Pregnancy and childbirth can be one of the most wonderful and at the same time terrifying times in a women’s life. For many pregnant women, as they get closer to their due date, the thought of giving birth can become a little daunting.
Healthcare providers can offer several alternatives during labour to help take the edge off the pain, however some women prefer to go down a more natural route when it comes to pain relief during labour. One such method includes hypnobirthing.
What is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is a form of hypnosis, and is a technique that can be practised during pregnancy as a method to help cope with the pain of childbirth.
This is a relatively new concept. In the 1980’s Marie Mongan, a highly respected hypnotherapist, created “The Mongan Method”. Essentially the method promotes the use of hypnosis during childbirth, the goal is to allow mummy-to-be to have the most natural childbirth possible using a variety of breathing techniques and self-hypnosis, sometimes referred to as guided meditation, in order to control and work through the pain of childbirth.
The theory is that childbirth is a natural process, one that both the mother and baby’s bodies are made to go through, and it is a process that both work on together in order to achieve the end goal.
The process begins during pregnancy with the practising of deep breathing and visualisation. The mother works with her partner on a series of prompts and measures to help during the birth which can help her to train her body to commit to a deeper relaxation on demand. Whilst hypnobirthing is often assumed to be the pain relief of choice for those choosing a homebirth, it is also becoming an increasingly popular choice for those giving birth in a birthing centre of hospital.
Keeping Your Focus
With the right preparation many women find hypnobirthing can be very beneficial and a great way for them to work through the pain. As with so many of these things’ hypnobirthing requires the right mindset and the ability to be able to focus on those learned skills when the moment arrives. For some women the start of labour and the onset of pain can be a shock and everything they have prepared for can go out of the window. For others however it can be the push they need to remember the techniques they have learnt, and once they get into their routine can be very beneficial.
There is no one pain relief method that works for everyone. Some women may plan to use hypnobirthing during their labour but change their minds when labour starts; this is a normal reaction and perfectly natural. The best pain relief for each individual woman is the one that works for them at that moment, there are no right answers. Even if you find that hypnobirthing does not work for you during labour, the breathing techniques that you have learnt will be very beneficial.
When Should You Start Hypnobirthing?
Pregnancy is a very individual experience and there is no right, or wrong time to start hypnobirthing. Some women like to find classes and join them during their second trimester in order to give themselves plenty of time to learn everything and as a way of keeping calm and relaxed during the pregnancy.
For one reason or another some women start hypnobirthing much later in the pregnancy; although it should be remembered that the later you start the less time you will have to learn the necessary techniques. The ideal time to start hypnobirthing for most women is between 25 and 30 weeks of pregnancy.
Breathing forms a huge part of the hypnobirthing ethos and there are a variety of different breathing techniques that many women find beneficial. When in labour it is important that your breathing is at a comfortable rate, and you should not feel light headed or short of breath – the main goal is to find a pattern of breathing that works well for each individual and that it has a calming and relaxing effect.
There are several different breathing techniques that can be used for the different stages of labour. These include:
- Relaxation breathing
- Surge breathing
- Birth breathing
Relaxation breathing, or sleep breathing, is used in early labour and is a great way for the mother to be to focus her thoughts and concentrate her energies for the birth ahead. Some women find combining this type of breathing with light touch massage can be very helpful for relaxing.
Surge breathing, breathing deeply to fill the abdomen with air, is used once you are in active labour and helps with each surge, contraction. This can help reduce the strong sensations of childbirth to a more manageable level. It also has the added benefits of making each surge more effective and may help to reduce the length of labour.
Birth breathing, the final technique is used when you are ready to push and involves working effectively with your body to push through each contraction. Birth Breathing is the technique you can use for when you are birthing your baby. By working effectively with your body, your baby’s entrance into the world is a safe, natural, easy, calm, comfortable, and an enjoyable experience.
In addition to these breathing techniques there are several other techniques that can help in the hypnobirthing process. These include affirmations - positive statements that are directed at the labouring mother, positive thoughts, guided visualisations and soothing strokes – light massage therapy. Some women also like to use aromatherapy as a part of their hypnobirthing process as well.
Pregnancy Yoga and Hypnobirthing
For many mummys-to-be preparing for the birth of their child means ensuring their body is in the best condition possible. In addition to hypnobirthing, many women find pregnancy yoga to be beneficial.
Pregnancy yoga is a great way of stretching the body, gently, learning concentrated breathing techniques and also mental centring. Research has shown that this is perfectly safe for pregnant women and their babies and can even help with sleep. Pregnancy yoga can also be done with a birthing ball, which is also great preparation for the later stages of pregnancy and the early stages of labour.
Where Can I Find a Hypnobirthing Class?
If you are considering hypnobirthing as an option for the birth of you baby, then you will probably need to ask about local classes near me. Some NHS trusts run their own classes, and these can be very beneficial however, they may be quite full and not as in depth as you would like.
There are a few sites, such as The Hypnobirthing Association, where you will be able to look at the availability of classes all over the country. Whether you are looking for a class in Bristol, Manchester, London, Leeds, Norwich, Liverpool or anywhere else in the UK they will be able to help you find the right course for you.
Can I Learn Hypnobirthing at Home?
If you cannot get to the classes then you may prefer to learn at home and there is certainly no reason why you shouldn’t do this, There are plenty of online apps that you can download for free and CD’s out there that will help you to learn hypnobirthing in the home.
If you are looking for a place to start then Rainbow relaxation audio, which you should be able to purchase as a CD is a great place to start. You may also want to combine this with rainbow meditation which will give you plenty of techniques to work on for during labour. If you are struggling with any of the techniques discussed, then you should also be able to find youtube videos that will show you exactly how each technique works.
Learning at home can be a great way of getting your partner involved if you are having difficulty finding a class you can get to together. Their input in writing hypnobirthing affirmation cards, as well as looking into scripts they could read to you can be an important part of the process and a way in which they can get involved.
Other things that you may find beneficial when learning hypnobirthing at home include, music – Spotify is a great source of tracks that you can stream.
Best Hypnobirthing Books
With so many books dedicated to pregnancy and hypnobirthing on the market it can be hard to know which ones to use. Here is our pick of some of the best books out there:
- Mindful Hypnobirthing - by Sophie Fletcher
- Birth Made Easy - by Paula Bagnall
- The Hypnobirthing Book - by Katharine Graves
- Hypnobirthing:The Mongan Method - by Marie Mongan
There are also a few books by Maggie Howell that look at hypnobirthing and other aspects of pregnancy and childbirth that are well worth the read.
Many of these books are available to purchase on Amazon, and there are plenty of reviews which might help you pick which ones to buy. There are also a number of podcasts on the subject of hypnobirthing available online which may help as well.