New birthing programme offered to couples in Argyll and Bute

NHS Highland is set to become the first health authority in the UK to provide the Wise Hippo birthing programme throughout its area.
NHS Highland is set to become the first health authority in the UK to provide the Wise Hippo birthing programme throughout its area.

An innovative programme which uses self-hypnosis, relaxation and massage to take the fear and anxiety out of giving birth is to be made available to couples in Argyll and Bute.

NHS Highland is set to become the first health authority in the UK to provide the Wise Hippo birthing programme throughout its area.

Couples in Caithness and Sutherland have benefited from the Wise Hippo over the past two years, and NHS Highland feels the programme has been such a success that it’s decided to make it available in Argyll and Bute and in all other parts of the board’s area.

On Saturda, April 30, 29 maternity professionals from across NHS Highland’s area attended a Wise Hippo training session in Inverness, after which the programme will be made available to all expectant couples.

Helen Bryers, NHS Highland’s head of midwifery, said: “Our experience of the Wise Hippo programme has been extremely encouraging, with couples reporting that it’s made the process of being in labour and giving birth a more positive experience.

“Our birth statistics show us very positive results from women who attended the Wise Hippo programme in Sutherland. The number of straightforward births increased and this means that fewer women had caesarean sections and assisted births. Mums on the programme tell us that they are sleeping better and feel their anxiety levels are greatly reduced.”

Claire Armstrong, community midwife based in Lawson Memorial Hospital, Golspie, “The key to the Wise Hippo programme is relaxation, and this is brought about by a variety of tools to help birthing be less stressful.”

Mothers-to-be and their partners are taught relaxation techniques to use in labour, helping to reduce fear by releasing endorphins.

Claire explained that fear can cause the ‘fight or flight’ response to kick in which results in adrenaline being released which can be unhelpful during labour. The techniques help women to feel in control of their bodies.

“Relaxation is the key,” Claire said. “For labour, mums are taught to countdown to their ‘relaxing place’, whether it’s a beach, granny’s sitting room or wherever brings back positive memories. And some mums can become so deeply relaxed they often look like they are asleep.

“We show birth videos during the course and people are blown away because the mums in them are actually smiling in labour. They look absolutely over the moon!”

Another of the benefits of this relaxed approach to childbirth is what the programme calls the ‘right birth on the day’.

Claire said: “Things on the day might deviate from what was planned, but the programme gives the pregnant mum and her partner the tools to be able to ask questions and feel involved in any decisions.”

The tools taught on the course can be carried forward into normal everyday life, whether that might be a trip to the dentist or soothing children when they are upset.

Training in the programme will be delivered to NHS Highland professionals on Saturday by Wise Hippo founders Dany Griffiths and Tamara Cianfine.