So you’re pregnant, and of course, you’ve probably read every website, magazine and book available about pregnancy, what to do, how to do it, what you should be doing, the list is endless … but at what point did you think about the birth? And once you begin to consider it, what are your options? We’ve all heard the stories of women writing their birth plans, ensuring they’ll have a beautiful, serene and pain free experience and then once they go into labour screaming for any drugs they’re willing to give you – but what are your options if you’d like to try for a calm and stress free birth?

Hypnobirthing isn’t a new idea – in fact it’s been around a very long time and, despite some common misconceptions, isn’t in the slightest bit ‘hippy-ish’. In fact, more and more women are trying hypnobirthing as a technique to either give birth or at the very least get them through the first stages of labour. It doesn’t have to be your only choice either, on the contrary, you can use hypnobirthing whether you have a hospital or home birth, a bed or water birth, drug-free or drug-fuelled and can even be used before a C-section to help you in staying calm beforehand.

There are a variety of techniques, and lots of courses and resources available to get you started. A quick ‘Google’ search on ‘hypnobirthing’ will almost certainly bring up lots of information from within your local area, along with practitioners offering courses. Some basic information on where to look can be found here.

So what is it exactly, and why might you want to try it? Well, the idea is that using hypnobirthing techniques helps women in labour and giving birth to stay calm, and possibly lessen the pain they may feel if they weren’t using the technique. It works by training you to dissociate the normal fear of the potential pain of childbirth, with more positive thoughts – for example, rather than use the word ‘contractions’ you would be encouraged to use the word ‘wave’ or ‘surge’ and to imagine you breath the baby out with each breath rather than ‘push’. You use visualisations to help with these, and are taught deep relaxation and breathing techniques. This might all sound a bit strange, but there is actually a lot of sense in it – if you go into something with fear, your mental and physical state is already tense, which places extra strain on your mind and body, and in a childbirth situation you don’t need any extra tension. Using positive ideas and phrases helps to take away any negative connotations and places you in a position of power and control which you may not otherwise feel.

So popular has this method become that some NHS trusts are now offering it as part of their maternity care (you can search for what’s available in your area by doing a postcode search on the NHS Maternity Choices website) or ask your midwife whether it is offered in your area. If it isn’t then you will need to look for a private course provider, many of whom are midwives, and pay them anything from £200 upwards which will often include sessions with them plus materials to take away. A cheaper alternative is to order a CD/DVD and/or book and study them in your own time. Classes are often only offered after the 30 weeks plus mark, due to the nature of what you are learning, they generally like you to be in your last trimester before preparing yourself for this birth technique.

Can you use hypnobirthing with any other birthing techniques? The short answer is yes! It can be used with any form of labour and birthing – if you have planned a home or water birth, it’s a very good method to have available to you, but even if you have planned a hospital birth, or need to change your birth plan at the last moment, it’s a technique that can work whatever the scenario.

The Million Dollar question is whether using this technique will allow you to have a pain free childbirth experience? The jury is out, with some women saying a very affirmative ‘yes’ and some that are not so positive, although many mums seem to agree that even if their birth wasn’t pain free, it did help them get through a long labour, or have a minimal amount of drugs and allowed them to stay calm and positive rather than using all their energy on ‘screaming’ and ‘pushing’.


Fiona Brown

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