Kate Middleton, Angelina Jolie and Giovanna Fletcher are just a handful of famous mothers who practiced hypnobirthing when they had their baby, and the NHS says that 40% of expectant mothers choose natural pain relief.
But what exactly is this growing practice and how does it work?
What is hypnobirthing?
The method is based on a book called Childbirth Without Fear, written by Dr Grantley Dick-Reid, an English obstetrician, in 1933. He argued that fear during labour results in blood and oxygen being diverted away from the uterus, which in turn leads to pain.
Instead, he suggested women should remain calm, helping their uterine muscles to relax and encouraging the body to produce oxytocin and endorphins.
Hypnobirthing is a popular method of pain management that mums-to-be can use during their labour and birth. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t involve hypnosis. Instead, it is a mix of visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques.
What are some hypnobirthing techniques?
If you attend a hypnobirthing class, it is likely you will be taught how to breathe properly during your pregnancy.
Many teachers believe that breathing deeply through your nose and out through your mouth can relieve discomfort and help you stay calm.
Hypnobirthing often involves imagining the birth of your baby and the specifics of how you want it to happen. For some mums, visualisation can be specific whereas for others, it is more about the feeling they would like to have.
For instance, some pregnant parents might choose to picture holding their baby after the birth; others might walk through the entire process like a dress rehearsal.
Studies suggest meditation can help you to concentrate, and mums-to-be use these techniques to focus on their body and baby during labour.
What are the benefits of hypnobirthing?
Proponents of the practice say that hypnobirthing can reduce your stress hormones. These hormones can curb your body’s production of oxytocin, which is a crucial chemical that helps progress labour.
It’s also possible that hypnobirthing will help you feel more prepared and by extension, more relaxed.
Some evidence also suggests hypnobirthing might reduce the chances of postnatal depression.
Is hypnobirthing effective?
Currently, there isn’t much research available about the effects of hypnobirthing. The NHS carried out a study in 2013 on 680 women, but the results were inconclusive.
For some mums-to-be, it’s key to a successful pregnancy. For others, it doesn’t make much difference.
Is hypnobirthing compatible with conventional pain relief?
Yes. Many mums use hypnobirthing alongside conventional pain relief to ensure they can fully relax.
How do I do hypnobirthing?
There are classes available across the UK – and many videos and articles freely available online. It is often advised you begin classes when you are 32 weeks pregnant.
Is hypnobirthing compatible with cord blood banking?
Hypnobirthing doesn’t affect your baby’s birth in any way; it is more about your state of mind. As such, a cord blood collection can take place as normal. Once your midwife cuts the umbilical cord, she can hand it to your phlebotomist.
The stem cell collection is simple, safe and non-invasive and because it takes place in a separate room, you can practice your hypnobirthing techniques such as meditation and visualisation without interruption or distraction.
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NCT, ‘Hypnobirthing: where to start’, accessed 11 November 2019, available at <https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/getting-ready-for-birth/hypnobirthing-where-start>
Baby Centre, ‘Can hypnobirthing make labour easier and less painful?’, accessed 11 November 2019, available at <https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x1046133/can-hypnobirthing-make-labour-easier-and-less-painful>
Jenna Mullan, ‘What is hypnobirthing?’, accessed 11 November 2019, available at <http://hypnobirthing.co.uk/what-is-hypnobirthing/>