The term ”Hypnobirthing” is probably a little off-putting to many mums to be, after all, labour can be a scary enough prospect.
For many, the thought of ‘being hypnotised’ while giving birth is such a bizarre concept that they run a mile! And those who don’t know about how hypnosis works may have their own ideas, often very far from the truth. If I didn’t know the facts about how hypnobirthing really works, I too would be saying “no thanks, just give me the pain relief drugs!”
In fact, Hypnobirthing isn’t about ‘being hypnotised’ at all, it is about allowing the mother to be in control by teaching her (and her partner) specific relaxation and breathing techniques. The more control a mother has over the situation, the lower the levels of pain she experiences.
Hypnobirthing aims to remove fear, working on the principle that fear increases pain.
Pain is a complex experience. It is not just a message from injured body tissues, it is a sensation made by the brain.
When you hurt yourself, a message from the injured body tissue travels through a complex set of nerves, and through your spinal cord and is registered in the brain as pain. The brain can tell the nerves how sensitive they need to be, so when a person is anxious, the brain might request more information from the nerves, forcing them to be more sensitive. Alternatively, if a person is relaxed, the brain may do the exact opposite.
What is important to remember is that we only feel what our brain allows us to feel.
Many years ago as a student nurse, the first thing we were taught about pain was “Pain is what the patient says it is” meaning that every persons experience and perception of pain is different. There is no ‘one rule fits all’ with pain. If two similar people had the same injury, both of their perceptions of the pain they experienced would be entirely different.
This is because that message of pain registers differently in different peoples brains.
Similarly, you can see that the experience of pain in labour is going to be entirely different for each woman.
Hypnobirthing works by filling the mothers subconscious brain with positive images and associations of birth.
At this point we need to understand that the conscious part of the brain (responsible for being aware of pain) will believe what the subconscious part tells it, even if reason tells it otherwise.
The brain, therefore, accepts the positive messages over those delivered to it by the nervous system, and pain does not register in the brain in the same way.
Will I still need pain relief drugs?
As much as pain is an individual experience, the answer to this question is equally dependant on the individual. The success of the technique is largely related to the amount of preparation you put in. It is not a ‘quick fix’ technique that you can just simple pick up and use on the day, it takes several weeks of practicing and perfecting the technique prior to the big day.
Of course, there are also factors related to childbirth which cannot be planned for which may require pain relief drugs.
It is important to remember that the aim of hypnobirthing is not a completely pain free, perfect birth, but rather a birth which is calmer and more comfortable, where the mother feels more in control.
Use of the Hypnobirthing technique does come at a cost, both in money and time, so, in practical terms, it is not for everybody. At this time, hypnobirthing courses are not provided by the NHS, although, like with everything, this may well change in time. However, it seems that if you are willing to invest in it, the results can be fantastic.