Hypnobirthing: Championing a Happy Birth Experience

We’ve covered some incredible birth stories on these pages and one area you readers seem to want to know more about is hypnobirthing. And as none of the team have experience of hypnobirthing ourselves, when Rebecca from Ted & Ginger sent us her hypnobirth story I jumped at the chance to feature it. Over to Rebecca.

There’s an informal caveat attached to childbirth: ‘Proceed with caution!’, ‘This is gonna hurt!’, ‘You’ll never have felt pain like it…!’ Be it hand-me-down tales from friends and relatives, melodramatic depictions in films or tricky real-life births on TV, the message is consistent – bringing a baby into the world is an arduous feat. The risk? It becomes a force-fed opinion, even before we’ve experienced childbirth for ourselves.


Helpful? Certainly not. True? Not necessarily – or at least it doesn’t have to be.


Expecting the worst has no benefit to a happy birth story. After all, fear feeds pain. So wouldn’t it be better to close our ears to the negatives and approach ‘labour day’ with optimism, or at least an open mind?

Allow me to put an alternative notion on the table: uncomplicated births can and should be a wonderful, painless experience. I know – I’ve been there, and recently. My little boy Teddy is just four months old, and bringing him into the world proved to be my most incredible adventure to date.

Deciding to have a hypnobirth

I haven’t always been so gung-ho about childbirth. Like a lot of newly pregnant women, my mind buzzed with questions in the early days. Top of the pile was, ‘How the hell am I going to do this?’ 

I was terrified. I don’t ‘do’ hospitals – watching Holby City makes me nauseous – and I’m a habitual worrier. ‘What if I can’t hack the pain/something goes wrong/I have a giant child that can’t get out…?’

I knew I needed to do something to set my mind at ease and spare myself nine months of anguish.

I’d heard a little about hypnobirthing before I fell pregnant – someone at my gym had tried it and a work contact sang its praises for helping her with the birth of her second child after a stressful experience with her first. Looking further into the theory of it, I quickly decided it was something I too could get on board with. Bonus: the team of midwives at the hospital I’d booked in to were all for it (read: it isn’t hippy nonsense).

I found an approved instructor teaching the Wise Hippo hypnobirthing programme in our local area and signed my husband Andy and I up to a course, starting when we would be 30 weeks pregnant.

Learning the lingo and altering perceptions

The course was split into four three-hour-long sessions and it’s incredible how much we learned in such a short amount of time.

Set aside visions of pocket-watch wafting, finger-clicking, ‘when you wake up you’re a rabbit’ scenarios. Hypnobirthing is a kosher means of self-hypnosis. We were taught to lull ourselves into a deep state of relaxation, with breathing techniques designed to help us stay relaxed even when labour ranked up a notch.

‘Pain’ was removed from our birthing vocabulary. ‘Contractions’ became ‘surges’, simply because the word has a softer sound. Birth plan pressures were washed away – forget about having a perfect birth, we were told, but focus on having a birth that feels right for you on the day. We were also taught how the skills we’d acquired could be applied to a birth that takes a direction we hadn’t wanted – a C-section or induction, for example. 

We heard positive birth stories, watched videos of hypnobirths in action and were set homework to regularly listen to a series of relaxation tracks, the aim being to flood our subconscious minds with happy thoughts pertaining to birth.

Fears and perceptions were addressed with basic biology. The female body is designed to effectively birth a baby, but it needs to be relaxed in order to do so. Switch off the thinking mind and go with the flow. We were taught to ‘hum’ rather than push our babies out, the emphasis being on listening to our bodies and trusting that they know what to do.

Sounds so simple, right? But it worked.

Meeting Teddy

One of the first tasks we were set on our hypnobirthing course was to write our ideal labour day. What would we like to do/eat/watch? So when my surges began at 3am, we set about it as planned.

I knew I wanted to labour at home for as long as possible (that hospital phobia still niggling) and thanks to our hypnobirthing practice Andy and I were able to ride out much of it on our own. We walked our dog, popped out for lunch (yes, really!), watched a movie, then switched on the relaxation tracks for the last few hours. 

By 5pm, the surges were gathering intensity and speed, but I was content breathing through them, Andy countering the pressure by pressing down on my lower back as our instructor had shown him. I envisaged each surge as a crashing wave calming to a millpond sea – the visualisation taking my mind off the sensation. As they reached the three in 10 minutes mark, it was time to pack up the car and head to hospital.

The rest is a blur – my mind was elsewhere in the final stages of labour, but I’m told I was smiling and even managed a little conversation at times. Within the space of two hours we were checked into the midwife-led-unit, I was examined and helped into the birthing pool, then Teddy gushed into the world, all 8lb 1oz of him.

It was surreal, intense and emotional, but not an experience I would describe as painful or at all distressing. I’d done it – and, one day, I’ll hypnobirth again. 

To read more about my hypnobirthing experience and journey into motherhood, please visit tedandginger.blogspot.co.uk.

Did you use hypnobirthing or are you planning to do so?

Image by Ben Yew Photography

The loves of Lisa’s life are Rich and their kids, Lyra and Jenson. Although she does wish they would let her have a shower in peace every once in a while.

16 Comments. Leave new

Great timing we’re half way through our hypnobirthing classes currently and I’m glad this positive birth movement seems to be spreading. A good friend used hypnobirthing last year and filled me all in and I was amazed at her story. I am nervous of labour and espesh is something was to become a complication so I’m doing my best to learn and embrace hypnobirthing to try and relax as much as possible. It’s not hippy at all, it’s almost like an extreme form of yoga breathing and visualisations. I’m thoroughly enjoying the magic carpet relaxation method and it helps me sleep better after I’ve used it!

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You’re so right! It is so similar to yoga. I really hope you find it useful

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I can’t recommend hypnobirthing enough. I was sceptical first time around and didn’t do it, but several lovely people on Instagram suggested it when I posted about my nightmares and birth trauma. I went on Amazon and bought a second hand set of Maggie Howell CDs for £6.50, absolutely brilliant value. The nightmares went, I stopped feeling sick thinking about history repeating itself and the birth itself was brilliant if a bit bonkers- I wrote about it here: http://www.rockmyfamily.co.uk/homebirth-precipitate-labour/

The one thing I would quibble with is please please make a birth roadmap. You do need to think about what you ideally want and don’t and write it down so that medical professionals know you want skin to skin, delayed cord clamp, Vitamin K injection, whatever. It’s not a plan or path you have to stick to, its a map of the route you would like to take, although you know there are other paths you might need to follow.

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Sounds like you had a great experience. Is just like to add that it’s never too late in your pregnancy to get into hypnobirthing. With my second pregnancy, I’d had a pretty positive induced birth with my first so didn’t feel the need to do hypnobirthing or prepare much at all. Fast forward to being 6 days over due with my second, having really irregular moderately painful contractions following a sweep, that felt like they were never going to progress, that I’d be in latent labour for ever, when a friend recommended I listened to a Katharine Graves hypnobirthing cd and take a bath. I did and found it extremely peaceful, even nodded off into a trance like state for an hour. Little did I know this had helped me through the toughest part of labour and I gave birth an hour later, only making it to hospital with 10minutes to spare! I was so relaxed in the car that I told my husband we’d probably be sent home from hospital, he ended up missing the birth because he was still parking the car!! So it’s never too late to give it a go and I’d recommend it to anyone.

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I’m a big fan of hypnobirthing! I did a course and found it so interesting and useful. The one thing I would say is – hypnobirthing isn’t a guarantee that you will have a natural, uncomplicated birth BUT it will put you in the best possible frame of mind, no matter what happens.

In my case, I ended up having a ventouse delivery with an epidural and lost 2.5 litres of blood afterward but, while that may sound crap, it was absolutely fine and I felt totally in control at all stages – which I credit mainly to hypnobirthing techniques. I breathed through contractions until I was 8cm dilated and then I could just tell from what my body was saying that things had changed and this wasn’t going to be straightforward, so I made decisions accordingly. But I felt calm and in control at all stages which was really nice!

A lot of people were sceptical when I said I was doing hypnobirthing but I think opinion is coming round that it really does work.

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I didn’t do the hypnobirthing classes but did read up about it and talked to friends who had done and found it really helpful to get myself into a really positive frame of mind in the run up to it! As you say, the constant top trumping of who had the worse birth and who was in labour for longest can make you really dread the experience so I found it really useful for creating my own little bubble where I could park other peoples experiences and focus on a positive outcome!

I’ve had three beautiful, amazing home birth experiences! I’d also definitely recommend home births if you are a low risk pregnancy and feel comfortable with the idea- in terms of creating a calm and focussed environment, being at home was entirely the right thing for us!

Great to hear such a positive and happy birth story- more people need to share these to try to debunk the myth that it’s garanteed to be horrendous!!!

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I’m so interested in this, it sounds amazing and if I have a third I definitely intend to try it! I really dislike how there is such a strong culture of fear and negativity around labour and birth – it’s alnost as if people take pleasure in spreading fear about it as well. I think as we live in such a medicalised society now birthing naturally is often dismissed as silly and unrealistic, leading a lot of mums to agree to unnecessary interventions (I’m not saying ALL interventions are unnecessary obviously) and a distressing experience. It would be nice to think that a new generation of midwives who witness some great hypnobirths will help to support and promote it more! X

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That’s great to hear. My midwives were so supportive of my decision and even held hypnobirthing classes at the hospital. Times are changing for the better, it seems

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I’m currently 27 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and after a rather traumatic first labour that ended in an emergency C Section, I’ve decided to use hypnobirthing techniques for my next birth, so it’s great to hear you had such a positive experience!
I’ve not attended any classes, but after reading two books and listening to various relaxation tracks, I have become almost evangelical about the whole thing! I really think it’s great that there seems to be a positive birth movement happening at the moment – and great that so many midwives are supportive of the idea. It was actually a senior midwife at my VBAC appointment who recommended I look into Hypnobirth, to help combat any negative feelings and fears I had from my previous birth.
I’m well aware that things don’t always go to plan, but I feel much more in control this time around, which in turn is making me much calmer in the build up, which can only be a good thing!

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It’s definitely a good thing! Stay positive 😊

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I gave birth to my daughter 9 weeks ago and used hypnobirthing as well. I was terrified of giving birth after hearing stories and being influenced by the media. However my view completely changed and I looked forward to the birth after doing the course. I had a great experience and although it wasn’t pain free it was very positive and this was down to hypnobirthing.

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I can’t recommend hypnobirthing highly enough. After a complicated, medicated labour first time round I was determined to feel more in control with baby two. Not that I was against having medication if it was needed I just felt I needed to feel like I was more in charge and aware of what was going on.

I attended hypnobirthing classes at our hospital and read the books and listen to the CDs religiously. Fast forward to labour two and it was completely different – firstly much much quicker; so much so that I didn’t make it to hospital but ended up giving birth in the back of the ambulance on the motorway en route!! However throughout it all I felt entirely in control, had no pain relief apart from a bit of gas and air at the end and distinctly remember “breathing him out”. It was an entirely different experience and one that in some odd way I actually enjoyed! Definitely recommend anyone considering it gives it a go xx

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It’s so amazing to read so many positive stories about Hypnobirthing (despite its rather off putting name!) I had such a great experience with it with my son, despite him being born by ventouse in the end, that I subsequently trained as a teacher (I am a lawyer by profession) and have just hypnobirthed my daughter into the birthing pool at home a few weeks ago! Every pregnant lady deserves to know how her body works in labour, what her choices are and to be armed with a toolbox of relaxation techniques.
Here’s me chatting some more about what you can expect from Hypnobirthing… http://www.rockmyfamily.co.uk/hypnobirthing-youve-always-wanted-ask/

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I totally agree and absolutely recommend Hypnobirthing – I think the name doesn’t do it justice as a lot of people think ‘hypno’ and think whacky but that’s just not the case.
I did the wise hippo training with my daughter and had a truly fantastic birth – Hypnobirthing didn’t take the pain away and yes it still hurts but it turns it into a manageable focused pain not something to be scared of. The crux of it is about hormones – being relaxed and in control releases endorphins which help oxygen reach the right places (your uterus) in theory, allowing for an easier quicker birth. Fear releases adrenaline- the flight or flight hormone – pulling oxygen away from from your uterus and sending it to your arms and legs (ready to fight or run) – your uterus tightens and birth becomes longer and more painful. At the end day you have nothing at all to lose by giving it a go!

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I am just loving reading all of these comments and stories about hypnobirthing and women having positive birth experiences. I’m a hypnobirthing instructor and first hand hypnobirthing mum to two boys. After using hypnobirthing for both of my births I just knew I had to train to become a hypnobirthing instructor. I am so passionate about people having great birth experiences, births that they felt they owned, felt empowered by. All women should feel prepared, confident and positive about birth. It is totally achievable if you know how. There are lots of misconceptions around hypnobirthing and with a name like hypnobirthing I’m really not surprised. But more women are becoming aware of hypnobirthing and the benefits it can offer. Helped by people like the unmumsy mum blogging about her hypnobirth, Giovanna Fletcher and apparently Kate Middleton used hypnobirthing. All influential mums. Excited to see Rock my family also spreading the word!

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