Since I like being prepared and that definitely goes for giving birth, I looked into hypnobirthing during this second pregnancy. Being 39 weeks pregnant now, I cannot tell my actual experience with the hypnobirthing techniques during labour just yet. But as I often got questions about what hypnobirthing was when I told people I’d take a class, I want to share some facts about it here and what my experiences have been so far.
During my first pregnancy, I (resp. we) did pregnancy yoga, a breastfeeding workshop, and a ‘giving birth together’ class. Watching some home birth videos towards the end of my pregnancy, I came across hypnobirthing. There was a woman who’s mother was a hypnobirthing instructor, and she gave birth at home, all quiet and peacefully in a bath. I was already way too pregnant to book a class though. And as understanding and cooperative husband had been so far with all the classes I dragged him to, I knew adding another one would probably mean pushing my luck.
I had a positive birth experience in the end, and felt like the (breathing) techniques I had learned with pregnancy yoga had contributed to that. Nevertheless, the idea of learning about hypnobirthing for a smooth birth stuck with me and I decided I’d give it a try with my second pregnancy. The greater part of my first birth went smoothly, but I clearly remember two moments where I kind of panicked, thinking I couldn’t manage after all. Thoughts like that are just the opposite of what you need in that situation. So I hope that practicing hypnobirthing and knowing how to positively influence my thoughts and steer them in another direction will help me the next time around. In short, here’s what hypnobirthing is about:
- Using hypnosis for a smooth labour. Hypnosis basically stands for a form of concentration, a state of consciousness. You focus on your own thoughts and shut out anything around you to submerge into your own world, just like when you’re reading a good book that takes you somewhere else and makes you forget about the things happening around you. A technique that you practice is visualization. You visualize memories and thoughts of a nice and peaceful place. Repeatedly doing so will make it easier to go to that place in your mind during labour.
- Hypnosis uses the power of the mind to influence the body and get it to relax, and that’s why it’s a good tool to have during labour, as being relaxed can smooth the process. In theory, if you’re in a focused and calm state of mind, that signals to your body that you’re safe and good to go ahead with giving birth, rather than shutting down because you’re in a state of fear or even panic.
- For some people, relaxation is easy to achieve, for instance if they practice yoga or meditation. I am usually quite busy with multiple things at a time. My relaxation moments of the day would take place on my bike ride to and back from work and that’s about it. So it made sense to me to practice how to more consciously get into a relaxed state of mind.
- The techniques you learn with hypnobirthing are: Breathing techniques to get relaxed, and to get through the contractions. There’s an excercise I found convincingly proving the effectiveness of the breathing technique and zooming off to positive images: You hold an ice cube in your hand for a minute (the usual length of a contraction), doing nothing. To me, that felt unbearable. You repeat the same thing, applying the techniques, and I got through the minute quite alright.
Next to the breating techniques, there’s the affirmations: basic positive statements that you listen to and repeat to yourself often in order to imprint them in your (subsconscious) mind. In theory: the more positive you’re feeling about giving birth and it all going well and the more you’re able to keep that attitude throughout labour, the more likely it is going to go smoothly.
- Next to the techniques and affirmations that you repeat and practice as often as possible, our class consisted of a one full day workshop. What I liked most about it is that you spend a day as a couple, focusing on the upcoming birth. With our busy lives, especially the second pregnancy flew by quite quickly and this was a fixed date that we had to be engaged together.
Some advice if you’re planning to try hypnobirthing: book the class early on. I was a bit late and we had the one day course at 30 weeks pregnancy. If you really want to make fully use of it, it’s better to do it around 20 weeks or even before already. Next to the workshop, hypnobirthing is mostly preparation on your own, lots of repetition of the affirmations, practicing the breathing techniques and positively influencing your subconscious mind. So the more time you have to practice, the better. I booked a class with Mucha Mama and was happy with the course and the materials they offered.
I definitely learned some useful things and listening to the hypnosis and affirmation sessions often got me to sleep when I was struggling with it. So that alone made it worth doing it. But I think that it’s best for people who have the discipline to plan and spend time to repeat and practice on your own or with your partner, as that’s what it’s all about. And in the end, you never know how birth will go. You might be a natural and not need any techniques at all. Or you might be the best prepared hypnobirthing student and forget all about it when you’re in the middle of the real action. For me, big part is about at least feeling like I am a bit prepared and to actively engage with the upcoming birth in the middle of my busy everyday life.
I will definitely share if I experienced my second birth differently with the use of hypnobirthing, keep you posted 🙂