What is Hypnobirthing?

*This guest post was written by Jenny and Kristy from @thebirthingbible!*

Hello! We are Kirsty and Jenny, co-founders of @thebirthingbible, and midwives from the UK. Together we have 17 years of experience in helping parents through their birthing journey and (sometimes literally) catching babies.

We created @thebirthingbible as a way to empower, inform and educate parents-to-be during what is often a nerve-wracking time, worsened by the conflicting excess of incorrect advice and information out there.

It was on this journey, that we discovered Liesel and her account @mommy.labornurse!

Get more support from the @mommy.labornurse Instagram community! Join over 530k mamas for tips and solidarity on all things pregnancy, birth, and postpartum!

Hypnobirthing educator

Alongside this, I (Jenny) am a registered and self-employed KG Hypnobirthing teacher and have helped over 200 couples use self-hypnosis during their birth experiences.

As a student midwife, working in a busy, high-risk hospital in the UK, I had seen all sorts of birth.

Most of the time, these births were chaotic, noisy and rushed. Whilst you cannot plan for birth (in reality birth is often unpredictable) many parents I met were left feeling out of control, disheartened and traumatized by their experience of labour and birth.

In total contrast, I was meeting hypnobirthing parents who felt empowered by their experience of birth. They often felt a calm ‘natural’ birth experience but interestingly, even following emergency deliveries in theatre!

For whatever reason, hypnobirthing parents felt in control and prepared and therefore, regardless of the way their baby entered the world, the experience was much calmer.

I had to explore this ‘new craze’.

So, following research and reading, I completed my training and set up my business.

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What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing (the use of self-hypnosis techniques) during pregnancy, labour and birth has been accredited with an increase in pain-free, positive birth experiences.

There is evidence which reports that mothers who use self-hypnosis are:

  • More likely to have shorter labours
  • Require less intervention
  • Have drug-free births due to a decreased pain sensation during labour.

In addition, their babies are more likely to be calm and content.

Who is hypnobirthing for?

Lots of people hold the mistaken belief that Hypnobirthing is something alternative, unusual perhaps, only suited to a ‘certain type’ of person.

In reality, Hypnobirthing is for everyone and rather than being something ‘alternative’. It is about getting back to nature and allowing the body to perform exactly what it was created to do.

Birth is one of the most miraculous, natural and beautiful bodily functions.

No matter how many babies I see enter the world, I’ll never stop being in awe and astonishment at the capabilities of the female body.

It was with that in mind that I discovered Hypnobirthing in the first place. It has always been accepted that for birth to run smoothly, easily and comfortably, focus and relaxation is essential.

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The history of focus and relaxation as a part of birth

As early as 300BC, Hippocrates and Aristotle, leaders of the Grecian School of Medicine wrote about labour and birth. Interestingly, neither mentioned ‘pain’ when they wrote about normal, uncomplicated birth.

They also wrote about the mind-body effect and the importance of deep relaxation during childbirth.  The other obvious place to look, for examples of biological, natural and uncomplicated birthing stories, is in our fellow mammals.

Watching other mammals give birth can help YOU – really!

I always encourage my clients to watch as many mammalian birthing videos as they can bear (pun intended!)

Other female mammals birth through a similar process to us.

When my own dog had her first litter in March 2018, her labour was much like any woman I’ve ever cared for.

  • She began to have strong, regular uterine contractions which led to her cervix progressively dilating as the pups moved into position in the birth canal
  • Throughout this time she was restless, constantly on the move and panting as she did. BUT, in all this time, she never gave any indication of being in pain.
  • She never yelped during a contraction and, in fact, she barely made a sound.
  • She wagged her tail, panted and she walked and walked and walked. If uterine contractions were supposed to be painful, surely they would be painful for all mammals experiencing them.

Why do humans show pain during birth?

So if pain is normal, why is it, that only humans exhibit the signs of pain and distress during childbirth?

Well, the theory is that it is all down to the development of our brain, a clear biological difference between humans and other mammals.

Michel Odent, renowned French obstetrician and childbirth revolutionist, talks about the development of the neocortex, and its impact on modern-day birth.

During birth, the neocortex is supposed to be at rest so that primitive brain structures can more easily release the necessary hormones for labour and birth.

How hypnobirthing can help

This is why it is so important for women in labour to cut themselves off from the rest of the world and truly enter themselves.

Not only does hypnobirthing teach you methods and techniques to support this, but it also teaches your chosen birthing partner how to support you.

For example, during labour, one of the basic needs of the women is to be protected from any kind of neocortical stimulation. Examples of this are: answering questions, light stimulation, or the impact of being observed.

By completing a hypnobirthing course, your birth partner will be prepared to protect you from neocortical stimulation. They will have techniques to employ on the day which will aid you, whilst keeping you calm, relaxed and in your bubble.

Another birth revolutionist, Dr Grantly Dick-Read, author of Childbirth Without Fear, created the Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome as the explanation for pain in childbirth.

Hypnobirthing basics

During labour, the brain produces the Oxytocin (love) hormone which causes powerful, regular uterine contractions.

As the uterus contracts, the cervical muscles (which are relaxed) are drawn upwards and around the head of the baby- cervical dilation.

Simply, one muscle contracts as another muscle relaxes.

This is much like any other muscular contraction in the body, required for every day basic functions like walking, or lifting that glorious morning coffee to your lips.

It’s not painful.

So why do so many of us expect and indeed feel so much pain during labour?

The medical answer is this:- tension and  ischemia within the tissues of the uterus.

Many women are told throughout their lives that childbirth will be one of the most painful, traumatic and awful experiences.

This is further complicated by the excess of incorrect information, images and advice we are surrounded by in the media, family and friends. As the pregnancy progresses, and the birth comes ever closer, most women start to feel anxiety, dread and fear for their upcoming labour.

Once contractions start, their fears cause tension within their body, both physically (by tensing their muscles and bracing for pain) and biologically (fear releases adrenaline and adrenaline causes tension within the muscles in our body).

This tension causes a reduction in blood flow and oxygen to the working muscles in your uterus, causing ischemia, the proven known cause of pain during childbirth.

Hypnobirthing seeks to change this thought process

A complete hypnobirthing course will provide you with the knowledge to understand how your body works during pregnancy and childbirth. This, along with hypnotherapy techniques, will reduce the fear you may already have.

Once the omnipresent fear has been dealt with, you’ll learn techniques to help switch off your conscious mind (and neocortex) to enable you to relax.

By completing a course, you will have learned techniques that will help you through any eventuality, not just a ‘straightforward’ birth experience.

This is truly why hypnobirthing is for everyone

Hypnobirthing cannot guarantee a pain-free natural delivery, as for some women and their babies that is not the safest way for your baby to arrive.

What it will do is give you the best chance of it and, whether you give birth unattended in the woods or have an emergency caesarean, hypnobirthing WILL make a difference to you.

Thanks again to Jenny and Kristen from @thebirthingbible for this wonderful article all about hypnobirthing!

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Liesel Teen, BSN-RN
Founder, Mommy Labor Nurse

Meet Liesel Teen

Hi there. I’m Liesel!

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

When you know what to expect and have the tools to navigate the experience, you’ll feel confident and in control.

I believe you deserve a better birth — no matter how you deliver.