Record numbers turn to hypnobirthing for a fear-free, easier birth experience
According to recent statistics released by Colchester Hospital University, the number of couples taking hypnobirthing courses has risen fourteenfold in the last four years. In 2012 only six couples per month undertook a course, a figure that has risen to 84 per month during 2016.
Hypnobirthing is a field of antenatal care that focuses on self-hypnotic techniques and achieving a state of deep relaxation in the mind to relieve the pain, anxiety and stress of childbirth.
During a two-week period in a major Swedish city, Waldenström, Bergman, and Vasell (1996) asked all women who gave birth during that time, except for those who did not speak Swedish and women who underwent elective cesarean sections, about their experiences of labour pain two days after delivery. Of the 278 women in the study group who did not use hypnobirthing, 41 per cent rated the discomfort of labour as the worst pain imaginable and as many as 91 per cent of the participants used analgesia/pain relief. However, data compiled by Together Birthing shows that for hypnobirthing women, on average only 31 per cent of hypnobirthing mums required some form of pain relief or medication (including gas and air).
Together Birthing help women and their birth partners prepare for the birth of their children. Midwives predict that hypnobirthing will be accepted as standard antenatal birth preparation within the next 10 years, similar to how water births have become common practice over the past decade.
“Hypnobirthing provides mums-to-be with breathing, visualisation, self-hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming and fear release techniques, which aid any anxieties and negative thoughts about birth at a subconscious level,” says Emma Harwood-Jones, founder of Together Birthing.
“With hypnosis, oxytocin and endorphins flow and create a calm state of body and mind,” she continues. “Oxytocin causes the muscles to surge, opening the cervix at optimum efficiency. Endorphins act as the body’s natural tranquiliser, and are said to be 200 times more powerful than morphine.”
However, people are still hesitant about use of hypnosis in childbirth.
“Hypnosis is a completely natural phenomenon which we experience every day of our lives, when we daydream or become engrossed in a good book or film. Hypnosis is just a state of relaxation where we choose to focus our attention inwards. We remain fully in control and aware of what is happening around us.”
Studies have also shown that hypnobirthing can shorten labour – Jenkins and Pritchard found a reduction of 3 hours for first-time mums from an average of 9.3 hours to 6.4 hours. Meanwhile, a study by Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust showed that only 4 per cent of hypnobirthing births ended with an emergency C-section, compared with 15 per cent for the general population.
Harwood-Jones concludes, “Hypnobirthing cannot promise the perfect birth, but it does give women the best opportunity for a drug-free birth as the need for pain relief greatly reduces. Even if intervention is needed for special circumstances, hypnobirthing still helps women and their birth companions cope with the experience. It empowers parents to ask questions and stay calm so they feel fully informed and positive about the birth.”