Hypnobirthing mini-series – how you can change your birth experience

Find out why it’s important to prepare for your baby’s birth, and how hypnobirthing can help your mind and body work with your labour – not fight against it.

Are you looking forward to the birth of a child? And if so, what type of birth are you planning? Home, midwife-led or hospital birth? Water birth, active birth or caesarian? Drugs or no drugs? Or a hypnobirth?

In this hypnobirthing mini-series by Susanne Grant, we explore why it’s important to prepare for your baby’s birth, how you can change your birth experience using thought, how your birthing body works, and how to prepare for a hypnobirth.

Why it’s important to prepare for your baby’s birth

If you’re expecting a baby, your due date is probably looming large in your mind. Maybe you’ve already packed your hospital bag, and chosen the first clothes your new baby will wear. And you’ve certainly wondered what type of birth you’ll have. But have you fully researched your options to ensure you are completely prepared?

Research shows that a mother who is well prepared for birth, is more likely to have a smoother labour:

“Childbirth education can simplify pregnancy and birth and help women… to have a safe, healthy birth. Pregnancy is complex and fraught with potential for worry and confusion. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that things can go terribly wrong. Excellent childbirth education can help women learn how simple birth can and should be.”

Hypnobirthing helps you feel in control

One way to prepare for a calm, smooth labour is hypnobirthing. Over the past few years, hypnobirthing has become increasingly popular, with some hospitals even offering classes for free.

And it’s easy to see why so many pregnant mums are preparing for labour with self-hypnosis – it can help you to feel more in control of your birth, and manage your contractions more calmly.

Hypnobirthing lessons also give you a better understanding what is happening in your body during birth, and how you can work with your body, instead of against it.

How hynobirthing works

The ‘hypno’ part of hypnobirthing comes from the word hypnosis. Many people get a bit jumpy or uneasy as soon as they hear the word. They think of TV and stage shows where people are asked to do funny things. But this type of hypnosis is entertainment, and has nothing to do with hypnobirthing.

During a hypnobirthing course you’ll learn to enter a natural state of relaxation (which hypnoses helps you with). This state is no different from one you’re in many times every day.

Have you ever driven to a familiar destination on autopilot, or wondered where you put your keys when you came home? When our minds are in a natural state of relaxation, we do routine things without consciously thinking aout it. And this is the same ‘trick’ you can use during labour with hypnobirthing.

Your brain is like an iceberg

In order to understand exactly how hypnobirthing works, you first need to understand how your brain works, and how it can influence your labour.

Our brains are, in some ways, like an iceberg. The top of the iceberg, sticking out above the water, represents the logical, rational thinking of our brain (our conscious). And the part that is below the water reflects everything that is going on under the surface, like emotions, long-term memory and imagination.

The ‘under water’ part of our brain is designed to keep us safe by keeping ‘files’ of anything we have ever seen or have been part of. If you encounter a new experience, such as giving birth, your brain will scan your internal hard drive for similar files that can be used in the new situation, triggering a reaction which your body and emotions will respond to.

Your brain can’t differentiate between real and imagined threats

Your mind can’t differentiate between events you have experienced yourself, and those you have learned through TV, stories or movies etc. For example, when you have a nightmare your body physically responds because it perceives the images in your dream as a real threat. You wake up sweaty, with a pounding heart. Logically you know the nightmare isn’t real, but your body still reacts.

So what has this got to do with giving birth? As soon as you announced you were expecting a baby, people probably started telling you birth horror stories – adding to any existing fears you may have had of the pain of birth. These stories and fears will be put on your internal hard drive to use as a reference point when you go into labour.

Your mind will do anything to stop you giving birth

As the horror stories make birth seem like a perceived threat, your body and mind will do everything in their power to prevent you from having your baby. Triggering the ‘freeze-flight-fight’ response, your mind tries to protect your body from the event (in this case birth) that is about to happen by freezing up (you can’t run off or fight during labour!).

This causes you to experience increased discomfort, which can result in more complications for you and/or your baby. It can even slow or stop your labour in the early stages, as this research states:

“Stress hormones, however, disrupt the process. Especially in early labor, stress and anxiety can stop labor; in active labor, stress can slow progress.”

Hypnobirthing trains your mind for a positive experience

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Hypnobirthing can use the way your brain works for your advantage. So instead of programming your mind to fear and resist birth, it trains your brain to expect a positive, relaxed experience.

Hypnobirthing courses help you do this in many different ways – from learning self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques, to watching amazing hypnobirthing mothers all around the world.

Over a period of weeks, you’ll retrain your mind to think of birth in a completely new way, and create a whole new folder on your internal hard drive, with positive files your brain can access when the time comes to welcome your baby into the world. So you can look forward to a calmer, smoother, more empowered birth experience.

Susanne is a hypnobirthing mother and owner of Grant Method of Birthing where she supports women to achieve a calm and gentle birth experience.