What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is a popular practice for mums-to-be during labour. So, what is it? And how does it work? We ask the experts everything you need to know

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Hypnobirthing (sometimes called ‘birth hypnotherapy’) has risen in popularity over the last few years as a potential pain reliever and stress reducer during labour.

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But what exactly is it? And how does it work? And where can you try it out for yourself? Here’s everything you need to know about hypnobirthing…

What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is a form of self-hypnosis that enables you to ‘tune out’ other distractions and focus on positive supporting drives within you.

This is designed to help you to get rid of fear, tension and pain and replace them with relaxed concentration.

It’s based on the accepted notion that if you go into birth feeling frightened, your system will respond accordingly.

The fear will lead to increased levels of adrenaline in your body, which causes increased tension in your muscles and your cervix.

Fewer ‘contraction’ hormones are then produced, so your uterus has to work much harder to flex and tighten. This subsequently makes contractions far more painful. Ouch ouch ouch.

How does hypnobirthing work exactly?

Don’t worry, it’s not a ‘you are getting verrrrry sleeeeeepy‘ type scenario.

Hypnobirthing usually involves practising a series of techniques in the weeks and months leading up to the birth – which you put to use once labour has begun.

This includes everything from breathing techniques, relaxation and visualisation exercises to embracing positive, empowering mantras. 

Where can you learn hypnobirthing techniques?

There are plenty of ways to learn the basic hypnobirthing techniques – before committing to a class or course taught by a pro.

Your first port of call will be online, your nearest bookshop or your local library. Books and online resources explaining the basics are readily available.

Online tips are usually free – but they won’t tell you everything you need to know. Books usually cost around £10, depending on which you buy. Audiobooks might cost a bit more.

We’d suggest looking at:

There are also a variety of podcasts and audio sessions you can listen to for free, or buy, including:

If you’ve read up and like the sound of hypnobirthing, we’d also suggest you look into a class or course of classes to boost your knowledge in time for the big day.

We know many pregnant women end up going for classes. There, you’ll learn and practise the techniques properly and thoroughly, with an expert by your side, in a safe space – for maximum impact.

What should I expect from hypnobirthing classes?

Though you can read books about hypnotherapy practices, it’s best to start hypnobirthing classes in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy so you can really practice what you’ve learned.

You may want to bring your partner along too – if they’re planning on being involved during delivery.

Typically, birth hypnotherapy classes are most often held in private venues or in the course leader’s home. Some birth hypnotherapy experts will come to your home for private sessions.

When looking for a class, you ideally want to find a very relaxed, calm environment with lots of comfy cushions and beanbags!

In the sessions, you’ll likely be taught about the 3 stages of labour, and you and your partner will learn specific breathing and visualisation techniques for each of the stages. 

Your partner will learn how to help you relax using hypnosis techniques and specific massage techniques.

You’ll learn about positioning for an optimal birth, and how to deal with slowed-down progress during labour. You will probably get to watch DVDs of women having a vaginal birth without pain medication.

Some classes will also cover techniques to massage your perineum (the bit of skin between your vagina and anus which can tear during labour).

How to find the right hypnobirthing class for you

Finding a class is easy – a quick Google search of your area will show you countless options. However, you need to do your homework to find the right type of class for you.

“Find a hypnobirthing method that resonates with you,” says Miriam Greaves, hypnobirthing teacher and Parent Tribe  founder.

“There are many methods available – KG Hypnobirthing, Mindful Mamma, Wise Hippo, Marie Mongan to name a few.”

The NHS website has a great directory for all antenatal classes, which will also show you the different methods of hypnobrthing available in your area. Simply provide your postcode and away you go!

Here are a few other directories you could explore:

You’ll notice pretty quickly in your search that there are a lot of practitioners and classes to choose from. It might feel a bit overwhelming to try and decide – so how do you choose?

“Find 3-4 teachers in your area that teach your preferred method and arrange a chat with them,” advises Miriam. “It is so important that you have a rapport with your teacher – you’re more likely to learn if you do.

“Most teachers offer free taster sessions so get yourself along to one, ideally with your birth partner, so you can both get a feel for the course and for the teacher.

“Find out what is included with the course and whether you will receive ongoing support up to your baby’s birth. Some teachers offer this and some don’t. If it’s important to you then find a teacher that does.”

To be sure you find the best and right class for you, you may also want to:

  • check the teacher’s qualifications. Are they properly trained and accredited with an organisation like KG Hypnobirthing, or another with Royal College of Midwives (RCM) seal of approval?
  • check the location is easy and comfortable for you to get to
  • decide whether you’d like to book one session or a full course
  • know exactly what the class/course is going to offer you
  • read the reviews for the class you’re planning to go to, if they exist
  • ensure you can afford all the class(es).

That last bit’s especially vital. Courses of several classes can cost between £100 to £250. Private courses (just you, your partner and the tutor) can go up to £450, from what we’ve seen.

So, it’s not cheap, and therefore will very unfortunately be out of budget for some of our mums-to-be.

Also, don’t feel pressured into doing a class. We know plenty of mums who’ve simply listened to affirmations or read a book, and had a positive hypnobirthing experience during labour.

Share you experience

How much was your hypnobirthing class? And did you find an online resource that you think other pregnant women should know about?

Let us know your tips and suggestions in the comments below…

Images: Getty Images

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