What is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing offers techniques that can help you feel calmer and more in control during labour. Some people say it helps with labour pain, too. Find out what it involves.

Hypnobirthing is a method of pain management that can be used during labour and birth. It is a mixture of visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques. The aim is to help you feel calmer, more in control, and better able to cope with labour pain.

Breathing exercises have long been part of antenatal classes. Hypnobirthing takes these and adds relaxation, visualisation and mindfulness techniques to put you in a deep state of calm and conscious awareness.

This helps you avoid distractions, so you can focus solely on your body and your baby, and feel better about labour and birth. 

Hypnobirthing can be used with all other types of pain relief and be added to your birth preference plan.

What are the methods and techniques used in hypnobirthing?

There are a few techniques you can try. These include:

Controlled breathing

Breathing deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth, may help you feel more in control and better able to cope during labour without medical pain relief.

Watch ‘How can I use breathing exercises during labour?’ from the NHS.


This is where you form an image of something pleasant in your mind to help you cope with labour. It can be a certain place, or maybe something more obscure, like a feeling or scenario.

For example, you could think of a flower opening with each wave of labour, or  picture what it will feel like to hold your baby skin to skin after they have been born. Think of it as a way to help you feel more prepared and confident.

"I just kept breathing and focused on anything I could find, which ended up being a clean flannel!"

Louise. Read more about her experience...

Deep relaxation

Deep relaxation is a kind of meditation technique. It can help you hone in on your body and baby during labour and block out any extra noise or things going on around you.

"My husband made me a relaxation album to use throughout labour and pregnancy. It really helped me to find calm serenity in the clinical hospital environment."

Georgina. Read more about her experience...

Pregnancy and birth affirmations

Affirmations or mantras can help you change your mindset so that giving birth feels more empowering than overwhelming. Putting this spin on the experience may help you relax and feel more in control.

Changing the words you use can also help. Try using ‘surge’ or ‘wave’, instead of ‘contraction’. 

Affirmations to try include:

  • ‘I am calm, I am confident, I am happy.’
  • ‘I can do this, we can do this, let’s do this!’
  • ‘I will welcome my baby with peace, love and joy.’
  • ‘Each surge that I have brings me closer to meeting my baby.’

How often should I practise hypnobirthing techniques?

Some practise a few times a day, while others do it 2 to 3 times a week. Either way, fit your practice in when you can while you’re pregnant, so that you feel the full effects during labour.

Does hypnobirthing work?

Research has shown that hypnobirthing can help to reduce fear and pain, and offers an increased sense of control during labour. It can also help with anxiety, and reduce the need for medical interventions, for an improved birth experience. 

Here are some of the reasons that you might choose to try hypnobirthing:

  • Hypnobirthing can help you manage stress and reduce anxiety, which may lead to a calmer birth. During labour, your body creates a chemical called oxytocin, which helps progress your labour. Stress hormones affect the production of oxytocin. This can make your labour longer.
  • Getting a handle on your stress may also help to reduce some of the fear and pain during labour. 
  • In some cases, hypnobirthing and using relaxation techniques have been shown to make labour shorter.
  • Practising hypnobirthing, whether it is at a class, with a book or online, may help you to feel more prepared and in control when labour starts. 
  • It may help you cope with worry if you had a previous traumatic birth experience.
  • Hypnobirthing may reduce the need for drugs and medical intervention, although not all studies have found this. You can use hypnobirthing techniques along with other methods of pain relief if you want to.
  • It can be added to any birth preference plan and the techniques can be used whether you give birth in a hospital, a birth centre, or at home.
  • Hypnobirthing may be good for you after birth too. Some studies show it may increase your sense of wellbeing as a new parent.
  • Hypnobirthing can help your birth partner to play a more active role during labour.

"I found helping my partner give birth using hypnobirthing very rewarding. Learning the techniques meant I was able to talk her through the wave of each contraction, reminding her to stay focused and relaxed and that she was in control of the experience. It made so much difference being able to do something positive during her labour and to see her managing the pain herself."

Nigel. Read more about Nigel's hypnobirthing experience...

Are there disadvantages to hypnobirthing?

Practising hypnobirthing does not mean your labour will go smoothly. Although, learning to relax and stay calm may help you feel more in control if things do not go to plan. 

Hypnobirthing can be so relaxing, a midwife may think you are at an earlier stage of labour than you are. When you are in active labour, and talking to them on the phone or in person, be clear that you are using hypnobirthing techniques. 

Most hypnobirthing classes and courses are run privately, and can be quite costly. There are plenty of free hypnobirthing podcasts and courses online, though. In some areas of the UK, NHS classes are run by midwives, as part of their antenatal care. 

As with any practice it takes time to master the techniques. If you do not practise it often, you may not get as much from it as you had hoped. 

"We read a book and listened to audio meditation tapes but they didn’t work as we really didn’t commit any time to it."


How do I learn more about hypnobirthing?

There are books on hypnobirthing, and plenty of online resources you can search for, such as apps, videos and podcasts, to learn about it.

If you can, join a class for more tailored support. These can be either online or in person. Classes tend to be taught in small groups, but some teachers offer one-to-one lessons too.

Have a look for an accredited hypnobirthing teacher, or check with your midwife or local maternity services, to see who offers classes near you.

"We did a short course at the hospital. We mainly did it because I was worried I would freak out and lose control, and to ensure me and my husband had full roles to play in the birth."


You do not have to bring your birth partner with you to class, but it’s a good idea. Hypnobirthing has been developed with them in mind too. It can give them a more active role during your labour.

As well as relaxation, breathing and visualisation techniques, you will also learn what happens to your body during labour.

One of the aims of the classes is to give you and your birth partner the time and space to build confidence and prepare for labour. This can also help you decide what you want, such as where and how you want to give birth.

"I gave birth with zero pain relief to a 8lb 13oz-er! Used a birthing ball, TENS machine and birth pool as natural pain relief. I didn't attend any classes, just bought a book and seriously read up on it."


Top tip

There are lots of free resources that can help you with hynobirthing. You can check for free apps on your phone or visit your local library to find hypnobirthing books. 

Badaoui A, Kassm SAet al (2019) Fear and Anxiety Disorders Related to Childbirth: Epidemiological and Therapeutic Issues. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019 Mar 12;21(4):27. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-1010-7.,

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NCT. Hypnobirthing: where to start. Available at: https://www.nct.org.uk/labour-birth/getting-ready-for-birth/hypnobirthing-where-start (Page last reviewed: March 2021) Accessed: 6 April 2023

NICE (2023) Intrapartum care: NICE guideline 235. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng235 

Walter MH, Abele H et al (2021) The Role of Oxytocin and the Effect of Stress During Childbirth: Neurobiological Basics and Implications for Mother and Child. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021 Oct 27;12:742236. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2021.742236.

Review dates
Reviewed: 07 February 2024
Next review: 07 February 2027