What is Hypnobirthing? How does it work?

Written by APHP

December 20, 2023


You may be wondering what exactly is hypnobirthing and does it work?

Can hypnobirthing be used for all types of birth?

Is hypnobirthing safe?

Is hypnobirthing airy fairy?

Some people assume it is unrealistic, that it gives a false impression of the perfect birth, and it’ll all go out the window. I’ve even heard some people say it sets people up to fail if they don’t get the perfect birth.

There are lots of myths surrounding hypnobirthing and while no two classes will be the same, the aim should be to equip you with the ability to feel calm, confident and more in control.

Hypnobirthing is a complete antenatal education course covering practical techniques to help throughout labour.

It is very much NOT just a fancy way to breathe baby out, it is NOT putting yourself into a trance listening to whale music and hoping to feel no pain. It is NOT aiming for the perfect birth. It is NOT just for easy low intervention birth.

So what is it then?

It is about changing your mindset. It is about feeling calmer, more in control and confident.

You’ll feel empowered, informed and able to work with whatever labour and birth bring on the day

It’s really much more than that – it’s a complete mind and body preparation, giving you knowledge and info to make birth the best experience it can be.

It is a way of enhancing your communication skills to negotiate your care – so you become part of the decision making process around your birth. This way you don’t just feel like things are being done to you – it gives you back control and confidence.

It is a complete game changer in terms of your mindset – you’ll know what you want and how to work towards it. You’ll go from feeling ok and winging it, to feeling prepared, ready and knowing you have lots of options to make it the best birth it can be for you.

You’ll know that it won’t go out the window if things don’t go to plan – because you’ll have a complete set of skills to deal with it.  The hypnosis skills aren’t just for birth either – many people still use them years later for life.

So how does it work?

Hypnobirthing is a set of tools and techniques to help people have a better birth experience. It is designed based on the science of how the body and mind work during labour, and aims to give the body all it needs to boost the beneficial hormones, and the mind all it needs to manage fears, stay calm and feel more confident

During labour, the hormone oxytocin stimulates uterine contractions, to enable labour to progress to birth. If we are feeling observed, frightened or tense, this can inhibit the release of oxytocin. This would be extremely useful if it were unsafe to give birth- if we were facing imminent danger.

One thing hypnobirthing aims to do is to reduce unnecessary adrenaline, which can have a detrimental effect on oxytocin. Too much adrenaline in labour can slow things down- oxytocin is lowered, and contractions can become less effective- this would be useful if in a situation where it was unsafe to give birth, to give us time to get to safety, or fight or flee, but most of the time we don’t need to do this.

By working with powerful self hypnosis and mind calm techniques, we can actively boost endorphins (the feel good and pain relieving hormone), lower adrenaline and boost oxytocin production.

By utilising the power of self hypnosis, we can mentally rehearse the birth over and over again, so that by the time you go into labour you are feeling calmer and more confident.

Your subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between reality and imagination – so by utilising the power of self hypnosis, you can mentally experience a birth in which you feel confident, calm and in control. This mental rehearsal trains your mind to feel calmer and respond in the way you’d like on the day.

What we are aiming for in a hypnotherapy based birth prep class, is to take away the fear (or to normalise fear and learn how to manage it) to build confidence and to keep you out of the cycle of fear>tension>pain.

You feel scared – you get tense – you feel pain – you panic – and the cycle continues. Hypnobirthing can help you break out of that cycle, boost your confidence and give you the skills to deal with whatever birth brings on the day – if that includes all the drugs that’s ok.

Hypnobirthing is suitable for all types of birth, whether that is a drug free home birth, or high tech hospital birth with epidural, and even caesarean section.


So does hypnobirthing actually work?

This depends on your definition of hypnobirthing having ‘worked’. If you are aiming for the perfect birth, pain free and easy, to judge whether it has worked, then my classes probably aren’t for you.

We shouldn’t be aiming for the perfect birth, or a pain free experience.

My approach is that hypnobirthing should aim to give you the tools and techniques to cope with whatever labour brings on the day – to manage your fears, to have many coping techniques that won’t go out the window. Yes you may still need additional pain relief or birth may take an unexpected path, but this should not be the basis of whether or not hypnobirthing worked for you. Many of my clients who had loads of intervention still said they felt as though the techniques worked for them. The way I see it is hypnobirthing is a set of tools and techniques to help you through pregnancy, birth and postnatal – it isn’t something that either works or doesn’t work.

Is hypnobirthing safe?

Yes! Many NHS trusts have Midwives who teach hypnobirthing and are on board with the techniques. Hypnobirthing does not aim to replace any form of maternity care or contradict medical advice. If anything, the techniques you learn can help you in pregnancy as you’ll be more likely to feel calmer, more relaxed and this will only help. We only use a form of guided relaxation that is specifically safe for pregnancy. You will always be aware of what is happening to you and around you – it doesn’t mean you will be “out of it”,, but you will be more relaxed and feel more in control.

To find out how hypnotherapy techniques can enhance your birth experience – you are welcome to get in touch.
Claire Norris Marron.




Published : Dec 20, 2023