A Deeper Understanding of the Birthing Process: Visit with Pregnancy Expert, Jutta Wohlrab.
Note from the Hund Hund founders, Isabel and Rohan: Jutta is someone dear to our heart. Last November, our first child Bele was born and Jutta was an indispensable companion through Isabel's birth process; both before and afterwards. Her natural birth techniques are very much in line with the way we see the world. She is also a remarkable character and it is our pleasure to use our platform to share her work.
Jutta’s story is far from linear. In her own words, “My background is very colorful, like a huge canvas with lots of dots and colors”... It’s been 38 years since she became a qualified midwife, but within those years is a fascinatingly broad journey into understanding the birthing process, through traditional methods but also beyond them.
“I got very interested in the body and mind and different ways I could help women, their partners and at this point, even other birth professionals, so they can achieve positive, joyful, safe and happy births.”
Among many things Jutta is a trained hypnotherapist - although this is probably not the first specialised field that comes to mind when you think of pregnancy.
Essentially, the birthing process works a lot more smoothly with the aid of positive hormones such as Oxytocin, and conversely a lot less smoothly with fear hormones such as Cortisol. When the latter are produced, the birth canal tightens up and the process is more difficult. The idea then, with hypnotherapy, and by extension hypnobirthing, is to train the mind to produce less fear hormones and more positive hormones, allowing the birthing process to be as smooth and peaceful as possible. Naturally, I was curious what first led Jutta down this path.
“When I was a midwife I was always wondering what happened when a woman came in and was able to give birth very quickly, but another couldn’t. But I could tell already, many years back even, that it was because of fear and a lot of doubts and worries going on around the birth. So then I thought it would be a great idea to turn towards the mind.”
“Years back I went to see a hypnotherapist and I was able to quit smoking in just one session and two follow up sessions - after I'd been smoking for God knows how long… I enjoyed this feeling so much, to wander through the landscape of your mind and start shifting things. It was then that I really understood, wow, the power of the mind is just incredible… But then I thought, well, if I was able to achieve that, with the help of hypnosis and my own subconscious, why not use that for my work with women and their partners, to really let go of unwanted fears, doubts, worries, even trauma, and a lot of things that might happen around the day of the birth.”
So, in 2005, Jutta followed her instincts, moved to the UK and became a professional hypnotherapist. I thought it useful for Jutta to deconstruct some of the common misconceptions about hypnotherapy.
“People are often a little bit afraid or they think it's something where I take over your mind and I say go to the bank and get the million pounds out and hand it over to me… But that’s just stage hypnosis. What I do is different… Another common misconception is sometimes people say ‘I can't be hypnotized’, which also is not true. If you want to be hypnotized, I believe really, everyone can be, because, in fact, we do this almost every day. We tell ourselves all the things we can't do... We can’t lose weight, we can't stop eating this croissant… We tell ourselves a lot of things. This is a self hypnosis, but unfortunately, a very negative one. The power of the mind is something that lies within everyone, it's just a question of how can you unlock it.”
Birthing, as a process, is about as ancient as it gets. But we still have much to learn. In Jutta’s eyes, understanding the mind is a key part of understanding the pregnancy and birthing process… “Because it’s a vital part of everything… Our brain and our hormones are the rulers of our life. They can change everything.”
In 2016, Jutta released a book that quickly became a bestseller: Happy Birthing Days: A midwife's secret to a joyful, safe and happy birth. But it wasn’t an easy process. “I have to admit, it was a long pregnancy”.
She started in 2014, but between designing her first online program, speaking at conferences and running workshops in Norway and the UK, it took some time. And then, unfortunately, Jutta found herself in Nepal in 2015 during the earthquake.
“So, yeah, everything came on hold because I needed some time to recover, and so it took me a little longer to finish. But then finally in 2016, the book was born.”
“What touched me the most was last year I received a message on Instagram from a woman in Jordan. She said ‘I’m reaching out because I’m 10 weeks pregnant. I’m really, really scared of being pregnant. And I'm so afraid of giving birth that I was thinking about aborting this baby because I just can't face being pregnant and thinking I have to give birth’. I was in shock. But I continued reading, ‘But then I found you on Instagram and I read your book in just one day. It gave me such hope that I've decided to continue with the pregnancy’... I thought wow. Amazing. Even if just one person on the whole entire planet would get help from my book I’d be happy… Then a few months later I received another message, ‘Just to say, you are responsible for the natural birth of my baby, and I can’t even express how grateful I am’. Well, I have to say, I cried.”
I was interested to know what Jutta finds so rewarding about the work she does. She calmed my curiosity with a story.
“I worked with a woman from Indonesia. She lost her baby three years ago, and now she's pregnant a second time, here in Germany. I told her it would be good to release the old trauma; to change the books in the library, instead of one book opening all the time… After I worked with her just a few days ago, she said to me ‘Jutta, I suddenly feel so relaxed’, and then she sent me a text after she’d left my office and said ‘You know what, the sky suddenly looks so much more blue, and I feel happy for no reason’. For me, that is rewarding.”
Thank you to Jutta for the uplifting conversation and inspiring work. You can find her links below.
Words and photos by Ewan Waddell.