So how effective is hypnobirthing at ensuring a manageable birth experience? As many as 69% of my hypnobirthing mums did not require any pain relief during birth. Based on my own client’s feedback, only 31% required some form of pain relief (including gas and air) and these were mostly due to special circumstances, but they reported to still finding hypnobirthing beneficial for helping to cope with the situation and remain calm and involved in the decision making process. Even if intervention was needed for special circumstances, hypnobirthing still helped women and their birth companions cope with their experience, empowering them to ask questions and stay calm so that they felt fully informed and positive about the birth.
“Although my birthing experience was not how I had planned it, hypnobirthing enabled me to cope and remain in control.” Kate, Berkhamsted.
In terms of epidurals, according to an American study in 2007, among the women who had vaginal births, 5 (10%) of the hypnosis prepared and 23 (45%) of those not using hypnosis had epidural anaesthesia (Source: VandeVusse, Irland, Franciscan, Berner, Fuller, Adams – Hypnosis for Childbirth: A Retrospective Comparative Analysis of Outcomes in One Obstetrician’s Practice http://www.asch.net/portals/0/journallibrary/articles/ajch-50/50-2/vandevusse50-2.pdf ). These figures help to show us that although hypnobirthing cannot promise the perfect birth, it does give women the best opportunity for a drug-free birth as the need for pain relief greatly reduces.
Statistics also show us that women are less likely to have an emergency c-section with hypnobirthing than without. The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust has done a study into the benefits of hypnobirthing, which showed that only 4% of hypnobirthing births ended with an emergency C-section compared with 15% for the general population. As part of the Cochrane review published in 2012, three studies of 645 women found that more women in hypnosis groups had a spontaneous vaginal birth than those in the control group. The largest of the studies (numbering 520 women) reported a lower rate of caesarean section in the hypnosis group. (source: The Cochrane library http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD009356.pub2/abstract)
Harmon, Hynan and Tyre reported more spontaneous deliveries, higher Agpar scores (so better health of babies at birth) and reduced medication use in their study of 60 women. Of the 45 Hypnosis for Childbirth clients, 38 delivered without the use of caesarean, forceps or vacuum, a rate of spontaneous birth of 84%. This is a higher than average rate of normal birth for the general population of first time mothers. (Source: Harmon TM, Hynan MT, Tyre TE. Improved obstetric outcomes using hypnotic analgesia and skill mastery combined with childbirth education. Consultant Clinical psychology 1990)
Studies have also shown that hypnobirthing can shorten labour – Jenkins and Pritchard found a reduction of 3 hours for first-time mums from an average of 9.3 hours to 6.4 hours and and 1 hour for second-time (or subsequent) mums from 6.2 hours to 5.3 hours for active labour (262 subjects and 600 controls). The birthing phase was statistically shorter for first time mothers, from 50 min to 37 min (source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8476826)
The biggest study into hypnobirthing in the UK to date, was a randomised trial of 680 pregnant women in the UK in 2010 to 21012, known as the SHIP trial which reported that self-hypnosis made no difference to the method of birth (normal, instrumental or caesarean) or to the use of pain-relieving drugs between the self-hypnosis group and the control group, though the hypnosis group did report a reduction in anxiety about birth.
So how does hypnobirthing work? Hypnobirthing provides mums-to-be with breathing, visualisation, self-hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming and fear release techniques, which aid any anxieties and negative thoughts about birth at a subconscious level.
Hypnobirthing enables mums to go into themselves during childbirth. The neo-cortex, the thinking part of the brain, is subdued through hypnosis, in order for labour to progress effectively using the reptilian part of the brain. Hypnobirthing techniques enable mums-to-be to have a fear-free birth, one with a positive expectancy, which allows their bodies and minds to be in a relaxed state during childbirth, shutting down the neo-cortex and releasing the hormones that the body needs for an efficient and more comfortable birthing experience.
With hypnosis, oxytocin and endorphins flow and create a calm state of body and mind. Oxytocin causes the muscles to surge, opening the cervix at optimum efficiency. Endorphins act as the body’s natural tranquiliser, and are said to be 200 times more powerful than morphine.
Hypnosis is really just a state of relaxation where we choose to focus our attention inwards and become more suggestible (to positive statements about birth for example) and we remain fully in control and aware of what is happening around us. It is a completely natural phenomenon which we experience every day of our lives, when we daydream or become engrossed in a good book or film.
Despite the UK SHIP trial we can still see from other research that hypnobirthing does help to reduce the need for pain relieving drugs during childbirth with 10% of hypnobirhting mothers requiring epidurals compared with 45% of the non-hypnosis group (VandeVusse, Irland, Franciscan, Berner, Fuller, Adams) and only 31% of hypnobirthing mums requiring some form of pain relief or medication based on feedback from my hypnobirthing mums (and vast majority were due to special circumstances). Hypnobirthing has also been shown to reduce the risk of emergency c-section with only 4% of hypnobirthing births ending with an emergency C-section compared with 15% for the general population according to a study by The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust and according to a study by Jenkins and Pritchard, hypnobirthing can also help to shortern labour by as much as 3 hours for first time mums and 1 hour for second (and subsequent) mums. We have also seen better health of hypnobirthing babies and higher than average rate of normal births (Harmon, Hynan and Tyre). It is no wander that The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust has seen a threefold increase in the number of women taking hypnobirthing classes in the past five years and Colchester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has seen a fourteen-fold increase in couples taking hypnobirthing classes from 6 per month to 84 per month in the past four years!