If I had a pound for every time I was asked: "But does it really work?'', I'd be whisking my family away on a 5 star African safari!
Only last weekend I was quizzed about my own Hypnobirthing experience: "Did it work?" she asked. And it got me thinking that perhaps I should take 5 and explain what Hypnobirthing is really all about and demystify the 'Hypno' part of Hypnobithing once and for all!
So here goes...
A report was published in the British Medical Journal in 1955, under the title: 'Medical use of Hypnotism.' This report concluded from a systematic review of available research that, in addition to the treatment of psychiatric disabilities, there is a place for hypnotism in the production of anaesthesia or analgesia for surgical and dental operations, and in suitable subjects, it is an effective method of relieving pain in childbirth, without altering the normal course of labour. In other words, Hypnosis was approved as official British Medical Association policy.
But what is Hypnosis?
There seems to be two views of hypnosis:
1) That it's practical and effective. You might have used it yourself or know someone who has used it to achieve a very practical result, such a stopping smoking or overcoming a fear of flying, etc.
2) It is a very odd thing that might make you do or say something embarrassing, or that you would rather not do or say - accompanied by the fear that you might get stuck in this state! This view comes from stage hypnosis, where people have apparently 'seen this happen'.
A simple definition however, which I hope will put you completely at ease, is that: Hypnosis is simply words: words used in a more positive and more focused way to help us let go of some of the negatives we have all acquired in life.
For a fuller explanation, read on!
Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, which is often described as being akin to sleep. We all enter hypnosis at least twice daily: when we are falling to sleep and when we awaken. This simply means that when we are very relaxed, the conscious part of our mind will move to one side (bypassing the critical faculty) allowing the unconscious part of our mind, where perception, imagination, long-term memory and behavioural response patterns reside, to receive beneficial suggestions.
Self-hypnosis, when practised regularly, produces this state of deep relaxation, sufficiently to allow the conscious part of the mind to pass beneficial suggestions down into the unconscious mind. It should be noted that the unconscious mind will only accept suggestions that are beneficial and will at no time accept harmful suggestions of any kind.
However, simply explaining the logic behind the desired changes does not work on its own: witness all the smokers and overweight people who know perfectly well that logically, they should change their habits yet do not, because their deep, unconscious mindset has not been changed for the better. Only changing the pattern in the unconscious mind, can have that effect and it is hypnosis which allows a person to make that change.
Hypnosis in Hypnobirthing
There is a common and very strong negative perception, of the risk of childbirth - which is unjustified in the developed world - and the pain of childbirth, which is often unnecessary, but sadly all too often true. This negative perception can lead to the very problems the person seeks to avoid. Logical assurances do not change this. However, hypnosis can and does!
After the perception change hypnosis facilitates, and after the logical, medical and physiological facts are explained, hypnosis allows a person to change their perception, which has a physical effect on the body. The techniques taught, such as breathing, visualisation and relaxation, are also very important, but they simply serve to reinforce the mindset, reality and perception change, they do not cause it.
KGHypnobirthing, which I teach, is entirely logical and works with the powerful unconscious mind. With practise, it is entirely possible for a person to remove a negative pattern of fear of childbirth and replace it with a positive pattern that welcomes childbirth and looks forward to giving birth to the baby.
Fear of Hypnosis
People's individual experiences of hypnosis can vary hugely however. During a recent class, one client raised her hand and announced: "It didn't work! I had my eyes open, I felt completely normal, I was conscious of everything going on around me. It didn't work!" What she really meant was that she had built up an idea of what hypnosis would be like before she came to the class, and that her experience was different to her expectation.
As you begin your Hypnobirthing journey, it is really important to remember this and for you to feel comfortable with whatever your experience of hypnosis is, in order to benefit from it. The most important thing, is that hypnosis makes a difference to your experience and to your baby's experience of birth.
Random Thoughts & External Sounds
It is perfectly normal to have random thoughts going through your head whilst in hypnosis. The mind is like a butterfly and conscious thoughts are always flitting in and out. You are not asleep, so your conscious mind, although bypassed, is still working. For example; in an emergency, if a fire alarm goes off, your conscious mind will instantly wake you up. By the same token, some of its random thoughts may flit across your subconscious.
The important thing is to know how to handle such thoughts. Observe them, but do not become engaged with them; do not follow them or analyse them. As with external sounds: recruit them as part of the hypnosis experience, observed in passing but not acted upon.
A good way to look at it is to consider what you can do if listening to an orchestra or band. You essentially hear the overall sound, but if you decide you want to hear what the violins are doing, or the piano, or the clarinets, you simply focus your attention on that particular instrument, possibly closing your eyes, and listening to that part only. You still hear all the other sounds, but they have become incidental and irrelevant to what you are focusing on.
You do the same in hypnosis. Your focus is narrowed to the voice you are listening to and the thoughts presented to you. Other thoughts, like the rest of the orchestra, are present; you are aware of them, but you allow them to pass.
It is common for people to worry about external sounds, after all, wherever a birth takes place, there is likely to be many sound sources. Hospitals are particularly noisy places! However, if you recruit these sounds into the hypnotic experience, they then become part of it. During a relaxation session with me, I may say: "You may hear my voice and any other sounds in the room, which are all part of the experience of hypnosis, and help you to go deeper into relaxation."
Can Everyone Go Into Hypnosis?
Yes. The standard hypnotherapy answer is that we are all in hypnosis a number of times every day - between waking and sleeping at night, between sleeping and waking in the morning, when carrying out automatic tasks such as driving to a frequently visited destination, such as work, and so on.
However, we act automatically on patterns all the time, and that is undirected hypnosis - the unconscious is controlling those areas of our actions which are automatic. So we are in wide focus hypnosis all the time, but with the conscious mind working together with the unconscious.
Guided, or focused hypnosis, i.e. guided by a hypnotherapist, which is what is generally meant by the word 'hypnosis', simply achieves the same effect intentionally, bypassing the conscious critical faculty and allowing direct communication with the unconscious. In this way a person can quickly and effectively make positive changes.
No-one can make a person go into hypnosis or in any way do anything that is harmful or against their will.
So, in summary, provided they want to cooperate, anyone can go into hypnosis and achieve positive results and with Hypnobirthing, the more you practise, the better the outcome.
But What Is Hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing, indeed KG Hypnobirthing, is a complete in-depth antenatal training programme designed to release fear and build confidence during birth. It is made up of a lot of simple little things, which, when put together, make a very big difference.
The course I teach will enable you to make a huge difference to your experience for both you and your baby. It is a complete antenatal training programme, which is simple, logical and profound. It is so much more than a few techniques to use in labour - although I'll teach you those too!
In order to get the best from 'the system' in which you find yourself, you need information and knowledge: you need to really understand the implications of the choices you may be required to make. Most of all, you need to release fear and learn to trust your body, your instincts, and your baby. I will teach you how to do this.
So, Does Hypnobirthing Work?
When we stop putting labels on what a Hypnobirthing experience should look like and instead, understand Hypnobirthing's true purpose: to support women to release their fears and feel positive and empowered during their pregnancy, labour and birth... then the answer is a resounding YES! But don't just take my word for it!
All the love,
Your body, your baby, your birth.
Helen Wright: Double Mama to two gorgeous little humans; Positive Birth Coach and Postnatal Revival Expert, is on a mission to support parents achieve the right births for them and their babies and help them to thrive in the precious postnatal period and beyond.
Helen is an experienced KG Hypnobirthing Teacher, Positive Birth Coach and Creative Genius behind BirthWright Affirmation Cards; she's also a Certified Placenta Remedies Specialist with the Placenta Remedies Network, a Registered Breastfeeding Helper with the Breastfeeding Network and she co-hosts a monthly Family Meet Up & Support Group in the East End of London where she lives.