Healthy Living: Relax and visualise a very special arrival

Melannie McCoole with baby Ryley
Melannie McCoole with baby Ryley

AS the region celebrates Yorkshire Day, Health Writer Sarah Dunn found out more about some of the cutting edge services and treatments available to patients in South Yorkshire.

AS the region celebrates Yorkshire Day, Health Writer Sarah Dunn found out more about some of the cutting edge services and treatments available to patients in South Yorkshire.

IT was a labour first-time mum Melanie McCoole did not think was possible.

Ever since she had been a teenager she had been frightened of childbirth – and over the years the phobia had grown and grown in her head to the point where she was terrified about what having a baby might involve.

But son Ryley – now seven months old – arrived into the world in a much calmer and stress-free fashion than Melanie could ever have imagined, thanks to techniques known as hypnobirthing.

Barnsley Hospital offers the programme to its mums-to-be as part of their antenatal package.

Although there is a charge of £200, this covers the costs of additional learning tools such as literature and DVDs, as well as the funds needed to pay for the specialist midwife training.

It works by teaching mums-to-be a series of techniques, such a relaxation and visualisation, to prepare for childbirth and employ during labour.

Melanie, aged 35, of Pogmoor, Barnsley, said: “Since I was a teenager I was frightened of childbirth.

“It was like a phobia for me and I created something really bad in my mind about it.

“I really wanted a baby and when I found out I was pregnant I was delighted but also upset and scared and even started to plan having a caesarean section. I was absolutely scared to death.”

But she said the course had been “fantastic” in helping her overcome her fears.

“I couldn’t have asked for my labour and the birth to be better,” she said. “I’m sure I couldn’t have got through without using hypnobirthing.”

In the weeks before the birth Melanie, a senior member services officer at the South Yorkshire Joint Secretariat, practised the methods she had learned on the course at home with Rory, a graphic designer.

“My visualisation was about balloons and that each time I had a surge, or contraction, I’d blow up a balloon and blow it away,” she said.

“Mine was a yellow balloon and when I was in labour I focused on seeing lots of balloons and my yellow balloon joining them. The doctor who came in to see me thought I had had an epidural because I was so relaxed!”

Ellen Willams, from Kexborough, Barnsley, is another mum to have used hynobirthing at Barnsley Hospital – when in labour with her two children Noah, aged two, and Joseph, six months.

Ellen’s interest in the method came from a keen desire to make birth as natural as possible.

The 34-year-old practised the techniques she learnt at Barnsley Hospital with partner Jody, 36, which included listening to a CD of relaxing music.

“It was really bizarre but it just seemed to take me into myself and help me to breathe and relax,” said Ellen. “Hypnobirthing doesn’t just give you the tools to cope with labour – you can also use it to deal with other situations in life.”

The South Yorkshire service is provided by a six-strong team of midwives.

Sharon Hardy, antenatal clinic manager and midwife manages the service. She said: “We piloted the service in 2008 and launched it properly last year.

“Since then, we’ve had 16 couples use hypnobirthing and we’ve got eight courses booked in for this year. There’s lots of evidence to show that hypnobirthing results in the use of less pain relief, shorter labours and fewer interventions.

“We plan to collect our own research data at Barnsley to show the benefits of hypnobirthing but we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from mums and dads.

“I’ve been a midwife for 30 years and it’s certainly one of the best developments I’ve seen.”