6 Things I didn't know about Hypnobirthing...

The worst bit about hypnobirthing is the name. The “hypno” bit immediately conjures up pendulums, trance-like hypnotism and bish bash bosh, were right into the land of scepticism. I find myself almost daily defending why I left my job as a Social Worker to run hypnobirthing courses. The realities are that the name is so confusing that people have already made their mind up even before I try and explain. Whether you’re in the sceptic camp or not, my hope is that you’re more informed at the end of this article, and know that hypnobirthing really can make a huge difference to a baby's birthing journey.

So Im going to try to debunk 6 top myths about hypnobirthing…..

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1. Hypnobirthing is only for Hippies.

Hypnobirthing is most definitely for everyone.

I equate Hypnobirthing to where water birth was 20 years ago, where it was once seen as a little weird/alternative and “hippy” like, it is now a desired option by many for giving birth. Even more so, current research tells us that water births are more likely to reduce infection, the need for assisted delivery, the use of pain medication, and the likelihood of perineal tearing (yep, I said the word!), whilst creating a calming transition for the baby into the world. Hypnobirthing I believe, is on the same journey.

The use of hypnosis during labour is not a new “alternative” thing. In fact, in 1955 the British Medical Journal stated that: 

“It is an effective method of relieving pain in childbirth without altering the normal course of Labour”

Many NHS trusts are now offering Hypnobirthing as part of their antenatal care, as it is logical and has clear physiological benefits. Famous celebrities such as Duchess of Cambridge, Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie, Fearne Cotton have all publicly praised the use of hypnobirthing techniques during their labours.

Whatever journey you are planning to have, hypnobirthing is designed to give you confidence and calm during your pregnancy and birth, and reduce fear which is so often associated with birth.

2. You are under some sort of hypnotic spell and not in control when you give birth

Arguably, hypnobirthing allows you to be even more in control. Culturally, our understanding of hypnotism stems from staged hypnotism which we see on TV. During a hypnobirthing course, the mother is not hypnotised before the birth, and will not cluck like a chicken when she hears the word “contraction”. In fact, hypnobirthing would be better described as the physiology of birth course (not as catchy name, but less weird reaction!). Every aspect of what is taught is evidenced based, so say goodbye to any pendulums, and put on your scientific hats! 

On a standard hypnobirthing course couples learn about the physiology of birth; such as: differing processes of the uterine muscles, the release of the hormones which both help and hinder the progress of labour. Couples learn how important it is to be relaxed and produce oxytocin (the hormone that drives the contractions) and why adrenaline (the hormone released when anxious and frightened) slows and can even stall birth.  Parents-to-be will be taught the different cross roads that they might come across during their labour journey and be provided with information to support them in making an informed and confident decision which is best for them and their baby.

3. Hypnobirthing is only for natural birth

There is not one way to have a hypnobirth.  Like us as human beings, babies and birth are unpredictable at times. Hypnobirthing therefore cannot always provide women with a natural birth. There is no doubt that the decisions we make before and during our labour can have a significant impact on the outcome of the journey. 

In fact, there is evidence to show that the adoption of hypnobirthing techniques has a connection with reduction in assisted deliveries and caesareans.

However, even if you have not taken a medical management approach to labour, with the best will in the world, there are times when decisions need to be made which adopt an increased medical approach for the sake of the wellbeing of the mother and/or baby.

Whilst hypnobirthing cannot promise a natural birth, it is designed to enable:

  • Comfort
  • Control
  • Choice
  • Calm
  • Confidence

This can be applied in all different settings. I firmly believe that we should be empowered to have an informed choice in all aspects of our lives, and giving birth should be no different. As a result, a hypnobirthing course dedicates a significant amount of time to understanding the journey of a woman's labour, from their first sensation – to the golden hour after birth - and everything in between. Additionally, it covers a variety of natural methods to reduce the sensations of pain, discusses the impact the environment has on the labouring mother, informs about the optimum positions for giving birth and provides techniques in reducing perineal damageFurthermore, hypnobirthing presents evidence around different decisions you may face on your journey through pregnancy and birth. It is vital that this can happen so that mothers and fathers are able to be fully informed, aware and confident as they approach this life changing event.

Birth is NOT a competition.  

Hypnobirthing is there to support a couple's decision whatever choice they make and journey it takes.

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4. Hypnobirthing guarantees a pain free birth

Some hypnobirths are reported to have occurred without pain; some women even claiming to have had an orgasmic birth! But, for the majority of us, this is not the case. The mind and body are strongly connected, we see that especially through the importance placed on sports psychologists and current trend on mindfulness.  By using hypnobirthing methods, women learn techniques to enable their bodies to produce their natural pain relieving hormones through relaxation and visualisation techniques. Yes, you might be looking for a natural, drug free birth, and the course will help you hugely if that's the birth you want, in fact there are connections between hypnobirthing and reduced need for pain relief. But, and it's a big BUT, no matter what journey your labour takes, you will likely to want to meet your baby feeling calm, relaxed and in control. These are all positive tools and techniques found in a hypnobirthing course which have both short and long term impacts for labour, birth and life.

5. Hypnobirthing doesn’t support doctors and midwives

Hypnobirthing is never about a “them and us” mentality between the birthing couple and the medical professionals. We all want the same thing, a healthy and happy mum and baby. Doctors and midwives’ knowledge is phenomenal, and it would be well advised to listen to what they have to say. However, despite this information, many couples remark on feeling out of control during the important process of giving birth. Therefore, during a hypnobirthing course women and more importantly their birth partners, are provided with tools which help them communicate with their care team, which helps to empower, inform, give confidence and release fear around birth and the decisions made around their baby. When their baby is born, they are fully responsible for its life, making all of the decisions which affect its life.  With hypnobirthing, confidence and information begins before birth, ensuring the very best start for mum, dad and baby.

6. Hypnobirthing can only be used in birth

Not at all. While we talk in depth about birth in a variety of ways, it is just one part. The main cornerstone of a hypnobirthing course is to teach Mum and birthing partner ways in which she can remain calm and in control mainly through practising methods such as deep relaxation, understanding the power of the mind, the power of positivity, visualisations, and the connection you can have with your partner during this precious time. These tools teach you techniques to help reduce anxiety and stress through your pregnancy, birth and beyond. Not only does Hypnobirthing have a role to play upon reducing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms following child birth (Isbir, 2016), but arguably, once the baby is here, all those skills are even more important when getting to know your baby and journeying through parenthood.

Very often birth partners feel like they are unable to help in the course of the birthing journey, and yet in reality, they are profoundly important. Hypnobirthing therefore provides tools for couples to work together during the birth of their baby. Birth partners are provided with helpful tools which can help them be an essential part of the birthing journey, and work together as a team during your labour. As a result, Hypnobirthing can really have a positive impact on the relationship between mum, dad and baby; a role which is conducive to a positive bond with the baby once they are born and beyond!

In essence, the techniques that are learnt are tools used for life.

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I hope that this has been helpful in demolishing some of the myths around this profound, simplistic, and logical approach to giving birth. I started doing hypnobirthing so that others could experience a positive birth, because our experience of birth really matters! If mybirth.co can do anything to help you through your pregnancy journey, don’t hesitate to get in touch through social media or via the website.