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What is Hypnobirthing?

In an ideal world all pregnant women would feel calm and confident about the prospect of labour and childbirth, and enjoy a positive, comfortable experience, with little or even no pain. Unfortunately, most women believe they must experience terrible pain in childbirth, as well as give themselves over to medical professionals to manage their experience of birthing their baby.  Fortunately, this does not have to be the case.  Women have the choice and the right to have the birth that they want. Hypnobirthing gives expectant parents the confidence to do that, as well as a chance to have a positive, comfortable experience of birth.


Why do we, as a society, have negative and apprehensive feelings about birth?  We are taught to believe that birth is an inevitably painful and unpleasant experience; that it is a medical event that must be endured. Childbirth scenes in films and on television often portray a woman lying on her back, legs usually propped up in stirrups, pushing until her face is purple and screaming in pain.  And worse than such dramatised versions of childbirth are the negative birth stories we hear from our own mothers, relatives and friends, and even from perfect strangers. As a result, some women avoid thinking about labour during their pregnancies. In my case, when reading books that explained pregnancy week-by-week, I avoided the chapters that dealt with labour and birth.  That was until a friend happened to mention hypnobirthing, and I realised there could be a better way.


Women have, of course, been giving birth since the world began. Women’s bodies are designed perfectly to birth their babies naturally. The statistical facts are that the majority of women can and do birth naturally. This is where hypnobirthing classes begin. We discuss the physiological aspects of the birthing body, how the uterine muscles work and what happens during ‘surges’ (the hypnobirthing word for ‘contractions’). All the birthing mother’s muscles work in harmony, and are able to do this most efficiently if she is as relaxed as possible. And a relaxed body is achieved by having a relaxed and confident mind. In hypnobirthing, women are taught a range of techniques to achieve a deep state of relaxation, during pregnancy, labour and birthing. These are hugely beneficial to both mother and baby. The methods taught include specific breathing techniques, visualisations and self-hypnosis. Together these techniques give the body the best possible chance to do as nature intended. Learning about how the birthing body works fills a woman with confidence that she can give birth naturally, and the techniques taught give her the tools to do so.


The NHS recently ran a trial about hypnobirthing (the SHIP trial), with the aim of demonstrating its effectiveness and how the unnecessary medicalisation of normal births can be avoided. Hypnosis is recognised in the UK by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) and has been approved by the British Medical Association (BMA) for over 40 years. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state of deeply enhanced mental and physical relaxation. Hypnobirthing is the use of hypnosis to relax in this way during labour.


By learning hypnobirthing methods, mothers-to-be can discover how to manage tensions that are caused by fear, helping to avoid pain and discomfort.  Hypnobirthing prepares both mind and body to work the way nature intended, and even where special medical circumstances might arise, hypnobirthing helps birthing mothers to feel calmer and in more control over decisions about treatment options. In addition, techniques, such as ‘light touch massage’ are taught to birth partners, enabling them to deepen and support the birthing mother’s levels of relaxation, and ensuring that both parents can be more aware, calm, confident and in control, in order to have a more relaxed and enjoyable birthing experience. Hypnobirthing sessions are taught on a one-to-one basis or in small group classes at Blackheath Complementary Health Centre, and have been proven to help parents have a more positive experience of bringing their babies into the world.


© Gina Potts

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