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What is Hypnobirthing, and is it right for me?

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Hypnobirthing is a growing trend amongst celebrities and influencers, but is the hype right?

Bringing a new life into this world is an awe-inspiring journey that's as diverse as the mothers themselves. While childbirth is a natural and beautiful process, it's no secret that it often comes with its share of anxiety, pain, and uncertainty. Expectant mothers and their partners explore various options to make the experience as smooth and comfortable as possible. One such option that has been gaining attention in recent years is hypnobirthing.

Picture this: a serene birthing room filled with soft lighting, soothing music, and an expectant mother in a state of deep relaxation, welcoming her baby into the world with minimal discomfort. It's an alluring image, but does it hold true in the real world? Does hypnobirthing actually work, or is it just another promise that falls short of expectations?

In this blog, we delve into the world of hypnobirthing, exploring its techniques, potential benefits, and we'll also examine scientific research. By the end, we aim to help you make an informed decision about whether hypnobirthing is a viable option for your birthing journey.

So, time to answer the age-old question: What is Hypnobirthing

Hypnobirthing is a childbirth preparation method that revolves around the principles of self-hypnosis, relaxation, and positive mental conditioning. The fundamental idea behind it is to minimise the fear, tension and pain cycle often associated with labour and delivery, as these factors can increase the likelihood of complications. Expectant mothers are taught to understand how their uterus works in labour, how hormones affect this, how their minds are connected to everything and then they are equipped with the tools to control their environment and prepare their minds for a positive birth experience.

Hypnobirthing encourages the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (Rest and digest) supporting the normal functions of your body. I mean seriously, is there any more important time that we want our body to be functioning as it should be than birth. Underpinning the Psychology and physiology of Hypnobirthing education is the knowledge to make informed choices about our care for a more empowering birthing experience.

I want a pain free birth

women in labour in hospital
Women connected to CFM during labour

Using hypnobirthing during labour offers a range of benefits that can transform the experience. One of the most compelling advantages is the prospect of reduced pain. It's the reason most people start to show an interest in it in the first place. But I'm here to tell you that no one can promise this and it’s an unhelpful rhetoric that is setting many women up to fail, feel disappointed in their birth and thus actually causing more trauma. It is counterproductive at best and dangerous at worst.

What Hypnobirthing aims to do however is give you a deeper understanding of what pain actually is, help you reframe it, give you tools to change the perception of the sensations, such as using the pain gate theory and help you manage with the intensity more comfortably. Importantly a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis found that women who practised hypnobirthing experienced significantly lower pain scores during labour compared to those who didn't use these techniques. There are too many studies to mention that demonstrate similar outcomes, so it is possible to reduce the perception of pain but is that more to do with what we learn about pain rather than there actually being less pain.

Scientific research on the effectiveness of hypnobirthing has been a subject of growing interest and scrutiny. Research in the British Journal of Midwifery has shown that hypnobirthing can lead to a decrease in medical interventions such as inductions, epidurals and caesarean sections, suggesting it can result in a more natural and less intrusive birthing process. However, Hypnobirthing has not failed if your birth unfolds with an induction, and it is a method that is still worthwhile if you are planning a caesarean. The techniques in Hypnobirthing should prepare you for all eventualities. Birth is as unique as the women herself and there is no one size fits all

calm women hypnobirth women
There is so much beauty in pregnancy and birth

Is Hypnobirthing right for me?

While hypnobirthing holds promise as a childbirth technique, it's essential to acknowledge its criticisms and limitations to provide a balanced perspective. One notable criticism revolves around the idea that hypnobirthing might not work equally well for everyone. Factors such as the individual's ability to reach deep relaxation, their pain tolerance, and the specific circumstances of the birth can all influence its effectiveness. Some women may find it challenging to achieve the profound state of relaxation required for the parasympathetic nervous system to be activated, especially in high-stress or medically complex situations.

Additionally, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to birthing, and hypnobirthing may not align with everyone's preferences or expectations. It's crucial to remember that childbirth is a unique journey, and what works for one person may not work the same way for another.

As you weigh your options, keep in mind that hypnobirthing can be a powerful tool, but it's not a guarantee of a pain-free or complication-free birth. Consider it as part of a holistic approach to childbirth, and a way to give you a well rounded view of all of your options. The most important aspect of any birthing journey is ensuring that you feel safe, supported, and empowered as you welcome your new life into the world.

Ok, it's right for me, so how do I choose a coach?

It's an unregulated field sadly and there are so many people out there promising things that are just not true. My top tips when choosing a Hypnobirth or antenatal coach are:

  1. If they promise a pain free birth, run a mile

  2. Check that they focus on the science behind hypnobirthing so they can provide you with a thorough understanding on how the tool work. Trust me, you’ll be more committed to practising if you know the “Why”

  3. Check that they include the birthing partner. Having a strong support network around you on your birthing day is important to allow you to switch off your neocortex (thinking brain) and tap into your limbic brain (animal, instinctual brain)

Check out the full Hypnobirth and Antenatal programmes offered by Nicole at Your Birth Story, for a deeper understanding of what is available.

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