Real-life stories and comments from women and their partners who have used hypnobirthing to prepare for their (very varied) births
'What I love about stories the most is the power they have to teach us of possibilities that might not occur to us without them.'
― Ina May Gaskin
The stories below show how hypnobirthing can be used at many different kinds of births: early births, first and second births, 'straightforward' vaginal births, induction of labour, caesarean section, and unexpected breech births. A friend of mine recently commented that, of her three friends who had prepared for their births using hypnobirthing, only one ended up having 'a hypnobirth'. Let's get one thing straight - there is no such thing as 'a hypnobirth'. Hypnobirthing is not a magic bullet that guarantees a certain kind of (swift, silent, natural) birth. Nothing can do that! What hypnobirthing will give you is a brilliant set of tools that can help you have a positive and rewarding birth, however it unfolds on the day. As Jen summarises so brilliantly below, hypnobirthing gives you power: 'Not the power to control events, but the power to control how you react and deal with them.' Enjoy!
Hypnobirthing gave Rachel confidence in her body’s ability and a sense of calm before and during her hospital birth
And then the REAL surges arrived!!
‘On a Monday in February after a busy day clearing the loft, meeting friends for lunch, swimming and prepping meals to freeze, I sat down to relax on the sofa, sampling a warm slice (or two) of the banana bread I made earlier that day… twenty minutes in I started to feel what felt like period cramps. I left Daniel to finish watching the Netflix programme and suddenly snuck off to bed! The cramps continued and by 10:40pm were rhythmical and wave like. I timed them for half an hour then excitedly woke Daniel – ‘I think I’m having contractions…’
At this point I was 10 days before my due date, I had not had ‘a show’ and my waters hadn’t broken so I knew we didn’t need to rush to hospital. Fast forward a couple of hours, we called the hospital and my mum to let them know I was having regular surges. My mum came over and we sat in our lounge, me on a ball, tens machine now on, mum and Daniel chatting, Million Pound Drop on the TV whilst I zoned into my own space doing my upward breathing that I had practised daily for weeks…’see a balloon, give it colour, watch it rise.’
By 6 am we were on our way to the hospital. During my assessment they said those magic words, ‘you’re 3cm dilated, you’re going to have your baby today’ off we went to a tranquil pool room with all our bags, birth plan and jelly babies at the ready! The room was perfect and I used the mats and balls to keep upright forward and open, breathing my way through each surge as they increased with intensity knowing my body was doing what it was meant to be doing and all feelings and sensations were normal and natural. I had an aromatherapy bath and even an aromatherapy massage from the midwife in training. It couldn’t be more perfect! Daniel, my mum and sister all there offering support and tending to my every whim.
By 3:30pm the midwife re-examined me and hit us with an almighty blow ‘I’m afraid your still only 3cm dilated, I think it’s best you go home!!!’
After screaming my way through a sweep, we left the hospital feeling deflated and at an all time low. Although we knew being sent home was very normal, I guess this was the one thing that we hadn’t prepared for after so many hours in early labour…
And then the REAL surges arrived!!
Before I even made it out of the hospital doors I was clinging onto the walls with each contraction. Our arrival at home wasn’t what the in-laws expected, they’d made the journey from Cambridge assuming they’d be meeting their grandson any moment, but instead were met with a half-naked daughter in law screaming her way through contractions whilst making my way into the house. Needless to say we were back in the hospital within the hour.
As we walked through the hospital corridor, our midwife still there, I had a mini meltdown. Our midwife (an absolute hero) remembered exactly what I wanted and ushered me back into the hypnobirthing room and immediately ran a bath whilst coaching Daniel on how to guide me with gas and air. A quick examination showed that I had gone from 3cm to 6cm within 2 hours. After a moment of uncertainty, I got in the bath and everything changed. The surges were still just as intense but somehow I felt in control and in my own bubble, floating around.
I cannot recommend birth pools enough: this was exactly how I had envisaged my hypnobirthing experience... we even had some spa like playlist for background music. It was just perfect and I felt like things were progressing well.
To my despair, our midwife’s 12+ hour shift had now come to an end, even though we would have paid all the money in the world for her to stay. A new midwife arrived and soon after examining me, decided she wanted me out of the pool and for a consultant to come and check our baby’s heart rate. Off to the obstetrics unit we went even though the baby’s heartbeat was only marginally quicker than normal and no one actually seemed overly concerned. After brief discussions questioning how necessary this was, it was clear the midwife had already made her mind up. Very disappointing.
The obstetrics unit is what it is and wasn’t a patch on the beautiful tranquil room I had just left, but I did not let this deflate me. Still surviving on gas and air, I was in the zone and confident nature was going to take its course.
The next few hours are a bit of a blur, probably due to the gas and air and sheer exhaustion. At 9cm dilated, we agreed to break my waters in order to try and help me reach that magic number of 10cm.
And then the pushing commenced… Wow... an hour and 12 minutes later our baby boy arrived. 7lbs 15oz and perfectly healthy J
The second he was put on to me for skin to skin I decided his name in an instant. He looked just like daddy with a full head of dark hair. My boy!
Now for anyone that says men have no useful part in birth or shouldn’t be around for the labour, I could not disagree more. I couldn’t have got through the entire 27 hours without both Daniel and my mum. Daniel was my absolute rock. I remember shouting at him at one point just because he wasn’t right next to me for a second! I think he got just as much out of the Hypnobirthing course as I did, if not more.
A brief stop by the labour ward in the early hours and we were home with our bundle of joy by 2pm. Our world has changed forever and we couldn’t imagine life any other way. Our boy is our everything!
Although this may not sound like the perfect ‘hypnobirthing’ experience, I feel that without the guidance and practice I would have been so anxious throughout about the unknown and the ‘what ifs’. Hypnobirthing gave me confidence in my body’s ability and a sense of calm both before and during labour.’
Nell took the bits of hypnobirthing that worked for her, and on the day went into her own little world.
My favourite mantra was "be more mammal", and when it came to it I had no inhibitions and just went with it!
'‘Liv was born vaginally after a fast labour and some time in the pool at Jessops with just paracetamol and gas and air. The whole experience was calm and I just followed my body and instincts. My favourite mantra was "be more mammal", and when it came to it I had no inhibitions and just went with it!
Sam was the best birthing partner and having done the classes meant he knew what I wanted and supported me with the midwives, who were also incredible. Through the classes we knew what to expect, felt very well informed and had confidence to make decisions. They respected my birth plan and essentially let me get on with it. I had my eyes closed for the whole thing and only after she was born did I even see what the midwives looked like!
Following the classes I was worried I hadn't embraced hypnobirthing fully, I struggled with the visualisations and meditations as this isn't something I had done before and I am a really practical person. I didn't do as much practice as I thought I should have and wasn't sure it would work for me when it came down to it. But I think for me hypnobirthing gave me confidence in the birth process, kept me feeling positive and optimistic and encouraged me to relax during those long overdue days with the threat of induction looming. I guess I took the bits of hypnobirthing that worked for me. On the day I really did go into my own little world of intense focus.’
I really want to thank you for the hypnobirthing classes and for your support and encouragement in the run up to her birth, I have no doubt it made a huge difference to the whole experience which was really, really positive. I'll be recommending hypnobirthing to everyone! ‘
Emily started her hypnobirthing practice early, as her first (twin) pregnancy had ended in preterm labour and birth. From the start, she knew this was going to be a very different experience.
‘I am so proud of both my births now. This birth offered me closure on what was a difficult time after my first pregnancy and birth.’
‘Our baby finally decided to show up at 8.18pm on my birthday, no less, weighing 8lbs (at 41+5 weeks). I had a superbly speedy labour, with my first contraction at 4.30pm, and him arriving four hours later. We got to hospital at 6.20pm, and I managed to get straight into the pool as I was 5cm. Things were progressing very quickly, and no-one had time to read my birth plan or notes as hand-over was happening. I began to panic as things felt a bit out of control, and I found myself doubting my abilities. But then our new midwife spoke with Jack about my wishes and suggested I get out of the pool and be examined to check I was 10cm as I had been pushing a while.
Once I was on the bed, Jack put on the hypnobirthing tracks, and reminded me how to breathe and keep calm, and 40 minutes later with no pain relief (not even gas and air) our baby was born “star gazing”. I was so calm that I hadn’t even realised he had been born!?!
Thank you so much for not only teaching me the skills, but for teaching them to Jack too, so that we were able to totally birth the way we wanted. I would describe the whole thing as my perfect birth, even the slight panic, as it just showed me that I needed to refocus.
I am so proud of both my births now. This birth offered me closure on what was a difficult time after my first pregnancy and birth.’
Jen's quick and natural birth in the hospital setting
'What I love about hypnobirthing is that it gives the power to you. Not the power to control events, but the power to control how you react and deal with them.'
'My initial approach to preparing myself for labour was to gather information. What were my options? What might happen? What decisions might I need to make? I thankfully stopped short of watching One Born Every Minute and reading all the horror stories (that EVERYBODY seems to want to tell you about) as one thing I learned very quickly is that no one labour is the same and so I didn't want use somebody else's labour as a guide as to what would happen in my own. Whilst I firmly believe that knowing what could happen and what that means in terms of your decision making for you and your baby, I felt there was little point fixating on some of the bad experiences of others that may or may not happen to me.
With that, came the realisation that I had be ok with not being able to control everything. So I soon realised that I needed a mechanism or tools to keep me calm and relaxed so I could deal with anything and not panic or get scared as my labour unfolded. That is when I turned to hypnobirthing.
I'll be honest, not being the most spiritual person, I was sceptical at first but I soon learned it isn't really about that, it is about giving you techniques to control your state of mind. What I love about hypnobirthing is that it gives the power to you. Not the power to control events, but the power to control how you react and deal with them. I cannot express quite how important that was and how much that helped me during my labour. I was able to deal with things I had never thought possible, in a calm and focused way, finding extra strength that I didn't know was there. I am not going to lie, it was still hard but using the hypnobirthing techniques I felt I could deal with it and that I had some control over my own state of mind which made a huge difference. I thoroughly recommend it!'- Jen
When Gemma's first baby came early, hypnobirthing helped her feel calm and in control
'Hypnobirthing was the most helpful tool I used for the birth of my first child, Eric. He arrived five weeks early and I felt calm and in control from the first signs that I might be in labour. The breathing exercises helped me to work with the contractions and the visualisations were key to coping with the pain; I imagined myself walking along a wooded path with my baby, and us both travelling down a waterfall together. My husband did nearly all of the communication with health professionals for me which allowed me to stay in the 'zone'; I also asked him to support my breathing by saying 'strong' on the in breath and 'soft' on the out-breath - this wasn't planned beforehand but really helped me to focus. I used gas, and my labour lasted approximately 19 hours. I suspect I would have required further interventions if I hadn't used hypnobirthing techniques. Certainly I would say that hypnobirthing made me feel empowered and embrace the labour, rather than feel fearful of it.' - Gemma
A walk in the park?
'Hypnobirthing prepared us for the birth and helped my wife cope with the effort of labour. It also gave me tools to support her at the birth. A really useful and practical system that makes labour, if not exactly a walk in the park, maybe a manageable ramble through demanding terrain. With a nice pub at the end of it all.' - Nick
Jen used hypnobirthing to prepare for her second birth
'I have two daughters. I found the birth of my first daughter really challenging; despite a lot of preparation, as soon as labour began, I felt 'out of control' of the whole experience. When I became pregnant again I did a hypnobirthing course and then practised visualisation and deep relaxation for around eight weeks before I went into labour. My second daughter's birth was an incredible experience: I lay on a pile of pillows and breathed the pain away. The two experiences are almost incomparable. My husband was a huge help and kept repeating certain phrases each time I had a contraction. The majority of the labour was entirely pain free and when I gave birth I had so much energy the midwives had to tell me to slow down. Immediately after the birth I was relaxed, wide-awake and able to enjoy my new baby. The midwives said it was the most relaxed birth they'd ever seen, and that they only knew I was having a contraction because I squeezed my husband's hand. Hypnobirthing gave me control during my daughter's birth and a wonderful experience that I will cherish for ever. When I used to read accounts of hypnobirths I always wondered if mothers were telling the truth: could labour really be enjoyable? Yes, it can!' - Jen
Ben was willing to try anything...
'Hypnobirthing wasn't something that I would have chosen to do, but I was definitely willing to try anything if it could make the birth of our second child a better experience for all of us. We used the hypnobirthing techniques we'd learnt though out the birth of our second daughter, and it was an extremely calm and gentle experience. I played a full role in the birth, and it felt like we were a team. We both knew what we were doing and the midwives supported us. I may have had to repeat the phrase 'fill the balloon, give it colour' (my wife's favourite prompt) over a hundred times, but it was worth it! The labour was calm and short (8 hours) and our baby was incredibly relaxed. I would encourage everyone to do a hypnobirthing course as it always seems to result in a more positive experience.' - Ben
Hypnobirthing for an unexpected breech birth
'Despite being quite different from the birth I had hoped for, hynobirthing was incredibly useful in getting me through my first labour. We found out our baby was breech at 36 weeks, and, although I tried everything I could think of to turn him, he seemed happy where it was. The hospital assumed we would want to have a caesarean section, and this was booked for 39 weeks. In fact, events overtook us, and my waters broke just after I turned 38 weeks. Contractions, however, were slow to get going, so we were admitted to hospital - at this stage, the plan was still for a caesean. But once I had my own room, my contractions started, and things happened very quickly. I listened to my recordings throughout, and within four hours, felt the urge to push. We all now agreed that the safest way for my baby to be born was through a vaginal breech birth. I’m sure the recordings helped me stay calm through what was an intense experience, particularly towards the end when the room seemed to be full of people (breech births are quite a novelty in hospitals). It certainly helped me zone out and just focus - to the extent that even at the crucial moment, as he was about to be born, I stopped for a moment to change tracks, told the room to calm down, and then pushed him out on the next contraction. I think the reality is that whatever birth I ended up having - had it been a ‘normal’ vaginal delivery, or a section - the recordings would have been helpful; anything you can do to stay grounded and calm is really important.' - Anna
Hypnobirthing and induction of labour
'We both feel that despite our planned water homebirth turning into an every-intervention-under-the-sun experience, it was still really positive. We used the hypnobirthing to stay calm, felt listened to, and were able to make informed choices. Pete especially is so, so thankful we did the course as he says he would have lost it without all the prep and knowledge...'
So we had a pretty wild adventure... I ended up going 16 days over my due date. We had a scan and all looked good, but we decided to go for induction the day after the scan, as I was pretty exhausted waiting by this point. They offered us a sweep at the hospital, and said I could go straight to labour ward to have my waters broken. So we did that the next day. It ended up being one of our caseloading midwives who came to start the process, and she was amazing!
We made the room really calm with lights etc. Our midwife really advocated for us, making sure everyone knew we were hypnobirthing, tracking down the only wireless monitor in the place so I could move around, and helped us say to the consultant we wanted to wait a little longer before starting the hormone drip. Apparently the consultant said she couldn't believe how calm we were :)
Anyway after four hours of gradually building surges, I was examined, and they found that, although I had made some progress, it was very slow, so we decided to go for the drip. Once I was on it, things got very intense very quickly and despite trying lots of different positions I could only manage to stand hanging off Pete’s neck, which was exhausting for both of us. At this point our midwife had been working over 13 hours and wanted to be able to be there for the delivery, so she left us in the hands of a lovely hospital midwife while she got some sleep. The hospital midwife was great. She sat quietly checking the monitor while we got on with it. Anyway, on examination I think I had only progressed one or two centimetres, and I just knew I couldn't keep going in a standing position and still have the energy to push (and then look after my baby when she was born), so I requested an epidural.
The anaesthetist was there in literally two mins (apparently she was walking right past my room at the moment I asked for it). Anyway it was swift and such a relief. It meant we could both get some rest and refocus.
After a few hours I was dilating well, a few more and I was 10cm. Our caseload midwife had been back for some time now. She talked through how we were going to push, and I had an hour of rest and listened to some more hypnobirthing.
I got down to pushing - my midwife really helped guide me through. I managed to push my baby down low enough that I could feel her head with my own fingers, but then things didn't seem to work. We had been going a couple of hours now so the obstetric team advised forceps. But when I was examined in theatre, it turned out she had turned the wrong way (my sense of direction as well as timing!), and so forceps were out of the question, and also why I was struggling to push her all the way out. So she ended up being born by c-section. She came out yelling letting the world know she was here and it was amazing!!!
We had some lovely skin to skin and Pete cut the cord. From the start, she’s been amazing - a chilled out little thing (unless she wants something, then she yells at the top of her lungs until she gets it!) And breastfeeding is going so well!
Anyway, we both feel that despite our planned water homebirth turning into an every-intervention-under-the-sun experience, it was still really positive. We used the hypnobirthing to stay calm, felt listened to, and were able to make informed choices. Pete especially is so, so thankful we did the course as he says he would have lost it without all the prep and knowledge.' - Jude