Becoming pregnant is a joyful, rewarding, and life-altering experience. It’s also a time of great excitement and 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 give little guidance when it comes to preparing your mind for the big day. But there’s one tool that can help expectant moms reduce fear and anxiety (and even pain): Hypnobirthing.
Part of our mission at Expectful is to give moms-to-be the skills they need for a calm and confident birth experience. Whether you’re seeking support to mentally prepare for a natural birth or planned c-section, or just looking for ways to de-stress and feel more grounded — here is everything you need to know about this method.
So, What is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing gained popularity thanks to Marie Mongan, a hypnotherapist who believed in a more gentle, unmedicated birthing approach for women. According to The New York Times “Although hypnosis had been used in obstetrics for more than a century, it had not been widely studied as a tool for childbirth.” Ms. Mongan’s method changed all of that.
Through deep breathing, visualization, meditation, hypnosis, and other techniques, women 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 re-framing contractions as “uterine waves” or “surges.” This type of positive conditioning around language is key to hypnobirthing’s philosophy of reducing fear around labor and birth and eliciting a relaxation response so that childbirth is less painful.
How Hypnobirthing Works
According to the Mongan Method, contemporary women hold an unprecedented fear of giving birth — causing their bodies to constrict and produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Studies have shown that this Fear of Childbirth (FOC) is a common problem affecting women’s health and wellbeing — all of which has a domino effect; as 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 Fear. 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 moms 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 the Expectful app can significantly help reduce anxiety and pain during the intensity of labor.
What Are Some Hypnobirthing Techniques?
The purpose of using hypnobirthing techniques is for women to reach a “self-hypnotic” state, where they are 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 body and feel confident to give birth fearlessly.
Hypnobirthing moms might start their morning listening to a guided relaxation meditation, or create a routine of breathing exercises throughout the day.
Another important technique in hypnobirthing is fostering a calm and tranquil environment before bedtime by practicing self-hypnosis — this involves repeating self-affirmations as a way of rewriting subconscious beliefs about birth. Expectant moms may also work with a certified hypnotherapist or take classes to learn these skills as they can take weeks or months to master.
If you’re curious how it works, check out our on-demand Hypnobirthing Class, an evidence-based course created by a clinical hypnotherapist including guided hypnosis tracks, educational resources, and access to Expectful’s entire library of meditations for pregnancy, birth preparation, labor support, postpartum healing, and sleep.
In one of Expectful’s guided meditations, Hypnotherapist and Hypnobirthing instructor, Melanie Bearne, describes one of the benefits of this method as “a way to lower the brick wall between the conscious and the unconscious.” There are three important spaces for each new mom, she says: 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 that shows these techniques don’t just help during labor, but can also aid with postpartum depression and anxiety.
- For expectant moms seeking a more natural birth without pain medication, hypnobirthing techniques are a way to prepare their body for what’s to come.
- It also serves as a valuable tool that offers emotional support whether women choose or need to have a C-section.
Everyone’s birth plan will look different, but what’s important is being able to relax your mind and keep fears at bay. Expectful’s app features a wide array of meditations that help women prepare for labor or a cesarean, including one on Trusting Your Body.
Common Hypnobirthing Misconceptions
The word “hypnobirthing” often conjures images of pregnant women under some hypnotic state without any control, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Below are some more myths that need to be debunked:
- Hypnosis is just for “hippies” or part of 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
Director of Hypnobirthing Australia, Melissa Spilsted, explains that “The difference between a regular birth and hypnobirthing is a sense of empowerment for the woman through the birth process and beyond.”
She noted: “Women have used their birthing knowledge for thousands of years, and what we teach…is simply tapping back into that wisdom and removing fear.”
If you’re interested in getting started with hypnobirthing, you can learn more by reading first-hand accounts online and listening to podcasts on the topic. You can also reach out to your community of friends and family members who tried it and found it to be a valuable resource during their own pregnancy. And if you’d like to try a guided course to walk you through it all, Expectful’s hypnobirthing class can offer you an approachable way to learn these skills at your own pace.
No matter whether things go according to plan or not on the big day, 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.