1. How does hypnobirthing help the husband (or birth partner)?
My husband is a legend… in many ways. But it was as we were preparing for the arrival of our first child that I knew I’d picked a winner. He’s usually open to my crazy suggestions on stuff (like going vegetarian, watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix and getting a puppy) but when I suggested we try hypnobirthing, he was totally and utterly on board – “Your body, your choice” was how he summed it up to support me in the way I thought best.
And then the stars aligned…
Also, in one of those crazy moments of fate in life, he was at the airport after a work trip, and he got chatting to a woman with her kids while waiting to board the plane. In his first-time-dad excitement he blurted out that we were expecting and without any hesitation she said to him (as she wrangled her toddlers) ‘I’ve got one word of advice for you… hypnobirthing.’ I love these crazy coincidences in life. When he text me to say what she’d said I knew he was on board.
As for the benefits he got from doing a hypnobirthing course, I could write a whole blog post about it (and maybe I will!) I initially thought it would be a birth preparation course that I would do alone, or that we would both go to but he would just tag along. But when I spoke with Jan, our lovely hypnobirthing instructor, she insisted that we find a time for us to attend the course when we could both be there because it was a team effort. And she was so right.
The actual course was all geared towards couples (or two people who will go through the whole pregnancy and birth experience together – this might be a friend, another family member, a doula etc.) It’s really important that the birthing mother has someone consistent with her throughout the preparation, because when it comes to D day, that support person will be needed in ways you never thought possible!
We attended the course over a couple of weekends, from about 25 weeks pregnant. The course was a mix of discussion, practical hands on therapy (massage) and visualisations / meditation type sessions.
It was during these sessions that hubby became really engaged and interested in the whole childbirth thing. I mean who really thinks about it until you really have to? Like most of us, he had only ever seen and heard horror stories on TV shows and in the movies about the woman screaming on her back while the guy rushed around being pretty useless.
I’m super proud to say that this wasn’t the case for us.
During both labours, it was my husband who totally got into the positive birthing zone and just knew exactly what to do – or that’s how I remembered it anyway! You’ll see from my somewhat crazy birth stories (you can read them here), that it was really useful that my husband had gone through such a rigorous birth preparation course because he ended up helping delivering both of our girls!
Hypnobirthing gave my husband a toolkit of things to do, and ultimately I think that’s what he benefited most from. Guys just like to feel useful don’t they? Some of the top things hypnobirthig helped my husband do were:
- Countdown technique – a really simple thing but during early labour J helped me to breathe by counting down from 100-0. It made me focus on nothing else except breathing, which was exactly what I needed at that point. As soon as we got to 0, he started again and it’s amazing to think how useful this really easy strategy was. We had practiced it during our hypnobirthing course but hadn’t thought it would be such an important part of labour.
- Called people – as J knew I was progressing quickly, it was him who recognised that we needed to let people know. He called the midwife and called our doula, and because we had undergone the hypnobirthing course he was able to explain calmly exactly what was happening (he noticed I was feeling hotter, not really ‘with it’ and only comfortable on my hands and knees or on the toilet – all sure signs that labour is progressing!) He wasn’t that stereotypical stressed out and panic-driven guy running around like an idiot packing useless stuff into a hospital bag.
- Recognised things were progressing quickly – both times. For our first baby, J was convinced much earlier than I was that I was in labour. He knew the signs to look out for, and he knew that I was probably in denial. In the background he was making preparations that I wasn’t aware of until later – he was packing the food and snacks we had prepared for the hospital, he was packing the final things into our hospital bag, and was putting on our birth music playlist that we had spent hours preparing together. I know that had he not undergone a proper birth preparation course there is no way he would have been this organised and proactive. Second time around (you can read our full birth story here), he was again calm while we were at home but then got into the right mindset when we got to the hospital and needed to nudge things along a bit with the hospital staff.
- Stayed calm – as I mentioned, it was down to J’s calmness that I believe I was able to stay in the right mindset and birthing zone. I honestly don’t think I could have coped with a birth partner who was stressed out and in panic mode – that would not have helped at all!
We both agreed that hypnobirthing was such a great introduction to parenting and that the benefits didn’t end when the baby arrived; it was just the beginning of a beautiful parenting journey that continues to unfold for us.
2. Does hypnobirthing mean I will be hypnotised during labour?
In a word, no! This is such a big misconception about hypnobirthing that you will be hypnotised. Honestly I wish it could be called something else just to avoid this confusion. But to clear it up, no one will hypnotise you during labour, no.
Everyone has their own way to describe it but, for most women they are able to ‘go within’ and really be mindful about what they are experiencing. They focus purely on their breathing, being comfortable (in whatever position that means for her at that point, and just trying to to get through the next surge ‘contraction’).
Some might even describe it as ‘self hypnotizing’ because you can get into such a trance. Depending on how you learnt your hypnobirthing techniques and how much you practiced them during your pregnancy, you might be able to completely switch off your conscious mind and go to your subconscious zone where you are able to have much more control over your emotions, and how your brain manages pain and discomfort.
From the outside, I guess this could look like you’re in a hypnotised state, but I know from my own experience I was anything but serene and quiet. And that’s ok too – there are no rules about how much noise you can / can’t make during labour – despite what doctors and midwives might tell you!
3. Can I use hypnobirthing in a hospital or is it just for home births?
Is hypnobirthing only for natural births?
Hypnobirthing is for any birth, anywhere. There is a misconception that you can only use hypnobirthing if you want a home birth. Maybe this came about because hypnobirthing still unfairly gets a bit of a ‘hippie’ reputation, and therefore is associated with home births (I’m not saying this is what I believe at all but a lot of people did refer to my hypnobirthing ways as pretty hippyish!)
I’ve had both a home birth (although it was an unplanned one) and a hospital birth and I can see the benefits in all types of labour situations.
In fact, having a hospital birth might require even more of the hypnobirthing techniques because you might encounter a variety of challenges such as pressure to have an induction, a c-section, no skin-to-skin etc. Hypnobirthing courses take you through the entire birth process, including what to expect to be offered by midwives and doctors in terms of inductions, sweeps, breaking of waters etc. so taking what you’ve learnt into the hospital context can be very useful.
4. Do I have to have a doula for a hypnobirth?
No! Hynobirthing and doulas are a great combination – if your doula is knowledgeable and supportive of hypnobirthing (most would be I guess!) then you’re in the best hands (in my opinion), but having a doula is not a prerequisite to learn hypnobirthing. – and vice versa.
5. Does hypnobirthing mean I won’t have pain relief during labour?
Nope. Absolutely not. There were so many responses I heard when I said I was doing a hypnobirthing course, but the most common one was ‘why be a hero? Take all the drugs you can.’ Hypnobirthing does not mean you won’t want and/or accept pain meditation or other pain relief methods during your childbirth. But what a good hypnobirthing course should do is to walk you through each possible pain relief option you might be offered during labour; the risks, the benefits and any other information you might need to be aware of. The majority of hospital birth prep courses do not go through this with you, or they only explain what they have on offer, not the side effects, or other possibilities. This is an important point because when you’re in labour it is hard to think about pain relief options and what the best choice is. But if you’ve been taken through all the options beforehand, when you’re relaxed and able to take the information in, you are in a much better position to make an informed choice. That doesn’t mean that a woman going into labour thinking ‘I definitely won’t take any pain relief’ won’t change her mind; but hopefully she will make a much more conscious decision and won’t feel pressured into anything by her care provider, facility or birthing partner (did you know the rate of epidurals increased dramatically after men were allowed into the birthing suites? Apparently they couldn’t cope with hearing their wife in so much pain – or making so much noise – that they encouraged them to take an epidural.)
So having a hypnorthing and accepting pain relief medication are not mutually exclusive!
6. Can I use hypnobirthing for a C-section?
Most definitely. In fact, Hypnobirthing Australia, the company we used, has a specific c-section course for women who know they are going to deliver this way – either for personal choice or due to medical conditions.
Whether you commence your birthing journey with the intention of having a c-section, decide this is the right path for your birth along the way, or have to make a quick decision in an emergency scenario, hypnobirthing can still assist you in having a positive and empowering birth experience.
With the rise of positive c-sections and the use of transparent screens, more skin-to-skin contact immediately post a c-section and many healthcare providers adopting a more open and progressive approach to c-sections, I can only hope the use of hynobirthing techniques becomes even more relevant. Of course there is always more that can be done, and it does depend on so many factors.
7. Can I use hypnobirthing for my first baby?
Yes, but be prepared to be in the minority of hypnobirthing mamas who use it on their first pregnancy. Although, again I’m sure this trend will rise soon as more celebrities go public on their reliance on hypnobirthing (Kate Middleton has been great PR for it!).
We definitely had some ‘interesting’ reactions during our first pregnancy when we said we would be learning hypnobirthing techniques. “Good luck with that” (plus a hint of sarcasm), “You can’t avoid pain during labour with positive thinking” and “yeah that might help in the early stages but you’ll soon be screaming out for the drugs as it gets worse” were just some of the comments we heard. We smiled and carried on. Of course we had no idea what was coming, but we had taken the time and effort to educate ourselves and prepare in the way we thought was best for us.
The majority of women I have spoken to who have done hypnobirthing have resorted to it for their second or subsequent babies because they had such a traumatic first birth experience. Trauma such as being co-erced into early inductions, forced to give birth laying flat (or another uncomfortable position), being ridiculed, being encouraged to have an early sweep or breaking of the waters, being told their baby was too big/too small, undergoing an emergency c-section etc – the list seemed endless.
I’m not saying that hypnobirthing means you will avoid these situations, but it can equip you to be prepared if and when they come up, and you will have a plan or an idea of how you will handle it, because you will be prepared for it.
8. Can I use hypnobirthing for a VBAC?
Yes! I know a lot of women who had previously had a c-section that they had not planned for and were keen to explore a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) for their subsequent birth and had turned to hypnobirthing techniques to assist them in that. Apart from the physical demands of a VBAC, a hypnobirthing course will also help a woman and her birth partner navigate the common obstacles faced in this scenario – things like being told they can’t have a VBAC, encouraged to have an induction or a repeat c-section without any reasons given, feelings of fear or memories of previous birth trauma. So much can be managed when a birthing woman takes control of her pregnancy and birthing journey.
So many women say ‘I’ll just go with the flow’ when thinking about their upcoming birth and I heard this a lot when I was pregnant too. But, unfortunately, going with the flow, often results in being totally out of control of your own pregnancy and birthing outcome, and I know for many women this feeling never leaves them.
9. Do I have to use visualisations during hypnobirthing?
Honestly, my husband struggled with this one too. We’ve done meditation and personal development courses before where you had to visualise things in order for them to be seeded in your brain so you could work towards them.
But it’s not always easy. And for first time parents, we had no clue how to visualise the perfect birth because we had never witnessed one! But this is why doing a hypnobirthing course in person can really help because, as long as you have a good instructor, they will go through various visualisations that will help you to prepare. What works for one woman might not for someone else, so it’s good to have different options in your labour ‘toolkit’.
But it is also ok not to have the perfect birth visualised – I doubt every woman does. But even training your brain to slow down and focus on something is great training for when you are in labour.
For me, I found the visualisation aspect really exciting and I’m pretty sure this is why I had such positive experiences both times. During some mindful meditation practice or when listening to my hypnobirthing tracks, I could really focus on what I wanted to recreate in real life; I had a feeling come over me of pure joy and ecstasy. And when I was in labour first time I actually remember feeling and saying to my hubby how amazing the surges (contractions felt) – and they really did!
10. Does hypnobirthing actually work?
Yes! Yes! Yes! Honestly, this was such a common question after I gave birth first time around, I wrote a whole blog post about it here. You’ll see from my full post on this that for me, yes I can absolutely say that hypnobirthing ‘works’. I don’t take this word lightly though because I’m conscious that there are so many variations of what it means for something to work.
Can hypnobirthing make birth painless?
I was part of a few online groups for hypnobirthers in preparation for my first birth, and many women graciously shared their birth stories, including to what extent they thought hypnobirhting had helped them. Some were adamant that they hadn’t felt any ‘pain’ at all while others said they felt the breathing techniques helped them in the early stages of labour but that once things progressed everything they learnt ‘went out the window’. I was definitely in the camp of ‘hypnobirthing helped me so much’ (you can read my full birth stories here, but I totally get how some women may not feel they had the best experience they could – there are so many factors at play.
Bottom line is anyone who at least attempts to have a positive birth experience is already halfway there.
Where are you at in your hypnobirthing journey? I’d love to know.
Do you have any other questions? I’m always trying to expand the valuable content I offer, so please let me know if you’d like me to answer something specific about babies or hypnobirthing.
Want to read more? Check out my other posts on hypnobirthing