Hypnobirthing is a labor technique which gained a lot of popularity in recent years because celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie, and UK royalty Kate Middleton used it to give birth to strong and healthy children.
In the following article, we examine the benefits of hypnobirthing and take a closer look at how you can use it to your advantage.
What Is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is defined as an antenatal preparation. Well, since that definition is difficult to understand, I’m going to explain it to you. Simply put, Hypnobirthing is an effective mental preparation soon-to-be moms can use to stimulate positive thoughts and relaxation during labor.
Hypnobirthing is based on the evolutionary concept. Women have been giving birth since the beginning of human history, so the human female body should know how to behave during this time. Our natural instincts control large parts of our lives. They influence simple things such as yawning, and they’re even involved in our native fear of fire or complicated processes such as the mammalian diving reflex.
Natural instincts do not occur randomly in nature. They are now part of our DNA, but it took humans thousands or tens of thousands of years to incorporate these elements in their DNA and pass them off to their offspring. And since our bodies learned to fear fire or wild animals, shouldn’t they have learned how to behave while giving birth? Of course, they have.
Who Invented Hypnobirthing?
The person who coined the term Hypnobirthing is Michelle Leclaire O’Neill. Ms. Leclaire wrote a book called “Hypnobirthing the Original Method” partially based on the research done by obstetrician Dr. Grantly Dick Reid. Ms. Leclaire wrote the book in the pre-Internet era, but those who read it found it so helpful they increased its popularity by word of mouth.
Another follower of Dr. Reid was Marie Mongan. When she was pregnant with her first child, Marie practiced the hypnobirthing techniques and quickly discovered their effectiveness. When it was time to deliver her child, Marie went to the local hospital. Unfortunately, because of the hospital protocols of that time, the nurses forced Marie to deliver the child under anesthesia. This happened again with her second child, but the third time she was pregnant, Marie was wise to the current obstetrical practices and talked her obstetrician into agreeing to deliver the baby as she planned.
People were amazed that women could deliver babies without the help of anesthetics, and Marie’s technique spread among soon-to-be moms by word of mouth because it worked.
Can Hypnobirthing Really Work?
Most women associate childbirth with fear and pain so their bodies release a lot of stress hormones when they enter labor. Hypnobirthing is an effective way to relax the mind and stimulate the release of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that act as natural painkillers and make labor less stressful and significantly less painful.
Hypnobirthing encourages women to view childbirth as a positive event and prepares them mentally to turn the negative thoughts associated with the event with positive ones. This hypnosis technique reduces the stress, anxiety, and fear for the soon-to-be mom, and helps her before, during, and after birth. With the help of breathing and relaxation techniques, Hypnobirthing offers the tools you need to limit the discomfort you feel during childbirth without relying on pain relief medication.
Simply put, hypnobirthing should change the way women perceive giving birth. Embracing your body’s natural ability to go through this process increases your comfort and improves your experience during childbirth.
How Does Hypnobirthing Work?
Fear and pain during labor activate women’s primal fight-or-flight instinct which leads to a massive release of catecholamines into the bloodstream. You surely heard of adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) by now. Well, these are some of the catecholamines released into a woman’s body when she’s in labor.
These substances speed up the heart and slow down the digestion. But one of the worst things about the catecholamines release is that it forces the blood into the major muscles in the women’s legs and arms, where the body would need it for combat or running. This process can deplete the uterus’ blood flow, hindering the labor process and causing uterine pain.
The primitive part of the human brain cannot distinguish between danger and labor. When it senses that the woman is in danger, it will automatically release catecholamines to prepare the body to react to the perceived threat. When our bodies are in the fight-or-flight state, they are in a state of alertness and cannot relax. This makes birthing difficult and painful.
A major part of hypnobirthing focuses on labor preparation. Soon-to-be moms train their minds to react positively to the labor. Little by little, their conscious brain takes over the primitive one and replaces fear with relaxation. When we are relaxed, our brains release oxytocin into our bloodstreams.
Oxytocin is a hormone involved in relaxation that plays major roles in sexual reproduction, childbirth, and breastfeeding. But relaxation leads to a release of endorphins into our bloodstream as well which increases our sense of comfort.
Hypnobirthing teaches the mind to eliminate the distractions and enter a state of relaxation. With regular practice, hypnobirthing sessions teach soon-to-be moms to prepare their minds for childbirth and reach a state of relaxation at will.
What Does Hypnobirthing Do?
Hypnobirthing stimulates women to embrace a different attitude when they think and talk about labor and giving birth. One of the most important things it does is preparing the women’s mind for the big moment.
You might be wondering how hypnobirthing classes and audio sessions manage to change the soon-to-be mom’s perspective on childbirth.
Well, one of the first things women learn about hypnobirthing is that they’ve been using the wrong terms to describe normal events for most of their lives. Words and the way we perceive them have a big impact on our minds, so learning to understand each event that happens during pregnancy and childbirth from a different perspective can be very helpful.
Some of the most popular examples are using terms such as:
- Surges or tightenings when talking about contractions, especially when talking about painful contractions.
- Birth breathing when referring to pushing and/or contractions
- Practice labor when talking about false labor
While these might not seem like important changes, their combined effect can change our emotional reactions and our perspective of the events unfolding during pregnancy and labor.
But hypnobirthing doesn’t only talk about terms and phrases. It also teaches soon-to-be moms about things like the baby’s position, the benefits of using a partner, and so on.
Top 10 Hypnobirthing Advices
1. There’s Nothing To Fear
This is one of the things women learn early on in their hypnobirthing classes or audio sessions. Childbirth is natural, and women have been doing it for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. Your body is prepared for what’s to come. Just like your body remembers our fight-or-flight instinct from our ancestors, it knows what to do during labor. The most important thing is to prevent these natural instincts from overlapping.
Sure, you might feel anxious about giving birth, but you can learn to overcome anxiety with the help of some simple tricks and tips. One of the easiest ways to let go of your fears is to write them down. In fact, you should write down every negative opinion or fear you have about childbirth. You might even want to write down the negative things some other people say about this natural process.
Remember that everything you wrote is a thought you heard somewhere and made it your own. Let go of your negative thoughts by imagining you’re tying them to a helium balloon and envision them going away from you. You can even destroy them physically by burning or ripping the paper and symbolically let them go.
2. The Baby Should Sit In An Ideal Position
The baby should sit in an ideal position when your labor begins. For the baby, this position is head-down and facing forwards. Obstetricians call the ideal position anterior position, and you can promote it with the help of yoga exercises.
This part of hypnobirthing is all about movement. Doing yoga exercises and sitting upright on a regular basis helps you and your baby through birth.
3. Moving In Labor
An important part of antenatal training is called ‘belly dancing’. Hypnobirthing teaches expecting moms to do hip circles and other exercises to stimulate the baby to assume and maintain an ideal position. In addition, the exercises will help your blood circulation, stimulating the hormonal release through your body. This can prevent tension, which in turn will make contractions easier to bear.
4. Have A Birth Partner
Childbirth is an important step in every woman’s life, so you shouldn’t go through it alone. Expectant mothers deserve continuous support from their partner.
The hypnobirthing partner plays an active role in the soon-to-be mom’s preparation and labor. The partner helps the mom to develop her ability to relax and maintain a state of relaxation while using positive affirmations to reassure her and encourage a positive birth experience.
It’s the partner’s role to become experienced with light-touch massage, learn how to induce relaxation, and to respond to the mother’s needs.
Hypnobirthing partners need to learn what works for the expecting mom and what doesn’t, so they can use their best assets when the labor begins.
And the partner’s role is not over once the labor begins, far from it. The partner should start performing light-touch massage on the mom’s legs, arms, and head. They should also help the mom move from place to place, and participate during the surges with helpful suggestions and techniques. Laughter is a great relaxer, so the partner could stimulate the expecting mom to reach a state of relaxation.
It is the partner’s job to offer physical support during the surges and maintain a calm atmosphere while at the hospital.
5. Pelvic Exercises To Avoid Tears
Episiotomies or tears are unfortunately common during childbirth, but you can reduce their likelihood with the help of hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing sessions teach you everything there is to know about pelvic floor exercises and perineal massage, so you can hone your body for the upcoming event.
Learning how to release your muscles during labor can help you avoid straining. With the help of the pelvic floor exercises and perineal massage, your skin will learn how to stretch, and will not tear during childbirth.
6. Wave Theory
The wave theory teaches soon-to-be moms how to relax their muscles during surges. Since most moms do all their training at home or in other familiar environments, going to the hospital could increase the frequency of their surges and their intensity. With the help of the wave theory, expecting moms learn how to relax during the surges instead of tensing up, which can significantly lower the pain they experience.
7. It’s All About The Breathing
You might be wondering how breathing could be difficult. After all, you have been breathing all your life, right?
Well, multiple studies have demonstrated that breathing in a certain way could change our physiological response. Mindful breathing reduces anxiety, diaphragmatic breathing improves attention, and so on.
Learning the right way to breathe during labor could help the expecting mom get her much needed oxygen intake and help the baby get out. Instead of breathing fast and loud as actresses do in the movies, women learn to control their breath and make deep noises to maintain their calm demeanor.
Antenatal breathing and visualization exercises help the mom prepare for the big moment and make it easier for the baby to exit the birth canal.
8. Prepare A Peaceful Environment
Privacy is ideal for giving birth. If you take a look at how other mammals give birth, you’ll notice that they do it in a comfortable and intimate space. Humans are not different. Our natural instinct is to seek isolation and intimacy for these moments.
Going through labor and giving birth in a hospital is not private and intimate, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to make the most of it. Simple things such as asking for a warm ambient temperature, low lighting, using essential oils, and putting on some music could significantly improve your surroundings.
In addition to creating a warm and peaceful environment, you should also rely on your birthing partner for support. Hypnobirthing teaches birthing partners to be supportive and they can stimulate your relaxation.
9. Avoid Lying Down When You Can
Gravity helps the baby pass through the birthing canal, so laying down frequently and for long times during labor might make both you and your baby’s jobs more difficult. If you have to lay down, you should try to position yourself on your side, to prevent the sacrum and the coccyx from moving in the wrong direction. Staying upright can shorten your labor, so try your best to do so.
10. Pain Management
One could argue we left the best for last. Hypnobirthing teaches soon-to-be moms to rethink the pain they’re experiencing during labor and birth. Understanding that what you’re actually feeling is an effective pain (one that has a purpose) prepares you to overcome it.
Surges are sensations of pressure, warmth, and power. By relaxing your mind and body with the help of breathing, visualization, and other techniques, you can roll with the pain and ignore most of it.
The hypnobirthing relaxation techniques will help you turn down the feeling of discomfort and understand that the sensations you feel are signs you’re going to meet your baby. The endorphins released into your bloodstream will help you forget the discomfort and encourage your body to heal after birth.
What Does Science Say About Hypnobirthing?
Even though it’s gaining popularity, there is limited research on hypnobirthing. Still, studies focusing on this subject had interesting results.
1. 2013 Australian Study
A study carried out in 2013 in Australia showed women who attended hypnobirthing classes consisting of 10 – 12 hours of instructions were more confident, less fearful, and more focused than those who didn’t. In addition, those who took the classes were more relaxed and had a better control of the events.
The women who engaged in Hypnobirthing exercises regularly had shorter labours and their C-section rates were lower. Out of the 81 participants, 51% did not use any medication during labor and 32% reported levels of discomfort under 5.8 out of 10, with two participants reporting zero discomfort.
The study concluded hypnobirthing is an efficient preparation method for soon-to-be moms. The study also commended the program’s inclusion of the partners.
2. 2014 Study
A 2014 study conducted by the Nursing for Women’s Health (NWH) said hypnotherapy is an integrative mind-body technique that has real therapeutic potential in health care applications, including labor and birth.
The study found that women may face barriers in hospital settings, and concluded that nurses caring for women in labour and during birth should support the use of hypnotherapeutic techniques.
3. 2015 Study
A study published in 2015 examined the effects of self-hypnosis during birth focusing on the pain relief it provided. The women in the study said antenatal exercises hypnosis training were beneficial during birth. Most of them highlighted feelings of confidence, empowerment, and calmness during birth.
Even though women claimed nurses and midwives misinterpreted their relaxation, they found the hypnosis helpful.
The study concludes that since women find antenatal hypnosis training helpful, maternities should recognise the practice and support it into their maternity services.
4. 2017 Australian Study
An Australian study conducted in 2017 revealed that the effectiveness of hypnobirthing depends on the expecting mother’s cultural perspective on hypnotherapy. Women living in societies that believe hypnotherapy is not effective are less likely to benefit from the antenatal exercises provided by hypnobirthing.
In addition, the study showed women could undertake hypnobirthing through self-taught methods, but their results are better when they are assisted by a supportive hypnotherapist who trains women on a regular basis.
How Will Hypnobirthing Help?
Hypnobirthing can help you through labor and birth in multiple ways:
- Hypnobirthing can shorten labor
- Hypnobirthing increases your confidence and helps you overcome your fears
- Hypnobirthing can be used whether you choose to have an epidural, C-section, or natural birth
- Hypnobirthing helps your partner play an active role in your pregnancy, labor, and birth.
- Hypnobirthing can help you lower your stress levels and reduce anxiety
- Hypnobirthing stimulates the production of oxytocin
- Hypnobirthing may reduce the need for drugs during labor and birth, but you can use other pain relief methods if you want to
- Hypnobirthing helps you feel in control during birth
- Hypnobirthing lowers the chance of postnatal depression
How Can You Learn Hypnobirthing?
You should be able to find hypnobirthing classes in your vicinity. These classes will allow you and your partner to learn relaxation, visualization, and breathing techniques that will be helpful during labor and childbirth.
You can find several books on hypnobirthing both in paperback and e-book format. You should always make sure that the book’s author is an authoritative source in this field before making a purchase. You should also find out if the book includes the latest findings in the field.
Everything is online now, so it stands to reason you’ll find some good sources of information on hypnobirthing. The problem with online information is that it’s somewhat difficult to find out if the information is really valuable or if it’s just fictional. You should always try to find information on reputable websites.
Guided Audio Sessions
The largest part of hypnobirthing focuses on relaxation. Everyone should know how to relax, and you could see in the previous sections how beneficial relaxation can be to expecting mothers. You could start your hypnobirthing training by listening to Mark’s guided relaxation audio sessions. These short and immersive sessions will reduce your stress and lower your cholesterol level, stimulating the release of endorphins into your bloodstream.
The Benefits Of Hypnobirthing
Hypnobirthing is something every expecting mom should look into. One of the great things about this hypnosis method is that it’s not restrictive. You can go complete your hypnobirthing training and still opt for an epidural or painkillers when you’re in labor. This hypnosis technique will only teach your body how to process and react to the event, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.