Hypnobirthing, pre-eclampsia and a quick labour

Birth can be unpredictable and complications, such as pre-eclampsia, can arise, changing the path your birthing takes. Read how Hollie used everything she learnt during her Hypnobirthing Australia classes to stay calm, make informed decisions and ultimately go on to have a beautiful, positive birth.

 Preparing for labour during Covid-19

At the beginning of my pregnancy, I was accepted into the Family Birth Centre at Fiona Stanley Hospital, with Midwife-led care. I was fortunate enough to have a really great pregnancy.  Other than retaining a LOT of fluid and developing carpal tunnel in both wrists at 33 weeks, I felt great and had the energy to go for long walks most days up until the end of my pregnancy.  Joel and I did a Hypnobirthing course with Kate Vivian from Bright Mums.  This was in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and there were many restrictions in place, which meant that we had to do the course online rather than face to face. I got a lot out of the course in terms of general knowledge and practical tools to use during labour.  I also did a lot of research during my pregnancy and decided early on that I wanted a no/low intervention pregnancy and birth, if possible, which aligned with the Hypnobirthing and Family Birth Centre philosophy.  I wasn’t too worried about giving birth and felt confident that my mind and body were prepared.  Leading up to my estimated due date one of my only concerns was being pressured to be induced if I hadn’t gone into labour by 41 weeks.  I only ever contemplated being induced as a result of being “overdue” and not for any other medical reason.  So when things didn’t go to plan at my 39-week check-up, it was difficult for me to come to terms with.  

One appointment changes everything

At 39 weeks I went in for a routine appointment with my Midwife.  It was Wednesday 27th May 2020.  The appointment was scheduled at 10am and I planned to head into the office afterwards to do a handover with my boss before commencing maternity leave a couple of days later.  I always knew there was a risk I would have to finish work earlier than planned, as I had only allowed 6 days between my last day of work and my estimated due date.  However, I wasn’t too worried about this as I thought I would be “overdue” given that it was my first pregnancy and that’s what people had told me. At the routine check-up I had very high blood pressure.  From memory, it was around 145 / 94.  My blood pressure had been fine all pregnancy, so this was unexpected.  I was sent to the main hospital maternity ward (MAFAU) for further tests, which involved being hooked up to a monitor for 1 hour where my blood pressure was tested every 15 minutes. They also did blood tests to check for pre-eclampsia.  My Midwife advised that it was unlikely I would be going home, so I contacted Joel, who was at work at a mine outside of Kalgoorlie, and arranged for him to come home.  In the meantime, I called my Mum and she was at the hospital within an hour. I was so grateful that Mum arrived before the Doctor came to see me as I was very emotional by that stage and wanted someone with me to hear what the Doctor had to say and advocate for me if necessary. 

The talk of induction starts

The Doctor came to see me and discussed the risks associated with my high blood pressure and that they wanted to induce me ASAP.  These discussions started whilst my blood pressure was being checked, so needless to say my highest reading was around 150 / 107!  I was told that I would be admitted to the ward and would not be leaving without my baby. I wasn’t even allowed to head home to quickly pack a bag.  I was given a brochure on the different induction methods and asked to sign a consent form.  I was completely overwhelmed with all of the information I was given and the likelihood that my birth was heading down a different path to what I had envisaged.  I always knew that things may not go to plan, but the speed at which things changed was very difficult for me to process.  I knew that if I was going to be induced, I wanted the method that was the most natural or least invasive. I struggled to get a clear answer from the Doctor about this, and felt confused by the information given to me.  I asked for some time to review the brochure before signing the induction consent form, and quickly did some research (thanks Google) about the least invasive induction method.  This was the Cook’s (or balloon) catheter.  The induction suites were very busy and when the Doctor returned for my consent form, I spoke to her about wanting the Cook’s catheter because it appeared to be the most gentle induction method, if there is such a thing.  The Doctor tried to steer me towards having the prostaglandin tape as it would be quicker and warned me that there would be quite a wait if I wanted the Cook’s catheter, as it was a longer induction process. If I hadn’t have done my own research and learned about the importance of advocating for myself in the Hypnobirthing class, I may have agreed to the alternative method which would have been more invasive that the Cook’s catheter.  On reflection, I find this quite disappointing.  I’m just grateful that my Mum was with me and was also asking questions and advocating for me when I couldn’t.  I was already emotionally exhausted and felt completely overwhelmed. I’m usually very strong and level headed but I just couldn’t stop crying.  I decided to contact Kate from Bright Mums to see if she had any information specific to inductions.  Despite my best efforts, I’m sure Kate could hear in my voice that I was a bit of an emotional wreck!  Kate was so reassuring and emailed me some positive birth stories from women who had been induced, and some other articles about induction.  Kate was kind enough to arrange a time later that evening to conduct a fear release session with me via videoconference.  I can honestly say that this really helped me to process what was happening and, as much as possible, get back into a positive and relaxed frame of mind.     


Things start happening….

Earlier that same day, the Doctor conducted a stretch and sweep in the hope that it would get things moving along whilst I waited to start the induction process.  Overnight, between 3am and 6am on Thursday, I experienced some contractions that were about 6 to 8 minutes apart.  The contractions stopped during the day, however I did lose my mucus plug on Thursday morning, so the stretch and sweep was effective.  Thursday afternoon I was still waiting to be induced and had further blood tests.  There were abnormalities in my blood, indicating pre-eclampsia, but there were no traces of protein in my urine, which I was told was a requirement for a formal diagnosis.  Given that I had such high blood pressure and abnormalities in my blood, there was much discussion between the Doctors and Midwives as to my diagnosis and whether I had pregnancy induced hypertension or the more serious condition pre-eclampsia. Come Thursday evening I was still waiting for an induction suite to become available.  The hospital was unusually busy with all induction suites and birthing suites full and a growing list of people waiting to be induced.  Fortunately my blood pressure was under control due to the medication I’d been given, so I was less of a priority than some other women, and kept being bumped down the waitlist.  Midwives from the Family Birth Centre kept checking on me throughout these two days. As my blood pressure was under control, one Midwife suggested that I ask the Doctor if I could go home for the night on Thursday, to get a good night’s sleep and return to the hospital in the morning, as I would not be induced Thursday night due to the backlog.  I spoke to the Doctor about this and he wanted me to wait for the results of my next blood test before making a decision, as this would indicate if anything had changed or if I had progressed more towards pre-eclampsia.  It was 8.30pm on Thursday night and Joel was with me while we waited for the blood test results and decision on whether I could go home for the night. Due to COVID-19 the hospital had restricted visiting hours; 10am to 12pm and 6pm to 8pm, unless you were in active labour.  So Joel wasn’t meant to still be with me, which a less-than-friendly Midwife reminded us of, but agreed that he could stay until the blood test results were back.  By 9.30pm I’d started experiencing regular contractions again. They started at 2 or 3 minutes apart and progressed really quickly from there, coming in waves, one after the other. I just focused on breathing through each one and tried to relax as much as possible. At 11.20pm I felt a lot of pressure down below and then my waters broke.  It would have been that classic movie scene if I’d been out in public! The Midwife conducted an internal check at 11.50pm and I was 4cm dilated.  She confirmed I was in active labour and was making arrangements to transfer me to the birth suite.  A couple of minutes later, I felt the uncontrollable urge to push.  My body was pushing involuntarily. There was nothing I could do about it. They quickly rushed me to the birth suite in a wheelchair, whilst I made loud primal noises through the corridors.  Joel jokes that this was nothing like the calm, quiet water birth videos we’d watched in the Hypnobirthing class!  I arrived at the birth suite at midnight.  The first thing the new Midwife asked me was if I wanted any pain relief, which was against my birth preferences.  I can’t blame her though, with the noises I was making and the rush to get me there.  I said no to pain relief.  She asked if I wanted the gas and I said no. I told her I felt like doing a poo and she told me to get on the bed so she could examine me.  I was fully dilated!  So I got on my knees on the bed, leant over the headrest and started pushing.  After 10 minutes of pushing our baby was here at 12.20am on Friday 29th May!  We didn’t know what we were having, so it was a beautiful surprise to discover we had a girl. She was a tiny 2665 grams or 5.8 pounds, but strong and healthy. We named her Frankie.  I had a couple of first degree tears, but otherwise there were no complications from the quick birth.  Given my super-fast labour and Frankie’s low birth weight, the Doctor was almost certain that I had developed pre-eclampsia and said that sometimes women don’t present with all of the symptoms.   

When I got home a couple of days later, I read in my birth notes that I’d had a precipitate labour. I had no idea what this meant, so googled it and discovered that it’s when there are 3 hours or less between the start of regular contractions and the baby being born.  I was in shock after Frankie’s birth due to the speed at which she was born.  I still think back on my experience now, nearly 3 months later, as a way to process it.  I’m so grateful that Joel was still with me that evening in the hospital outside of visiting hours, otherwise he would have missed Frankie’s birth. I’m also very grateful to Kate from Bright Mums and the wonderful Midwives who advocated for me and looked after me when I was struggling to do this for myself, and of course my Mum.  In the end, I had a truly beautiful birth experience with no interventions, just as I’d hoped for. Even though I wasn’t induced, I hope that by sharing my story it may bring hope or support to other women in similar circumstances.  Whatever path your journey takes, you’ve got this!

Kate Vivian is a self-professed pregnancy and birth geek who is finally learning to embrace the chaos of having 3 kids. It was the birth and ‘bringing baby home’ experience of her first baby, and the overwhelming guilt that went with it, that led her to start Bright Mums – and create a world where Mums matter.

 A Certified Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner, childbirth educator and postpartum doula, Kate works with Mums-to-be not only supporting them through pregnancy, and birth but also teaching them to honour themselves at a time when the world is telling them their baby is the most important thing.

With almost 2 decades in adult education, Kate has the ability to create a safe space, a non-judgey space. A place where Mums can relax and feel supported regardless of what their journey looks like. 

A keen traveller in a former (pre-kids) life, Kate dreams of the day her kids are big enough to take skiing and they can completely show her up while she is busy falling down mountains.

Find out more about Kate and how she can support you to feel confident and empowered to give birth on your own terms here