Teresa Walsh, midwife at The Portland Hospital explains how hypnobirthing techniques can help you manage your labour more effectively…
Childbirth is renowned for being a painful and often stressful experience. It’ll therefore come as no surprise that many of the women I meet as a midwife are apprehensive about the big day. I am frequently asked questions about the different techniques available to reduce the pain, and one technique I tend to recommend is hypnobirthing.
In recent years, hypnobirthing has become an increasingly popular technique used by women during pregnancy. I’ve been promoting it in antenatal classes for many years, however, only recently I have seen a substantial increase in demand among my patients.
How does hypnobirthing work?
Hypnobirthing – or the use of hypnosis methods during labour – is used by pregnant mothers to ease feelings of pain and anxiety during childbirth. But it sounds more daunting than it is; hypnobirthing methods are simply a modification of the age-old breathing and relaxation techniques that have helped women in all cultures for many years. These techniques can help you feel calm and relaxed during labour, and more confident during the birthing process.
Hypnobirthing techniques work because anxiety and fear experienced in childbirth can increase the levels of our stress hormones (adrenalin). This in turn blocks our labour and pain-relieving hormones (oxytocin and endorphins). What hypnobirthing teaches us is how to manage our stress and relax appropriately during labour, which will mentally prepare your body for this process.
Expectant mothers who choose to learn some of these techniques may find the whole experience of labour and birth calmer and more relaxed, and they may feel more in control throughout. Some studies have also shown that hypnobirthing can shorten labour and even improve the health outcomes for you and your baby. Birthing partners also learn how to be effective supporters during the labour, thus helping them to feel more involved in their baby’s birth.
Will hypnobirthing work for me?
The hypnobirthing techniques I teach in my classes can be modified and enhanced to suit most women. Hypnobirthing is particularly suited to those who prefer to have minimal or no medical interventions such as an epidural, as well as those who plan to have a water birth. However, it is interesting to note that many women who are very anxious or have had a previous traumatic birth are also using hypnobirthing alongside an epidural or elective c-section to help build confidence and feel relaxed throughout the pregnancy and the birth. So in some instances it can be used alongside other pain-relieving methods.
When should I start to practise hypnobirthing?
To prepare yourself, you can attend hypnobirthing classes from around 30 weeks gestation so you can learn the techniques and use them comfortably before the big day. There are many hypnobirthing techniques, and instructors vary in experience, so I would recommend you research the different options available to find an instructor that works for you.
Does hypnobirthing actually make a difference?
While it’s not something that we can monitor quantitatively, feedback from hypnobirthing patients at The Portland Hospital is an astounding ‘yes, it really makes a difference!’ During the final weeks of pregnancy couples will devote a little time each day to learn the skills and this alone helps them grow as a couple and share the excitement of the upcoming birth. It empowers both parents with different techniques to use during labour, helping them approach the day with confidence. And second-time mums at The Portland, although usually less anxious, regularly tell us about their positive experiences with hypnobirthing, too.
There are any number of variables that will affect a birth, most of which hypnobirthing has minimal control over. For example, some babies are not quite in the optimal position, which can make labour longer and more painful. Every woman’s pain experiences are unique, so while hypnobirthing is not guaranteed to ensure a painless birth, it is likely to make a difference and is certainly worth considering. It is also worth remembering that hypnobirthing teaches women simple skills in relaxation that are transferrable in other areas of life – the benefits will no doubt stand you in good stead for motherhood more broadly, and beyond!