People often assume that Hypnobirthing is “just breathing” and intended primarily for women who are looking for a natural birth. Actually it is an incredible tool to use for all types of birth, helping ensure you have a positive experience whether you have an epidural, an induction, a Caesarean section, a water birth, a home birth, a hospital birth and everything in between!
In this blog post I explore what Hypnobirthing is, the science behind how it works, and how effective Hypnobirthing really is.
So What is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is a toolkit of physical and mental techniques that allow you to understand and work with the power of your body, rather than against it.
By using Hypnobirthing, your labour is likely to be shorter, and feel easier and be more comfortable for both you and your baby. The confidence you will gain about your ability to birth your baby will allow to fully enjoy your pregnancy (without worrying about birth!), and give you the best possible start to parenthood.
The Science of Birth: how Hypnobirthing works
Muscles of birth
The muscles of your uterus are like any other muscle in your body; they need blood and oxygen to work efficiently and comfortably. During labour, we can increase oxygen to these muscles by learning breathing techniques. Pretty much all antenatal classes (including NCT for example) will teach you a breathing technique to help with this.
However, Hypnobirthing classes go further than regular antenatal classes because they also teach us how to increase blood flow to the muscles of our uterus, which is an absolute gamechanger!
We can do this in two different ways:
- Hypnobirthing teaches us how to release tension in our body. Tension held in our body when we feel scared or anxious restricts blood-flow to the vital organs. So less tension = more blood flowing freely around the uterus = easier, more comfortable labour.
- It also teaches us tools to reduce our Adrenaline levels. When we feel stressed or under threat, we release Adrenaline which sends blood away from our uterus using the “fight-or-flight” response. This is the opposite of what we want during labour!
So the less tension, and the less Adrenaline we experience in labour, the more oxygenated blood flows freely around the uterus, making labour much easier and more comfortable for both you and baby.
Hormones of birth
Oxytocin is the hormone that starts our contractions and drives them to progress labour efficiently. The more Oxytocin, the more efficient our labour is – we want bucketloads of it when we’re giving birth! Oxytocin is released when we feel safe, loved and relaxed, so the role of your birth partner is to use various techniques to help you maximise your Oxytocin levels!
This is why it’s important to attend antenatal Hypnobirthing classes with your birth partner (whether that’s your husband, wife, doula, boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, mum, sister…) so that they can fully understand the process of birth and therefore how they can best support you.
Can’t I just tell myself to Relax?
Relaxation is certainly key to reducing tension and Adrenaline, as well as increasing Oxytocin. The problem is that our hormones are released by a part of our brain we can’t easily control; the Subconscious Mind.
We see and hear so much negativity about birth in modern society, from heavily dramatised birth scenes on TV and films, to people relishing telling pregnant women traumatic birth stories (why do people do that by the way?!)
As a result of decades of absorbing negative birth messaging, our Subconscious Mind is naturally predisposed to want to “protect” us from birth. This means it will more readily release Adrenaline when we go into labour (therefore reducing the amount of oxygen that can get to the muscles of the uterus, making labour more painful). Adrenaline also inhibits the release of Oxytocin (meaning our labour is slower and less efficient).
Simply telling ourselves to “just relax” is not enough to convince your Subconscious Mind to stop releasing Adrenaline and to release Oxytocin instead!
This is where the “Hypno” bit of Hypnobirthing comes in. In our Hypnobirthing classes, we use natural self-hypnosis methods to help your Subconscious Mind accept the idea that birth can be a relaxing, empowering and positive experience. This means that your brain becomes primed to expect your baby’s birth to be a positive experience (and not a scary, traumatic one!) so that it will readily produce lots of lovely Oxytocin when you go into labour, and be less likely to release adrenaline.
If things don't go to plan on the big day, it's normal that you might start to panic or get stressed, meaning adrenaline and tension might creep back in. Hypnobirthing tools help you and your birth partner overcome and even embrace these hurdles, meaning you will have a positive birth, whichever path it takes.
Some of the techniques can take a bit of practice, which is why I’m there to guide and coach you and your birth partner during and after our Hypnobirthing classes.
What is the Scientific Evidence that Hypnobirthing works?
There have been several studies showing the impact of Hypnobirthing on birth outcomes. Here's a couple of examples
- Jenkins & Pritchard (1993) found that the average duration of active labour for first-time mums using Hypnobirthing was 3 hours shorter than women who didn't (6.4 hours vs 9.3 hours).
- Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust (2011) found that Hypnobirthing women were statistically less likely to have an unplanned Caesarean section (4% vs 15%), and more likely to have a "normal" unassisted vaginal delivery (84% vs 64%).
Having said that, Hypnobirthing is less about the mode of delivery and more about how you FEEL during birth and afterwards. Did you feel calm, confident and in control? Did you feel supported by your birth partner? Did you work with your body and baby to create a positive birth that you’ll look back on as a happy memory?
If Hypnobirthing is so Scientific, why is it not offered on the NHS?
It is! The NHS have been investing in Hypnobirthing. Doctors and midwives are being trained in how to best support Hypnobirthing couples. Birth centres are being improved in order to maximise the effectiveness of Hypnobirthing tools. And some NHS trusts even offer Hypnobirthing classes, although many of these have unfortunately been cut since Covid.
How do I find a Hypnobirthing course?
My antenatal Hypnobirthing courses are available both in-person and online, and are designed to be a fun and relaxing experience for you and your birth partner - a real highlight of your pregnancy. I offer different formats suitable for every budget as it is important that Hypnobirthing is accessible and affordable for everyone.
Find the perfect class for you below:
Not sure which course is for you? Sign up to my next FREE Online Mini-Masterclass to start your journey to a glowing pregnancy, a positive birth, and the best possible start to parenthood!