Pregnancy relaxation is from the Natal Hypnotherapy stable of self-hypnosis preparation CDs designed to help you cope with the challenges of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. The idea is that you listen to the CD at least once a day towards the end of your pregnancy in order to learn techniques you can draw upon to aid relaxation and boost positivity during labour.
A smooth and beguiling voice invites you to mentally relax before talking you through mental approaches to the challenges of labour against a background of sea-shore, yoga-style, relaxation musak. There's a separate CD of just the music alone for you to use during labour and birth itself.
I have to admit that I raised one eyebrow when the Natal Hypnotherapy series of CDs plopped on my desk. "Be relaxed, informed, positive and prepared", the spiel on the Pregnancy Relaxation CD promised us. Yeah right. I thought my doubts were warranted when I put the CD in the player and began to listen to the sleek, soothing voice enjoining me to close my eyes, breathe deeply and evenly and start to relax. Relax? Don't you know I'm eight months' pregnant, still working, have backache, heartburn, insomnia and.. need I go on? I stifle a snort as she starts to say something about 'breathing in golden light'.
But I need to review this CD, so I better give it a fighting chance, so I do. And from that moment on, all is changed. Almost in spite of myself, I do, in fact, start to relax as I follow the lullaby of instructions. How do I know I'm really relaxing? Well, because I fall asleep within minutes and only wake up as the music prompts me to. What's more, I wake up feeling great. And that brings us to the first thing to say about this CD: Even should you find it of absolutely no help in the delivery room, keeping to the programme of listening to it every day means at the very least that you have 40 minutes daily where you are putting your feet up and relaxing. You probably won't fall asleep every time you listen to the disc, I didn't, but even if you do, the makers say that you will still take in the CD contents as you sleep and so still benefit.
What many potential buyers of the CD will really want to know though, is whether the CD helps when it comes to being in labour. The answer is yes it can - if you really want it to. Playing the familiar music in the delivery room did help and I found myself drawing on the techniques described on the CD, using them to get through each contraction and remain calm.
My 24-hour labour did offer something of a challenge for the CD when it came to staying positive, especially as breathing through the contractions for 16 hours didn't deliver any progress on the dilation front. But again and again (and again and again) I remembered the reassuring voice and told myself to relax and breathe.
When the threat of a caesarian eventually receded in hour 23, and I finally got to push, the hours of listening to the CD in preparation really came into their own.
Suddenly everything described on the CD now chimed with what I was experiencing as I felt the baby's head make its descent: I felt very much that things were happening as they were supposed to and managed to recognise the different sensations (ok, pains) I was feeling as signs of progress.
The one thing that didn't really work for me was the practice of mentally 'turning down the pain' like controlling the volume on a stereo, that could be because I didn't persevere with it though.
Following the birth my overwhelming recollections of the momentous occasion are very positive, despite its length. This has plenty to do with avoiding a caesarian and with the fantastic treatment I received at the clinic - of course, having an adorable son at the end of it all helps too... But I really believe that the pregnancy relaxation CD made an enormous difference, both to my birth experience and to how I felt about it afterwards, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to other women approaching labour.
This is not at all the verdict that I expected to reach when I first got started with the CD and the key to it being useful probably lies in the extent to which you can suspend your cynicism and commit to really trying to follow the recommendations given.