There's nothing hippy about hypnobirthing!

Drop your preconceptions about hypnobirthing on the delivery room floor: this practice is an effective antenatal course that just makes sense, explains Helen Bartrom.

“I really can't believe that I had my ideal birth! I keep re-living it because I felt so empowered by the experience!”

“Birthing was truly the most empowering and immersive experience I could ever imagine. I am so grateful we got to experience it the way we did and my wish is for every woman to know that she can have an  overwhelmingly positive experience like we did.”

How often have you heard women talk about birth as being as exhilarating, amazing, enjoyable, exciting and empowering as new mums Annaliese and Jess do, above?

Your answer may be 'never'! That's because most of us have been exposed to birth scenes on TV which show the drama of screaming, labouring women trying to cope with agonising pain. Also, when you're pregnant, it can feel like everyone you meet seems to have a horror story to tell about birth.

However in reality birth is not always about women screaming in pain and men acting like hapless spare parts in the labour room. All you need to do is log onto the HypnoBirthing® Channel on YouTube to see for yourself! Beautifully calm and relaxed mothers birthing their babies in a tranquil manner. Their partners are also calm, chilled and supportive.

So what exactly is hypnobirthing? In a nutshell, it is a very successful and pragmatic programme that teaches couples to prepare for a more relaxed, confident and comfortable birth. Couples learn relaxation techniques, breathing, affirmation, visualisation tools and how to release fear and doubt, alongside positive information about birth.

There’s nothing hippy, 'woo woo' or alternative about it. Put simply, it just makes sense. Celebrities and royalty are turning to it to help them with their births: Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has used the program for all three of her babies’ births, while Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has just started the programme. Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba and model Gisele Bündchen all turned to hypnobirthing in their pregnancies. It’s becoming more widely recognised in the mainstream as an effective antental course.

The philosophy of the program is that childbirth is a natural normal healthy function that can be achieved gently and calmly by a large percentage of women. By letting go of fear –that causes the body to respond with tension and pain, women enter into birth calm, confident, relaxed. Because they’re not fearful and not tense the body is free to process the birth, just like it processes any other normal physiological function. When the mind is free of fear, the body is free of tension and pain.

The results of practising the techniques during pregnancy are more relaxed mothers (and fathers/birth partners!) who are confident and excited about birthing and meeting baby. This in turn is likely to result in more relaxed babies. A baby who has developed and grown within a calm mother is more likely to be a relaxed happy baby who feeds and sleeps easier. We all know the benefits of an easier baby - it’s a much nicer way to start life as a parent!

The science backs the claims up with statistics from the USA (where the program originated) showing how mothers who use HypnoBirthing® are far less likely to need any intervention and greatly reduce the need for a caesarean. Approximately 70% of mothers using HypnoBirthing® need no pain relief.1

Using hypnosis – essentially a natural state of relaxation, will also equate in a shorter birth. Studies have shown that for first time mothers using hypnosis and relaxation the first stage of labour averages about 3 hours quicker than mothers not using these techniques. The second stage of labour (birthing) is reduced by almost half.

Once baby has arrived the tools and techniques are also exceptionally useful when coping with the demands of a newborn as well as for the stresses that naturally come as a part of the parenting journey. Hypnobirthing isn’t just about natural birth either – it’s useful and relevant for any circumstance you might face in your journey to meet baby. Couples are also encouraged to use the skills taught in many other situations in life including work, sports, and areas of conflict.

A few mothers I’ve taught have had needle phobias and found that the skills learnt in the Hypnobirthing course helped to overcome intense fear of the routine blood tests required in pregnancy. But the best part of my day is receiving feedback from so many parents about how the course has changed the way they approach birth and how it has enabled them to have a very positive birth experience.

Helen Bartrom is a certified hypnobirthing instructor and director of Auckland's Positive Births, and has empowered over 800 couples towards a more positive birth since 2007. See for inspiring birth stories.

  1. Source:HypnoBirthing® Outcomes USA 2005-2010, HypnoBirthing® Institute,

Jenkins and Pritchard found a reduction of 3 hours for prim gravid women (from 9.3 hours to 6.4 hours) and 1 hour for multi gravid women (from 6.2 hours to 5.3 hours) for active labour (262 subjects and 600 controls). Pushing was statistically shorter for first time mothers (from 50 min to 37 min).

Source: Jenkins, M.W., & Pritchard, M.H. 
Hypnosis: Practical applications and theoretical considerations in normal labour. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 100(3), 221-226, 1993.




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