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Does hypnobirthing work?

The NHS have set out new plans to train more midwives in hypnobirthing across the UK. Our midwife Anna explains why encouraging women to learn about different labour techniques is a good idea.

Tommy's midwives blog, by Anna, Tommy’s midwife

The NHS have recently announced plans to train more midwives in hypnobirthing across the UK, but what is Hypnobirthing? And why do celebrities such as Fearne Cotton swear by it?

Hypnobirthing is a pain relief technique whereby women use a mixture of self-hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques to overcome pain in labour. It encourages women to achieve a measure of relaxation during their labour. 

As a midwife, I know that the science behind hypnobirthing hasn’t yet been fully proven. A recent-ish randomised study (2013), funded by the NHS, of 680 women had inconclusive results, and reported that ‘the impact of women's anxiety and fear about childbirth needs further investigation.’ 

Yet…I would positively encourage any mum who took an interest to find out more and read about it or take classes if they want to. Any techniques that empower a birthing woman and give her a toolbox for pregnancy and labour will help with wellbeing. Pregnancy is stressful, and labour and birth are stressful. Managing stress hormones like adrenaline help reduce fear and pain during labour. We want birthing women to feel safe, secure and nurtured at this extraordinary time of their lives, ideally saturated with the so called 'love hormone', oxytocin.

Often we spend more time researching a holiday, new car or mortgage than focusing on our needs in pregnancy and birth and the needs of our unborn baby. Each birth is a unique and profound life event. Sometimes the ideal environment for birth isn’t available or maybe birth doesn’t go according to plan but hypnobirthing can become even more valuable in these scenarios and in my experience as a midwife of being with women, they feel more able to cope if they've had an opportunity to prepare for birth.

It's not rocket science, it's about you. Learning breathing techniques has long been part of women’s antenatal classes. Hypnobirthing takes this and adds relaxation and self-hypnosis that are intended to let you concentrate on your body and the birth of your baby. It is positive, simple and applicable to everyone and you don't need expensive training courses. There is a wealth of information online, in books and on CDs. Look in your local library.

If you are looking for classes. hypnobirthing is not available on the NHS so you will have to pay privately for classes. You can find a teacher qualified through a RCM accredited hypnotherapy training course here.

Read more about pain relief in pregnancy