Hypnobirthing: What’s in a Name?

Please, don’t judge the name. No, hypnosis is not involved.

We did a hypnobirthing course while I was pregnant, I had heard a lot about it previously and after a bit of research decided it was something I wanted to try. Hypnobirthing’s biggest downfall is its name, but I was sceptical too. What was it? Hypnosis? During labour? How ridiculous.

Instead, hypnobirthing brings us back to basics with our body and the realisation that the female body knows what it is doing during labour. That age old phrase of ‘women have been doing it for centuries’ didn’t come from nowhere – women have been, and medical pain relief is only a fairly recent phenomenon.

There are many different ways of looking at hypnobirthing and really what I found was to take from it what you want. The main theory was to trust in our bodys ability. It made sense to me that my body should know what to do, after all, it was growing a baby without me putting any thought into it, why should the birthing part be any different?

One of the elements of hypnobirthing is to encourage a very natural birth, you learn two types of breathing – ‘up’ breathing and ‘down’ breathing for the different phases of labour and aim to direct your energy into creating a calm and peaceful environment during labour, by using relaxation music, focusing on the breathing, scents, a favourite colour, strokes…etc.

Integral to the hypnobirthing method is replacing the language that is normally associated with labour. Contractions becomes surges, pain becomes pressure or power. We have been repeatedly exposed to traumatic labour stories (One Born Every Minute anyone?), changing our expectation of labour from being a painful and terrifying experience to the powerful life changing moment that it is.

I’m one of these people that likes yoga and meditation. So the meditation, relaxation and visualisation side of hypnobirthing helped me with the general fears any woman might have when it comes to pushing a human out of their body. I listened to the audio recordings most evenings and did the relaxations with my partner, which did send me to sleep, so they had an effect.

I found the most surprising aspect was the focus on the role of the father/birthing partner during labour. In our case, we went into the labour suite and Darren knew what was expected of him, he had learned the massage techniques, we had done many relaxation scripts and we had a vision of how we wanted things to go. It enabled us to both feel somewhat in control of such a foreign experience– you can read as many books and watch all the videos you like, but you never know what will truly happen on the day. Which, honestly, helped me a lot because I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being a little bit of a control freak.

I planned to have a very natural birth and after some research that included a water birth, which is encouraged as a natural pain relief for contractions (or surges in hypno-speak). I was adamant to have it at the New Forest Birthing Centre, too. We had visited the centre, walked around outside, met with the midwives and I fell in love with the atmosphere. Being at the general hospital after felt too clinical, sterile and impersonal. Unfortunately life loves to throw those curve balls and on my tenth day overdue, I knew there was no way I was going to be having my little one at the centre. (Their cut off was ten days overdue).

I was disappointed, sure, but the jellybean wasn’t ready to come and I wanted to wait for as long as I could. The staff at the general hospital were keen to induce me as soon as the day after my due date, but I managed to push it back until two weeks over. I won’t say hypnobirthing is against medical intervention, because sometimes it is necessary, but part of its philosophy is to believe that ‘baby will come when baby is ready’. Some babies take longer than others, and I agreed with this. That being said, the chances of my placenta failing after two weeks became significantly higher, I wasn’t stupid enough to risk the life of my unborn child just to stubbornly follow the hypnobirthing guide.


Pros of hypnobirthing:

  • It allowed us to believe we knew what to expect, when things didn’t go the way we wanted, we were calm and felt prepared to be adaptable.
  • The father/birth partner’s role is clearly defined, he didn’t feel completely helpless or that he was just a spectator.
  • The meditation helped keep me calm throughout the pregnancy, especially in the final days when I was roughly the weight of a baby elephant.
  • Weekly classes gave us time to focus on the pregnancy as a couple in a way that didn’t include me hyperventilating and Darren making financial spreadsheets.


Cons of hypnobirthing:

  • It is time consuming, it is recommended that you put 20minutes aside every night for a relaxation (though it does send you to sleep pretty quickly).
  • It can be costly if you do the course, we paid £250 for five sessions and a top up closer to my due date. I’m sure you could do it by just buying the book online though.
  • The science is a bit dubious, my fiancé is a psychologist and said most of it made sense but some of it was way off.


Hypnobirthing was an incredibly useful tool during labour, have you tried hypnobirthing? Or what techniques did you use to keep you going?

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