Is Hypnobirthing safe?

hypnobirthing hypnosis May 08, 2024
Sophie Fletcher Hypnotherapy
Is Hypnobirthing safe?

Is hypnobirthing safe?

This is one of the questions that came up in my recent podcast series looking at the most asked questions about hypnobirthing on Google. It was one I wasn’t really expecting, and my gut reaction was to just say, ‘Yes, of course hypnobirthing is safe’. That is one of the great things about using hypnobirthing, it isn’t invasive, it’s been used by millions of women but when I started thinking about safety and risk, there are some aspects of hypnobirthing that you need to consider.

The perils of imagining the perfect birth

There are hypnosis techniques that I have seen in other classes that I don’t think should be use because there is a risk that if a birth goes in a different direction, it can leave the mother with a profound sense of failure.

There is one technique that crops up a lot in hypnobirthing, and that's a birth imagery tool. It can be part of another exercise, or it can be a standalone thing. It's a technique where you're asked to imagine your ideal birth. For example, imagine your baby in your arms. You've done it. Your baby's skin is on your skin for the first time. There's a lot of positive suggestion around holding your baby for the first time and depending on the practitioner or the script they've got, they might say you're in the pool when some people might not want to be in the pool.

There may be other things as well in that imagery that aren't congruent with your values or what type of birth you may want, and that can make it quite difficult to imagine. As a therapist, I wonder what is going on in everyone's mind in that room. I may ask you to imagine those things, but if you have underlying worries or fears that are still popping up, it can colour that image and that can reinforce anxiety or worry.

This technique is called future pacing in hypnosis. And it's brilliant for things like stopping smoking or weight loss, where you have a lot of control over the outcome. But for birth, I don't think it's quite appropriate and I don’t use it in my classes.

Imagery, anxiety and phobias

If I asked someone to imagine they are at a beach and their contractions are like the waves rolling in and out and that person is phobic of being in the ocean, then it is not going to work for them. Which is not to say you couldn’t use the technique. But the way it's being done needs to be slightly different for you. You have to feel really safe in the techniques you're learning. If you ever feel unnerved or unsafe, listen to your intuition. And tell your teacher. I always say to people if at any moment you want to open your eyes when you're in hypnosis, you can. You're completely in control of the experience.

Sometimes it's the breathing itself that creates anxiety because some people are a little bit anxious about hypnosis and feel a little bit untethered. It's important to talk to your teacher if you have any of those feelings during a class as simple things like changing the pace of the breathing can make a difference.

Check out a few hypnobirthing teachers

I'd also say check out a few teachers before you book on a course. Rapport really matters. We know that good rapport has an impact on outcomes and you have to feel safe with your teacher. I hear people come and see me sometimes as a doula and we have a meeting and they say, ‘I really, really want you’.

And I say, ‘Well, I'm not going to accept you as a client until you've seen two other people’ because I want them to see the difference in how we all work. And I want them to feel 100% sure that I'm the right person for them.

Off the shelf hypnobirthing and tailored hypnosis for birth

Hypnobirthing is essentially a set programme that carries little risk because there is little or no deviation, but this means the tools aren't always adaptable to the specific needs of individuals.

Hypnosis tools, when used by a hypnotherapist, can be really adaptable and be used not just for normal physiological birth, but also in lots of other different situations. A set course of hypnobirthing usually has to be focused on natural physiological birth because a non-hypnotherapist does not have the hypnosis training to safely adapt hypnosis tools for other scenarios unless they're being supported or supervised. They can teach relaxation but not hypnosis. I teach my practitioners a very simple hypnosis for Caesarean programme, but again it is a set programme and I have the the training to create that safely.

If you want something that is tailored to your beliefs, values and circumstances then I would recommend seeking out a private class with a Qualified Hypnotherapist who specialises in birth.

A hypnotherapist can identify, focus on, and connect to the strengths you have within you. That way you can adapt the tools and techniques to support you to have the best possible birth.

Hypnosis for pregnancy, birth and beyond

Perinatal hypnosis is an application of hypnosis to all areas of pregnancy, birth, and beyond, not just birth. The research is growing around this. Hypnosis can be an effective addition to other treatments. And can be used for everything from pregnancy sickness through to processing birth trauma. This is more than hypnobirthing.

When I work with this, I take detailed histories. I take a person-centred approach. I use very specific suggestions and language patterns that are hypnotic. And I create tailored imagery and tracks for people I've worked with.

Whether you're having a home birth or hospital birth, whether you are low risk or higher risk, whether you are having a caesarean birth or are looking for some breastfeeding hypnosis, a hypnotherapist can help you.

Working within professional boundaries with support

Perinatal hypnosis is a fabulous therapy, but I think the important thing is I also know where my boundaries are and when I have to refer on to somebody who is more skilled or experienced. I have monthly supervision, I attend peer support groups, I have continuing professional development and attend conferences. I take what I have learnt to keep my hypnobirthing practitioners updated so they get the benefit of all of that too. It's all of these things that keep you safe.

Wrapping up

  • To summarise, yes, Hypnobirthing is safe provided your teacher understands their boundaries and has support if they are newly trained.
  • Remember that Hypnobirthing is a set programme taught by someone who has had very specific training.
  • Your teacher should have the support of a peer group, or someone trained in hypnosis that they can go to if they have any questions.
  • Perinatal hypnosis should be practised by a hypnotherapist or a talking therapist with training in hypnosis, ideally with a specialism in birth.
  • You can find a hypnotherapist on the website of the National Council of Hypnotherapy

Thank you for reading this blog post. If you found it insightful, don't forget to sign up to my email newsletter for access to free audio tracks, hypnotherapy resources and special offers.

If you have any questions about hypnobirthing, register for my free hypnobirthing session on 28th May 7pm (UTC) or listen to Hypnobirthing: Twenty questions wherever you get your podcasts.

You can follow me on YouTube and Instagram @MindfulHypnobirthingBook for more content.

If you are interested in the audio tracks check them out here

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