) as an integral participant in the birth process.

B. The Lamaze Method

The Lamaze method offers simple and practical advice for women to cope and comfort themselves during childbirth. The Lamaze philosophy is about empowering women to work with their body’s natural ability for a natural, drug-free birth without medical intervention.

C. HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method

HypnoBirthing is about positive affirmation (or self-hypnosis), visualization, deep relaxation to expect and achieve a serene and comfortable birth. The preference is on achieving a natural birth, but the philosophy and ultimate objective is to achieve the serene birth that women desire. In a nutshell, HypnoBirthing is akin to using Law of Attraction to create and achieve the birth you desire, and using positive affirmation for pain management.

HypnoBirthing is the only one of the three (in above list) that is available in Malaysia. When I was pregnant with my second child, the number of HypnoBirthing instructors was limited in Malaysia. It felt to me there was some overlapping between Lamaze and HypnoBirthing. Many instructors were offering HypnoBirthing method but infusing Lamaze philosophy.

There are other, less well-known methods locally (such as Amani birth) but HypnoBirthing remains the most popular choice of birth preparation class. In the last two years, the supply of Hypnobirthing instructors in Malaysia has increased significantly to meet the demand.

Daphne Lee-Yang, a popular Hypnobirthing practitioner, shares that her students are parents who could be expecting their first or even third child. Their motivation to attend the class is to dispel the fear about childbirth, seek better control of the birth process and achieve the desired birth outcome.

In her HynoBirthing class, one can expect the following taught in a format of five, 2.5 hours classes:

  • Learn self-hypnosis and breathing techniques to achieve and maintain deep levels of relaxation
  • Use visualisation, affirmations, fear release and self-hypnosis to positively reposition birth mentally
  • Education about normal, healthy pregnancy, labour & birth, and practical physical approaches to birthing effectively

Baby Positioning

In most of the pregnancy books I bought, the coverage on labour and birth was brief, disproportionate relative to the rest of the book. It wasn’t until I came across the website, Spinning Babies, that I had an epiphany. A smooth and pleasant birth can be achieved, but it would not be luck of the draw.

Spinning Babies educates one about the optimal foetus position within the uterus to make a smooth debut. The contractions from a body help the baby to rotate and deliver the baby through the birth canal. On Spinning Babies, I learn that head down is not enough, and that the baby should have his chin tucked, the baby’s back is to the mother’s left or directly in front (occiput anterior) to minimize the pain during labour.

I learn that our modern lifestyle with less physical activities and more slouching encourages the baby into a less optimal position within the uterus, reducing the probability of a natural birth.

Birth Plan

As we realise, there are many steps during the course of pregnancy we could take to increase the chance of a good birth outcome. The finishing touch would be to put these preferences down and articulate these to your birth plan. You would share the birth plan with your obstetrician who would work with you to achieve your desired birth.

There are subtle but distinct differences in these three birth classes. If I could choose freely, I would go with the Bradley Method in a heartbeat as the all-rounded curriculum resonates most with me. Throughout both my pregnancies, I swam, practised yoga, ate nutritiously and mindfully maintained good posture.

I felt HypnoBirthing certainly did help me a relaxed, serene and pain-free birth. I have always likened childbirth to race day of a marathon. We have the whole of pregnancy to prepare for an awesome race, we should definitely prepare for it but expect to go with the flow.