TLDR: While hypnobirthing has been gaining in popularity, this mindfulness technique isn’t widely known. Hypnobirthing can help you mentally prepare for birth and manage pain and contractions during labor.
While pregnancy can be a joyful, rewarding, and life-altering experience, it also can come with mixed feelings for many women. Alongside the joy of creating and nurturing new life is the fear of the unknown and the pain involved with childbirth. While most doctors are quick to offer resources for a healthy pregnancy, they don’t always give a lot of guidance when it comes to preparing your mind for labor and delivery. But there’s one tool that can help expectant moms reduce fear anxiety and even pain: hypnobirthing1 .
“Hypnobirthing can be a very useful tool for birthing,” says Kiana Reeves, a doula and pelvic health practitioner. “It helps to get your mind quiet, and your body relaxed and can enhance your capacity to be with intense physical sensations and pain. All of this can contribute to experiencing a smoother labor.”
Whether you’re seeking support to mentally prepare for a planned c-section or vaginal birth, or just looking for ways to de-stress and feel more grounded, here’s everything you need to know about hypnobirthing.
So, What is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing gained popularity thanks to Marie Mongan2 , a hypnotherapist who believed in a more gentle, unmedicated birthing approach for women. She is credited with creating the “Mongan method3 ,” which she started teaching in classes in the 1980s, and wrote about in her book, Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method4 . Before her, hypnosis hadn’t been studied for use in childbirth, but Mongan’s method changed that.
Through deep breathing, visualization, meditation, hypnosis, and other techniques, women can learn to trust that their bodies know how to bring their babies into the world. People in hypnobirthing classes are taught to view the birthing process differently by reframing contractions as “uterine waves” or “surges.” This type of positive conditioning around language is key to hypnobirthing’s philosophy, and the wording can help to reduce fear around labor and birth, instead bringing on a relaxation response so that childbirth feels less painful.
How Hypnobirthing Works
According to the Mongan Method, women today have an unprecedented fear of giving birth, which can cause their bodies to constrict and produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Studied and named by the medical community, this Fear of Childbirth (FOC)5 is a common problem affecting women’s health and well-being during pregnancy. The stress can have a domino effect; as your fear increases, so does pain during labor.
British obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read first wrote about this tension back in 1944 in his book Childbirth Without Fear6 . He believed there was a connection between fear and pain, and that promoting calm confidence was key to a more gentle and positive birthing experience.
With hypnobirthing, pregnant women learn what happens to their body during labor, making it less frightening. It’s a powerful method to help the mind overcome the physical challenges birth presents. People who have used these techniques describe being so entranced by their hypnobirthing breathing that contractions during labor felt like waves spreading over their body, or as ripples passing through.
While none of us can predict or control the stressors that accompany pregnancy, regularly using meditations can help you deal with anxiety and pain during the intensity of labor.
What Are Some Hypnobirthing Techniques?
Hypnobirthing techniques can help women in labor reach a “self-hypnotic” state, where they’re in deep relaxation and feel more aware and in control. These techniques involve a series of breathing exercises, visualizations, and positive affirmations that teach expectant moms to trust their bodies and feel confident to give birth.
Hypnobirthing women might start their morning listening to a guided relaxation meditation, or create a routine of breathing exercises throughout the day in the weeks leading up to childbirth.
Another important technique in hypnobirthing is practicing self-hypnosis to foster a calm, tranquil environment before bedtime. This involves repeating self-affirmations as a way of rewriting your subconscious beliefs about birth. Expectant moms can also work with a certified hypnotherapist or take classes 7 to learn these skills since they can take weeks or months to master.
Hypnotherapist and hypnobirthing instructor Melanie Bearne explains that there are three important spaces for each new mom: their mind, their body, and the space that surrounds them. “These three spaces are interconnected, they can work with each other or against each other.”
Bearne explains that hypnobirthing teaches how to work with these spaces, how to align them, and how they affect each other for good or bad. “In listening to hypnobirthing tracks, women can increase their ability for resilience, positivity, and relaxation.”
Here are some additional benefits to hypnobirthing:
It allows women to feel calmer and in control.
There’s evidence to show8 hypnosis techniques don’t just help during labor, but can also aid with postpartum depression and anxiety9 .
Hypnobirthing techniques are a way to prepare your body for what’s coming, which can be helpful for expectant moms who want to give birth without pain medication.
It serves as a valuable tool for emotional support for women having a c-section.
Common Hypnobirthing Misconceptions
The word “hypnobirthing” often makes people think of images of pregnant women under a hypnotic state without any control, but that’s not true. Below are some hypnobirthing misconceptions:
Hypnosis is just a trend.
Hypnosis will put you under a spell or into a spaced-out state.
Hypnosis is only for drug-free vaginal home births.
Hypnosis isn’t supported by midwives or doctors.
Starting a Hypnobirthing Practice
Melissa Spilsted10 , the director of Hypnobirthing Australia, explains11 that “The difference between a regular birth and hypnobirthing is a sense of empowerment for the woman through the birth process and beyond.”
She notes, “Women have used their birthing knowledge for thousands of years, and what we teach is simply tapping back into that wisdom and removing fear.”
No matter whether things go according to plan or not during your labor and delivery, hypnobirthing is a way to help you concentrate entirely on your body and your baby and to have an experience that feels joyful, sweet, and empowering.