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28th Mar 2018

So, does hypnobirthing really work? An expert weighs in


I was in a delivery ward recently, and a midwife said “oh you teach HypnoBirthing, that’s fantastic – it doesn’t work for everyone but we (in the delivery ward) can definitely see it helps. It changes a woman’s mindset.”

I’ve been thinking about this ever since, and the whole question of ‘does it work.’

To answer that question we need to define what ‘hypnobirthing that works’ looks like. What do we want ‘it’ to do?

This comes down to the mothers personal goals and desires – personal being the operative word here. It will be different for everyone.

I really wish I had asked that midwife what happens when it works. But I have a feeling she was referring to birth without pain relief or medical intervention – a ‘natural birth’ if you will, (though for me, all birth is natural). This is THE single most common misconception of hypnobirthing.

When I teach The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme, I often ask couples to make a list of words or phrases they would like to be associated with the birth of their baby. Here’s what comes up regularly:

  • To be in control
  • To be calm and not afraid
  • Not to be in pain
  • To feel empowered
  • To avoid the epidural
  • Not to be in labour for too long
  • To give birth with as little medical intervention as possible
  • To enjoy pregnancy and feel excited about birth rather then terrified
  • For mum and baby to be healthy and happy (I get them to add Dad in here because he’s important too!)

When setting goals to work towards and talking about desires around birth, there are many different factors which need to be considered. There may be specific fears and concerns to be addressed from previous births or experiences. There may be medical factors to be considered. There may be issues around psychological or mental health to be taken into account.

Then there is the big factor – you, mum, are not the boss of labour. Baby is in the driving seat for this one. So while it’s good and important to work towards a goal, and there is plenty you can do to help, prepare for and influence a positive outcome, you must keep your mind open to changes of plan.

This is where hypnobirthing really helps.

Couples who have attended HypnoBirthing classes (which is 12.5 hours of classes with additional hours of practice – so not to be sniffed at!) can readily accept and calmly deal with any situations that arise in the birthing scenario.

The different tools in their birthing toolkit help them to help their baby through the process. Mum uses her breathing techniques to keep calm – dad uses massage, affirmations, hip compressions, and relaxation exercises to help mum.

It is about having the right birth on the day. It is about leaving the delivery ward feeling amazing, proud, delighted, happy, and excited, no matter what way your baby chooses to come into the world.

The bonus is, because HypnoBirthing women are informed and understand the physiology of birth, they are not afraid and feel confident in their ability. They have a birth toolkit at their disposal to help them focus, relax and keep in control. This often results in that ‘natural’ intervention-free birth the midwife may have been referring to.

So does hypnobirthing ‘work’? Absolutely.

As the midwife said ‘it changes a woman’s mindset.’

So many women are turning to self-hypnosis in the UK that midwives there believe that HypnoBirthing will be standard antenatal practice within the next ten years. Read more about it here.

Emily McElarney is Hypnobirthing practitioner and pre-natal and post-natal yoga teacher, or on Facebook.