Hypnotherapy for childbirth is a useful tool that can help mothers prepare for birth and manage labour. Hypnotherapists specialising in this area work with clients to foster a positive frame of mind. This helps to ensure expectant mums can give birth comfortably and naturally.
It is completely natural for expectant mothers to feel anxious about giving birth. However feeling overly anxious and fearful can cause problems throughout the pregnancy and during the birth itself. Hypnobirthing techniques are designed to help address any fears or concerns an expectant mother may have and ease childbirth pain. Hypnotherapy can also help to reduce the length of labour and any chances of intervention or unexpected occurrences.
Research shows that hypnotherapy for childbirth can also benefit the baby. Some studies suggest babies born to mothers who have used hypnotherapy to prepare them for birth are more likely to sleep and feed better.
This page will explore in depth how preparing for childbirth can be made easier with hypnotherapy. It will also identify common fears of labour and delivery and what hypnobirthing sessions involve.
On this page
- Fear of childbirth
- Preparing for childbirth with hypnotherapy
- What does hypnobirthing involve?
Fear of childbirth
Having children is something many people aspire to, however the idea of giving birth can be extremely nerve-wracking for many women. Even second-time mothers who know more or less what to expect from natural childbirth can be fearful of what lies ahead.
Fear of childbirth can range from having completely natural fears to being very fearful and overwhelmed with anxiety. Common fears may focus on:
- Childbirth pain.
- Not knowing what to expect.
- Fear the baby may be hurt or injured.
- Worries related to being in the hands of healthcare professionals.
- Worries about an unwanted intervention such as a caesarean.
- Feeling anxious or embarrassed about being exposed to others during childbirth.
- Pre-existing fears such as a fear of hospitals and/or injections can exacerbate fear of childbirth.
According to netmums, 20% of pregnant women feel fear during pregnancy - especially if it's their first baby. Furthermore, 13% of women are likely to delay getting pregnant because of their fear, while 6% will find fear of childbirth so disabling, it affects their quality of life. Many will base their pregnancy or birth choices around this fear. It is not unusual for women with an extreme fear of childbirth (also known as 'Tokophobia') to opt for a termination.
Preparing for childbirth with hypnotherapy
If you are pregnant and feeling anxious about childbirth, you may find your nerves and worries escalate as your due date nears. Being overly anxious and fearful when you go into labour can make childbirth more painful and could lead to complications.
When we feel afraid the nervous system automatically kicks in and starts producing adrenalin. This fuels our natural fight or flight system, which causes our muscles to tighten. In pregnant women the flight or fight response triggers the tightening of the cervix, which can interfere with the birthing process. The body is essentially acting to prevent the baby from being born into what it believes is an unsafe environment.
Furthermore, heightened levels of adrenalin react with other hormones needed for birth. This causes the body to slow down and even put a stop to the process. The fight or flight response can be very draining for a woman in labour and this is why relaxation before childbirth is such an important factor.
Hypnotherapy for childbirth works by training the subconscious mind to expect a comfortable, safe and gentle birth. A hypnotherapist specialising in this area will discuss any anxieties you are feeling with regards to the pregnancy and will create a programme of treatment that is tailored to your needs.
The programme may include hypnobirthing techniques such as deep relaxation, breathing techniques visualisations, and self-hypnosis. All are intended to help dispel any negative thoughts and concerns as well as helping you to feel in control, confident and prepared for the birth.
What does hypnobirthing involve?
'Hypnobirthing' is the word used to described hypnotherapy for childbirth. It involves a range of approaches and techniques to help expectant mothers prepare themselves mentally and physically for what lies ahead. The aim is to release any fears and anxieties and provide a new perspective of what birth can be. This is to help expectant mothers feel more relaxed as their due date arrives.
The subconscious mind is considered to be at the heart of many of our bodily functions. Hypnotherapy is a state of deep physical and mental relaxation that allows access to this part of the human psyche. In this state it is more receptive to positive suggestions about how we can change our behaviour and beliefs.
Hypnotherapists will help women to prepare for natural childbirth by making suggestions that replace fear and expectations of pain with confident expectations. This may involve suggesting positive images and associations of childbirth. An expectant mother can practice these at home and call upon them when she goes into labour. This is thought to help relax the nervous system and reduce muscle tension - allowing for an easier and less painful birth. Research also shows that feeling relaxed in the lead up to labour can help lower maternal levels of stress hormones which can cause contractions.
It is very likely that during your hypnotherapy sessions your hypnotherapist will recommend self-hypnosis techniques. Self-hypnosis is an opportunity to continue addressing your anxieties and fear of childbirth at home. This will help to ensure your birthing muscles are relaxed and ready for when your due date arrives.
It is well known that in a clam state, the body's natural painkillers (endorphins) help to replace stress hormones. By using self-hypnosis to achieve deep relaxation, you can release your body's natural pain control hormone.
Self-hypnosis techniques may include:
This is a trance where you experience your mind body and feelings as separate from yourself. Disassociation techniques essentially help to distract the brain and block out anything that causes discomfort or upset. Use your imagination to come up with your own images - such as a vast blue ocean - to disassociate from any pain or worries. This practice can be used during childbirth.
Creative visualisation and positive suggestions
This involves using your imagination to create a mental picture, idea or feeling of something you wish to express. By imagining the joyful birth of your baby using imagery and affirmations, you can rehearse the perfect birth. The mind cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination, so rehearsing this over and over again will make you feel a lot calmer as childbirth draws closer.
Does hypnotherapy for childbirth work?
It is important to remember that there is very little chance of a completely pain-free natural childbirth. Despite this, hypnobirthing has been shown to greatly reduce the severity. In fact, many women who seek hypnotherapy and practise hypnobirthing techniques throughout their pregnancy claim to have needed less pain relief during childbirth.
One study supporting this was carried out by the American HypnoBirthing® Institute. A large group of expectant mothers were divided into two groups. One group of women received hypnotherapy in the lead up to the birth of their children while the others didn't. The results showed that only 15% of those who received hypnotherapy for childbirth required pain relief. This was compared to 70% needing pain relief in the non-hypnosis group.
Further evidence shows that the pregnant women who had received hypnotherapy stood a 20% reduced risk of experiencing an induction. They also showed a 16.5% reduced risk of experiencing a C-section.
In a different study British researchers found a significant reduction in the length of labour for first and second time mothers. In total, the 70 hypnosis patients spent an average of six hours 21 minutes in labour, compared to 70 participants that received no hypnosis who took an average of nine hours 45 minutes.
Benefits of hypnotherapy for childbirth
Preparing for childbirth with hypnotherapy is considered to have a plethora of benefits. These can help any woman during and after her pregnancy. Listed below are a few examples of issues hypnotherapy can help to address:
- can reduce labour time
- can reduce fatigue in the mother during and after birth
- can reduce postnatal recovery time
- can reduce the risk of intervention
- increases the chances of children feeding and sleeping better
- can help aches and discomforts during pregnancy
- can help morning sickness
- assists the natural birth process
- can speed up post birth recovery
- can improve oxygen levels in mother and baby.
Other ways to calm labour and delivery fears
In addition to hypnobirthing sessions and self-hpnosis, there are other things you can do to ease your labour and delivery fears.
Join a pregnancy class
These classes are designed to help expectant mums feel more prepared and confident in the lead up to childbirth. They are also an opportunity to chat with other women who may have the same fears and concerns as you. This will help you to feel less alone and stressed during this emotionally charged time.
Find out the facts
Unfortunately myths, rumours and the press have portrayed birth as something to be feared. Take control of your anxieties by heading down to your local library to stock up on pregnancy books. These will vary in topics and will help you to develop a more realistic picture of what to expect from natural childbirth.
Get to know your midwife
A supportive midwife can make all the difference when it comes to giving birth. Ask to see the same midwife or doctor at each antenatal appointment and be open with them about how you are feeling.
Write up a birth plan
For many women, preparing for childbirth is made easier by writing up a birth plan. This allows you to detail the type of birth you want - listing all your preferences when it comes to labour and delivery. It will allow your medical team and birth partner to be aware of your wishes and how to make you feel as comfortable as possible when you give birth.
A birth plan may include information about the kinds of birthing aids you may require, whether you'd like a home birth, and who you'd like to cut the chord once the baby is born.
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