Clinical Hypnosis for Childbirth

by Hilary Field RGN, RSCN, RM, D. Hyp, PDCHyp, MBSCH

When pregnant how easily we become horribly fascinated by accounts of others birth experiences and in return we also love to give a graphic account of our own. How is it that some women effortlessly glide through childbirth whilst others appear to suffer every twinge?

This is something which has varied widely, not only with the passage of time but also culturally, in that the more civilised we have become the more intensely we feel the experience. Could it be that the route of much of our feelings about childbirth, whether experienced or not, lays within our perception?

Just as a phobia can be learned so can our fear of childbirth. Most of us (whether male or female) have experienced the amount of discomfort we get when our muscles are tense and we are frightened, no matter which area of our body this relates to. Similarly we can be aware of how the intensity of any discomfort can be reduced when we are distracted by something pleasant or by focusing on something positive; an effect which is brought about by purely by our own minds.

Modern research empowers us with the knowledge that relaxation, preparation and information are the key to an effective and enjoyable birthing experience. Just as a smoker ‘knows' that smoking is bad for their health they also find that despite this knowledge they are unable to give up their habit. Something deep within them seems to provide the self-talk that allows the bad habit to continue, as self-talk can do for so many negative aspects of life. How then can we overcome these negative beliefs and so enable our body to feel relaxed, capable, safe and effective during childbirth?

It may be that the only ‘perceived' option for many is that of an epidural or controlled drugs. However for many women today their wish is to establish rather than relinquish control of what is happening to their bodies enabling them to have the best experience possible. It may come as no surprise to learn that despite what our conscious mind tells us is good or bad, it is actually the unconscious mind that holds the key to our true perception of childbirth.

Seeds may have been sown in our unconscious mind much earlier in life when our thoughts of having babies were still pie in the sky. Maybe whilst watching a thrilling story line in ‘ Holby City or ‘ER' or in conversations overheard between friends and relatives. As a midwife working within a midwife-led unit there is always the motivation to encourage the natural process of birth as this is not only empowering, relaxing and beneficial to mother and baby but also proven by research to be effective. For who would not sense pleasure, relief and accomplishment at having the opportunity to feel relaxed, comfortable, secure and positive during the birth of their baby using tools that allow them to focus on the relaxation rather than the discomfort?

For this, clinical hypnosis correctly taught to women is not only a powerful tool but once mastered can be applied to so much in life allowing us to re-establish our own strength, support, self-reliance and self-belief. Added to this are the benefits of it being completely safe to mother and baby, appropriate with use of the birthing pool, releases natural painkillers (endorphins) and is useful in improving the efficacy of any medication that may be used for analgesia. Recent research also indicates that women who apply clinical hypnosis for relaxation in pregnancy are less likely to suffer with post-natal depression.

Hypnotic trance is initially established so that once experienced the understanding follows that it is not a magical state that can only be brought about by a hypnotherapist. Rather that it is a naturally occurring state in which the majority of us find ourselves in several times a day. So if you have ever driven that oh so familiar route only to arrive at your destination not remembering going through the last set of traffic lights…… or found yourself on the phone merrily doodling pictures of the sun whilst half listening to your mother complaining of the rain... then ‘you' have experienced hypnosis. As such it is possible to see how easily it can be taught and mastered, especially with expert guidance to the use of differing techniques appropriate for each individual.

Clinical hypnosis for use within the birth experience may be taught over four to six sessions dependent upon the individual and can be taught to individual couples or within groups, dependent on the couples and the therapist. The hypnotherapist ensures the couples confidence in establishing the process and does not attend the birth unless there has been some prior special arrangement made. Clinical hypnosis used throughout the birth experience enables a positive attitude to be held by couples and allows a feeling of relaxation, peace and confidence that allays fear and so disrupts the cycle of fear and tension which leads to pain.

Hilary Field is a practising midwife and clinical hypnotherapist. For further enquiries about the use of clinical hypnosis in pregnancy, birth and the post natal period or for talks and seminars she can be contacted via details at or by telephone on: 01380 840 382

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