You may find hypnobirthing helpful. While every labour and birth is different, about 40 per cent of women plan to use natural pain relief in labour, including hypnosis.
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing techniques aim to teach you ways to stay in control and calm during labour and birth, whatever happens. However, using hypnosis during your labour will not increase your likelihood of a straightforward birth.
What are the benefits of hypnobirthing?
- a shorter first stage labour
- less intense pain
- a shorter stay in hospital
- less fear and anxiety after the birth of your baby
You can learn hypnobirthing techniques from attending classes in person or online, from books, CDs, apps or podcasts.
Hypnobirthing classes are often structured over five to eight weekly evening sessions or two longer daytime sessions. Aiming to start classes by about 32 weeks of pregnancy will give you plenty of time to practise. If you’re already past this stage, don’t be put off. You may still learn a lot from classes or intensive practice in your last weeks of pregnancy.
Hypnobirthing embraces a different attitude to the way we think and talk about labour and birth.
How does hypnobirthing work?
Hypnobirthing advice often uses terms such as:
- tightenings or surges, rather than painful contractions
- practice labour, rather than false labour
- birth breathing, rather than pushing or contractions
The idea is that the language we use can make us feel more positive about our ability to labour and birth.
At hypnobirthing classes, you’ll learn about:
Positions for labour and birth. Staying in an upright position can help to shorten the length of your labour.
Deep relaxation and self-hypnosis. These methods can help you to stay alert, but at the same time shut out the world and focus on relaxing your body.
Breathing techniques to help you cope in labour.
Whilst hypnobirthing isn’t pain relief, the techniques involved in hypnobirthing may help you to perceive your contractions as less intense. If you’re in a lot of pain, are worried or feel scared during labour, your body is likely to go into fight-or-flight mode. Stress hormones, the main one being adrenaline, will flood your body.
Adrenaline reduces the blood flow to your womb (uterus) and digestive system. Instead, your blood flows more readily to the large muscles in your limbs so that you’re ready to fight or run away.
As a result, the muscles of your womb will work less well, because they are deprived of blood and oxygen. This can make labour harder and longer. Your baby will be getting less oxygen too.
Plus, just when you most need it, the hormone that eases labour, oxytocin, is less likely to be released. Stress hormones stop your body producing oxytocin. You’ll also produce fewer of the natural hormones (endorphins) that numb pain and help you feel good.
Controlling your emotional reaction through self-hypnosis can help you to prevent stressful feelings from kicking in. It’s up to you if you want your birth partner to listen to a podcast or attend hypnobirthing classes with you, but it can be a good idea. Birth partners can sometimes feel outside the experience of labour and birth. They may be there in the room with you, but find it hard to understand what you’re going through.
In hypnobirthing classes, your birth partner will learn alongside you. You will both learn breathing, relaxation and visualisation techniques. Your teacher will give your birth partner scripts to read to you at home or a CD or podcast to listen to together, so you can carry on practising. The idea is that you become so used to the techniques, it’s easy for you to bring them to mind when you need them.
Once labour starts, keeping focused can help you and your partner stay as close as you can to your birth plan. You’ll need to think calmly if labour doesn’t go as expected, and you need medical help to give birth.
You may find hypnobirthing techniques useful wherever you have your baby, at a birth centre, at home or in hospital. Hypnobirthing classes are run privately, so you’ll have to pay for them.
Check that your teacher is certified by a training institution. You can find a teacher via HypnoBirthing UK site.