Can hypnotherapy help me overcome my fear of childbirth?

Giving birth may be one of the most natural things in the world, however studies have shown that more of us are afraid of labour than you might think. One study estimates around one in five women fear labour to a degree, while a 2018 study put that number much higher at nearly half of women experiencing a significant fear of childbirth (tokophobia). But why is that?

Woman holding her baby bump

We spoke with hypnotherapist and counsellor, Catherine Evans, to find out more.

“Fears surrounding birth are quite common and often come from either previous experience of birth, from a secondary source such as hearing others talking about their birth experience, or even from watching programmes whether documentary style or fiction which include a difficult birth.”

So while we think sneaking in just one more catchup episode of One Born Every Minute counts as an hour well spent preparing for what is to come, or catching up over coffee with friends about their own labour experiences, we could actually – unintentionally – be surrounding ourselves with others’ negative experiences.

While not every shared story we may hear, see, or read about may be harrowing, it can often be easier to find stories others have shared when things haven’t quite gone according to plan. Yet no matter how hard we try, we can’t wrap ourselves in cotton wool and hear nothing but the best outcomes.  What can we do to help assuage those fears, once they start to take root?

Catherine explains. “Hypnotherapy can help as a means of gently releasing those fears no matter where they came from and then reinforcing lots of positive beliefs about how mum can cope with the birth whilst feeling calm, confident and in control.”

Hypnotherapy for tokophobia (fear of childbirth)

Made more prominent and popular in recent years thanks to a whole host of high profile advocates, from royalty to celebrities, hypnobirthing is a form hypnotherapy that can help you to create a more relaxed and calm environment during labour. Helping soon-to-be parents learn how to let go of the stress, anxiety, and fear that can accompany labour, hypnosis can help you to learn techniques in the weeks and months ahead of your due date, to help you learn to foster a sense of calm and tranquility that you can take with you into the delivery room.

What to expect from hypnobirthing

Designed to give you back control, hypnobirthing can help you to increase the likelihood that you will feel relaxed, calm, and even happier during labour. Ideally, it’s great to start undertaking hypnobirthing classes with your partner or by yourself once you are around 25-30 weeks pregnant, as this can give you plenty of time to practice the techniques your hypnotherapist will show you. However, it’s never too late to start learning, be it through one-on-one sessions, group classes, online sessions, or pre-recorded courses and podcasts.

Primarily, hypnobirthing aims to help you reframe how you see labour. Instead of seeing the process of giving birth as something that will be painful, filled with unknowns, or to just be endured, hypnobirthing classes try to help you to change the language used around labour. By using positive language, such as ‘practice’ instead of ‘false’ labour, and ‘birth breathing’ rather than ‘pushing’, you can set the foundations for other self-hypnosis techniques, along with breathing exercises and visualisation.

By attending classes with your birth partner, they can also learn these techniques to help further support you when the time comes. This also can help you to continue to practice techniques at home as you learn them, helping you to feel more prepared and confident as your due date approaches.

While the effectiveness of hypnotherapy can vary from person-to-person, benefits of hypnobirthing include:

  • A reduced chance of required medical intervention and recovery time for you.
  • Higher chance of shorter labour, baby sleeping and feeding well.
  • An increased sense of bonding between you, your partner and baby.
  • No harmful side effects.

I’ve had a traumatic birth before, and I’m scared of what might happen again. Can hypnotherapy help me?

If you aren’t a first time mother, hypnobirthing can still offer many benefits. Traumatic births can leave a lasting physical, emotional, or psychological impact on those involved. But it’s important to remember that your past experiences are not bound to repeat themselves.

As Catherine explains, our negative connections with our past experiences do not have to affect our future expectations.

“As with any form of birth fear, being able to release the negative thoughts, feelings and emotions connected to the previous birth is really helpful in allowing mum to look forward to her birth experience. Through hypnotherapy, mum can release the negative connection to her previous birth which allows her to look forward in a more positive and confident way.

“There are also a number of techniques that we use in hypnosis to help mum feel calm and relaxed including reminding her that her body knows what to do, using imagery such as waves building and subsiding as they reach the shore or a balloon deflating to ease discomfort and even learning how to use suggestions to manage pain in particular parts of the body.

“Hypnotherapy can encompass a number of different tools so mums can choose which aspects they connect to, find what works best for each individual mum and how she can work with her own body to achieve a calm and relaxed birth.”

Each year, around 30,000 women in the UK experience birth trauma. Having a traumatic birth – or witnessing one – can be a challenging experience, that can leave you feeling afraid of future births, as well as with ongoing worries, fears, or even PTSD. If you are worried you may have experienced birth trauma or postnatal PTSD, mental health charity Mind offers free resources and information that can help, or find out more about how hypnotherapy can help with PTSD.

Whatever the root cause of your fears around labour and giving birth may be, it’s important to know that help is available. Speak with someone close to you, your birth partner, midwife or consultant to let them know how you are feeling, and to discuss what options may be available.

To find out more information about hypnobirthing, check out our latest member articles or hypnobirthing page. To find an experienced hypnotherapist online or near you, check out our list of experienced hypnotherapists dealing with hypnobirthing.

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Written by Bonnie Gifford
Bonnie Evie Gifford is a Senior Writer at Happiful.
Written by Bonnie Gifford
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