Written by Jen Higgins
Jen is the owner of Little Feet Hypnobirthing and with it being the first neonatal mental health week I thought this was the perfect blog to share!
As I sit writing this, I appreciate a number of things:
- I’m the parent of two children whose pregnancies went well over due (41 weeks and 40+6 weeks respectively) and I personally have no first hand have no experience of birthing premature babies.
- I birthed both my children spontaneously, in their own time, in my own time, with no medical intervention, in my own home, with only midwives I knew present along with my husband.
- I’m a qualified midwife with over 12 years hands on experience in the NHS, trained for 4 years before that, including Intensive Neo Natal Special Care Baby Unit as part of my Midwifery Degree.
- I’ve attended the deliveries of premature babies, cared for the families of premature babies, supported women and their partners through the first seconds, minutes, hours, days weeks and months of their tiny babies lives and all the stress, anxiety, trauma, joy, highs and lows that brings.
- I am a breastfeeding peer supporter.
- I’m a qualified hypnobirthing and birth preparation teacher.
- I am certified in Birth Trauma Recovery – 3 Step Rewind Technique.
- Birth is a miracle, however, wherever and whenever it happens.
Premature birth can be a traumatic event
For a number of women and their families the miracle of birth happens at short notice, with great stress, with health issues and huge decisions they did not anticipate. Whilst only 4-5% of babies arrive on their due date as predicted at the dating scan, most babies are born between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy so a premature birth is a surprise, if not a shock for the mother and their partner, and it can be a traumatic event. The miracle of birth not as they have anticipated, dreamt of, hoped to experience or planned for. The time to digest and come to terms with what is about to happen or is happening is simply in short supply.
During my time as a midwife, I cared for many families who birthed premature babies or babies who went on to required additional support at birth, cared for them whilst their child was on Special Care and came to understand that theirs was not the same experience as those who had birthed a term or well baby. Not being able to hold and care for their baby was distressing.
Experiencing grief for a birth that wasn’t expected
Many women expressed grief for the birth they hadn’t experienced, disappointment at the fact that they hadn’t got to term, and sadness that they would have to go home without their baby and leave their child to the care of someone else, when they felt it should be them. Anxiety around breastfeeding and wanting to be with their baby 24/7 but lack of provision for them to do so. Having to make decisions they felt ill equipped for. Trying to get their heads around the sudden birth of their baby when they’d gone for a routine appointment. All of which were totally normal feelings and responses given the circumstances surrounding their child’s birth.
The precious first few days of the postnatal period and maternity leave being spent on a Neo Natal Unit with financial stress and pressure on relationships and a partner few days of Paternity Leave dripping away with a baby not at home with the parents but in hospital, sometimes with travel difficulties. It is no wonder that many parents of premature babies experience a degree of anxiety and depression. According to Tahirkheli et al 2014 you are 40% more likely to experience postnatal depression if your baby is born prematurely.
Future pregnancies after a premature pregnancy
Looking towards future pregnancies and making the decision to have another child when your first experience has been traumatic, when you have experienced a difficult time having had a premature baby and feeling anxious that the same thing may happen again can have an impact upon the decision to extend your family.
For some, making the decision not to have any more because of how ill you were during your pregnancy and consequently having to have a premature birth due to conditions such as pre eclampsia or how early your child arrived or how suddenly and feeling any degree of anxiety around conception can cause stress and symptoms of PTSD.
Help is available
There’s help available, for anyone who feels that the memory of their birth brings back horrible, anxious feelings. Traumatic Birth Recovery 3 Step Rewind technique is a gentle treatment to help lift these symptoms and allow you to move forward with a clearer picture, able to make a decision regarding any future possibile pregnancy with less anxiety and stress.
Attending a bespoke Hypnobirthing course may also be beneficial, the course I teach isn’t a one course fits all kind of course. I utilise my background and training to tailor my course to fit your unique needs. So whatever birth you’re planning, I can adapt and help support you through your pregnancy, encouraging you to plan for any eventuality.
Hypnobirthing can start really early in the pregnancy
Starting a Birth Preparation and Hypnobirthing Course can be from any time you want. Even as early as 12 weeks! Being provided with the opportunity to discuss your options around future births, how you choose to birth your baby and even where you receive your care can help reduce the stress and anxiety. Discussing your anxieties and helping you to make informed choices and if necessary, revisiting your previous birth and postnatal experience with the 3 Step Rewind Technique to assist with lifting the symptoms of anxiety which surround the previous experience can help with staying calm and in control with the next pregnancy.
What is important is to remember that you are unique, each pregnancy is unique and each baby is unique. Seeking a consultation with your obstetric consultant may be a good idea before you decide to extend your family to determine why you had a premature baby, to find out if there is a chance it may happen again, or if the chance of it happening again can be reduced significantly.
Preconception Hypnobirthing is also available, helping to keep you calm from the get go, and that always helps!
To find out more about Little Feet Hypnobirthing you can find Jen here: