woman practicing hypnobirthing

Hypnobirthing Explained: Does Hypnobirthing Really Work?

Are looking for support around a natural and joyful birth? Then I can almost guarantee you’ve been told to look into hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing is probably the most hotly discussed and debated, loved and hated, birthing class on the market.

You are not alone in wondering, what is hypnobirthing? Does it really work? And is it for me?

Here at She Births Bravely, we help moms prepare for powerful and authentic births. I often have people ask me, how does your class, the Healthy Start Birth Prep Challenge compare to other classes, specifically hypnobirthing.

Well, you need to understand, we are super proud of our class and the results we get for our moms. That said, there are times when Hypnobirthing is the better option. So what this article is going to do is explain to you honestly and transparently the pros and the cons of both classes. And then, hopefully, by the end, you will have a great sense of which is the best choice for you. 

We love helping moms understand their options and find the perfect fit for their needs. As a doula, I have had the privilege to see many moms succeed with hypnobirthing. But, it is definitely not for everyone.

Where Does Hypnobirthing Come From?

Marie Mongan is a hypnotherapist and the founder of Hypnobirthing. She believes that pain does not have to be a part of birth. Sounds pretty amazing right?

The basis of her idea lies in  the experiences of an English obstetrician, Dr. Dick Read who wrote the book Childbirth Without Fear all the way back in 1942. Dr. Read was an obestrician who had several experiences with women who had pain free births.

He was completely astonished at the first pain-free birth he attended as an OB.

He asked this woman why she had declined any anesthetics (pain killers) during labor. She simply stated, ‘why would I need it? It didn’t hurt… it’s not supposed to.’

Over his career, he was fascinated with one question. Why do some women suffer so much during childbirth when others don’t have any pain at all?

From his work, he opened the question, does the pain of labor create an emotional state of suffering, or does the emotional state of suffering create the pain in labor?

Which comes first and causes the other?

What Is Hypnobirthing?

Dr. Read and Marie Mongan both believe that pain in labor comes from your fear and expectations of pain during labor. They both conclude that birth is not painful on its own.

They claim that if you believe birth is dangerous and scary, that you will seek out information that confirms that belief. Furthermore, your body will react to make birth dangerous and painful.

There are studies that confirm that this happens.

Hypnobirthing is all about preparing the mind for birth. The theory is that if you are relaxed and open you can lean into your birth. It can be painless, or near to it. Your body is meant to give birth. The hypnobirthing promise is that you can give birth in a dream-like or daydreaming state.

Hypnobirthing includes controlled breathing and relaxation techniques, mainly self-hypnosis, to help you get through the birth.

It will also teach you to have positive affirmations in your mind like ‘I am capable of giving birth’ or ‘I have full trust in my body.’ These affirmations may not look that effective on paper, but they have a huge impact on your mindset and body during labor and birth.

 Hypnobirthing is a great way to reduce your fears and anxiety about labor and childbirth by practicing self-hypnosis.

How Does Fear Affect The Body During Birth

Fear does affect the body in many ways. One of which is that fear increases the speed of the heart, which makes the blood flow away from the uterus. Without enough bloodflow, the uterus can’t work effectively. This can increase pain during the labor.

Another reason fear affects the body is that the uterus, the muscle responsible for most of the work of labor, will actually work against itself if the mother is in a state of fear.

Let me explain, the uterus has 2 sets of muscle fibers. The first set is long and goes from the cervix to the top of the uterus. These are the muscle fibers responsible for the sensation of contractions. When they flex so to speak, they pull open the cervix and help your baby move down and out of your body.

However, if a mother senses danger, another set of muscle fibers are activated in the uterus. These muscle fibers are short and circular. They will work to close the cervix if there are hormones in the body that indicate the mother feels like she is in danger. These hormones are present whether the danger is real or imaginary.

Many people believe that intense pain that leads to suffering in labor is caused by this pull of the utuerus working simultaneously to open and close the uterus at the same time.

So, being fearful of birth, or having conscious or subconscious beliefs that birth is dangerous, can quite literally change the experience of birth and make it much more painful than it needs to be.

Can Hypnobirthing Really Work?

Many moms think of hypnobirthing as a purely magical way to give birth. They enjoy the sense of peace they have through surges (the hypnobirthing word for contractions) and have a deeper sense of control and peace with the process of birth.

Birth partners that take a hypnobirthing class with their spouse, typically show up for birth as loving and supportive partners who create an intimate and beautiful space for the birth to take space.

I can tell you though, that birth can still be quite intense, even if you are calm and collected.

Some women expect that when they take a hypnobirthing class ‘one minute you are in sleeping mode, and the next you have given birth.’ This is not an accurate representation of hypnobirthing.

Does Hypnobirthing Always Work?

Here’s the thing, just as Dr. Read found in his experience, some women have easier births than others. Some women have more painful births than others.

I one hundred percent believe that for many women, hypnobirthing is everything they need to have a successful, calm, and confident birth. However, for others, it’s not enough.

One struggle that every childbirth educator has is how to help moms understand the reality of what birth will be like for them. There is a huge range of normal when it comes to pain levels and complexity levels of different births.

Yes, many many moms have had hypnobirthing work perfectly for them. But, unfortutaely, not all moms.

This is why whenever hypnobirthing is brought up in a moms group, there is a complete battle over if it works or not. Moms either completely love or totally hate this method.

Benefits Of Hypnobirthing

mom in labor with hypnobirthing

There are some real and proven benefits of hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing:

  • Can reduce labor time
  • Gives you the power to have more control over your body and makes you feel like you’re daydreaming
  • Helps in dealing with anxieties regarding birth, especially if you previously went through birth-related trauma
  • Minimizes the chances of postnatal depression
  • Reduces the need for medications during labor and birth

Apart from the giving birth in a dream like state, these are benefits of almost all childbirth classes.

The mind absolutely can affect how the body gives birth. I have had the privilege of being at several births where the mother stated that the birth was pain-free. I’ve also been to births where the mother seemed calmed, relaxed, and in control the entire time even in the presence of quite a bit of pain.

Some of these moms did Hypnobirthing, others did Hypnobabies and others simply spent a significant amount of time with meditation and relaxation techniques.

However, these experiences are still the exception to the rule.

Cons Of Hypnobirthing

There are really only two cons to the hypnobirthing program to me. However, in my mind, they are significant.

The first is that the principals in the hypnobirthing program, really only work if you have a normal and uncomplicated birth. The problem being, you don’t know ahead of time if you will have a normal and uncomplicated birth before your birth begins.

The second is that because the belief of this program is that birth can and should be pain-free, it does not provide many alternative coping strategies for pain during labor. That means if you planned to cope through hypnosis, and once birth begins, you realize that’s not your style of managing contractions, you are left with very few tools.

Some moms feel a sense of failure or disappointment if they expect a pain-free birth and instead end up with complications or a very painful birth.

How Does Hypnobirthing Compare To The Healthy Start Birth Prep Challenge

This is where my class and hypnobirthing separate the most. I certainly agree one-hundred percent that it is healthy and good to work on reprogramming fears of birth during pregnancy. I also agree that it is important to develop a strong trust in the process of birth. That is why I worked with a hypnotherapist to create hypnosis+ meditation tracks for the moms in the Healthy Start Birth Prep Challenge.

However, over my career, I’ve come to know that there are many things we can do to help mothers have uncomplicated, normal births. Many of those things are simple. They involve nutrition, simple exercises to restore flexibility and tone to a woman’s body, and practices that encourage baby to align properly within the pelvis.

So while the Healthy Start Birth Prep includes hypnosis tracks, meditation tracks, and fear clearing practices, it also expands to teaching mothers how they can increase the likelihood of having an uncomplicated and natural birth.

The Healthy Start Birth Prep also included a wide range of tools to cope with pain. That way, if meditation or deep breathing is not doing it for you during labor, you have a toolbox of other skills at the ready.

Some people claim that by learning additional pain coping skills beyond hypnosis, you are admitting that birth can be dangerous and scary and you haven’t gone far enough in eliminating your underlying beliefs about fear. These people will definitely prefer the simplicity and depth of a hypnobirthing program.

Who Is Hypnobirthing Or The Healthy Start Class For?

Who Is Hypnobirthing For?

Hypnobirthing is a method that can be taken whether this is your first birth or fifth. It can be used for births in the hospital, at home, or at a birth center. Typically, moms using this method are trying for a natural, or epidural free birth.

I’ve personally seen it help people who are extremely afraid of labor or childbirth and those who have been through some birth-related trauma. It’s equally helpful for people who have panic attacks.

The number of classes varies from instructor to instructor, with most providing four classes that have a duration of two hours. The Mongan Method, which is also considered the original hypnobirthing method, is a 12-hour program comprising of five classes.

In order to succeed with hypnobirthing, you have to be willing to spend time every day practicing hypnosis and training your mind for birth. This is definitely a class that requires commitment and is right for a mom who is willing to dedicate time and energy to her inner mental landscape.

Who Is The Healthy Start Birth Prep For?

The Healthy Start Birth Prep focuses on helping moms prepare mind, body, baby, and partner to work together in birth. It is for moms who have a priority of a healthy baby, healthy mama, and want that experience to also be pretty magical as well.

This birth class can be used for moms birthing at the hospital, birth center, or at home. It can also be used by moms planning to use epidurals or to go natural. It will help you address birth fears and overcome challenges that are intrinsic to the birth process.

This class is taught in 40 daily 10-minute videos that help a mom understand how she can make birth safer and more rewarding. It is for moms that want to be a part of an online community and support system, who are willing to practice and implement the strategies taught. Because of the style of teaching, this class will work very well for moms with time and energy constraints.

When To Start Hypnobirthing Or Healthy Start Challenge

‘What’s the right time to start hypnobirthing’ is a question that many moms-to-be ask.

Although there is no fixed timeframe to take these classes, many women start taking hypnobirthing classes between 25-29 weeks. If you prefer to take them sooner, I would say you can take it anytime after you’re done with the first trimester.

Most hypnobirthing classes are at least 5 weeks long, and they do require practice. So, you want to start in your second trimester or the very beginning of your third trimester

The Healthy Start Birth Class is 8 weeks in duration and should be started at the same time.

How To Practice Hypnobirthing

Once you have learned different hypnobirthing techniques in birthing classes, your next task is to practice them at home. Hypnobirthing is all about practice; the more you do it, the more you are capable of using it in your labor and during birth. It only takes about 30 minutes to practice different hypnobirthing techniques.  

  • Start with practicing a few days a week. You should make a schedule of which days and at what time you’re going to practice it. You can also coordinate with your partner to practice scripts where your partner will assist you with getting into a state of hypnosis.
  • When you are near the end of your third trimester, it’s so beneficial to start practicing some of the techniques daily. Everyday techniques include a) relaxation through audio tracks, which you can do easily at night, or using other scripts you got as a part of your birthing classes, b) positive affirmations that you can paste at different places around your house, c) breathing techniques that can be practiced while you’re at the signal or cooking.
  • Practice massage techniques with your partner once a week.
  • Making a birth plan, reading positive childbirth stories, or listening to positive affirmations are among the techniques that can be practiced whenever you feel you have time.

What Is The Difference Between Hypnobirthing And Hypnobabies

Before I conclude, I want to point out that this article is about hypnobirthing, not the similar course hypnobabies. Though the information is quite similar.

Both of the techniques are actually similar to some extent as they both involve self-hypnosis. The difference is that hypnobabies teaches you medical-grade hypnosis techniques, usually called hypno-anesthesia. And unlike hypnobirthing, which takes you to some sort of sleeping mode, hypnobabies involves “staying awake” during childbirth.

A fun fact about hypnobabies is that it was founded by a hypnobirthing instructor who believed medical-grade hypnosis techniques are more effective in training the subconscious to give a more relaxed and peaceful birth.

How Does Hypnobirthing Compare To Other Classes?

We have a comprehensive list of birthing classes on our blog. If you want to explore how hypnobirthing compares to other classes such as Lamaze, Bradley Classes and Hypnobabies, feel free to peruse this article.

Hypnobirthing Explained TL/DR

Key Takeaway – Managing your fears about birth and spending time developing the expectation of a positive and joyful birth is key in actually having a positive and joyful birth.

Hypnobirthing is a class that is based on the belief that childbirth is not painful unless you fear it. It uses self-hypnosis to help your rewrite your beliefs about fear and help you birth with greater ease, the way the body is ‘supposed’ to work.

The Healthy Start Birth Prep Challenge is a birth class that will help you prepare body, mind, baby, and partner for birth to work together as a whole, unified team. It will also help you prioritize the things you can do to make your birth as safe and rewarding as possible.

I hope this article helped you understand the pros and cons of hypnobirthing compared to the Healthy Start Birth Prep Challenge. We would LOVE to help you prepare for a fabulous birth. Our next class starts on the first of the month! If you have any questions reach out to Suzzie at contact @shebirthsbravely.com.