Pregnant woman empowered and strong after hypnobirthing classes in Bristol

I’m sorry, what is hypnobirthing?!

Perhaps you’ve heard recently about The Duchess of Cambridge using Hypnobirthing for all three of her pregnancies/births…but now you’re confused – isn’t hypnobirthing just for ‘hippy’ types who want to give birth in a paddling pool at home, with no pain relief and whale music on in the background?! Well, you are certainly not alone in wondering 'what is hypnobirthing?'

Unfortunately, the name ‘hypnobirthing’ does it a bit of a disservice really, conjuring up all sorts of images of stage hyposis with swinging pendulums....maybe with a bit of chanting thrown in here & there! This is exactly what hypnobirthing is NOT!

A common misperception is that it's a form of pain relief where women are hypnotised into thinking they're not in pain! So of course the next logical misperception is that hypnobirthing is all about achieving that pain-fee, straightforward vaginal birth. Now don't get me wrong, hypnobirthing certainly can lead to a more comfortable and less complicated experience because it all works with the physiology of labour rather than against it (I've experienced two of those myself using the techniques, with it never even crossing my mind that I wanted any pain relief). But actually, hypnobirthing is for anyone, having any type of birth….yes, even a c-section!

And that is because in fact it is all about UNLEARNING what we think we know about birth that naturally leads us to fear it, EMPOWERING ourselves with real knowledge and the skills to put ourselves at every advantage, discovering ways to remain calm & feel in control even if birth throws us an unexpected curveball.

The 'hypno' part comes simply from the deeply relaxing techniques involved, but also from the principles it draws on from hypnotherapy - where the use of positive reinforcement can help people change their habits, beliefs and negative thoughts about something.

So, you see HOW exactly you plan to birth isn’t necessarily the important bit, it’s how you FEEL about it that has such an impact on whether it is a positive experience. It’s all about feeling calm, confident, informed and supported…and most people who practice hypnobirthing find that the change in their mindset leaves them actually feeling EXCITED about giving birth!

There are two things that every mum-to-be should know:

  • 1
    How you approach your birth will influence how it goes
  • 2
    You will remember how it made you feel for the rest of your life!
Pregnant belly and Marie Mongan quote answering what is hypnobirthing?

One focus of Hypnobirthing is to provide simple but truly powerful strategies to practice in the lead up to birth to help women remain calm and comfortable in labour…These skills include deep relaxation, massage & breathing techniques as well as tools to reduce anxieties around birth and build confidence and positivity instead.

We all know that the media and TV portrayals of women lying on their backs, legs up, screaming in pain, with a whole room of people shouting at them to push, doesn’t really make us look forward to birth. Nor do the ‘horror stories’ that people seem to relish sharing. As a midwife who has seen it time and again with my own eyes, and as a hypnobirthing mum who has really ENJOYED giving birth twice, I’ll let you in on a little secret – birth doesn’t have to be like that! 

So often in life our expectations become our reality...and unfortunately for us when it comes to childbirth, we are almost programmed to expect a painful, traumatic ordeal in labour. The invaluable things you will learn on a hypnobirthing course (both the information & the techniques) all aim to break that cycle and lead to to a better birth experience for you.

Expectant couple sitting on the floor practicing relaxation scripts in a Bristol Hypnobirthing course

Based in sound logic and the science of labour physiology, hypnobirthing relaxation & mindset techniques allow the natural birthing hormones and the muscles of the uterus to work together at their best so & as you would expect, can lead to a birth that has less need for intervention or pain-relieving drugs, yippee! If you want to learn a bit more about the role of Oxytocin in labour, Future Learn have produced an article that is a great place to start.

You should definitely also check out my blog post on the science of hypnobirthing for a more detailed look at the physiology of those birthing hormones and the muscles of the uterus, and how the hypnobirthing tools and techniques I teach work so well to support them in what they need to do!

Now, Hypnobirthing cannot guarantee you a ‘perfect’ birth (let’s face it, everyone’s ideas of perfect will be different anyway!)…and just because you may practice hypnobirthing, does not mean that you say no to everything else! Epidurals, inductions, assisted birth…all have their place when they are necessary. And guess what? It is even more important to know how to promote the right hormones and help your body do it's thing when intervention or certain pain relief options may throw the usual physiology off course.

Some labours are just more complicated than others no matter how much you prepare or stack the odds in favour of a smooth birth. It is really important to get clued up on the pros & cons of different forms of pain relief for labour. But, the ability to stay calm and relaxed through any unexpected challenges is absolutely key to having a positive birth experience, no matter what the circumstances are. And hypnobirthing can help you achieve that.

All good Hypnobirthing courses should provide you with a full antenatal education...The beauty of it is that you get the invaluable Hypnobirthing skills ON TOP OF:

  • Knowledge of labour and birth processes
  • Physical preparation
  • Your choices in your care & writing birth preferences
  • How to make safe but personalised decisions
  • What to expect from the maternity system & how to get the best from your caregivers
  • How birth partners can take a more active role as supporter and be central to the birth process
  • … the list goes on!

I think a lot of folk consider Hypnobirthing to be an additional expense to pay for alongside other antenatal courses, at a time when parents-to-be have an awful lot to spend their hard-earned cash on – but there should be no reason to have to do any other course!

The right birth preparation is such an important investment…you only get to birth your baby once and it should be a life-changing experience for the right reasons. Comparatively, that all-singing, all-dancing baby travel system is unlikely to change your life with quite the same magnitude, no matter how light it is or how flat it folds!!

Hopefully this post has gone some way to answering the question 'what is hypnobirthing' and we're clear that it's not some airy fairy nonsense! If you’re intrigued to know a bit more about this increasingly popular way to prepare for a positive birth, why not take a look at my FAQ’s page & read all about what a Little Passengers hypnobirthing course is all about!


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