Written by Emily Whitton

Emily Whitton

Hypnotherapy Directory Content Team

Last updated September 2022 | Next review due September 2024

The aim of hypnosis for childbirth or hypnobirthing as it is commonly known is to help you give birth in a relaxing, calm environment free from stress, anxiety or fear.

Being anxious, tense and stressed during labour (all very common feelings at this time) can prevent the birthing muscles of your body from working as they should. The hope is that by attending hypnobirthing classes you can learn techniques to foster a sense of calm and tranquillity.

On this page, we’ll look at hypnobirthing in more detail, how stress influences pain and how hypnosis for childbirth can help you gain confidence and feel empowered.

What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is the term that describes using hypnosis in childbirth. The idea is that, as an expectant parent, you attend hypnobirthing classes to learn self-hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques. You can then take what you’ve learned into the delivery room.

The ultimate goal of hypnobirthing is to provide you with a better birthing experience. Of course, all births are different and hypnobirthing is not a guarantee that all will run smoothly. Rather, it looks to give you back control and a better chance of feeling relaxed, calm and happier throughout.

It is an increasingly popular choice for mothers or expectant parents looking for a natural approach i.e. those who would rather steer clear of medication/drugs during the process. It is also popular for those who feel anxious about giving birth. This may be the case if it is your first child, or if you had a stressful past experience during childbirth.

One breathing technique I learnt was to inhale for four and exhale for eight, which helps to control the pain during contractions. I still use the technique now, as it’s been amazing for easing any little bits of anxiety I get. When I went into labour, I used this breathing technique as well as listening to my hypnobirthing tracks, to remain calm whilst we travelled to the hospital.

- Read Elle's experience of hypnobirthing.

The link between stress and pain

During labour, if you feel anxious, highly stressed or even scared, stress hormones (like adrenaline) will be released into your body. Adrenaline is the hormone that puts us into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means your blood will be pushed towards the bigger muscle groups in your limbs, in case you need to run away from the impending ‘threat’.

In this case, the perceived ‘threat’ is giving birth, something that no matter how fast you run, you cannot get away from! With the blood flowing more readily to these muscle groups, your womb is not getting as much blood/oxygen, which can make the muscles less efficient.

Stress hormones can also make the body less likely to produce the ‘love hormone’, which eases the pain of labour. While stress is naturally going to happen when you’re in labour, keeping it at a low level can help your body better cope with the process and help reduce your perception of pain.

When should I start hypnobirthing classes?

As with most skills we learn, practice makes perfect. Hypnosis is no exception - the more time you have to practice, the more competent you will feel when you put your skills into action.

If you can, look to start hypnobirthing classes somewhere between 25-30 weeks to give you plenty of time to practice.

Don’t worry if you are further along, however, as many people say they benefited regardless of how many classes they were able to attend before giving birth. Just learning some of the basic premises and techniques can be immensely helpful.

What will hypnobirthing teach me?

One of the most important parts of hypnobirthing is looking at birth in a positive light. For some mothers, hearing horror stories of other people’s experiences, reading up on what ‘could’ go wrong and expecting pain can increase anxiety. Instead, hypnobirthing classes will encourage positive language, such as: 

  • ‘surges’ or ‘tightening’, not ‘contractions’
  • ‘practice labour’, not ‘false labour’
  • ‘birth breathing’, not ‘pushing’

With this foundation, your classes will be made up of self-hypnosis techniques, visualisation and breathing exercises. All of these are designed to help you gain a sense of control, reduce stress and ease anxiety. You may also learn about the ideal positions for birth to help shorten the length of labour and assist your body’s natural functions. You will likely be given materials to take home too so you can practice out of the classroom.

The importance of a birth partner

It is entirely up to you whether or not you include your birthing partner to attend hypnobirthing classes, however, it is recommended. Having your birthing partner with you means they can learn with you and be involved in the process. You can practice at home together and they can learn how best to support you during delivery.

Together you can create a birth plan, including how you’ll use hypnosis. Of course, there will be cases when things don’t go to plan, but having a general idea of how you would like your experience to be is very useful for both parties.

Hypnobirthing benefits

It is said that there are a number of benefits to hypnobirthing, some of which are mentioned below. Everyone is different, and it is important you do what is best for you. If you have any questions before, during or after hypnobirthing sessions, ask your therapist, or your midwife.

Benefits of hypnobirthing include:

  • higher chance of a shorter labour
  • reduced chance of surgical/medical intervention required
  • higher chance of baby feeding and sleeping well
  • increased sense of bonding between parents and child
  • reduced recovery time for the mother or parent who has given birth

As this is an all-natural approach there is no risk of harmful side effects, something that appeals to a lot of expectant parents.

There is a lot of noise out there about childbirth but remember, there is no right or wrong way to do it. If you’re pregnant, exploring all your options and learning more about the different approaches is a great first step to figuring out how you want your birth to go.

Ultimately we are all different, and it’s important to listen to yourself and what you want from your birthing experience. It should be an empowering and magical experience, so any way you can harness that is worth investigating. 

Does hypnotherapy really help?

Studies have shown that hypnotherapy can be an effective way of managing pain. Find out more about the studies and research into hypnotherapy and hypnosis.

Attending hypnobirthing classes can help you learn the techniques you need to lower stress levels and invite calm into the delivery room. If you want to learn more, use our search tool to find a professional near you.

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