What Is Hypnobirthing And How Does It Help With Birth Anxiety?

Have you heard about hypnobirthing and want to learn more? This is the post for you!

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Three weeks before my due date, I reclined on the crazy uncomfortable excuse for a bed in the tiny box with my husband next to me.

Wires sent signals from the pads on my lower abdomen to the beeping monitors. I wanted nothing more than to get off my aching back. My protruding stomach had become far too heavy to sit like this. The nurse was taking forever, and my anxiety starting squirming, and then thrashing inside me as I realized the baby wasn’t coming yet.

The disappointment set in, and I found it harder and harder to hold back the tears. Monosyllabic grunts left my mouth in reply to the nurses commentary when she returned.

We were being sent home, my water had not broken, it was just mucous, but she assured me I’d done the right thing by coming in.

I struggled to get dressed. I struggled to wait as we paid the bill on our way out. I struggled on the drive home, and on the walk into the apartment, and as I crawled onto the bed where I let the cries free. I’d been trying so hard to be patient. I knew there were at least three more weeks until I should expect anything, but a spark of hope had been ignited and I longed to hold my baby in my arms.

My Pregnancy

I had a relatively easy pregnancy. I lost some weight in the beginning, had pretty constant morning sickness throughout the first trimester, started showing a cute little belly a few months in.

Like most mommas-to-be, I spent an unnecessary amount of time on the internet researching everything there is to know about pregnancy and childbirth and cute baby clothes and gear.

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time. Getting pregnant was so exciting, but the fluctuating roller-coaster of hormones did nothing to help my mental health.

On top of my normal anxiety, plus the layer of hormonal craziness, I had to somehow prepare myself to deal with the trigger of doctors and hospitals. I was very blessed to find a wonderful OB, who was patient enough to answer all of my questions and help me plan to achieve the birth I wanted.

This made the monthly and then weekly visits with her easier to handle. I went from full paralyzation after appointments to just needing a rest. But I knew actually birthing my baby would be a whole other beast to tackle.

Around the beginning of my third trimester, I was talking with a friend at church who had just had her own first baby. I asked her if she had any advice. She thought for a minute and then told me about a book she’d read about hypnobirthing. She gave me the name of the author, and I didn’t waste any time looking it up and ordering the book.

The Hypnobirthing Book by Katherine Graves.

This resource changed everything. It gave me the tools I’d been looking for, to cope with the fears and the pain and to create a beautiful birthing experience.

What is Hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is traditionally a method of approaching birth that focuses on mental preparation taking the place of medical intervention (i.e. meditating the pain away rather than getting an epidural). But it is so much more than that.

Hypnobirthing is a way to truly embrace the process of pregnancy and childbirth. It involves connecting mind and body, and consciously connecting with your baby.

It is based in the understanding that creating and birthing a baby is a beautiful and natural process, one that the body innately know how to carry out.

By filling the mind with positive thoughts and affirmations, and mentally practicing for birth, a woman can prepare to experience birth fully and without fear.

The pain associated with childbirth is generated by the fear society has attached to the event. If a woman can let go of that fear, birth can be a calm, peaceful, joyous experience.

(I sense your skepticism, but I promise it is possible, I’ve done it myself!)

Hospital or Home Birth?

When most people hear the term “hypnobirth”, they imagine a pregnant women in a bathtub, or a pool in the living room, moaning under some sort of hypnotic trance.

This isn’t totally false. Many women who choose to hypnobirth also choose to have a homebirth. The book I read encourages this, explaining the importance of the woman having control over her environment, and feeling safe and calm.

There was a part of me that wanted a homebirth too, but it seemed like so much to organize, not to mention clean up, and there was always the big IF something went wrong. So we opted for a hospital birth, which I’m sure my husband was very happy about.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be in a familiar place, I really focused on creating rituals and practicing the breathing techniques that would carry me through childbirth with serenity and control deep inside my own head.

The wonderful thing about hypnobirthing is that you can tailor it to work for you. If you want to birth at home, great. If you’d rather be in a hospital, awesome. You can use the techniques to go through labor and delivery unmedicated, or you can get the epidural and use the affirmations to power through.

It is really meant to help you stay calm and happy.

What’s in the book?

This book covers just about everything you could want to know when preparing for birth. It is empowering and straightforward, as well as adaptable and interactive.

One of the main things I loved about this style of birthing, is that heavy emphasis is put on working as a team with your partner through the whole process.

My husbands job was to keep me comforted and relaxed. You might be thinking, well duh, that’s always the husbands job. But hypnobirthing gave HIM tools to help me.

We listened to the “relaxations” (basically guided meditation tracks) that came with the book, and read the scripts together before going to bed each night.

I explained to him which kind of touch was calming, and what words I wanted him to use.

I let him know which tools were in my bag (I had essential oils, herbal tea, snacks, music…) so that he could get things for me if I needed them.

We went on a tour of our hospitals maternity ward and were able to learn about what they could provide us with. (This included a private tub/shower, rocking chair, birthing balls, peanut balls, two-piece bed that made for easy transitions into different birthing positions. They practiced delayed cord-clamping, and were happy to support medicated or unmedicated birth. We were lucky to have a seriously awesome hospital.)

So when we actually went in to have our baby, both of us were very prepared, and my husband knew exactly what I wanted from him. This alone helped bring my stress down immensely.

A few of the other helpful points I gleaned from the book were to:

  1. Not listen to any negative birth stories. For some reason, mothers like to share their battle stories, one-upping each other with how awful things went for them. Maybe it’s just to vent and cope with their own trauma, but you do not need to carry any of their baggage into your pregnancy or birth. Positive birth stories on the other hand are fantastic to seek out as you invite goodness into your own experience.
  2. Tell people a fake due date, a week or two after the one you doctor gives you. Every woman’s body and cycle are unique, so the 40 week gestation mark doesn’t actually indicate exactly when your baby “should” come. Your baby will come when your baby is ready, which might very naturally be a week or more after your due date. The last thing you want is everyone checking in on you while you wait around for contractions to start. (I didn’t do this, but I wish I had!)
  3. Believe in your body and your baby, and their innate knowledge of how to perform birth. Your body has managed to grow this baby for nine months without you telling it what to do. Allow it to finish the job without stressing about things going wrong!

How did hypnobirthing help my birth anxiety?

For one thing, practicing the relaxations and following the other tips made me feel like I at least had control over some things. It stopped me from trekking into negative spirals by teaching me how to cultivate positive self talk and positive pregnancy talk.

When I felt overwhelmed, I’d take a break, lie down, and listen to one of the recordings. I filled my environment with so much positivity that it was difficult for bad thoughts to enter.

The book also covers much of the science of birth. I’ve always been someone who values information. Understanding what my body would be doing made it easier for me to feel like I could help myself through the process. I could make my mind work with my body, rather than my body taking over and my mind freaking out.

As I used these new tools and mindfulness to determine what I really wanted my birth to look like, I was able to clearly express my needs and desires to my husband, my doctor, and others who were helping me (yes, you mom.)

Honestly, all of this mindfulness practice has extended far beyond birth, and has helped me with my general mental health as well.

Now, I can hear the chorus of mothers chanting that you can’t plan your birth. And to an extent, that’s true. It will never go exactly according to plan. But you can prepare, and you can put yourself in a position of power rather than consenting to the role of victim or observer.

Is hypnobirthing right for you?

If I could give one piece of advice to expectant mothers, it would be to read this book. Hypnobirthing calmed so many of my birthing fears. Especially as a first time mother, I had no idea what to expect, and this book cleared up my questions.

Save yourself the endless internet searching, and trust what’s in this book.

Another great resource is The Positive Birth Company YouTube channel.

The videos there are informative and non-corny. They also link to some positive birth story videos to save you from having to search (because you’re pregnant, and any help is appreciated, right?).

If you have hypnobirthed, or if you have questions for me, please comment below and share. I’ll be writing about my own birth story in my next post.

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