Hypnobirthing is designed to teach women (and their birth partners) relaxation and breathing techniques that can help you to have a more comfortable, less painful and more controlled birth. And I’m sure we all like the sound of that! It’s brilliant as well for women who are scared stiff of the whole birth process, who may think that their pain threshold is really low or who may have had a traumatic birth in the past.
We seem really keen in today’s society to tell and retell horrendous birth stories. We forget that it was such a normal, (usually) straightforward process during evolution, that in some cultures women were just left on their own to ‘get on with it’. Nowadays, people can’t wait to tell you gory details - stories of screaming down hospitals and yelling for pain relief. It’s probably not helped by TV programmes either! Whilst I’m sure there are horror stories out there, it doesn’t have to be like that.
British research on hypnosis techniques (such as hypnobirthing) used during childbirth has shown that it reduces the experience of pain. 55% of women in a study needed no pain relief at all, compared to 22% of women who did not practise hypnosis. In another study of over 850 women, 58% needed no pain relief and this is raised to 60-79% in other studies. Hypnosis during birth has also been shown to reduce the need for surgical intervention – none of the hypnosis group studied (22 mothers) needed surgery compared to 12 out of 20 in the non-hypnosis group. Hypnosis can even be used to turn breech babies and to bring on natural labour if your baby seems too snug in there and you go over your due date!
The origins of hypnobirthing stem from the research of Dr Dick-Read. Dr Dick-Read suggested that when we feel fear (such as during childbirth), blood is taken away from the uterus to other organs that need it for direct survival. Fear after all is a stress response or a ‘fight or flight’ response. Therefore if blood is diverted elsewhere in the body, so is oxygen. A lack of oxygen to the uterus means it doesn’t perform as efficiently as it should and we experience pain. He called this the, ‘fear-tension-pain syndrome of childbirth’.
Hypnobirthing is based on the idea that extreme pain doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of birthing. Birth doesn’t necessarily have to be completely out of your control. Practising relaxation techniques allows the mother to work with her body, allowing the uterus to contract and the cervix to relax in order to birth naturally. Some people are sceptical and think it sounds a bit ‘out there’, but it makes sense when you look at how the body actually works and the principles behind hypnobirthing. Have a look at some of the information online and stories from hypnobirthing mothers; see if you can find a course near you to give it a try. And who knows, perhaps with the use of hypnosis birth can even be an experience to enjoy?!