Everything you need to know about hypnobirthing – from a pregnant woman practicing.
Hypnobirthing has become a bit of a trend, and is something that many pregnant women swear by whilst others remain sceptical.
As a big fan of yoga, I have already dipped my toes into the world of mind-body connection, breathing techniques for relaxation and mindful meditation.
I have seen the benefits of yoga in both my physical and mental wellbeing, so for me, hypnobirthing was something I was always very keen to explore when I discovered I was pregnant.
Since starting my practice, it seems that everyone is talking about hypnobirthing. Even the Duchess of Cambridge claims to have used hypnobirthing techniques throughout her pregnancy and labour:
“I saw the power of it really, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that, that they teach you in hypnobirthing, when I was really sick, and actually I realised that this was something I could take control of, I suppose, during labour. It was hugely powerful.” – Kate Middleton on Happy Mum, Happy Baby Podcast.
However, if you’re just starting to consider hypnobirthing it can be a very confusing practice to approach.
The spiritual side of meditation and hypnosis can put people off and there hasn’t yet been much research into the solid benefits of hypnobirthing in labour.
But the positive experiences of mothers who are sharing their stories online are impossible to ignore.
Personally, I’m not into chanting or the spiritual side of hypnosis and meditation but I am into breathing my body into stillness and calming my mind for the good of my health and wellbeing. These techniques are undoubtably valuable to have in labour.
Let’s explore the subject of hypnobirthing and how and why you should get started today.
What exactly is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing teaches visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques that act as a form of pain relief during labour and birth.
The idea centres around teaching pregnant women how to enter a sort of ‘self-hypnosis’ which is designed to reduce fear and stress, thereby keeping adrenaline at bay.
Adrenaline is known to slow down labour and birth, and make the experience more painful.
According to obstetrician Dr Grant Dick-Read, fear and tension causes pain in approximately 95% of birthing women.
When fear and adrenaline is present, the body tenses up. In childbirth, we need the body to be relaxed and open, and the ability to accomplish this lies within the power of the mind.
What hypnobirthing teaches
Controlled breathing throughout labour and during contractions (or surges) is essential in helping the mind remain calm and in control, and in helping the body to manage any pain.
Relaxing the body
Did you know that your jaw is directly connected to your pelvis? So if you relax your face and jaw your pelvis will relax and open too.
In hypnobirthing, women are encouraged to focus on completely relaxing the face and body and letting go of any unwanted tension.
Meditation is something we can all learn and involves focusing the mind on a particular thought, object or feeling whilst ignoring other things happening around you.
By closing your eyes and training your attention on your own body and how it feels, you can successfully manage any unwanted influences or negative thoughts – helping you achieve a calm and stable mindset.
Visualisation and birth affirmations
Visualisation involves imagining the birth of your baby and focusing on a positive outcome.
Birth affirmations are often encouraged as positive influencers for birthing mothers. For example, “every surge / contraction brings me closer to meeting my baby” is a positive affirmation that helps many women manage their labour, as it encourages us to focus on our strength and the end goal.
Lots of women also choose to alter the words that are spoken in their birthing room, banning any mention of ‘pain’ and swapping the phrase ‘contractions’ for ‘surges’ in an attempt to cultivate an altogether more positive environment.
How best to approach the practice of hypnobirthing
Most expectant mothers will use a variety of resources and techniques to practice hypnobirthing.
One of the best ways to start your hypnobirthing journey is to read about it or listen to hypnobirthing podcasts to get a feel for whether this is something that might work for you.
It’s then entirely up to you whether you choose to practice techniques at home with your partner or combine this approach with classes in hypnobirthing.
Some of the best audio resources include:
- Free hypnobirthing audio recordings by Babycentre.
- Hypnobirthing Hub on PlayerFM or via Podcasts on your iPhone.
- The Hypnobirth School on Apple Podcasts – from midwife and school founder, Cheryl.
- What the F is Hypnobirthing – a fun podcast available on iPhone from newby hypnobirther and first-time mum sharing 100 days of her hypnobirthing experience.
- Hypnobirthing, with Dr Eva Detko on Spotify.
- Hypnosis tracks and free guided meditation downloads – Penguin.
- Fear Free Childbirth podcast – mixing real life positive birth stories with experts sharing tips for a positive birth experience.
Hypnobirthing reading and resources
Books to buy:
- The Hypnobirthing Book + Hypnobirthing Relaxation CD by Katharine Graves
- Mindful Hypnobirthing by Sophie Fletcher
- Your Baby, Your Birth by Hollie de Cruz
- Hypnobirthing Hub resources
- My first labour was harrowing. Hypnobirthing made my second like a dream – Amy Fleming for The Guardian
- Positive Birth Stories – the Positive Birth Company
Search for a local accredited hypnobirthing teacher near you, or check with your midwife to see who offers classes in your area.
I haven’t tried either of the courses above but they are highly rated online. I am very fortunate to have had two hypnobirthing sessions included in my Private Midwives package.
It is recommended that you bring your birthing partner with you to these classes as it will be their job to read you relaxation scripts and actively support you as ‘guardians of oxytocin’ during your labour.
Practice, practice, practice.
Making time to sit still, close your eyes, focus your mind and breathe is often the most difficult part of hypnobirthing.
Many choose to practice right before bed but there’s no reason why you couldn’t try it on your daily commute or as a lunchtime exercise.
If you’re managing to practice but are really struggling with the fear of childbirth my midwife gave me a great tip.
She said, “watch videos of animals giving birth. Notice how calm they are – even as they experience some pain. Our bodies were made to do this, just as theirs are. The difference is that animals don’t have the capacity to dread the event or build it up to be scarier than it is. They simply turn up on the day and deal with it, and look how peaceful it is.”
Great advice but perhaps one for home rather than the office.
Do you have any questions or advice on hypnobirthing?