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18 Jun

All about hypnobirthing

I met Juliet Hollingsworth on Twitter. I knew from her tweets that she was a HypnoBirthing teacher, so when I decided that James and I should explore it, she was my first port of call. We started the course a little late – technically, you should start in the middle/end of your second trimester so you have plenty of time to practice the techniques. As you know from my birth story (parts 1, 2 and 3), I didn’t have a natural birth; however, I did use the HypnoBirthing techniques we learned from Juliet to imagine my cervix dilating faster and to picture a safe delivery. I found it very relaxing and empowering. The point I’d like to make is that HypnoBirthing is NOT just for women who are set on having a natural birth. Thank you to Juliet for telling us more about HypnoBirthing in this interview.

What is HypnoBirthing?

HypnoBirthing couples begin by learning exactly how the body behaves when in labour. It is amazing how our brain and body can work together naturally, but often, especially during labour, don’t. Due to evolution and, confusingly, because we are so clever, we have forgotten how to use our brain the way animals do. Did you know that if an animal senses danger it can stop its labour? It will move to a safer place and start the labour again. It is the same process that often causes humans to have prolonged or painful labours that may result in medical intervention. The only difference is we are not in danger, so there is no need for us to go into this natural response. We do it unknowingly. We have lost the ability to control our body’s natural responses. In fact, many of us do not even know these responses exist, let alone how to stop them.

A HypnoBirthing programme would expand on this knowledge to give a full understanding and then teach techniques to control these natural responses, helping the couple to remain calm, relaxed, and to take back control resulting in an often quicker, pain-reduced experience. After the first session, couples practise these techniques. Practice makes perfect, so during the birth, the couple can utilise this new tool to help labour progress. The course can also be taken instead of standard antenatal classes as further information is covered, such as best birth positions and why; tips for pregnancy; and other topics such as why talking to your baby is so important.

How did you become a HypnoBirthing practitioner?
I am a clinical hypnotherapist and had been for a few years before I became interested in HypnoBirthing. I initially specialised in hypnosis for fertility and set up Fertility2Birth with a colleague. With our combination of hypnosis experience and ten years’ work on a busy maternity unit, we then decided to write our very successful HypnoBirth programme. I now work with HypnoBirth couples regularly and train others in the HypnoBirth programme. I feel very lucky to be able to share the special journey of birth with so many couples as they bring new lives into the world.

What are the benefits of doing a HypnoBirth course?
We wouldn’t go out and drive a car without taking lessons first, so why do so many people go into labour unprepared? Taking a HypnoBirth course gives an education that allows the birthing mother to be truly in control of the birth of her baby, whether that is naturally, with help or by caesarean. The course also helps to alleviate any fears of childbirth and teaches pain-reducing techniques helping to achieve the best birth experience. Using Hypnosis to help with labour has been shown to reduce the length of the first stage of labour by hours and the second stage from an average of 50 minutes to 37 minutes, while babies born using hypnosis tend to be calmer, feed better, sleep better and experience less trauma. Scientific research has also shown that the babies usually have higher Agpar scores as well.

Does having a HypnoBirth mean pain relief can’t be used?
Not at all. Taking a HypnoBirth course is about learning techniques to help you have the birth that YOU want and not the birth you are expected to have. HypnoBirthing helps couples to feel empowered, so that they are comfortable to ask for what they want and not go along with what others want or suggest.

Can people only take a HypnoBirth course if they want a natural birth?
No. Although HypnoBirth courses help to achieve a natural birth – if that is what’s wanted – it is so much more. The birth knowledge is valuable for any type of birth and the hypnosis techniques can be used during birth, after birth or even at work!

What should I look for when choosing a HypnoBirth course?
There are some course providers that claim to be the original, the best or the only HypnoBirthing course. This is not true; hypnosis was first used by Greek physicians to ease the discomforts of childbirth in approximately 1000 B.C. There are many different HypnoBirthing courses available all with different names. Firstly I would make sure that the course you look at is a whole birth education; some practitioners will just teach hypnosis techniques. This is a fantastic start, but many HypnoBirth programmes are a complete antenatal programme and cover so much more for the same price. I would then check the course you have chosen manages expectations correctly (for example, not claiming it will teach you how to have a totally pain free birth. HypnoBirthing can achieve this, of course, but unrealistic expectations can result in the opposite effect). Finally I would suggest you call the HypnoBirthing practitioner so that you can make sure you get on; remember you will be sharing a very special part of your life with this person, so it’s important that you trust her.

How much does a HypnoBirth course cost?
This depends on the course and the area; expect to pay around £200 for a good course.

What if it doesn’t work?
HypnoBirth courses are about being in control and preparing for the birth of a baby in the best way possible. Although many couples choose to take the course because they do not want to use drugs for pain relief, or do not want any medical intervention, many people just want to be as prepared as possible. The majority of couples that I work with have births requiring no medical intervention and pain relief; however, some have had a little intervention. In these cases the couples have said they are so glad that they did the course as it allowed them to remain calm, relaxed and in control whilst there was a lot of drama going on around them.

Many people think that it won’t work for them; does it only work for some people?
Firstly, people should think about what they want to achieve. Are they looking for an orgasmic birth or a birth in which they are prepared, calm, completely in control and empowered? I cannot guarantee a pain-free birth, but I can guarantee that they can feel calm, in control and totally prepared. The HypnoBirth course is as much about birth preparation – containing a huge amount of birthing knowledge – as it is about pain reduction. This birth knowledge can never be taken away once learnt. Couples should treat it like they would any antenatal course, but know that this course is in a comfortable environment with personal care so that they can ask any questions they want without feeling silly. I find that many of my clients ask questions that they didn’t feel comfortable asking in the less intimate environment of other antenatal classes. We have the expertise on board to answer any questions asked.

There has been a lot of talk of couples. Is the course only for couples?
The course is designed for the birthing Mum and her birth partner (this does not have to be the father of the baby); however, it can be easily adapted for the birthing mum to do alone. Certain parts of the course require practise at home, but this can be done using CDs instead. This should however not stop soon-to-be Dads taking the course, too, as I find they really do enjoy it and the practice at home is often their favourite bit, helping to create intimate couple time before the baby comes along.


Juliet runs Fertility2Birth and offers her services to clients in the Farnham and London areas.

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