Hypnobirthing. Maybe you’re like me and you’re obsessed with birth and babies, so you know all about hypnobirthing. Or maybe you’re sitting there being like, “hypno-what??” Either way, I’d guess that you’re likely intrigued. I’ve watched so many absolutely beautiful births where hypnobirthing was used to create such a calm mental space. And although my birth was not quiet like some of these hypnobirths, and although I didn’t directly use hypnobirthing through my active labour, I believe the practice of hypnobirthing throughout my pregnancy set me up for what I like to think of as a pretty dreamy birth!! It was a key component in my visualization for the natural/unmedicated/physiological birth that I wanted. That being said, there are women that have all different kinds of births and I have heard many women from home births to hospital births, from vaginal births to caesarean births, all say that hypnobirthing was their friend!! When I heard Jamie – one of my music friends, theatre friends, work friends – became a coach, I knew I had to ask her all the things! So, here it goes!!

Hi Jamie! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us! Can you tell everyone a little about you, your family, and your passion for hypnobirthing? 

Hello! I am a singing, dancing, gentle parenting mama of two amazing boys that loves connecting with others. We live in the interior of British Columbia with my loving husband, two dogs, and two cats! I first heard about hypnobirthing while I was half way through my first pregnancy with my first son. I was feeling very conflicted over the idea that childbirth was very painful. A co-worker said to me, seconds after telling her I was pregnant, (and I’ll never forget it), “it’s the worst pain of your life, but the biggest reward”. I left thinking, why on earth, would something that we are made to do, one that is ESSENTIAL, be designed to be so painful? When a girlfriend mentioned hypnobirthing and I started looking into it, I was hooked. It was exactly the validation for what I had been asking! 

What is hypnobirthing? 

The breakdown of the word is Birthing in Hypnosis. Before my journey into this world, my only association with hypnosis was a school assembly where they brought in a hypnotist and I watched through laughter as my friend’s dad danced around like a chicken on stage. I can tell you, that is not what this is. 

Hypnosis is simply a means of inducing a level of consciousness that is extremely relaxed and suggestible. Not suggestible in the way you would dance around like a chicken, but one that allows you to bypass the critical mind and effect change within your subconscious. Daydreaming or meditation would be types of hypnosis. A hypnotized person is still in total control, and completely consenting.  All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. Hypnobirthing® is designed to give education and techniques to go into birth feeling confident, positive, relaxed, and connected. It can include visuals and audible techniques for the birthing person, as well as the support partner, to assist you through birth and in preparation. This method essentially corrects years of what we have been told about birth through movies, television, friends, family, etc., and creates a positive, fearless perspective instead. It’s simple: Fear creates tension. Tension creates pain. Pain creates fear. Hypnobirthing® works to halt the fear, and without fear, birth can be a much different experience!

Thank you so much for talking about the cycle of fear-tension-pain. I wish more people knew about it, and because of you sharing, they now do!! Did you use hypnobirthing during your births? 

I did! I gave birth in the hospital both times (by choice) and feel fortunate that my birthing preferences were respected by my team and hospital staff. I’ll also say, if you are able, get a doula! Mine was invaluable at preparing myself to be my own advocate during birth!  My first son was born in calm silence, (aside from one audible grunt at the end), in 4.5 hours with no use of pain management. He was 10.1 lbs, took over two hours of pushing, fractured my tailbone coming out and I would never describe it as painful. Intense? Absolutely, but not painful! My second was born in less than 3 hours at 7.1 lbs and  though I did feel a little less prepared as he was nearly a month early, it all came rushing back and was a calm and beautiful birth as well (and no tailbone injury, yay)!

I love hearing your birth stories! Who is hypnobirthing good for? 

 I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. I’ve seen first time parents, those already with children, those who are using a surrogate, or even those with a planned caesarean delivery. The goal with hypnobirthing is to have a calm, often pain-free vaginal birth, but ultimately it is to prepare, to give confidence about making informed choices, and to create an environment for a relaxed and welcomed birth.

What are some of the best hypnobirthing resources, such as books, courses, teachers, etc.? 

I had my training to teach hypnobirthing through the Hypnobirthing® Institute, started by Marie Mongan. Her book was my first introduction into hypnobirthing, and often considered the original writing on the subject.  Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan is  currently in its 4th edition and a fantastic book. If you take the classes, there are guided meditations, both visual and audible, as well as videos and education surrounding natural, calm birth. I love Katharine Graves hypnobirthing tracks, and I am also a big fan of The Positive Birth Company based in the UK. They have some great videos on youtube and created a birth app called Freya that is amazing!

I’m so grateful for these suggested resources. Marie Mongan’s book and the two tracks that accompany it are what I suggest to everyone, but I am looking forward to trying out these other resources for my next birth! Are there any downsides to practicing and using hypnobirthing? 

I have read comments that the birthing person can feel guilt or they are doing it wrong if they do feel pain during labour and/or delivery, or get an epidural, or complications arise in delivery that changes what they had planned. However, I believe that if you go into practicing and using hypnobirthing as a tool, if you open your mind to believe that severe discomfort and/or pain does not need to accompany birth, and don’t make expectations on yourself or what something ‘should’ look like, it will only have positive outcomes!

Is it best to take a class/have an instructor, or can the technique be learned on one’s own? 

I was self taught for my births but did end up taking the classes to become a certified Hypnobirthing® instructor. I would, without a doubt, say that I wish I had taken the classes ahead of time. Which is not to say you can’t learn on your own and it be effective, but there was a lot more I learned, especially working with your support person, that I now wish I had known when I gave birth. 

How often should people be practicing when pregnant? What would this practice look like? 

It is typically recommended you start practicing around 25-30 weeks. Earlier or later can work too, but this time frame would be ideal. Hypnobirthing® classes are 2.5 hour classes once a week for 5 weeks, in addition to listening to your hypnobirthing tracks daily. I always enjoyed listening to them in the bath at the end of the day or as I started to fall asleep at night. It is also strongly encouraged to listen and watch only positive birth experiences. 

I fully stand behind that. I felt very strongly about only bringing positive stories into my space. What are the biggest benefits during labour and what are some different ways people can use hypnobirthing in labour? 

The biggest benefit during labour is to be relaxed, calm, and progressing easily. A lot of birthing people listen to tracks during birth to have a guide. Some prefer quiet. Others use visuals. Most like a darker and quiet room. Hypnobirthing® also focuses on a partner giving light touch to calm and reassure the birthing person. A lot is focused on relaxation, the breath, and the connection within that allows the baby to move easily into the birthing canal for delivery.

I’ve heard a lot of personal stories, as well as podcast stories, from those who have used hypnobirthing, and it had such a strong, positive impact on their labour, that those watching them did not believe they were as far progressed as they were. Do you see a lot of that? 

Absolutely! I witnessed it within myself! I came to the hospital at 4.5 cms, and went to 9.5 cms within an hour. The doctor and nurses were a little shocked to say the least.  One of my students didn’t progress as quickly but there was no discernible difference during her labour that nurses didn’t realize she was at 10 cms until she mentioned she felt the need to push!

I know I shared my own anecdote about this with you, but is it okay to fall asleep listening to hypnobirthing tracks? 

It’s perfectly normal to fall asleep listening! Often this happens because you are feeling in a safe, relaxed, atmosphere and letting go, which is great! It means the hypnosis is working and doing its magic! It also shows why a calm birthing environment is so important! There are still fantastic benefits to listening as you fall asleep, and some respond very well to hypnosis while sleeping. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend always being in an environment where you might fall asleep and suggest listening to your hypnobirthing tracks at different times of the day, in different rooms, in different positions even, but if you do fall asleep, assuming you are in a safe place, that’s completely okay! Our minds are amazing and are still listening when we don’t realize it. And though it didn’t happen to me, I have heard of the birthing person falling asleep during labour. It can happen!

Can people use hypnobirthing techniques outside of birth? 

Of course. I’d probably suggest looking into meditations or hypnosis without such a focus on birth if that was the case, but I can still find deep relaxation in the hypnobirthing® tracks, through the breathing exercises, and personally, it has really given me a new level of self-empowerment and ability to be an advocate for myself. Life changing stuff! 

Is there anything else you want to add? 

These opinions and perspectives are mine through my experiences and training. I respect a birthing person’s right to choose what is best for them. I had two amazing births. A few days later I wanted to do it all again! Although there are some differences, there are a lot of similarities to Lauren’s birth! I was also excited when I threw up with my first, as it meant baby was nearly here. Lauren and I are not unicorn women. I truly encourage you to read and/or listen to Lauren’s birth, to mine, and to others like it. These should be the stories we hear. The stories represented on screen. This is normal. Trust your body. Trust your instincts. This is birth and it’s time we reclaim it!

What you said!! Yesss!! Women are amazing. Where can people find you to learn more? 

I’m nearing the end of my maternity and will be launching a website shortly at www.birthpositive.ca

If you have any questions, I would welcome your emails at [email protected]

Jamie, I can’t thank you enough for your time and for the message you are sending to birthing women and their partners!! We are strong.