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Suzy Ashworth was on maternity leave from the Guardian’s commercial department two years ago when she had a eureka moment. She had trained as a hypnotherapist and psychotherapist before she had her son, who is now four. “I knew I wanted to do something different and more meaningful when I fell pregnant with my daughter,” she says.
She had decided to use hypnotherapy because she wanted to have a home birth and it had helped her during her first birth. “I’m a bit of a control freak,” she says, “and I didn’t want lots of people poking and prodding me. I wanted to minimise the number of people involved and I had an understanding of how hypnosis worked with pain and anxiety. It made sense to me to arm myself with as many tools as possible so I chose hypnotherapy.”
She says: “The experience of birthing at home was so easy and calm. My son was upstairs. It was enjoyable for all of us and I felt confident. My husband said you should do something with this,” says Suzy [pictured left].
So she trained as a hypnobirthing practitioner and started working at weekends and nights. But it began to get a bit much with two young children as well as an 11-year-old stepson. She started playing around to see what online options there were. “It struck me that there was no-one offering this kind of service in a video format. There were books and CDs and so on, but there was nothing where you could get to speak to the instructors,” she says.
She spoke abour her idea for an online hypnobirthing programme to Hollie de Cruz, an experienced hypnobirthing practitioner, who she had contacted when she was researching hypnobirthing and who is now her business partner. They started working on the content and about what they wanted to communicate to parents. “We wanted to create an experience which was similar to private classes given at home, not to just give a straight textbook version. We wanted to give all the zig zags so they felt prepared for the many different presentations during labour and birth,” says Suzy.
The programme is delivered to customers’ inboxes once a week for four weeks. There is also a private Facebook group and there are bi-weekly teleconferences.
The biggest investment for Suzy and Hollie was in video editing as they had to hire a camera and lighting person and an editing specialist. They funded it in chunks as they went along and had no large outlays. They also got a graphic designer to do their branding and got a good deal on web development.
The two started work on the website last August and the Calm Birth School, the world’s first video-based hypnobirthing programme, launched in November. Suzy, who is based in Canterbury, says she worked around her children. “There were lots of evenings and late nights,” she says, with the writing of all the content of the programme being the most labour-intensive job.
Hollie and Suzy used social media to grow interest organically, are looking at adverts on Facebook and have just started investing in Google ads. They have done some PR and the Baby Show. Over 700 people have signed up for free classes – the first week of the four-week programme is free – and many are taking the full course. Interest has also come from outside the UK from as far afield as Australia, Hong Kong and South Africa.
Suzy says hypnobirthing is fairly advanced in the UK compared to countries such as Australia and the US, where she says birthing is fairly “medicalised”. “There’s a big wide world out there who are interested in alternatives to c-sections and epidurals,” she says.
This month Suzy and Hollie have a book coming out which can be used separately from the online programme. Suzy says: “We want to help as many mums as possible to have good births.”
*Suzy and Hollie are offering three free hypnobirthing class videos. For more information, click here.