What is hypnobirthing?

Many women automatically associate childbirth with pain and fear. The increasingly popular hypnobirthing method teaches you how to use positive thoughts and deep relaxation to empower you to take control of your labour, so any pain you experience is much less intense. So what is hypnobirthing? We take a closer look.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – What is hypnobirthing? A pregnant woman practises calming breathing exercises.
Hypnobirthing is about trusting your natural instincts and your own inner strength.
Photo: Johnér

What is hypnobirthing?

In a nutshell, hypnobirthing is about mentally preparing yourself for childbirth, with the help of positive thoughts and deep relaxation. It’s a tool for releasing fear and building confidence before and during childbirth. This birthing technique is based on the idea that women have been giving birth throughout human history and your body knows exactly what to do. As a mum-to-be, you should trust your natural instincts and your own inner strength.

Does hypnobirthing really work?

Because we tend to associate childbirth with pain and fear, our bodies release stress hormones. If you can find a way to relax instead, your body will release endorphins – natural painkilling hormones – which will make your labour less painful.

The aim of hypnobirthing is:

  • to strengthen you mentally by turning negative thoughts about childbirth into positive thoughts
  • to give you and your partner tools, such as breathing exercises and relaxation techniques
  • to play a role in alleviating the discomfort of childbirth without pain relief medication
  • to reduce stress, fear and anxiety before, during and after giving birth.

Hypnobirthing basically involves changing the way we think and talk about giving birth. If you expect childbirth to be a long, agonising journey, this will most likely be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if instead you embrace the attitude that your body is ready, strong and knows instinctively what to do, the probability that you’ll experience a more comfortable birth increases.

Hypnobirthing teaches you how to break the fear-tension cycle, which allows your body to do its job unhindered.

Hypnobirthing is not designed to be an alternative to the important information and care provided by midwives and hospitals, but it can be a successful complementary approach during pregnancy and childbirth.

Things don’t always go according to plan. “How I gave birth in the car”

How does hypnobirthing work?

Hypnobirthing consists of four different techniques to ensure that you get the best possible birth experience: relaxation, visualisation, breathing and deepening. You learn and practise exercises that help you to mentally picture your desired goals in order to transform your attitude towards your forthcoming labour, e.g. by replacing negatively charged words such as “contraction” with “surge”. Something as simple as the language we use can make us feel more positive about our ability to give birth.

Hypnobirthing means that you use self-hypnosis or deep relaxation to break the fear-tension cycle and reduce stress, which allows your body to do its job unhindered. This state can also be achieved via mental training, yoga, meditation or mindfulness.

Read Cat’s story about giving birth using hypnobirthing

There are various ways for you to learn hypnobirthing techniques, including courses, online videos, books and apps. Hypnobirthing is a method that also actively involves your partner: they can learn relaxation, visualisation and breathing techniques, so that you both feel as confident and well-prepared as possible before the birth.

Hypnobirthing can be used wherever you choose to give birth: in hospital, a birth centre or at home.

Sources: Babycentre.co.uk/Babycenter.com, Hypnobirthing Sweden, Hypnobirthing Stockholm

What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is a well-known concept in the USA and the UK. The method was developed by Marie Mongan in 1989 (“The Mongan Method”) and was inspired by the relaxation techniques of obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read. The birthing technique revolves around the idea that severe pain is not an inevitable part of childbirth.

The four basic hypnobirthing techniques are:

  • Deep relaxation
  • Visualising positive images
  • Breathing techniques
  • Deepening