How does hypnobirthing help reduce the length of labour?

Some second time mums ask me this question. Their first labour was ‘long’ and possibly more painful than seemed fair.

So here’s my explanation as to HOW hypnobirthing can help mean a shorter labour than a birth you go into not having prepared in the same way.

The fundamentals of the hypnobirthing programme that I teach are:

1)  PHYSICAL – understanding how your body and baby work together, when the time is right, to birth. When the time is right is when the body feels most safe and secure. When the oxytocin and endorphin levels are up, and when adrenaline and cortisol levels are down. Both sets of hormones cannot work at the same time – the first two increase contractions and act as a natural ‘pain’ relief, the latter two slow down labour because if the body senses fear it thinks it’s not safe to birth the baby, so stops contractions until the body is feeling safe again – hence a longer (and more painful) labour.

Once couples fully understand this cycle of fear – tension – pain, (and why we are conditioned to fear birth – a lot of this is to do with the media portrayal), we then focus on all the wonderful things you can do to stay out of it, to instead let the body do what it was made to do. Reducing the impact of the interfering conscious mind. Ways to increase oxytocin. Having confidence in yourself and your body’s natural abilities.

2) PRACTICAL – we cover LOADS of practical stuff, which reduces the fear of the unknown. We discuss many areas of pregnancy, labour and birth where choices will need to be made. These decisions aren’t then out of the blue, mamas have had a chance in advance to consider their options, research the pros and cons, know that it is THEIR choice, and then make an informed decision that they can feel positive about. Being prepared practically means you are more relaxed. Being more relaxed means less tension.

3) RELAXATION – this is the super important part that other birth preparation classes can skim over. To enter a state of deep relaxation (in which the oxytocin levels are high, contractions are effective and don’t stall etc), takes practice. This is the self-hypnosis element. It’s where the hypnobirthing techniques come into play and a sense of time becomes distorted (labour feels shorter because we are enjoying it rather than enduring it). Visualisation, breath work. massage, to name just a few.

Of course, some labours are longer than others. But with the combination of the three elements above, it certainly won’t be any longer than without them!

Here’s an analogy for you.

Think about a job interview - if you imagine it going badly because you can't picture the room, the interviewers, don't know the questions they'll ask, can't rehearse any answers because you've buried your head in the sand then it probably won't go too well! If you've done all the preparation possible, relax into it, trust yourself, visualise it having gone well, feel supported by all around you, know what strategies to use if things start to go off track, then most likely it will go well.

Even if labour was quick first time, it’s not to say that hypnobirthing can’t still be hugely beneficial for second time mums for other reasons. Taking time out from busy family life to bond with this baby, if a negative first experience then it’s a chance to debrief and look ahead to how things can be different this time around. To prepare for all possible scenarios so whatever does happen you can still feel in control and the experience be looked back on with only positive feelings.