Many mothers who have tried hypnobirthing swear by it as a powerful and transformative experience, but does it actually work?
The idea that childbirth is an intensely painful, exhausting and nightmarish experience is a fairly commonly held view in our society.
Pregnant women are often terrified in the lead-up to the birth.
They shudder at the thought of hours of labour with painful contractions, pushing the baby and the possibility of body tissue tearing. It’s partly why many willingly choose pain relief at the onset of labour.
However, for a growing number of women, hypnosis is transforming the birth experience. Women choosing to have a hypnobirth say their experience of childbirth is not only less painful, it’s also an empowering event that helps to set a positive mark to the start of motherhood.
How does it work?
There are no pocket watches swinging from side to side during a hypnobirth.
Nor is the birth mother hypnotised before birth, so that when she hears the word ‘push’ she becomes a pain-free island of calm.
It’s more a form of deep meditation, which encourages women to use their minds to manage the pain and unpredictability of childbirth. Advocates say because of this altered state of consciousness, the pain experienced in labour can become a controlled sensation for the woman.
There is not one definitive way to have a hypnotherapy-assisted birth, and in most cases the birth mother learns techniques to apply in the birthing room herself, without a therapist present.
Melissa Spilsted, founder of Hypnobirthing Australia, says the three main methods used are breathing techniques, positive affirmations, and self-hypnosis.
These are practised during pregnancy and also used for stress relief and focus in preparation for, during, and after birth.
Ms Spilsted says a particularly important tool is the use of verbal affirmations, repeated throughout pregnancy and labour, such as:
My body is perfectly designed to birth my baby;
I allow my body to completely relax;
Every surge (contraction) of my body brings my baby closer to my arms.
Ms Spilsted says self-hypnosis can be taught to mothers by creating “hypnotic triggers, anchors and deepeners, so that a deep state of relaxation can be more easily achieved during birthing”.
Tasmanian mother Ange Vincent is a registered hypnobirthing practitioner who has given birth twice.
During her first birth, Ms Vincent felt she could not cope with the pain she endured. Her labour slowed, and she ended up having a series of medical interventions, which included an epidural and a forceps delivery.
Ms Vincent said she was traumatised from that birth.
“I was needing a lot of support and I did take an [emotional] dip about nine months later. Mentally, it was a slow burn and it didn’t feel like I recovered as quickly,” she said.