What is hypnobirthing?


‘The conscious mind can win the battle but the unconscious mind always wins the war.’  Carl Jung

Hypnobirthing is a programme of antenatal education that enables us to let go of negative thoughts, cultural influences and false assumptions that get in the way of allowing our bodies to work the way they are designed to work in childbirth. In hypnobirthing we work with the mother and her partner to eliminate any fears or apprehension they may have around childbirth which can hinder the natural birthing process.

Using self-hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming and deep relaxation techniques, we create a calm state of mind and body, allowing oxytocin and endorphins to flow. Oxytocin helps the muscles of the cervix work to their optimum efficiency, whilst endorphins are the body’s natural pain relieving hormones, said to be 200 times more powerful than morphine!

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Hypnobirthing and hypnotherapy

Hypnobirthing is related to hypnotherapy but a distant cousin to the type of hypnosis we may have seen on stage or on TV. In hypnobirthing, the mother is put into a light trance, which then enables the hypnobirthing teacher to pass positive suggestions to her subconscious. Many people are worried about being ‘out of control’ or doing silly things whilst in hypnosis, however they need not worry: in hypnobirthing it would be  impossible to ask anyone to do anything they would not normally be comfortable doing in a fully alert state.  During childbirth itself, a mother will naturally go into herself, and may appear to be in a world of her own;  this is entirely normal and is the state we are supposed to go into when giving birth; the neo-cortex, the ‘thinking brain’ if you like, needs to be subdued in order for labour to progress. So a hypnobirthing mum is aware of what is happening around her, but rather chooses to focus inwards and concentrate on staying as relaxed and open as possible.

With hypnobirthing we cannot promise the perfect birth, but hopefully, whatever occurs you will approach it with less fear and trepidation than might otherwise have been the case.

If you would like to read more about hypnosis, hypnotherapy and hypnobirthing, read our article An explanation of Hypnosis.

The history of hypnobirthing

The term hypnobirthing began to be used in the late ‘80’s, popularized by Michelle Leclaire O’Neill and by  Marie Mongan in the US. However its roots can be traced back much further than that. A respected obstetrician Dr Grantly Dick-Read did much work to support the idea of natural childbirth through his book ‘Childbirth Without Fear’. (1890-1959) at a time when  doctors were of the belief that childbirth needed to be assisted and providing pain relief was essential. When attending a birth in the slums of the east end, he watched whilst a woman breathed her baby down with no noise or fuss. She refused the chloroform he offered and when asked why, responded: ‘It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t supposed to was it Doctor?’ He then began to explore the idea that it was fear, and more precisely, the expectation of fear and pain, which caused the pain itself in many of his more affluent patients.

The premise behind hypnobirthing is therefore that when fear is not present, then neither is pain. During your hypnobirthing course you will explore many of the common causes of fear, then work on releasing these fears and building confidence and positive expectation in its place. We will look at the hormones at work in the ‘freeze-fight-flight’ response and why they have such a detrimental impact on the process of natural delivery. We also look at how the optimal function of the uterine muscles is supported with hypnobirthing techniques.

The language of hypnobirthing

Another important element of hypnobirthing is the language used. In hypnobirthing great care is given to how we talk about birth and using positive reframing of key words we can make a difference to how the experience is perceived. Hence, you will not talk about ‘contractions’, which is a harsh sounding, diminutive word, rather you will hear them referred to as ‘surges’, a word which has more positive connotations, and is very forward-looking. Similarly, ‘labour’ is often avoided as it implies hard work. This can be substituted by ‘birth’ or ‘childbirth’. The terminology may seem like a small thing, but in fact it is one of a number of things in hypnobirthing which when put together can make a big difference.

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The benefits of hypnobirthing
  • Releases fear and negativity associated with giving birth so the mother approaches birth with a positive and calm attitude, which greatly aids the natural process.
  • Less need for medical or surgical intervention.
  • Aids the release of oxytocin and endorphins: essential birthing hormones
  • Many hypnobirthing mothers report feeling very little or no pain during childbirth
  • Mother is alert and in control of her own birthing experience and often recovers quickly.
  • Labour can be shorter and less tiring. 3 hours shorter on average for first time mums, 1 hour shorter for second and subsequent births.
For baby:
  • Baby arrives into the world calm, alert and often drug-free.
  • Latches onto the breast easily, feed and sleep well,
  • Hypnobirthing babies thrive well, and often don’t lose weight postnatally.
  • Sets the baby off on the right path for the rest of its life.
  • Natural endorphins the mother produces during a hypnobirth will pass through to the baby which means baby is less stressed.
  • Hypnobirthing babies often have higher APGAR scores (the score given to a newborn baby measuring colour, reflexes, breathing, muscle tone and pulse rate) because they’ve had a peaceful birth.
For father:
  • Gives a role to the father or birth partner during a time when they may otherwise feel left out
  • Can see that birth and the concepts underpinning hypnobirthing are logical and they are able to support their partner in a natural birth.
  • Less fear of the unknown
  • Opportunity to bond with their unborn baby

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View more Statistics on hypnobirthing here.