What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing has become a household concept in the last decade: now the royals have been giving it a go, even your Nanna has probably heard of it, but many people still aren’t sure of exactly what the method of birthing entails. Perhaps visions of candlelit baths, mix with images of Derren Brown hypnotising pregnant people and leave you feeling generally uncomfortable. Perhaps thoughts of Earth Mothers birthing naked in the woods leave you feel inadequate, or incompatible with calm birthing. The relieving news is that hypnobirthing is for everyone: no mater what your birthing day will bring.

Hypnobirthing offers a chance, not only for you and your birthing partner to embrace and enjoy your birthing day with calm control; but for us to change the birthing rhetoric to one imbued with love, and women feeling great success and joy on the day they meet their baby.

First of all lets address the hypno. Nobody can wave a spinning disk and konk you out for the whole of your birthing journey: hypnobirthing is not about loosing control or consciousness. It’s quite the opposite. Hypnobirthing is a set of self-hypnosis techniques which will allow you to totally relax and empower your body to work as it should when functioning at it’s best(more on the science there later). Your birthing partner(s) have the essential role of protecting your birth journey, and assisting in your relaxation, so that your only task on the birthing day is to stay relaxed. This is a little deeper than mindfulness of breathing techniques you may have tried before, and facilitates the function of your birthing muscles. The Hypno refers to a self-directed and initiated sense of stillness and very deep relaxation.

I also want to take a moment to mention that this method is for all people who experience birthing, whatever your birthing preferences and background. While hypnobirthing facilitates a vaginal delivery free from medical intervention for many women, it is a set of techniques that will work whatever your birthing preferences; which will be discussed in depth throughout your course. With simple adaptations hypnobirthing is more that relevant for Mothers who will be birthing via C Section, or planned intervention. You also need not worry that pain relief or assistance will not be available to you as a hypnobirthing Mother: the course actually aims to empower you to make educated and mindful decisions about every aspect of birthing. This means that if your birth journey takes you on a road that you did not expect to go on, for example a special-circumstance resulting in medical intervention, you still have a wealth of techniques available to call upon and embrace your journey without fear.

The hypnobirthing course transforms birth into a bonding experience like no other: for some a hypnobirthing experience even goes so far as to be the defining moment of their relationship (whatever form this takes). This is because hypnobirthing is not just for the Mother, but for her birthing partner as well. Both (or all) members of the birthing team are given an active role, a valuable and nurturing part to play in the birthing day. Birth Partners learn all the techniques (which many find have a beneficial impact on their daily lives: it’s always good to be calm!) alongside the Mother, and facilitate deep relaxation, encourage the birthing muscles and comfort of the Mother with massage, and learn how to support active birth movements. My Mother and birthing partner still jokes that she has the strength of a thousand lions after holding me in a supported squat for a large portion of my birthing day. Both members of the birthing team embracing the day together, without fear, transforms the experience of birth for the Mother’s chosen partner.

While, thanks to your own powers of relaxation, you may feel as though your drifting in and out of the birthing room (I spent most of my birthing day in a garden filled with orange balloons), hypnobirthing allows you to be very present in the birthing experience, and you’ll want to be there! “What about the pain?” I hear you ask. It’s true that what draws most people to hypnobirthing is another line of pain relief. It is true that deep relaxation does offer pain relief: but I offer up the idea that hypnobirthing facilitates your body to birth without pain. I am aware that this is a stumbling block for many people: most women simply can’t imagine a world where birth isn’t painful. That’s totally normal! We live in a culture where almost the entire narrative surrounding birth is that it is synonymous with agony. However, we also live in a culture that inhibits calm birthing with the nature of how we birth, and the fear we feel towards it. Have you ever run a marathon? Swam for a long time? Held a really strong yoga posture for a long time? It is an intense feeling! Perhaps when you start practising it is even painful. However, when we nourish our body, learn how to breathe, and how to use our muscles, the feeling is more of an intensity than of agonising pain. The birthing muscles are just the same as any other muscles. When we feel fear, when we panic, our body draws all resources away from the birthing muscles and send them to our arms and legs (so we can fight of a perceived threat). Midwives have even reported of birthing muscles white with fear, through lack of blood and oxygen. When scared, we also can’t release our happy hormones oxytocin and endorphins, which facilitate labour, create feelings of joy and love, and act as the body’s natural pain killers. However, when we learn to control our fear, to breath effectively and supply our birthing muscles with beautiful life giving oxygen, our muscles can work effectively and will hurt less. Our bodies also release those wonderful feel-good hormones, which means that birth is less likely to stop and start, and actually progresses quicker, and our body is supplied with ample amounts of the body’s natural painkillers. You can imagine this is a much more comfortable state to be in! We also teach active birthing positions which will help facilitate your body’s efforts to bring your baby earth side. When birthing through C Section, these techniques harness the same calm control, which facilitates feelings of bonding and calm control over your medical birthing experience.

Hypnobirthing offers a chance, not only for you and your birthing partner to embrace and enjoy your birthing day with calm control; but for us to change the birthing rhetoric to one imbued with love, and women feeling great success and joy on the day they meet their baby. For details of upcoming group classes, for information on one-to-one sessions, hypnobirthing for special circumstances; or online skype courses, please give me an email to chat about which option may suit you best at: heymummawolf@gmail.com

Images taken by birth photographer Sadie Wild