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What is hypnobirthing and how does it work

Hypnobirthing is suitable for all types of birth including c-section

So, what exactly is hypnobirthing and how does it work? I'm a little sceptical and I'm not sure I want any of that 'hippy-dippy' stuff in my birthing room.

What do you think of when you think of hypnosis? Stage hypnotism where people do crazy things like cluck like a chicken or swinging pendulums putting people into a

deep trance-like state? That is not what happens when you bring hypnosis into the labour room. You are not under a spell, and you do not have someone controlling your thoughts and actions. Let me explain a little about what is involved ...

I prefer to sum up hypnobirthing as a collection of taught techniques for pain relief and relaxation which will increase you self-confidence and self-belief if your body's ability to give birth

As I have said before, 'your birth, your choice' but experience has shown me that most labouring women do not want to take strong pain relief in the early part of their labour. Learning how to cope with your contractions in different ways will help you to last longer before resorting to stronger drugs if that is what you wish. Some women do choose, however, to use hypnobirthing strategies in their entirety to cope with labour and that is do-able too.

Think about how you might cope with labour in the early stages when you are most likely at home. Think about how you might cope if you are having a hospital birth and you are in your car on the motorway to the hospital. Hypnobirthing techniques can also be used to calm anxiety when faced with the unexpected such as an un-planned caesarean birth. In fact research has shown the skills learnt during a hypnobirthing course have wide ranging positive benefits for labour:

  • Naturally manage pain

  • May reduce the length of your labour

  • May lessen the need for interventions including c-section

  • Give mum a feel of control and lessen anxiety

  • May lead to higher APGAR score for baby (assessment of baby wellbeing after birth)

Sounds good doesn't it!

Antenatal Courses Hypnobirthing West Lothian

Self-Help Skills for Labour - Massage and Breathing for Labour

So if you are not clicking your fingers or swinging pendulums to send me to sleep, what is going on ? ...


Let's talk hormones for a bit.

Humans are mammals, like your pet dog or cat, and instinctively as animals we have a built in natural 'fight or flight' response to danger. Think about what happens when you find yourself in a situation that makes you feel anxious: often your heart might race, you might sweat a bit and you feel an overwhelming urge to either escape or square up to the perceived threat. The body produces a cocktail of hormones which shut down all non-essential processes like digestion and blood flows to our extremities so we have strength to run or fight.

Physiologically, women have not changed for many thousands of years and our bodies still react in this primal way. Would any other mammal want to give birth if there was danger around? - no. Whilst modern-day mum-to-be doesn't have to deal with the threat of a saber-toothed tiger like our ancestors, our bodies are still programmed to react to threats in the same way as our cave-women relatives once did.

How does the 'fight or flight' response impact labour - One of the hormones we produce when we are scared in adrenaline and adrenaline is very very good at stamping all over and scaring away the principal hormone we need for the progression of labour = OXYTOCIN

Hypnobirthing teaches you how your labour hormones work

Oxytocin is the driving force in labour. It makes your contractions longer and stronger to help your cervix dilate and helps the muscles of your uterus push your baby downwards. It is also the 'love hormone' which promotes bonding with your baby after birth.


During labour, your body responds to the environment around you - remember that basic survival instinct we have inherited from our ancestors. You do not have to fear the saber-toothed tiger but your body is still 'triggered' by factors in your environment which can make you feel fearful or out of control. Maybe it is strange noises coming from the labour ward or someone entering your birthing space without knocking. These can cause a spike in adrenaline during a time when we need to be as relaxed as possible so oxytocin can do its job.

Hypnobirthing teaching you how your labour hormones work

If you are scared in labour, the adrenaline levels rise and as a result, your labour is likely to be longer than the person who has remained calm, muscl