MA, FNCH, Perinatal hypnotherapist, author of Mindful Hypnobirthing and Mindful Mamma: The First Year United Kingdom
Hypnobirthing, or hypnosis for birth, is a simple and practical approach to birth preparation and helps you understand how your thoughts and feelings can influence your experience of birth. Hypnobirthing’s rapid growth in popularity over the last 15 years is astonishing and if you talk to women who have used it you will learn why hypnobirthing has become so popular, used by women all over the world. As well as a positive birth, you may find that the tools you learn will benefit you in other areas of your life long after you have had your baby, as they have done for so many others. We know from research hypnosis-based interventions may improve women’s emotional experiences and outlook on birth, with less anxiety, increased satisfaction, fewer birth interventions, more postnatal well-being and better childbirth experience overall.1 It’s also used to reduce fear of birth.2
All hypnosis is self-hypnosis!
Forget all the myths about mind control and swinging watches! You are always in control when using hypnosis – a hypnobirthing teacher or a hypnotherapist will show you how you can use self-hypnosis in a way that will benefit you and your baby during pregnancy and birth.
It’s a suggestion-based therapy which means that you choose either consciously or unconsciously to accept the suggestions that are offered to you. If you want to feel more confident and a hypnotherapist suggests that you will feel more and more confident, your mind will readily accept and create changes to make that happen. A therapist can never make you do anything you don’t want to do.
Hypnosis is commonly used to manage pain both with and without a practitioner – birth is no exception. The hypnosis tools you are taught are all about you taking control of your experience. Hypnobirthing works on many levels – it aims to reduce any fear and anxiety you may have, in turn boosting confidence in your ability to birth your baby.
Whether this is your 1st or 5th pregnancy hypnobirthing can help you have a positive birth experience.
Hypnobirthing is all about your thoughts and feelings
Hypnobirthing delves more deeply into the psychology of birth than other antenatal classes. Your thoughts and feelings matter when it comes to birth, and you can learn how to shape your thinking at a deep level. Crucially it shows you how you can take control of your experience with very simple practical mindset tools.
Hypnobirthing will teach you:
- specific breathing techniques to keep you calm
- why and how your body responds to fear
- pain management techniques
- the power of visualisation
- informed decision making
- how your birth partner can support you emotionally
- how to feel safe and secure wherever you birth
- how you can make your baby’s birth a positive experience
Why does reducing fear matter?
Think of a cat that’s about to have a litter of kittens. What are you always told? To keep quiet, stay away, keep the lights dark, and to never, ever touch the kittens. We know that threats and interruptions disrupt birth in other mammals – but often forget that we are mammals ourselves.
Hypnobirthing encourages you to think about yourself as a mammal, like the kitten, and explore the connection between your body and mind. It teaches you the importance about fight/flight/freeze response, which can increase tension and pain.
Often in hypnobirthing this is referred to as breaking the cycle of fear-tension-pain. If you are afraid or anxious your body becomes tense, which may create pain and slow labour down.
If you feel safe, secure and unobserved your soothing system is activated and your body releases oxytocin, the hormone of birth. This in turn keeps your muscles relaxed, contractions moving, and best of all the flow of your body’s natural inbuilt painkillers, endorphins.
Activating the soothing system also helps with decision making. A good example of this is giving presentations to large groups of people; many describe getting ‘brain fog’, and not being able to remember anything. This is a fight or flight “get me out of here” alert! The brain is considered a non-essential part of the body in a survival response and this can also happen during birth. Being able to switch on your soothing system is a great skill to have when you need a clear head to make unexpected decisions.
Where you are seated put your right or left arm straight out in front of you. Now extend your arm fully and curl it just as if you were doing a bicep curl and a tricep extension without any weights. Easy isn’t it? This is your bicep and tricep working harmoniously to move your arm back and forth. Now I want you to tense your bicep up, as strong as you can, and do the same action. It’s a lot harder isn’t it?
Your uterine muscles that keep your contractions moving, are very similar, if there is fear, there is tension which can mean harder work and more pain. However, they work beautifully, and harmoniously, when you are relaxed.
What does hypnobirthing feel like?
Hypnobirthing is relaxing, but it’s not just relaxation. Relaxation is a wonderful by-product of hypnosis! If you do hypnobirthing, the audio tracks you listen to are full of hypnotic language that will be written to specifically help you feel prepared and confident. When you listen to these it may feel as if you are asleep even though you are not, this is hypnotic relaxation.
Sometimes you don’t even have to go into deep hypnotic relaxation to benefit from hypnosis – much of your hypnobirthing practice aims to trigger relaxation from things in your environment. For example; you can train your mind to relax to a smell, a word or even the touch of your baby’s first outfit.
Is it just for birth?
If you start practising hypnobirthing during pregnancy, you and your baby will benefit immensely. It can help improve physical symptoms such as vomiting 3 as well as reduce stress and anxiety on a daily basis. We know from studies that stress and anxiety from life’s pressures can impact on mental health and wellbeing pre- and postnatally,4 which means anything that you can do to minimise that stress is of real value. When you take the time out to practice your hypnobirthing every day, whether for 5 or 30 mins, you are giving your body and your baby a wonderful opportunity to rest and relax.
Can I be mobile with hypnobirthing?
Yes, you can! Hypnobirthing can be used with eyes shut, or open, while sitting on a ball or leaning over a bed. Any of the positions in this image, and more. It’s a very versatile technique.
Is hypnobirthing just for normal birth?
Hypnobirthing is adaptable and can be used for any type of birth – even a planned caesarean birth. There are many women who have used it in circumstances haven’t gone as they planned and still had a very positive birth.
How do I get started?
You can read a book, do a class either online or in a group. Many teachers also do remote classes by video conference, so it doesn’t matter where you are in the world – you will be able to do hypnobirthing! It is likely that your caregiver will know of hypnobirthing – there may be classes taught in your local hospital or privately in your area. Research suggests that the best time to begin a class is around 28 weeks5, but you can benefit from hypnobirthing even if you discover this at 40 weeks. You can start listening to audio tracks after your 12 weeks because the more you listen the more effective it becomes.
Links to resources
The Duchess of Cambridge used hypnobirthing https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51511596
Free Hypnobirthing MP3s: https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2016/mindful-hypnobirthing/
Mindful Hypnobirthing, by Sophie Fletcher https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1096394/mindful-hypnobirthing/9781785043093.html
HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method, by Marie Mongan https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hypnobirthing-Mongan-Method-Marie/dp/0285643355/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1587032521&sr=1-1
The Hypnobirthing Book, by Katherine Graves https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00AQ3LGAE/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0
Hypnobirth: Evidence, practice and support for birth professionals by Teri Gavin-Jones and Sandra Handford
- Hypnosis Based Interventions during pregnancy and childbirth and their impact on women’s childbirth experience. Stephanie Catsaros Jaqueline Wendland Published:February 12, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2020.102666
- The effect of psychoeducation on fear of childbirth and birth type: systematic review and meta-analysis Mehtap Akgün 13 Nov 2019 https://doi.org/10.1080/0167482X.2019.1689950
- Impact of Hypnosis Intervention in Alleviating Psychological and Physical Symptoms During Pregnancy Zuhrah Beevi,Wah Yun Low &Jamiyah Hassan Pages 368-382 | Published online: 22 Mar 2016 https://doi.org/10.1080/00029157.2015.1063476
- Prenatal developmental origins of behavior and mental health: The influence of maternal stress in pregnancy Bea R.H.Van den Bergh
- The HATCh Trial: hypnosis antenatal training for childbirth Cyna, Allan, 2011