Is Hypnobirthing Right for You?
If the word hypnobirthing conjures up images of a carnival performer swinging a gold pocket watch inches from someone’s face chanting, “you are getting very sleepy,” we’ve got news for you! Though hypnobirthing does involve “self-hypnosis,” this labor technique is a far cry from the parlor tricks of slick sideshow hypnotists. In fact, hypnobirthing is a trend that’s picked up steam in recent years—perhaps due in part to both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle being rumored to have used hypnobirthing during labor.
So, what is hypnobirthing? And can hypnobirthing really make for a better birth experience? And—importantly—is it right for you? Here’s what you need to know about hypnobirthing.
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is a meditative approach to labor that seeks to guide the parent-to-be through a calm labor and relatively pain-free birth.
Hypnobirthing techniques have been around in various forms for centuries but it wasn’t until 1989 that the term “hypnobirthing” became a household word thanks to a book called Hypnobirthing: A Celebration of Life by Marie Mongan, a hypnotherapist. It was born out of the idea that seasoned parents sometimes unload their birth horror stories on expecting parents which then lead to fears that can actually make labor more challenging by causing physical tension. That’s why hypnobirthing classes focus on the positive—and none of the risks and scary stuff.
The method relies on relaxation strategies intended to reduce stress and therefore lessen the perception of pain. To do this, hypnobirthing coaches teach controlled breathing exercises, use guided visualizations, and emphasize positive words and feelings throughout the birthing process.
What are the benefits of hypnobirthing?
The gist of this good-vibes-only birthing approach is that the more relaxed you are during labor, the faster, easier, and less stressful, and less painful childbirth will feel. And this does seem to be resonate with many hypnobirthing parents.
According to a survey of 500 women conducted by the HypnoBirthing Institute, moms generally reported being satisfied with their birth experience, saying they felt “powerful and competent.” Eighty-seven percent of moms surveyed said they would recommend hypnobirthing to others, and 77% said they would “definitely use hypnobirthing again.”
Moms also reported that hypnobirthing…
- Helped adequately prepare them for birth
- Gave them confidence in their birthing ability
- Helped them make good decisions about their birth
- Helped them have a safer birth
- Made birth more comfortable
- Made birth gentler
- Gave them a better understanding of their options during labor
- Helped them communicate better with their care team
Other benefits of hypnobirthing that were documented in the HypnoBirthing Institute’s report included thew use of fewer interventions and a lower c-section rate among mothers and fewer low birth weight babies.
Do hypnobirthing techniques really work?
A calmer, more positive approach to labor certainly sounds like it could pay off—but are the purported benefits of hypnobirthing backed by science? Short answer: There is some evidence that hypnobirthing has benefits for parents-to-be, but most of the studies done are small, and not all of them have shown significant results.
A study of 30 pregnant moms published in The Journal of Maternal and Child Health reported that hypnobirthing was effective at reducing anxiety during delivery. Another small 2022 study on hypnobirthing found that participants who had received four weeks of hypnobirthing training had significantly fewer interventions during birth and shorter deliveries. At the same time, these moms were more likely to give birth vaginally and reported being more satisfied with their birth than those in the control group.
Yielding more of a mixed bag, in 2016 Cochrane researchers analyzed nine randomized trials of nearly 3,000 women. While they observed that women who practiced hypnobirthing were less likely to use medication for pain relief than women who were in the control group, epidural use didn’t decrease. The same review found there weren’t clear differences on the other metrics studied either. For example, hypnobirthing didn’t seem to have an effect on pain relief, ability to cope with labor, c-section rate, or AGPAR scores.
But for some expecting parents, it might not be about the numbers or promise of pain relief. Simply changing the focus in the labor experience from one of fear to one of positivity and light could be exactly the key to feeling empowered during the birthing process!
Find a Hypnobirthing Class Near Me
If you’re interested in giving hypnobirthing a shot, the HypnoBirthing Institute has a directory of hypnotherapists trained in the Mongan method. To find a certified instructor near you, simply enter your city and zip code. The average cost for hypnobirthing instruction will vary depending on where you live, but if your insurance covers prenatal classes, your hypnobirthing education might also be covered.
When should I start practicing hypnobirthing?
Expert practitioners of hypnobirthing say that expecting parents can begin at any time, but they recommend getting started between 20 and 30 weeks of pregnancy in order to work through the process and master some of the techniques before labor.
More on Preparing for Labor:
- 20 Positive Affirmations for Labor and Delivery
- How to Prep Mentally and Physically for Birth
- Natural Ways to Jumpstart Labor
- What to Expect When Your Water Breaks
- Is Hiring a Doula Right for You?
- HypnoBirthing Institute: What Is HypnoBirthing?
- Hypnobirthing Australia: Frequently Asked Questions
- Effect of Hypnobirthing Training on Fear, Pain, Satisfaction Related to Birth, and Birth Outcomes: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Clinical Nursing Research, January 2022
- Hypnosis for Pain Management During Labour and Childbirth, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, May 2016
- The Effectiveness of Hypnobirthing in Reducing Anxiety Level During Delivery, Journal of Maternal and Child Health, 2018
- HypnoBirthing Institute: Hypnobirthing Outcomes United States 2005–2010
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.