How hypnobirthing can lessen pain and stress during labour

The thought of labour and childbirth can be incredibly daunting. 

So anything that can make the experience shorter and more comfortable, with pain relief and less intervention, is favourable.

This is where hypnobirthing comes into play.

Hypnobirthing ultimately refers to the process of using relaxation, visualisation and mindfulness techniques to help individuals concentrate on their body and the birth of their baby.

This might include guided meditations and even feature music – as part of a birthing playlist.

Midwife Marley Hall tells ‘Learning the art of hypnobirthing enables you to tap into your subconscious mind and “rewire” negative thoughts relating to childbirth that you may have accumulated over the years due to the portrayal of childbirth on TV, previous traumatic births or negative stories from people you know. 

‘This, in conjunction with special techniques involving breathing, visualisations and guided meditations, helps to increase positive feel-good hormones including the body’s natural pain reliever, endorphins.’

Hypnobirthing is ultimately about training the brain to head into a deep state of relaxation – which can help with pain, stress and bonding between expectant parents and their new arrival.

Marley adds: ‘It helps to decrease the levels of adrenaline in the system which can send you into “fight or flight” mode during birth and make you more tense – increasing pain. 

‘Hypnobirthing helps people to “zone out” or withdraw into themselves as they focus on the positive side of the contractions – a step closer to meeting their baby.’

Katy, who gave birth at home using hypnobirthing techniques, describes how she coped when her contractions started.

She says: ‘The surges themselves did not feel like pain and were oddly pleasurable.

‘I had read about people who said they’d be in pleasure, and while I had whole heartedly believed in what books and people’s experiences shared, I said to myself “telling me this won’t hurt is a step too far” – well I was wrong.

‘I had surges, which were intense and brought about an incredible focus of mindfulness, being in the moment completely. There was a pleasurable release during each surge.

‘These would be followed with a very intense relaxed blissful feeling, almost dreamlike, whereby I would almost fall asleep with rapid recuperation.

‘This state of bliss and relaxation is like nothing I have ever felt, and it was so instant.

‘The way my partner led us through the hypnobirthing and delivered our baby will leave me ever amazed and grateful to him. It took our bond as a couple and family with our baby to a very special place.’

Katharine Graves, the founder of KG Hypnobirthing, adds that it’s not really about offering pain relief, but more stopping the pain happening in the first place.

She tells ‘If mind and body are working together in the way that nature intended, there may not be any pain to relieve.’

Katharine adds that there are a few things that make hypnobirthing different. The first is that it works to release fear, stress, worry, or panic during labour and childbirth.

‘If you are afraid you tense up, so your body doesn’t work as well, and then you get pain,’ says Katharine.

‘This has evolved from the work of Grantly Dick-Reed, the English obstetrician who worked 100 years ago. He came up with the principle of fear/tension/pain.’

The second is that is provides a clearly-defined role for the partner, who can be a massive asset in the birthing room. 

Katharine says: ‘Working together deepens the bond between the couple and also between a partner and their child as they know they have been an important part in how the baby entered the world.’

It’s also about giving women more sense of control in what can be a stressful and scary experience.

Marley says: ‘There are also many women who have practiced hypnobirthing and have had empowering, positive births as a result.

‘Hypnobirthing is not a guarantee that birth will be straightforward – occasionally things happen that are out of your control. 

‘Even during emergency situations, however, hypnobirthing techniques work wonders at keeping you calm throughout. It is also easily accessible via online courses that you can do in your own time.’

Why is it becoming more and more popular?

Hypnobirthing is becoming a popular choice with women, as it can help achieve a quicker and less painful labour – due to the body relaxing. 

Katharine says: ‘Women often have much shorter and more comfortable, sometimes completely pain-free, labours without the need for drugs and without tearing, maybe having their first baby in three hours.

‘Even more important is the fact that, if a birth is calm and drug-free for the mother, it is also calm and drug-free for the baby.

Birth is the most important event of our lives, and a calm birth will affect the baby for the whole of its life.’

What are the benefits of hypnobirthing?

Marley gives a few examples below:

  • Gives women confidence, empowerment and knowledge on how to make informed decisions.
  • Reduced perception of pain.
  • Less need for pain relieving drugs.
  • Lower chance of needing assistance with the birth e.g. forceps.
  • Beneficial for women who have previously experienced birth trauma.
  • Lower rates of postnatal depression.
  • May shorten labour.
  • Associated with higher APGAR scores in babies.

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