In my world, hypnobirthing is just a fancy word for ‘a positive birth experience.’ Plain and simple. But I recognise that I have lived and breathed hypnobirthing for 4 years, and while its principles and values make absolute sense to me, not everyone is going to be on the same page. For some, the ‘hypno’ in Hypnobirthing evokes feelings of unease and hesitance about even embracing hypnobirthing as a means of birth preparation. If this rings true for you, this blog is for you. First, I am going to demystify the ‘hypno’ in hypnobirthing and explain how it can be applied to birthing with amazing outcomes. Then, I am going to unpack ten common hypnobirthing myths and set the record straight.
What’s with the ‘hypno’ in hypnobirthing?
In the Hypnobirthing Australia™ program, hypnotherapy is used to:
- help remove fears or reservations a mother and their birth partner may have about the birth process
- help create a positive mindset
- condition a mother to relax and release endorphins (nature’s very own pain relief, relaxant and bonding hormone)
Mothers essentially learn to hypnotise themselves by listening to beautiful self-hypnosis albums that have been created with an Australian accent. They are encouraged to listen to these albums throughout their pregnancy; preparing their mind and body for birth. Come their special day, mothers are able to experience the power of the mind/body connection, which in turn helps her have a more calm and positive birth.
As an aside, Hypnobirthing Australia™ also offers a range of albums for breastfeeding and other areas in life such as sleep, stress & anxiety and abundance.
What is hypnotherapy?
It refers to the scientifically tested use of hypnosis for therapeutic reasons. Many have used it to quit smoking, lose weight, or manage pain. Today, mothers use it for birth.
What is hypnosis?
With its use being traced back 2500 years, hypnosis guides you into a state of relaxation and directs positive messages, imagery, breathing and relaxation techniques to the subconscious mind.
This relaxed state is when your subconscious mind is more open to suggestion, helping to override any flawed beliefs surrounding birth with more positive and desirable beliefs, which then have a more positive effect on your birth.
So when you think of the words hypnosis, hypnotherapy and being hypnotised – where does your mind take you? Do these words trigger feelings of being unsettled or scared because of the association with giving someone power or control over you and your mind? Do you picture a swinging pendulum and think of being made to cluck like a chicken (thanks in part to magic shows and movies)?! Or is there a part of you that thinks hypnobirthing is a mumbo-jumbo fad for hippies?
It’s really time to bust some myths then because I promise you – hypnobirthing is not only backed by science, it is also rather mainstream!
Myth 1. You have to give up control of your mind.
I promise you will have full control over your mind. In hypnobirthing, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
When using hypnotherapy or hypnosis, you decide how far into hypnosis you go. You will only ever take on what you are comfortable taking on. If something is said that does not sit well with you, your subconscious will wake you out of the hypnosis as it is not aligned with what you signed up for or may even go against your personal views.
Self-hypnosis is an everyday occurrence and a natural state of the mind.
Think of that zone you are in when watching a movie, drifting in and out of sleep; or even when you are reading a book, gardening, painting, cooking or driving. You can snap out of every single one of those concentrations whenever you want. No one has control over you. You even have the ability to selectively tune out distractions, which can be very beneficial during labour.
It is when a woman approaches birth unaware of her birth options or unsupported that she feels disempowered throughout the birth. Approaching birth with fear creates tension, pain and a desire to escape… and it is all of these feelings that can make birth feel out of her control.
So here’s my request of you.
Why not consider that the hypnosis in hypnobirthing actually puts all the control back in your hands. Imagine the benefits of hypnosis working hand-in-hand with a range of other tools to help you relax, maintain a positive mindset, make informed decisions and unapologetically own your birth.
Now that’s control!
Myth 2. Hypnobirthing is for hippies.
Hypnosis and other relaxation tools only really make up part of the Hypnobirthing Australia™ program. Just because parents are preparing for birth in a different way doesn’t make them hippies.
During my hypnobirthing classes, the focus is on providing an education about birth as a natural process. And believe it or not- the brain is the most important organ during birth. You will discover how your hormones help you birth safely, with ease and pleasure, and how fear affects birth. You’ll also learn, amongst other things, about medical interventions, your birth options and what is conducive to a physiological birth.
The Hypnobirthing Australia™ program is the most modern, up-to-date and evidence-based childbirth education program in Australia. Its content is always changing to suit the latest evidence and includes research from:
- Cochrane studies
- Dr Sarah Buckley
- Dr Rachel Reed
- Sara Wickham
- Ina May Gaskin
- Dr Kate Levett
- Prof Hannah Dahlen
- … and many more!
There is nothing hippyish about Hypnobirthing. Its principles and teachings are very much grounded in science and it welcomes mamas of all stripes!
Myth 3. It’s not a hypnobirth if you opt for drugs.
A majority of women that come along to my Hypnobirthing Australia™ classes have the desire to approach birth as naturally as possible, and I believe that hypnobirthing gives them the best prep for this. Women also discover, through my hypnobirthing classes, that they actually have choices in birth; and one of those choices is to have pain relief or not.
My classes are 100% supportive of a mother’s choice and are known for their open-mindedness. There is no right or wrong way to give birth and I believe it would be inhumane to judge a mother who opts for drugs. Yes, research does prove that drugs can introduce risks to both mother and baby; however, hypnobirthing works hand-in-hand with pain relief – helping to ensure a more informed, safer and positive birth experience.
That doesn’t imply failure at all! You can never fail at birth.
Myth 4. Hypnobirthing guarantees a pain-free birth.
There are women out there who speak of having pain-free births. Some have said that their births were pleasurable thanks to hypnobirthing. I’ve even heard from women who have given birth before speak of their subsequent births being a lot less painful. But this is not an expectation I like to put on mothers and I don’t guarantee it!
It’s the “approaching birth with fears or reservations” that you do not want. This will trigger the fight or flight response which then causes the uterus muscles to start working against each other creating tension, pain and may even slow labour down.
In my classes, I place the emphasis on women discovering tools and techniques to help them relax, remain calm and positive and to trust and work with their bodies, not against them.
When a mother is birthing in an environment that is conducive to a physiological birth, her body will automatically release endorphins which are mother nature’s own pain relief and relaxant. Did you know research suggests that endorphins are to be up to 40 times more powerful than morphine? Oxytocin is another hormone that is released; enabling the birthing body to do what it is designed to do and to stay on track. We are definitely well equipped for birth. But I shan’t go into much more detail about hormones as I cover them in class, and really shouldn’t let the cat out of the bag!
Hypnobirthing also provides mothers with an education about what is happening inside of her. She finds the purpose behind surges (contractions) which helps to change the perception around pain and provides her with confidence. In the end, every woman and every birth is different and my classes are about being prepared to ride the waves of your own birth journey!
Oh and just while we are talking about pain, don’t ever think that because you have a low pain threshold or have suffered from menstrual cramps that hypnobirthing will not help you. Hypnobirthing helps you to reframe this belief.
Myth 5. You are not hypnobirthing if you have an induction, epidural or a caesarean.
Some may think that if they were to end up needing an induction, epidural or caesarean… that the time and money invested in a hypnobirthing class would have been wasted. Others may even feel like they have failed at hypnobirthing – feeling guilty that they needed medical intervention or that hypnobirthing didn’t work.
My hypnobirthing classes are not about making women think or feel this way. The knowledge and tools you gain from my classes can be used both in a vaginal and a caesarean birth. If anything, hypnobirthing can work best when special circumstances are involved.
Hypnobirthing is about mothers having access to tools to relax and to create a positive mindset. It is about becoming aware of their options and making informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and birth. If their pregnancy or birth was to take a turn, my clients go in feeling informed and part of the decision-making process, which in return makes for a positive birth experience with no regrets.
Hypnobirthing is about meeting your birth with an open mind and heart; knowing you gave you and your baby the best birth possible regardless of special circumstances that presented in the moment.
Myth 6. Hypnobirthing is only for home births.
When a birthing mother feels calm, undisturbed and safe- this is conducive to a physiological birth. This is why I am a big believer that mum should be given the choice to birth wherever she wants. It doesn’t matter where she gives birth and uses hypnobirthing. She is most likely going to choose to birth where she feels safe which is all that matters to her and the birth process.
In today’s medical maternity system, with the way we are conditioned to think about birth and because of the conditions in which we give birth in (hospitals or an unfamiliar birthing environment), some women may find it harder to enter that relaxed state. For this reason, the home can be the perfect condition for birth.
But you can harness the essence of hypnobirthing in any type of setting. With the use of hypnosis and other hypnobirthing tools, however, mothers are equipped to get themselves into that relaxed state, access their primal instincts, tune out to any distractions and allow the body to do what it is designed to do.
Myth 7. You should do only the ‘original’ hypnobirthing program.
I see this spoken about a lot on social media posts. “It is best to do the ‘original’ hypnobirthing program.” as in the first program to name their program ‘hypnobirthing’.
Hypnosis for childbirth was actually first introduced by English obstetrician Dr Grantly Dick Read, author of Childbirth Without Fear. He used hypnosis in his antenatal classes and while attending a mother’s birth. Although he didn’t call his classes ‘hypnobirthing’, he was the first to bring hypnosis into childbirth education and the birthing space. His teachings, theories and philosophies form the foundations of the Hypnobirthing Australia™ program.
There are plenty of independent childbirth education classes around today. I believe out of all courses, it is important that you choose the one with a childbirth mentor that you truly connect with.
Myth 8. It is safer, easier and more mainstream to do a guided meditation.
Self-hypnosis can be very similar to a guided meditation. In fact, some would argue that there is no difference between the two. I do see a few differences though but if hypnosis still worries you, think of it as a guided meditation.
A lot of guided meditation is actually self-hypnosis! It is just not called that because of the myths surrounding hypnosis. So they market themselves as guided meditations to avoid that negative perception of hypnosis!
I believe they are similar in the way that they guide you to that level of relaxation where you are open to suggestion. Hypnosis, however, is about changing your behaviours and beliefs with a specific goal in mind. Meditation, on the other hand, is more about relaxing your mind, body and emotions. This helps you to release stress and become more focused and mindful in life.
Myth 9. Birth partners see hypnobirthing as airy-fairy mumbo jumbo.
Hypnobirthing offers birth partners the knowledge and tools to better support the mother and to be more involved during the birth. Unfortunately, some birth partners have trouble believing this and are reluctant to come along to class. Some may be of the belief that hypnobirthing is airy-fairy or even a fad.
From my perspective though, the fact that your birth partner will see you walk away calm, positive and confident about yourself and birth process is absolutely priceless. The fact that they too will walk away feeling the same is priceless for the mum. I have had many birth partners become the biggest advocates for hypnobirthing. The classes are so down-to-earth, easy to learn and practical for them. They go away truly understanding the importance of their role; knowing that they have a purpose – contrary to what a lot of their friends may have told them.
Many mothers report that they finish class feeling closer to their partners and their birth preferences understood by them. I always see many partners’ head nodding as they experience the ah-ha moments and realise what hypnobirthing really is about.
To speak truthfully- we also shouldn’t have to make decisions about our bodies just to ease the fears of our birth partners. So if your partner does not want to come along or does not want you to do it- then just bring someone else that is supportive or come by yourself. You will never be alone as you will always have your baby and I will make sure you will always feel involved, supported and comfortable.
Myth 10. My caregivers won’t be supportive of me using hypnobirthing.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to communicate with your caregiver about the birth you want, any preferences that you have and that you will be hypnobirthing.
If you are someone that finds it hard to speak up and are worried that you will be putting someone out, don’t worry! When you attend my classes, you will learn to speak confidently about your birth and what you want. Hypnobirthing Australia™ classes help mothers to build a relationship with their caregivers so that everyone is on the same page. It helps mothers confidently ask questions, and creates an environment where your communication becomes a two-way conversation. This helps women make informed decisions and give informed consent. This is what contributes to a more positive and empowering birth.
So many caregivers are becoming increasingly familiar with hypnobirthing, and a local GP Ob even told me recently that my hypnobirthing classes have made it so much easier for him. I have had midwives at the local public hospital say that they fight over the hypnobirthing couples too! This doesn’t surprise me – who wouldn’t want to be part of a positive birth?
Always remember it is your birth journey and you do have choices and rights in birth. This includes finding a caregiver that will support you. No one will want to enjoy your birth and make it special as much as you ever will. You unapologetically own it!
I hope my blog has been a helpful myth buster for you!
My name is Melissa Ayling and I am a Hypnobirthing Australia™ practitioner and birth doula. Over the years, I have enjoyed sharing this wonderful program with many women and their partners from Geraldton and rural Western Australia. If hypnobirthing is something you have been thinking about, please feel free to take a wander around my website. In it, you will find lots of information and birth stories that inspire. And please don’t think twice about reaching out. I’d be honoured to be a part of your journey.