The basics of hypnobirthing

Childbirth is one of the most natural things in the world. For many women, it’s an exciting, positive, and life-changing experience. But childbirth also comes with a plethora of emotions, and sometimes, fear and anxiety about labour can get in the way. This fear and stress can affect the birth, prolonging labour.

Silhouette of a pregnant woman

Whether this fear is sparked by hearing horror stories, or a previous experience of labour, learning to relax and listen to your body can make for an easier birth.

Hypnobirthing is a method that aims to help women relax in the lead-up to, and during, childbirth – free from stress, anxiety or fear. The idea is that, as an expectant mother, you attend a course of hypnobirthing classes in the lead-up to labour. You’ll learn self-hypnosis and breathing techniques, which you can take with you when the time comes.

How does hypnobirthing work?

Using self-hypnosis and breathing techniques, hypnobirthing helps expectant mothers to shift their mindset and create a more positive birth experience. As clinical hypnotherapist Abigail Rogers explains, hypnobirthing focuses on reducing anxiety around birth. This is done by helping you to learn how to enter a state of deep relaxation, allowing your mind to relax and take over the process, rather than having your ‘fight or flight’ response kick into overdrive

When should I start hypnobirthing classes?

If you’re interested in giving hypnobirthing a try, it’s suggested you start classes at around 25 to 30 weeks. This gives you time to practise the techniques, so you feel confident in the delivery room. Of course, you can still attend classes if you’re further along. Even learning the basic techniques of hypnobirthing can be helpful.

Hypnobirthing classes can take place in-person or online, as part of a group, by yourself, or with your partner, at any point during your pregnancy. If you’re feeling particularly nervous, seeking help for pregnancy and birth anxiety could be worthwhile. Hypnobirthing in particular can help you to reframe things in a more positive light, helping you to replace worries about what may go wrong, anticipating pain, or getting caught up in others’ negative experiences. An experienced hypnobirthing hypnotherapist will encourage positive language, help you to learn self-hypnosis techniques, as well as visualisation and breathing exercises.

What will I learn from hypnobirthing?

The main aim of hypnobirthing is to make the idea of childbirth stress-free and as positive as possible. Of course, complications can be had, but hypnobirthing aims to help women look at the birthing process in a more positive light. It’s natural, you can do this.

As a woman, you are surrounded by other women who have done it. They have their own story, and stories from friends, family and those before them. Sadly not all births go to plan and for some, these ‘horror stories’ of bad experiences can leave them dreading labour.

Instead of researching what might happen and anticipating pain, which then increases anxiety, hypnobirthing works with positive language, including:

  • ‘surges’ instead of ‘contractions’
  • ‘practice labour’ instead of ‘false labour’
  • ‘birth breathing’ instead of ‘pushing’

With positive language as the foundation, sessions will consist of self-hypnosis techniques, visualisation and breathing exercises. You may also learn the ‘ideal positions’ for childbirth, which can shorten labour and work with your body, instead of against it.

It’s common to be given materials to take home too, so you can continue your hypnobirthing practice outside of the classroom, right up until your birthing date.

What are the benefits of hypnobirthing?

“I was letting my body get on with it, rather than rolling around on a birthing ball, or preparing to go to the hospital.  By teatime, the ‘surges’ had become so outrageously strong that they were almost beyond painful. Some bizarre internal engine had taken over and I remained calm, excited and a bit giggly. I have recommended hypnobirthing to every expectant parent ever since.”

Read more of Amy’s experience.

According to those who have used hypnobirthing, there are a number of benefits. These can include:

  • reduced time in labour
  • feel more relaxed before and after birth
  • baby is more likely to feed and sleep well
  • increased sense of bonding between parents and child
  • reduced recovery time after birth

Everyone is different and so, your experience of pregnancy and childbirth may be different from your friends’, or those around you. It’s important you listen to yourself and what you want from your birthing experience.

While hypnobirthing may reduce how much pain you feel during labour, it may not necessarily replace your need for pain relief. Many use it alongside other methods of pain relief offered by their midwife or hospital, to help create a birth experience that is right for them.

There is no right or wrong way. If you’re pregnant, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Exploring all options and learning about the different approaches is the first step to feeling more in control and understanding the process.

To learn more about hypnobirthing, contact a hypnotherapist.

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Written by Ellen Lees
Head of Content.
Written by Ellen Lees
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