There are many myths to dispel...
Q: Does it work?
Yes - hypnobirthing dates back to the early 1900s, when British doctor Grantly Dick-Read observed that in the absence of fear, people tend to have much more straightforward, more comfortable and quicker births.
He set out to de-mystify and educate people about birth physiology; the mind-body connection; and introduced families to the simple tools of self-hypnosis, effective breathing and beneficial birth partner support - with great success.
His book 'Childbirth without Fear' was an international bestseller and is still in print today. As the 'father of the natural childbirth movement' his work inspired many others who began their own antenatal education programs.
The benefits of hypnobirthing are now widely accepted, with many hospital trusts offering hypnobirthing awareness training to their staff. The NCT says:
"A systematic review of hypnosis-based interventions during pregnancy found that it improved childbirth experience by reducing fear and pain and enhancing a sense of control. It improved women's emotional experience and outlook towards birth with less anxiety, increased satisfaction, fewer birth interventions, more postnatal wellbeing and a better childbirth experience overall. Other research has found that self-hypnosis promoted 'feelings of calmness, confidence and empowerment." (references)
My own postnatal survey responses indicate that my families tend to birth quicker and with less medical intervention than the general population, with 100% of respondents recommending my course to others.
"Having attended many hypnobirths at home and in hospital, I believe it is a fantastic method. It not only helps women reduce fear surrounding birth and allows their bodies to work well, but enables them to feel really positive about having their baby" Evony Lynch, Cornwall midwife
Is this 'official' hypnobirthing?
Competing companies have laid claim to the term 'hypnobirthing' over the years... It's now legally considered a generic term describing any method of preparing for childbirth using hypnosis.
How can I check your credentials?
For information on my training and background click here
What is hypnosis?
Ever been so absorbed in your thoughts that you can't quite remember some of the journey home?! Hypnosis is a completely natural state of focus, e.g. daydreaming or watching a film. In this focused state, positive suggestions help to reprogram your mind.
Can anyone use hypnosis?
Yes. Because it's a natural state of mind, everyone is capable of entering hypnosis if they want to. The more you do it, the better you get at doing it - just like learning any other skill. It's a myth that some people are unable to be hypnotised. However, if individuals have epilepsy, a heart condition, narcolepsy, asthma or suffer from psychosis or particular types of personality disorder, they should consult with their doctor first before using hypnotherapy. Never use hypnotherapy whilst operating heavy machinery (e.g. driving!) or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Will she lose control and become a zombie?
Stage hypnosis can demonstrate the amazing power of suggestion, but the showmanship element makes it seem like something it's not. A person engaging in self-hypnosis may 'come out of it' any time at will, e.g. if their phone rings they can choose whether to answer it.
Does someone sit next to parents during the birth, dangling a pocket watch?
Nope! A parent will use self-hypnosis to take themselves into a practiced deep state of focus during each contraction. Their birth partner(s) may assist them - using certain practiced positive triggers and ensuring that the birth environment is private and homely, but essentially the birthing parent is the one in control. The more they practice during pregnancy, the better they get at going rapidly into hypnosis. With very regular practice this skill becomes more and more automatic, enabling them on the day of the birth to focus, relax their body and breathe effectively.
How do parents know it's 'working'?
Everyone experiences hypnosis a bit differently, but as long as they're actively listening to and agreeing with the suggestions, it's sinking in. Every time they enter hypnosis during pregnancy it becomes more natural. As long as they've followed all of the instructions and practiced regularly during pregnancy as recommended, they can trust in their skills during the birth.
It's also normal to have doubts, this just shows that they really care about preparing effectively for their birth...
What if random thoughts pop into their mind?
It's fine - they don't need silence for self-hypnosis. With practice and experience they'll learn to rise above any potential external or internal distractions. Beginners can sometimes feel frustrated if a random thought pops up... the trick is to let that thought pass quickly through their mind, and return your attention to the sound of my voice. Otherwise they may spend all their time saying "shut-up!" to themselves and miss the whole session! Likewise, they shouldn't get hung up about any external noises. Just focus on my voice as the most important sound they hear (or indeed they can imagine any external noises helping them to go even deeper down).
Is hypnosis just relaxation?
No, this is an outdated idea. Evidence finds that hypnosis is a state of deep focus. You can be in hypnosis without feeling relaxed (e.g. watching a horror film). Relaxation is often used to help quieten your mind and enter hypnosis (it's super useful for most of the birth journey) but during transition and 2nd stage a birthing parent might feel more energised than relaxed... If they're able to keep focused they're in hypnosis, no matter how relaxed they are.
Is it ok to 'drift off'?
It depends... Fine if they 'wake up' at the end when instructed to (this means that their mind is listening). But if they genuinely fall asleep every time they use the MP3s, stop listening to them in bed! Hypnosis is most effective when they're focused and actively listening to the suggestions. They should make the time to practise when they're not so tired and try not to drift off completely. Sleepy-heads may need to try sitting upright or even with their eyes open!
Can they use their tracks to help them get to sleep?
Yes, but they should make sure they allocate themselves proper 'awake' practise time as well.
They feel more alert than they expected?
Everyone experiences hypnosis a bit differently. Some people feel very aware of their surroundings and can perhaps recall every single word of a session, others say they almost forgot where they were and can't remember absolutely everything. Either example and everything in between is completely normal.
What if they have a medicalised birth?
Self-hypnosis is useful for all sorts of medical procedures. Families and caregivers can create or recreate their special calming 'birth bubble' and utilise the benefits of hypnobirthing, even if anaesthetised or in theatre (their relaxing music, aromatherapy etc). It's so much better to meet your baby whilst feeling as happy, relaxed and positive as possible.
Do you have a 'quick reference guide' for birth partners?
Birth partners need to put in the time as well. The course is deliberately simple and can be completed in just a few hours, with a few minutes' ongoing practise together each week. Birth partners should be chosen wisely ~ excellent support is crucial. After a disappointing experience, Isla in Cornwall compiled a handy checklist of jobs for birth partners
What are potential obstacles to using hypnobirthing successfully?
To answer this question a parent must first consider their own expectations... Do they simply want to feel calmer and more in control? To have a pain-free or orgasmic birth? To cope until an epidural can be set up? Everyone has different goals, and these may change depending on the path their baby's birth takes.
Secondly, whatever their hypnobirth vision is, the biggest potential obstacle happens during pregnancy. Regular practice and rehearsal in the months and weeks leading up to the birth requires effective knowledge AND commitment. A lack of motivation on the part of either the birthing person and / or birth partner(s) may lessen its effectiveness on the day.
What should I know as a birth professional?
Occasionally, encountering a health professional who isn't experienced, knowledgeable and confident in supporting natural birth physiology or hypnobirthing can be an obstacle. It's important to note in particular that hypnobirthing parents are more likely to present as relaxed and in control. even up to full dilatation.
Here are a few examples from my hypnobirthing online course participants:-
"I found the ignorance of the midwives r.e hypnobirthing somewhat hard to manage. Next time I'll certainly get a doula!"
"All was well physically but the midwife kept asking me to take my headphones off so she could 'instruct' me. She didn't get it at all"
"I ended up having an unplanned home birth after being sent away from the hospital. The midwife on duty said I was too relaxed to be in labour. I gave birth within 3 hours of leaving the hospital and think the hypnobirthing training got me through labour safely. Since then, I have had an apology from the maternity ward who are going to review their processes for hypnobirthing patients."
It's well worth parents discussing and documenting their hypnobirthing plan with caregivers around 34-36 weeks to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible on the day.