Jake Humphrey tells of how he and his wife tried hypnobirthing
It's the fastest growing trend in childbirth, reported to be favoured by royal mums Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle and recently used by East Anglia-based TV presenter Jake Humphrey and his wife Harriet.
And now Norfolk-based ZenMuma is launching a new hypnobirthing and yoga teacher-training school in Norfolk to help keep up with rising demand.
Residents in Norfolk and beyond can attend the courses and learn to teach the techniques – and even set up their own hypnobirthing and yoga practice once they have qualified.
'Hypnobirthing is soaring in popularity because news is spreading about what a powerful and effective technique it can be for helping ease anxiety, pain and fear during childbirth,' says ZenMuma founder Jackie Heffer-Cooke.
'Norwich is one of the most vibrant cities in the UK which is why I choose it as one of the three places in the UK to launch the ZenMuma training school.
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'We will now be able to provide many more highly-qualified practitioners to help meet the demand among parents-to-be,' she adds.
Jackie was recently chosen by Jake Humphrey and his wife Harriet to be their hypnobirthing coach. She also worked with leading YouTubers Carly Rowena and her partner Leon Bustin, from The Lean Machines, based in Norfolk, to teach them hypnobirthing techniques for the recent birth of their daughter.
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Jackie, a highly-qualified hypnobirthing practitioner herself who trained with Marie Mongan, says the ZenMuma teaching courses are a perfect opportunity for anybody looking to change career in 2019 to find fulfilling, more family-friendly, work.
The ZenMuma founder had a huge career change herself after the birth of her daughter Megan more than a decade ago.
The former television executive was working more than 60 hours a week and was in charge of daytime shows Loose Women and The Trisha Show.
She quit the high-stress lifestyle to retrain in hypnobirthing, massage and yoga as a way of building a more meaningful, family-friendly career that would improve her own health and wellbeing as well as helping other women.
'The ZenMuma hypnobirthing certification is perfect for women who want to change career and do something amazing that will help others at the same time,' says Jackie.
'Once you have the certification you can set up your own business and make it what you want it to be. It can fit round your family commitments and lifestyle and you can run classes on any day or time that suits,' she adds.
How hypnobirthing helped Harriet and Jake Humphrey
'Hypnobirthing made such a difference. Sebastian's birth was just the best day, calm and lovely – I couldn't have asked for better,' says Harriet. 'It was just phenomenal.'
The couple had experienced a distressing and highly-medicalised birth with their first child Florence in 2013. 'Induction, epidural, ventouse, forceps – Harriet had every possible medical intervention apart from a C-section,' says Jake, who is currently the face of Premier League football on BT Sport.
Thankfully, Florence was born healthy, but when Harriet fell pregnant again the couple were determined to do everything they could to try and make the second time around a better experience.
Harriet signed up for pregnancy yoga with Jackie Heffer-Cooke and then also booked the couple in for two private four-hour hypnobirthing classes with Jackie.
'The sessions were brilliant and it was great that we were doing them as a couple. We learned all about relaxation, mindfulness, breathing techniques and the science behind what happens to your body during the birth process,' says Harriet.
'Jackie helped us understand how our bodies are designed for giving birth – how it is nothing to be scared of because all those things that happen in the lead up to birth, certain muscles moving for example, are all for a reason.
'Hypnobirthing shifts your mindset in an amazing way so that you are no longer afraid or worried. Instead, you realise that your body is in control and knows what it is doing. It was created to do this and women have been giving birth for thousands of years without epidurals.
'You learn how to switch from thinking 'What's happening? This is horrendous' to a calmer 'My body knows what it is doing. I'm in control. I can handle this and everything will be fine''.
The couple discovered new breathing techniques, for example, imagining a golden thread coming out of your mouth and moving slowly forward. 'I used to imagine I was on a beach or high on a cliff and I would visualise a golden thread going out to sea,' says Harriet.
Jake was sceptical but went along with it – even nodding off in one of the sessions because they made him feel so relaxed.
'I must admit I was quite cynical to start with, especially after what we'd been through the first time. My initial thought was 'what a load of nonsense, because how on earth can imagining you are breathing out a golden thread and trying to keep calm help the baby's birth.'
'Sebastian's birth was completely opposite to my first birth experience. It was all so different and just lovely and calm,' says Harriet.
Approaching the birth, Harriet felt more in control and armed with the tools she needed to help with the birth. After a night of contractions, she headed to the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital mid- morning.
'I just focussed on my breathing – slowly in and out and envisaged the golden thread. I didn't have any painkillers even paracetamol – just a TENS machine.
'The hypnobirthing techniques were just brilliant, helping me feel so calm in the moment. I kept reminding myself to relax my jaw as this helps your whole body relax and telling myself 'your body knows what it's doing'.'
'Hypnobirthing gives the dad a role,' says Jake. 'It wasn't about Harriet giving birth and me watching. This was the two of us giving birth which makes you feel as if you have more control.
'The role of the dad is to fully believe in, and buy into, hypnobirthing – helping and guiding their partner through. Jackie was great and gave me mantras to repeat to Harriet. My role was to remind Harriet that we were doing exactly what we should be doing, keep breathing and keep relaxed,' says Jake. 'Sportspeople are using the power of their minds to win a game of football and your wife, in this instance, is using the power of her mind to have a baby. It's the same.'