Christina MacFarquhar of The Calm Birth Centre, Forres is running competition for free places at her weekend hypnobirthing course
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AS the debate continues over inadequate maternity services in Moray, a local antenatal practitioner is helping mothers learn skills for comfort during childbirth.
The relaxation and hypnosis techniques Christina MacFarquhar teaches can be used at home, at Dr Gray’s in Elgin, or even during the long road journey hundreds of women are currently sent on every year to Aberdeen and Inverness.
"Relaxation is key to a comfortable birth," said Christina of The Calm Birth Centre, Forres. "It allows the muscles we use during labour to function properly, and helps us release feel-good hormones that make the whole experience more manageable and comfortable."
She added: "There is already a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding childbirth, but on top of that many local mums now also face the challenge of travelling two hours during labour.
"Hypnobirthing techniques help to reduce or eliminate anxiety and replace it with confidence, helping birthing women stay more relaxed wherever they are."
Research has shown that using hypnosis in the lead up to labour can help reduce pain and medical intervention, overcome fear, shorten labour, and help parents be more relaxed and in control.
Christina used hypnobirthing techniques at the Mosset Tavern while in labour with her second daughter in 2019. She and her partner lived nearby so they (and the doula helping them) went along to get some fresh air in the April sun after Christina had been having contractions for a few hours.
She said: "I walked around the duckpond slowly, stopping and using hypnosis and breathing techniques on every contraction. We sat outside the Mosset with nearby customers oblivious to the fact that I was in labour. When things got more intense, I leaned against a fence with my companions rubbing my back while I used deep breathing techniques to stay relaxed."
A waitress asked if she needed help but Christina replied that she was "just in labour and that it was all fine".
Christina remembered: "The waitress's mother, who I knew, told me later that she'd been amazed at how calm I was!"
Inspired by how relaxed and prepared she felt by using hypnobirthing techniques, Christina went on to train as an instructor.
She said: "I would love for all women to have the option of receiving quality hypnobirthing training as part of their free antenatal preparation. I hope word will spread, and more and more women will learn these skills and teach each other.
"Some women and couples will not feel they can afford lessons, so I'm offering some free places."
Christina is running a competition for a local couple to win a place on her February weekend course. The sessions, taking place in Forres on February 26 and 27, are ideal for couples between 32 and 38 weeks pregnant, but can also be taken earlier.
Entrants are simply invited to work out the correct answer to: Which of the following does a woman’s body produce a lot of during labour? 1. Oxymorons; 2. Oxtail soup; or 3. Oxytocin.
Send the correct answer to www.thecalmbirthcentre.co.uk/competition by Wednesday, February 9 for a chance to win a place.
Ms MacFarquhar will explain what hypnosis is and how it works with birth, teach how to use it, and coach attendees in practicing deep relaxation and pain management techniques, and visualisation techniques like those used by athletes.
Participants will also gain knowledge about the birth process and physical comfort measures such as massage. The course also helps birth partners be more prepared, confident and skilled, helping everyone remain calm during birth.
Nadia Mariel Gonzalez Hrenessen and Michael Stretch took hypnobirthing lessons with Christina last year. As had happened during Nadia’s first pregnancy in 2019, as the due date approached the couple were advised by hospital staff to travel to Aberdeen for an induction because of concerns about her high blood pressure.
Nadia said: "My first labour was very difficult. We were both nervous and stressed, and there was tension between us and the midwifery team.
"The second time around the conditions were exactly the same including high blood pressure, and having to go to Aberdeen. But the experience was totally different thanks to hypnobirthing."
Unable to have a natural birth near their home, Nadia and Michael realised they could take hypnobirthing to the hospital in Aberdeen.
Nadia said: "We were so calm, even when there were unexpected problems like a delay in us getting a bed. Being so relaxed and well-prepared created a different dynamic with the staff. They helped us set up the right conditions by making the room darker and keeping conversation to a minimum.
"Practising the techniques together also helped to strengthen the bond between us.
"Even if your pregnancy isn’t going as you expect, or even if you need interventions, hypnobirthing can still make a big difference."