Should I try hypnobirthing? A look at the birthing method Duchess Kate said was 'hugely powerful'

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"I was able to deliver our son naturally, without pain medication, in under 8 hours".(Getty Images)
"I was able to deliver our son naturally, without pain medication, in under 8 hours".(Getty Images)

You're at the very beginning of your pregnancy and researching different birthing methods when you stumble across the term hypnobirthing. 

While it sounds like something out of the 70s, the technique originated in the 1950s, but it wasn't until the 1980s that the term HypnoBirthing came to the fore via hypnotherapist Marie Mongan

Also read: This is the best way for baby to spend their first hour after birth

Meditation, visualisation, and self-hypnosis

Her programme, HypnoBirthing, aimed to minimise the fear women felt during labour which intensifies the experience of pain. 

The technique uses meditation, breathing exercises, visualisation, positive affirmations and self-hypnosis, all of which is focused on inducing a trance-like state to reduce fear and anxiety. 

According to Professor Mary Steen, hypnobirthing is typically taught from the 25th week of pregnancy (sometimes earlier) and often alongside other tools like yoga and acupressure. Birthing partners are also part and parcel of the hypnobirthing experience. 

"Hypnobirthing teaches women to induce a "self-hypnotic" state of mind where a woman focuses her attention inwards, concentrates deeply, and this helps her to decrease peripheral awareness," Professor Steen explains. 

The Duchess of Cambridge, who used hypnobirthing during pregnancy and birth, has described the technique as "hugely powerful".

"I saw the power of it, the meditation and the deep breathing and things like that, that they teach you in hypnobirthing, when I was really sick, and actually I realised that this was something I could take control of during labour," she told the host of the Happy Mum, Happy Baby podcast

Mixed results 

Research highlights that "fearful" mothers tend to have negative birth experiences and face a higher risk of developing poor mental health postpartum. 

However, a study in which women shared their experience of self-hypnosis intervention during birth showed mixed results. 

Of the women who participated in the study, a small number reported feeling disappointed after their natural birth expectations went unfilled. 

One mom said she had been built up to give birth naturally and ended up needing a caesarean section instead. 

"Situations didn't flow how I expected them to, you know…. they say to you when you go to these [Self-hypnosis] sessions, 'be positive', 'it's all about you', you know, 'you'll be going into the birth suite, and it's all going to happen all naturally and easily, and it doesn't always happen like that does it?" 

Other study participants said the techniques worked so well that medical staff had underestimated how far along they were.

For one mom, her calm appearance had meant arriving at the hospital, being sent home because she appeared "too relaxed" to be in labour, only to return 45 minutes later and "admitted in established labour". 

"I may be completely wrong, but the way I read it was because I wasn't a gibbering wreck; she [the midwife] thought that I wasn't as bad as I thought I was," the mom recalled. 

Also see: 'Silent guardians of parenthood': The role of a doula during pregnancy, birth and the 4th trimester

Birth without pain medication? 

Local mom *Stacey describes her hypnobirth as "a precious experience". 

Determined from the get-go to learn hypnobirthing techniques from her doula, Stacey credits both for her stress-free birth. 

"I was able to deliver our son naturally, without pain medication, in under 8 hours safely, because [my doula] coached me and supported us every moment of the way. Without that training and support, I am not convinced I would have been able to endure it," Stacey says. 

The first-time mom also believes that the calm birthing environment is evident in her baby's serene nature. 

"Our hypnobirthing baby is wonderfully relaxed and entered the world in nature's way and has remained a healthy, happy baby". 

*Names have been changed. 


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