What is hypnobirthing? Katharine Graves answers the three most asked questions. 

These are the three questions I am most often asked. They appear very simple and straightforward and are what anyone would want to know, but for me they are the hardest to answer.

What is hypnobirthing? 

The word hypnobirthing is used by many people in different ways. It is sometimes used by a hypnotherapist who has done a general training that included a session on hypnosis for birth and who will offer an hour or two’s consultancy during pregnancy. There are other short courses which give techniques that can be used in labour. I can only answer for KG Hypnobirthing which is the largest organisation in the UK.

what is hypnobirthing?
Photo by Daria Shevtsova

KG Hypnobirthing is a complete antenatal training programme. It is simple, logical and profound. Perhaps the most surprising word I used is ‘logical’. People are sometimes put off by the word ‘hypno’ and imagine they are going to meet tree-hugging hippies sitting cross-legged on beanbags and chanting. Nothing could be further from the truth. At every step of the way in hypnobirthing we give you sound logic to back up what you learn about how your body and hormones work, and we give you the tools to have the best birth for you. Hypnobirthing is the only thing that I know of that really makes a difference to a woman’s experience of birth.

Fathers come to the course full of scepticism, as do some mothers. And why shouldn’t they be sceptical? Scepticism is entirely justified. Until they come, they don’t know how complete and profound the course is. When presented with logic, sometimes more logic than is found anywhere else, you can almost feel them breathing a palpable sigh of relief. By the time they leave, they are the staunchest advocates of hypnobirthing and extol its virtues to every expectant couple they meet.

The best way to answer the question is to read the birth stories of the many women and their partners who have benefitted from a hypnobirthing course, and from the many midwives who understand the difference it makes.

“Your course was really informative, balanced, and in my view had the right mix of sciences, experience, common sense and wisdom. So thank you very much for that. We left the seminar inspired and happy.”

What do you do? 

What is Hypnobirthing?The simple answer is that we do breathing exercises, visualisations and relaxations, but these have been available for pregnant women for over 60 years in many forms. All those are good, but they don’t on their own have the same effect that hypnobirthing does. So what is different? I have thought about this a great deal, and I believe there are four things:

i. Fear. The father of natural childbirth in modern times, Grantly Dick Read, developed the principle that the whole problem is fear. Fear causes tension. When we are tense our muscles don’t work so well. When her muscles are not working efficiently and easily when giving birth a woman experiences pain. In our society everyone ‘knows’ that birth is painful. Most people’s only experience of birth comes from the television or the movies, where birth is always portrayed as a traumatic and painful experience. So however much a pregnant woman is looking forward to having her baby, there is the fear at the back of her mind that it will be a painful experience, because that is how she has been programmed.

what is hypnobirthingHowever much she practises relaxations, that fear will still be there. In the story of The Princess and the Pea, however many mattresses were placed on top of the pea, the princess could still not sleep comfortably because the pea was always there. Fear is similar. Until you remove the fear, the cause of the pain remains. Hypnobirthing does effective work to release the fear so that a woman can enjoy a positive pregnancy and her body can work efficiently and easily when giving birth.

ii. Fathers. The father or birth companion is extremely important. Without exception all authorities state that the best way of giving birth is with the support of a known and trusted midwife. The caricature of the father at a birth shows him feeling frightened, not understanding what is going on, holding the mother’s hand and wishing he could help but not knowing what to do, and feeling responsible for seeing his partner in pain.

what is hypnobirthingAll fathers come to a hypnobirthing class saying they want information and knowledge, so a hypnobirthing father is well informed. He has practised with his partner in the weeks before the birth and he knows how to support her. He is a massive asset in the birthing room, and he provides the continuity that is not available in any other way.

iii. Practice. The practice that a woman or a couple does before the birth is vital. All the best birth reports I receive tell me that the couple practised together regularly. We only ask the couple to do 15 minutes a day, to ask more would be unrealistic in their busy and interesting lives, and the practice is simple and clearly defined. It is like learning to play a musical instrument. If you go to the lessons regularly you will progress, but if you do the practice in between you will progress much faster. With hypnobirthing this is important.

iv. Relaxation. The relaxations we do in hypnobirthing are deeper and more focused than you might find elsewhere. They are extremely effective and, when practised regularly, have a cumulative effect ready for when you give birth.

How does it work? 

hypnobirthingHypnobirthing works effectively, gently and naturally. It is a grassroots revolution. This revolution started with mothers, was taken up by midwives, and has permeated the whole of the country and the National Health Service. The reason that it has had such a profound effect so quickly is that it works.

As one midwife said,

“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s how every birth should be.”

Katharine GravesKatharine Graves is the founder of KGHypnobirthing and the Hypnobirthing Association. She teaches Hypnobirthing to parents- to-be and trains people to become Hypnobirthing Practitioners with her RCM Accredited KG Hypnobirthing Teacher Training course. For more information please visit http://www.kghypnobirthing.com

childbirth education