Lanarkshire midwife’s alternative therapy is changing childbirth experience


A Lanarkshire mum, who lost 4.5 liters of blood during the traumatic birth of her first child, says applying the hypnobirthing technique made the delivery of her second baby so fulfilling, she’d have done it again in a heartbeat.

Having suffered a major haemorrhage prior to the emergency delivery of son Kian in June 2020, Karen Lennon was keen during her second pregnancy to explore the alternative therapy of hypnobirthing, which is said to empower couples and help them remain calm and in control during labour.

As she’d been in the latter stages of her first pregnancy during the height of the pandemic, antenatal classes were not an option – which meant first-time parents Karen and husband Owen were ill-prepared when complications arose and the “amazing” team at University Hospital Wishaw had to spring into action.



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Determined to be equipped to better cope with any eventualities the second time around, Karen was eight weeks pregnant with her second son when she reached out to hypnobirthing coach Lynsey McGillivray, a qualified midwife who trained at Wishaw General Hospital and at Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital ( RAH).

Lanarkshire-based Lynsey was introduced to the hypnobirthing technique while training within the RAH community midwife unit, where she was able to witness women’s experience of alternative therapies during labor and birth.

“The RAH was the first hospital to offer hypnobirthing on the NHS and, when I saw it in action, I could not believe the difference it could make,” explained Lynsey, who qualified as a midwife in 2011 and launched her business, Born This Way, the following year.



Lanarkshire midwife and hypnobirthing coach Lynsey McGillivray

“There were, however, strict criteria due to budgets, and hypnobirthing was only being offered to people who had previously had a traumatic delivery. I felt hypnobirthing would help others, especially first-time mums. I wanted to start a business that could offer everything a pregnant woman could need, and that is why I started Born This Way to allow the option to be available to everyone.”

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Lynsey herself used the hypnobirthing technique which helped her to remain composed and in control during the birth of her son, Jonah.

She had arrived at hospital 9.5cm dilated and, four hours later, her husband, Stuart, was cradling their first-born.

The birth of the couple’s son, who is now aged seven, was Lynsey’s first, personal experience of the empowering birthing technique that changed the course of her midwifery career – and dramatically altered the experience of labor and delivery for 375 couples who have sought her counsel .

Lynsey describes hypnobirthing as an antenatal education program that focuses on using one’s own natural hormones to banish the fear around birth.



Hypnobirthing techniques in pregnancy and labor are said to be empowering

“Hypnobirthing teaches you all about the anatomy and physiology of birth and what impacts your body working efficiently,” she said.

“I teach you how to navigate the maternity system and become aware of all your options and choices to help you make the right decisions for you and your baby. It involves learning tools and techniques to help keep you relaxed and calm during labor and this helps the mind stay distracted, which, in turn, leads the muscles in the body to work exactly as they are designed to.



Hypnobirthing and other alternative therapies can be empowering

“The course teaches relaxation tools and birthing techniques – but, more than anything, it focuses on teaching you how to be aware of all your options and choices to make sure you have the birth that is the right experience for you.

“A lot of people think hypnobirthing is about a pain-free, drug-free birth – but it’s for all births, in a way where you’d be calm, in control and aware of twists and turns that may come along.

“Hypnobirthing is an amazing way to prepare for the birth of your baby, taking you from scared and unprepared to feeling confident and ready to meet your baby.”



Lynsey McGillivray, husband Stuart and children Jonah and Sofia

As she had done with Jonah, Lynsey, of East Kilbride, used hypnobirthing in the run-up to and during the birth of baby daughter, Sofia, now aged five.

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Lynsey runs taster sessions for couples who want to find out more – and to provide answers to cynical partners who may question any non-conformist ways of bringing new life into the world.

“I assure them that I’m not going to do a Derren Brown or Paul McKenna on them, and pull out a pocket watch and take over minds,” promised Lynsey, 39, who says hypnobirthing puts the expectant mum in a deeply relaxed state while remaining aware throughout.

“If you were out doing a run and getting chased by someone, fight or flight kicks in. The blood goes to your arms and legs and heart and lungs to help you get out of that dangerous situation.

“The exact same thing happens in labour. If you are scared or frightened, the blood moves away from the uterus.

“The uterus is not getting oxygen or blood supply, and that makes labor painful, uncomfortable and long. It’s therapeutic hypnosis – not mind control.”



Karen gave birth to both sons at University Hospital Wishaw

The session Lynsey devoted to the role of the birthing partner was to prove particularly helpful for Karen and Owen Lennon, of Bellshill.

After Karen decided to book a Born This Way hypnobirthing course, the couple received face-to-face coaching from Lynsey in their home – sessions they found enlightening.

“You don’t quite know what to think of it at first. We thought it was going to be really airy-fairy,” admits Karen, 33, a pharmacy technician at University Hospital Wishaw.

“We were reassured by the fact that Lynsey is a qualified midwife and has that professional background and has seen so many births herself. She knows what kind of support you need.”

Saying that the experience of giving birth to each of her sons couldn’t have been more different, Karen explained: “The first time, I put my trust in the medical professionals. I followed their lead and did not question anything.



New mum Karen Lennon, with first-born, Kian

“It could have gone differently had I done Lynsey’s course, because I would have said ‘no’ to a few things. The first time, my husband sat at the side of the bed, as if he was there to watch a movie. He had no idea how to support me, apart from rubbing my hand.”

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During Karen’s second pregnancy, Lynsey helped prepare the couple for decisions they may face while in the labor suite, and assisted them with drawing up a birthing plan that reflected their wishes during their baby’s birth.



Big brother Kian and baby Oscar

In what Karen described as an educational and rounded approach, Lynsey taught the couple how positioning can change the experience of labour. She also opened their eyes to the importance of choice and self advocacy, and the crucial role a partner can play during the birth by being a woman’s voice when she cannot speak.



Proud parents Owen and Karen Lennon, with sons Kian and Oscar

“The second time around, I was so in control of what I wanted to do,” continued Karen, who was so composed during labor that she was fully dilated by the time she arrived at the labor suite.

“I was assertive about having a plan. And being able to stay so calm was an absolute game-changer. My husband knew how to bring me back to calm and focus on my breathing, and he knew techniques for massage he never had the first time.

“I felt more in control. He was amazing – really hands-on, giving me a drink when I needed it, and using the techniques Lynsey had taught us.”

After only an hour and a half in the delivery room, Karen and Owen welcomed baby Oscar, who was born on October 23, 2021, weighing in at a healthy 8lbs 2oz.

Giving birth to their second son using the hypnobirthing technique gave Karen a feeling of empowerment that was, for her, cathartic.

“The first time, I felt so scared and did not know what to expect. And it was so traumatic, so terrible,” she said.



Brothers Oscar and Kian Lennon

“The second time, it was so special for me because it did give me that healing experience. And I immediately felt I could easily have done that, right then, all over again.”

* To make birth education more widely available, Lynsey recently launched an on-demand version of the Born This Way hypnobirthing course for those who don’t have the time or resources to commit to a private course and want to fit it around their lifestyle at their own pace. For more information, visit www.bornthiswayhypnobirthing.com

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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