Hypnobirthing - making labour easier
Hypnobirthing teaches you simple self hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques to help you have a calmer, less painful birth. It burst into the spotlight in 2013 when the Duchess of Cambridge said she was going to use it during the birth of her first baby, Prince George. Here we describe just how it works.
What is hypnobirthing?
Hospitals around the country are reporting a major rise in the demand for classes in hypnobirthing and many midwives predict it will be standard antenatal practice within a decade. So why’s it such a hit and how does it work?
The theory behind hypnobirthing is that fear and tension cause most of the pain in labour, so controlling your feelings through a series of deep breathing and deep relaxation techniques will in turn help reduce your pain.
Fans of hypnobirthing say that staying calm stops your body going into a panicky ‘fight-or-flight mode’ enabling you to focus your energy on a faster, easier labour. It’s also thought staying calm helps your body release hormones like oxytocin - which encourages contractions - and endorphins, which numb pain and help you feel good. What’s not to like?
A huge benefit of hypnobirthing is the feeling of control it gives you over your birth - rather than relying heavily on your doctor or midwife.
Does hypnobirthing work?
It was put to the test by a recent study which found that self-hypnosis for labour didn’t affect pain levels very much – the mums trying hypnotherapy needed only slightly less pain relief than the rest of the group. But it did help them feel far less anxious and fearful about labour, making the birth a far more positive experience.
Other studies have suggested hypnosis can reduce pain, shorten the length of labour and help more women go home sooner after their baby is born.
What happens in the classes?
Hypnobirthing helps you take a different approach to the way you think and talk about labour and birth. For example, your teacher may talk about ‘tightenings’ or ‘surges’, rather than painful contractions - helping you feel more positive about your ability to give birth. You'll also learn about best positions for labour and birth, deep relaxation, self-hypnosis and breathing techniques.
Will I be awake?
You won’t be in a trance or a sleep - you'll be able to chat and will always be aware of what is happening to you, and around you.
Is it safe?
While you shouldn’t use hypnobirthing as an alternative to pain relief, it may really help improve your birthing experience.
When should I start hypnobirthing?
The ideal time to start classes is between 25 weeks and 29 weeks of pregnancy, but you may well benefit from classes right up to the end of your pregnancy.
Does my partner need to come?
If you decide to try hypnobirthing classes, make sure your birth partner comes too, so you can learn breathing, relaxation and visualisation techniques together.
How much does it cost?
Hypnobirthing classes are run privately and generally cost a few hundred pounds, so it's worth asking around to compare fees. And check your teacher is certified by the HypnoBirthing Institute – the official website for Hypnobirthing in the UK.
Is it for me?
If you’re sick of hearing people’s gruelling birth stories, and want to claim a relaxed birth where you feel calm, relaxed and in control, you may find hypnobirthing is a huge bonus.