Why doesn't hypnobirthing work

hypnobirthing Mar 12, 2024
Sophie Fletcher Hypnotherapy
Why doesn't hypnobirthing work

In this blog post, I'm going to tackle head-on one of the most frequently asked questions about hypnobirthing on Google, ‘Why doesn't hypnobirthing work?’.

This is a controversial question but I think it's important to validate the experience of people who feel that hypnobirthing hasn’t worked for them and to address why that might be. 

Let's start with the misconception that all hypnobirthing methods are created equal. The original hypnobirthing program, developed by Marie Mongan in the 1990s, was designed to be delivered over a specific period, often in a classroom setting with personalised guidance and support. However, as hypnobirthing gained popularity, the landscape changed. Today, you can find lots of online courses and self-help books that promise to teach hypnobirthing techniques without the necessary interaction with a qualified practitioner.  You may be surprised to know that people running hypnobirthing teacher training or writing hypnobirthing online courses, don't have hypnotherapy qualifications themselves.

Marie Mongan, founder of HypnoBirthing the Mongan Method


The effectiveness of hypnobirthing hinges on more than just the knowledge of how your body works, some breathing techniques and massage - otherwise it would just be an antenatal class.  It requires a deep understanding of the hypnosis techniques and the ability to tailor them to individual needs. Hypnosis, a cornerstone of hypnobirthing, delves into the mind to address fears and anxieties surrounding childbirth. But this process is inherently personal and reflective, making it challenging to achieve without proper guidance and support.

Your starting point can have a major bearing on the effectiveness of hypnobirthing. If you have deep-seated fears and anxieties you may require more support to reach a state of calm confidence. Simply reading a book or attending a cursory online course may not  enough for you if you are grappling with significant anxiety and worry around birth – such as a deep-seated fear of childbirth, hospitals or blood.  

The quality of the hypnobirthing course matters.  With a proliferation of courses available, ranging from online tutorials to in-person workshops, it's essential to choose wisely. Unfortunately, not all instructors have the necessary qualifications or understanding of hypnosis, potentially leading to harmful practices. For instance, techniques like "birth rehearsal", a technique commonly used, may inadvertently exacerbate anxiety rather than reduce it, if not used correctly.   Sadly I have spoken to women thinking they had failed because they didn't gave the birth they visualised.  Hypnobirthing should be about enabling you to connect to your inner resources so you can have a positive experience on the day, however you birth your baby. 

One key aspect often overlooked is the size of the class. I see practitioners talking about running classes with 10 couples. That's 20 people! Personally, I now never teach more than four couples. Large group settings may prevent effective processing of anxieties and fears, as people in the class may feel uncomfortable about sharing their concerns openly. Or maybe there simply isn't enough time, as the structure of the class leaves little room for 20 people to ask questions. Additionally, the lack of personalised attention in online courses may leave participants feeling unsupported when unexpected issues arise.

What I find really interesting is the amount of people who think that they didn't do hypnobirthing because they didn't get into trance or they are not suggestible.  Sometimes they say, "I didn't even get to use the hypnobirthing". The benefit of learning with someone with hypnosis experience is that they will be able to show you different ways to enter hypnosis. You don't always have to be "in trance".  There is also waking hypnosis, and, if you have practice your techniques, your unconscious mind will do it automatically without you even thinking about it. Do you have to think about making a cup of tea?  No, because you are conditioned to be able to do it without thinking, because you've done it so often.  For some people they say "labour happened so quickly and it was so easy, I didn't use my hypnobirthing tools, it was pointless".  Hmmmm, think about that one! 

Ultimately, the success of hypnobirthing lies in practice, and the support system surrounding you and your partner. It's not just about learning techniques but conditioning them effectively so they happen automatically.  Working with your teacher to integrate them into your mindset and approach to childbirth. If you have great rapport with a knowledgeable and empathetic instructor it can make all the difference helping you to navigate birth with calm confidence.

So what's the quick answer to "why hypnobirthing does't work"?

There is no one simple answer. For many it works amazing well, but if it hasn't worked it may be lack of support, lack of practice, a teacher setting unrealistic expectations and a maternity system that is struggling. It can also be a teacher untrained in hypnosis who is unable to adapt hypnosis tools for you or notice if you have any anxiety about using hypnosis. Not all hypnosis tools work for all people and all circumstances. 

Choosing a course that meets your needs is the best way of ensuring that hypnobirthing works for you. If you are reading a book or doing an online course it is work seeking out personalised guidance. I would also stress the importance of regular practice as this is helps release fears and build confidence and make hypnobirthing a truly transformative experience.

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 9 April, 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.

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